‘Tis the season of giving, not ‘gimme’ for Summit County
In much of the country, charity begins at home with people going door to door seeking donations for worthy causes. In the big cities, charity begins at the office, in 40-story office buildings where the donors can be trapped in their cubicles and made to buy chocolate and cookies and tickets to events they’ll never attend, but all for a host of worthy causes.In Summit County, however, where homes are far apart, and the average office has few people, charity begins with the silent auction and the business owner.Fall is the busiest time for the silent auction fundraiser. There are fundraisers for kids to ski, to snowboard, to telemark and to cross country.In many cases, multiple fundraisers arise for each discipline, organized sometimes by groups with different membership or goals, sometimes organized by groups with the same agenda but peopled by folks who’ve decided not to be adult and get along.There are fundraisers for causes, to combat various forms of cancer and other diseases, to raise money for child care and this elementary school and that school club, and for open space and huts and trails and duck hunting and elk hunting.
There are fundraisers for individuals as well, victims of bad luck and circumstance who need a little help, sometimes a lot of help, to pull through.There are memorial fund-raisers, to honor folks taken by accident or disease who deserve remembrance.Happily, the election is behind us, saving us from candidate and political cause fundraisers, with one exception. Summit County’s one-time U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis has been raising money even though he’s not running for anything(!), and using the money to pay his spouse as a full-time campaign manager. While it’s legal, it certainly raises eyebrows and presents an opportunity for the erstwhile fundraiser. Campaigns, even noncampaigns like McInnis’, can give money away for just about any purpose that appeals to the candidate. Now would be a good time to hit up McInnis for cash. Even after paying his wife $40,000 to manage a nonexistent campaign, he still has $1.4 million to give away. Now that the legal-but-marginally-ethical news about his wife’s ‘job’ is out, he’ll be looking for ways to win back your trust, and sweep that news from the headlines, so he’d probably be happy to give away $40,000, say, or even more to worthy causes to whom he’s not married.
The typical Summit County merchant gives away thousands, often tens of thousands of dollars in donations every year in the form of merchandise, gift certificates or service certificates. Every business owner has causes that he or she wants to support. Often he or she will make a donation to a cause of less personal or business interest not only because the cause is worthy, but because the owner has items that haven’t sold, but would make a great donation for a silent auction and gain the business some goodwill.Sometimes the business owner must say no, or must say yes to some and no to others simply because there are so many requests.For a lot of business owners, however, what often makes the difference between making the donation and saying no is the way they’re asked for a donation.If you don’t own a business, you’d be amazed at the way people ask for donations. Some requesters are thoughtful and courteous – the Summit Historical Society comes to mind.
Their folks go door to door well in advance of their fundraiser, are courteous and happy to come back if the owner can’t drop whatever they are doing, and great about giving the business recognition for a donation. The Historical Society is an exception. So many requests for “swag” or “stuff” to sell at a silent auction come just days before an event, often by a volunteer hurrying to ring every door bell, who can’t leave a written request for a donation, and who gets cranky if the owner won’t drop whatever he or she is doing to fulfill the request right away. It’s remarkable that some organizations gather any donations at all. The county is flush with organizations and causes, and every business would donate to every cause if it could.But businesses can’t, so if your organization is going to ask for a donation, do it courteously, early and in writing. Some businesses will still say no, but a little common sense in your approach will go a long way to yes.Marc Carlisle writes a Thursday column. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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