5 Tips to Creating Sales When Non-profits Ask for Free Balloons!
When non-profits call your balloon company asking for donations, it can be a bit of a challenge not to get frustrated.
Before the 5 tips, I want to give a bit of an overview so you know where I’m coming from.
I have always been taught – to whom much is given, much is expected. I have a tendency to want to help others whenever I can and feel in my heart that giving back to the community I live in is important. I have also worked for non-profit agency’s in my careers prior to owning a balloon business, so I know what it’s like being that person on the other end of the phone saying “Hi this is Joette with _________can you please donate for __________.” When I purchased Party People Celebration Company in December of 2003 it was my first time being fully self-employed and running a business! I knew I loved balloons, enjoyed planning parties and wanted to be my own boss. Other than that I had NO IDEA what I was getting myself into!
The previous owner of my company let me know that she gets a LOT of calls for donations, so that I would want to pick the ones I would want to give to, and give a discount to the rest.
WHY give a donation to anyone? Many of the business people I respect have a special organization that they give money, or in-kind support to. The people I know who are extremely wealthy have many Non Profit Organizations that they give their time and money to, so I felt that it is the right thing for me to do the same.
This Hot air balloon was created for a non-profit. The original call was asking for a donation, and I was able to turn it into a $1,000 budget (if it was a corporate client, I would of charged more). At $1,000 I was able to pay two staff to work with me, clear a nice profit and create something I had always wanted to build. I now sell the directions on how to build it and photos of the hot air balloon on my website has led to other great clients. (Those things would of not happened if I blew off the phone call asking for a donation!)
5 Tips to respond when a non-profit calls:
- Be Prepared. Know that your going to get emails, phone calls, and letters in the mail asking for donations from your company. Type up your response email now, have it as a template and all you have to do is copy and paste that response back in a reply to the email you get in your inbox. Use that same template as what to SAY when someone calls you. Do you give discounts, no discounts, or just business as normal? What ever your policy, follow up with the person as you never know if they may find a sponsor to pay for your decor.
- Show Interest in the event. Example when Laura from the Cancer Society calls you stating I would like for you to donate decorations for our upcoming Gala. Many people I know just state we don’t donate and try to get the person off the phone as quick as possible. Instead my approach is more like this: (put a smile on my face and think of Laura as every other paying customer) Hi Laura, thank you for calling Party People about your upcoming Gala, I’m so glad we were the first company you contacted about decor for your event. What is the date and location of your event? (this shows you have interest in their event and gives you information to see what you can suggest for them to purchase). We love working at The Lakeland Center, it’s a large blank slate that we transform with custom decor and lighting to create a memorable occasion for your guest. What is the theme of your event? (again gathering more information example we have many props and components to center pieces from past events I know we can offer at a deep discount and still make a profit). After gathering the information I state. A Masquerade ball – what an enchanted theme, I can see the men in their black ties, and ladies in their gowns. We can create a magical canopy over the dance floor, and elegant entrance to greet your guest as they arrive., centerpieces on the tables and room decor. The package for the items I have descriped retails for $2,000 , since this is a non profit we offer a 15 % discount so your total will just be $1,700. What is your email address so I can send you an invoice for the event. Well we don’t really have a budget, we only spent $500 last year on all the decorations, we did it ourselves and it just didn’t look very nice. So glad you called Party People Laura, for $500 we can create one of the items I described which is most important to you : a canopy over the dance floor, entrance decor, centerpieces or room decor? Over the years I became much more confident in the delivery of these statements and Won over many “can I have a donations” into paying customers – give it a try! As I always tell my coaching clients, if YOU DON”T ASK FOR THE SALE, the answer is always NO!
- Educate your caller. Hi this is John with the Kidney Foundation Walk. For June 20th we would like you to donate a balloon arch for the start of the walk, we see from your website you work with a lot of non-profits. (put a smile on your face and be glad to speak with him) Hi John, so glad you called Party People for your balloon decor! You are correct we do a LOT of WORK for Non-profits, as you know Lakeland is a very giving town, holding multiple fundraisers almost every weekend of the year. As you can imagine if I donated to every wonderful event you see on my website – I would have to be a non-profit myself! What decor caught your eye on my website? I really liked the pink a white arch you did for the Cancer walk for life in Bartow. Great that is a 30 ft garland arch on outdoor supports with Delivery and take down the total is $410, plus delivery and strike fee. Since you are a non profit we discount the arch 15 % so $348 and delivery fees based on time and location. (do not say anything else….do not set up your own objection just wait for John to speak) How much is the delivery fee? Where are we delivering to and what time? 5 am on Saturday to Downtown Lakeland. Your delivery fee is $75, and take down $75. We have some volunteers that can take down the arch. GREAT, you will just need to return the steel 2 ft by 2 ft bases and poles to me by 5 pm on Sunday. If not returned a replacement fee of ___________ will be charged. I will give you instructions on how to take it apart. Your total will be $423 what email address should I send it to and who do I make the invoice out to? Another response might be we only have $200 to spend. Then I give them the option of Topiary Balls on Stakes or 2 Columns.
- Written Policy: Have a written policy for what you donation procedure is. Many non profits ask for a Gift certificate or Item to put in a silent auction. Some balloon companies give every one a $20 gift cerficate with expiration date one year from the event for pick up only. I made gift certificate for $20 towards a decor order (client must pay delivery fees and have a minimum $200 order unless doing a pick up) If you wish to have a form people fill out and submit – create that. If you give 15% discount with proof of being a 501C Non profit have that in writing.
- Practice what you are going to say: The more you say creative things to get people to buy and smile when you talk to sound happy about their event the better the words flow when a live call comes in or you need to type up a response on facebook or an email. By educating my clients I cannot count the amount of times someone went from NO MONEY to sending me a check for $250 to $3,000 to work on a non profit event.
It’s all about being confident in yourself and the business you run, acting professional and overcoming objections. MOST people calling you for a donation are either a volunteer or NEW to their job. Many have NO idea how to ask a company to be a sponsor and pay for an arch or a column as a donation to an event. Over the years when people said “we don’t have money in the budget” I would say your total for what you requested is $300 when you find someone who can donate that money – give me a call and book. Sometimes it would happen that year, other times the following year as they now knew the amount to budget and ask for as they prepared their budget for the following years event.
QUESTIONS to Consider
- What is YOUR marketing budget for the Year?
- How do you get your name out to the public without paying for advertising on TV, Radio etc?
- Did you know people like to buy from people they Know, Like and Trust?
- Do the people in your community know your business exist?
When I first started running Party People, I had only lived in my town for 3 years, so I did not know a lot of people. I did not have MONEY in the bank to spend on advertising, I was scraping by. One of the ways I built up people knowing that Party People existed was to be an In Kind sponsor for events. I would donate $200 to $2000 retail value of decor to be a sponsor for an event I felt strongly about and new my target audience would be attending. I would make sure I got tickets to the event so I could mingle with people and help them understand that Party People created the awesome decor in the room, and had an opportunity to see if they had need for decor during the year. Balloon Companies are not the only businesses that get asked to donate things. It happens to EVERYONE…all types of businesses. YOU determine which events will be best exposure to the TARGET CLIENTS you are looking for. Look at it as marketing dollars spent, to then have great photos of your work to put on your website, and KNOW the value of what you donated so when someone calls, I see you decorated for the March of Dimes Chef’s auction, I would like the same decor you are ready with “Wonderful, the total cost of that package to transform your space is $2,000 what email address should I send the invoice to?”
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Joette Giardina, CBA
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