Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Retail shops get asked for donations, and though you probably knew that, unless you have been a shop owner, you probably have no idea how frequently that happens.

When I first opened, it was a real eye opener for me.

"Our ball team needs new uniforms - can you help?"

"Our school trip is coming up, can we count on you to help?"

"Our club is having a card party, can you donate a door prize?"

"Our class reunion is coming up soon,  can you give us a little something  to put in gift baskets?"

"Our school/team/club/organization is putting together a poster/yearbook/program/calendar. Can you place an ad on it?

"Our charity really needs your help. Would you prefer to give us a cash donation, or a door prize for our event?"

Are all of these "good causes"? Sure.
Can I help all of them? I wish I could, but I can't.

In the early days of my retail shop, before my eyes were completely opened, I did help them all. And, the more of them I helped, the more of them came.

It reminded me of a story my dad used to tell. When he was a kid on a small country farm, hobo's were a common sight. They would frequently stop at his house, and my grandma would fix them something to eat. They would sit on the back porch and eat; dad's job was to sit out there with them, making sure they didn't steal the silverware! He said the hobo's knew which houses to stop at for a bite to eat, because they would mark a tree, fence post or something, showing other hobo's that this was a safe place, and the lady of the house would give you a good meal.

So, the more donations I gave, the more I was asked. I'm not exaggerating when I say there were days when I gave away more than I sold. Especially on bad weather days. For whatever reason, customers don't come out in bad weather, but terrible weather seems to bring out those seeking donations in full force.

It reached the point that I would get requests from schools in a neighboring state, schools that are close to 2  hours away! Clearly, something had to give.

I talked to some other shop owners, some here in our town, some scattered over the US and Canada. I realized we all had the same problem, and while we would have liked to help them all, we just couldn't. Different owners came up with different ways to handle the matter.

Some don't give to any at all, but they offer to have a "party night" for that particular club/school/group, donating a portion of the sales that night to the group. (Very few groups take them up on it).

Some give only to schools, or charities, or whatever their particular interest is.

That's the route I took. I decided to only give to those who are suffering unforeseen circumstances, and a benefit is being held to help them. Fire victims. Illness or accident victims. Funeral expenses for an unexpected death. I feel like these are the circumstances that could come upon any of us, and quickly spiral our lives out of control, and I am happy to help these folks who have been dealt a harsh blow by life.

I hardly ever buy an ad in a school paper or program. They are usually only 25 bucks or so, but multiply that by the number of schools in the area, and then multiply that again by all the different classes, clubs and sports teams in each one, and you can see how out of control that can quickly become!

I actually heard of a business in a nearby town who always helped the local school when it came knocking, even feeding the sports teams for free before the games. That's wonderful if you can do it, but more than once, while he was feeding the team, he couldn't meet his payroll.

It would be great to be able to help all those who ask, but, just as a household can't do that, neither can a small business, especially in this economy.

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