The Dreaded Ask: Making it easy to say "Yes!"
As the owner of WEFTY, I am contacted from time to time by organizers of sew-alongs or retreats hoping that I will donate prizes for their participants. I know it's daunting to reach out to businesses with the dreaded ask. I think I speak for all of us "little guy" businesses when I say we appreciate how awkward you may feel, and we wish we could say yes to everyone. But sometimes we need more information or options before we can help out.
If you own a small business, what are some things retreat organizers can do to make it easier for you to say yes? Comment below and fill us in!
I wrote up this guideline for organizers to use when soliciting businesses for prizes. These are some ways to make it really easy for me to say "yes."
1) E-mail the company and use the company's name throughout the e-mail. I spend more time on a message when I can tell you've spent time on it. So even if you just have three spots where you cut and paste the business name it's going to have an impact.
2) Let the company know right away what you're asking. Start with "I'm writing in hopes you will donate..." Provide the details (Name of event, Name of organization, Where it's being held, Dates of event) and then launch into the good stuff.
3) The good stuff: a prize donation from my perspective is a marketing expense. I want to know some important information to help me justify that expense:
- How many people attended last year, and how many are you anticipating this year?
- Where are attendees coming from?
- If pertinent, what is the schedule of events (are there classes, a sew day open to the public, etc)? What is the attendance of those events (for example, a public sew-day that brings in even more people)?
- Where and how will my business be promoted (i.e., thanked)?
- Do you have a web site? Social Media? Provide links in the body of the email.
4) What are the opportunities for giving? The more options the better for a little business. We may not be able to give something for every goody bag, but we could provide an awesome door prize.
5) What is the average retail value of the other prizes?
6) Is there something that makes your event special? Brag on it! Here are a couple of examples:
- The Modern Stitching Affair in Madison, WI is not just about getting together for stitching and conversation. It's also about giving attendees an opportunity to learn something new and different by offering classes by national speakers.
- The Sew Simply Stitched retreat in Roosevelt, UT hosts a special giving project every year that includes a public sew day. This year they will be sewing chemo scarves for women undergoing or recovering from radiation/chemo treatments.
7) Thank them for their time. Provide your name and all your contact information.
Let's say you get a yes...
Yay! Now make sure to follow up:
8) Get the company's logo and make good on promotions.
9) Provide your tax ID if appropriate (this applies to guilds) so the company can write it off.
10) Get a graphic of the prize from the sponsor if applicable.
It seems like a lot of work for swag, but really after writing an initial template letter you can just cut and paste for each business. Have you ever been tasked with soliciting donations for prizes for your organization's sewing event? If you found ways to streamline the process, share those tips in the comments!
Ooh, and one more thing: ask your people if anyone knows someone at the business. You know how it is: If my friend asks me...