Handling Requests for Donations: When to Do It

Posted on August 20, 2008 by LCT Magazine

By Jim A. Luff

It seems that people have their hand out a lot of the time.  I think we probably get hit up more than most industries, except for restaurants, for donations.  People have this perception that we have cars sitting around, and there probably isn't much expense in donating a few hours of service.  In reality, the true operating costs for a stretch are somewhere in the range of $56 to $65 an hour depending on how you pay your chauffeurs, what your insurance rate is, and your general overhead costs.
There are certain donations that we make all year round because it is "the right thing to do," and the one that comes to mind right away is of course, Make A Wish.  I don't publicize these donations, and I am not interested in getting any publicity from it mainly because I do not want to draw attention to the child.  The only benefit I receive out of such donations is that feeling that I somehow made a difference in the world today as my head hits the pillow that night.  I guess part of me believes that the man upstairs is watching me, and maybe I might be redeemed for my good deeds on earth.
Then, there are events that happen that make me want to be a part of it, much for the same reason, but also when we do notify the media that we are doing it.  I never turn down a request to pickup a soldier coming home after serving our country.  Sometimes I hear they are coming home and call the family to offer our services.  Sometimes the family calls us to charter a car and their money is refused.  While some may cringe that I do call the media to tell them this, it is with dual purpose.  The first is, I want everyone to know the soldier is a hero who left our community to go and serve his country and us as his community.  He should have the spotlight on him.  The second is, I want our community to know that we are a good business member of the community, and we don't just take money and make profit but we give back to our community.
For nearly two decades, we have donated our service to law enforcement agencies throughout central California.  We sometimes drive three hours away to handle a funeral for the California Highway Patrol.  We know the protocol well of a law enforcement funeral.  We provide transportation for the widows to conduct the business of putting together the funeral.  We realize the tremendous loss a family suffers when an officer makes the ultimate sacrifice, and if we can make it easier on the family, why not do so?  Law enforcement funerals are emotionally moving and draining at the same time.
Then, there are those who come calling so they can have a cool raffle prize at their church's pancake breakfast.  Only if the church has a congregation of more than 1,000 people do I have an interest in donating.  Why?  Because, statistics say that out of 1,000 people, only five will have a need for a limousine in the next three months.  Only eight will have the need in the next six months.  Beyond this time frame, the congregation will have forgotten your name and your donation long ago.  So, there is no return value on this type of donation.  We make donations like this only to large organizations and events where we will be included in P.A. mentions, printed materials, radio and TV advertisements, or have our name included on T-shirts that will be worn for a couple of years. 
Unfortunately, in this industry, you must ask yourself, "What's in it for me?"  The answer can be future business, publicity, or it just plain makes you feel good. Only you can decide whether it is a good investment to make the donation.
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