As the school year draws to a close there is always that last-minute flurry of silent auctions, benefits and other school functions that send folks into the bookstore looking for donations. After 17 years in business I wanted to share some very simple do’s and don’ts for this process.
– Do send someone to the store to ask for the donation who actually shops at the store. There is nothing more disheartening than someone coming in and looking around while I’m getting their donated gift card and saying, “Wow, great store. I’ve never been here before.” Bookstores, or most any other retail establishments for that matter, are not rolling in money that they just give away. We are far more likely to give to someone we know.
– Do not ask for a donation after we’ve already given one in another way. For instance, I just did a big comedy show for two local PTOs and less than a week later someone, who clearly didn’t know about my connection to the comedy show, asked for a donation. I said no because that particular school had just received $800 from me for the show. I really felt like asking me to give again was a little thoughtless. Plus, it reinforced that sometimes not every person knows what’s really going on and they really should before they embark on asking folks for money.
– Do have the kids ask. If there is a fundraising drive for the third grade for new materials, please send the kids to the store. It’s adorable to see the kids work together on who says what, and honestly, it’s fun to see them act all grown-up. Plus, I think it’s important for them to make the link that their favorite stores are working with them on enriching their school. Also, there are very few people who can flat-out say no to a child asking for a donation for the class trip.
– Don’t ask for anything if the store is slamming busy. Come back later and try again. Interrupting a busy bookseller to ask for a donation is thoughtless and an almost assured way of getting back a no.
– Do make sure your cause makes sense for a bookstore to give money to. Not every business is a good fit for your charity. And if your raffle winner lives 50 miles away, he is not very likely to use the card. Be selective about who you approach.
– Lastly, do understand that we give what we can. While we wish every gift card were for $50, that’s just not realistic. Do not audibly groan when told a $20 gift card is what we can give. All retail establishments are doing the best they can to balance community activism and staying in business.