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Why turning away a donation is a risky business.


Imagine an individual pledged to donate £1000 a year to your charity. You would probably welcome the donation!

Now imagine that individual wanted to pledge £1000 but it was raised by donating a percentage of their monthly sales. Would you say ‘no thanks’ ?

Most fundraisers would agree that an offer of a donation, whether small or large, is a positive thing (unless of course, a donation is from an illegal source or from a supporter whose values do not align with the charities, then the offer of money would be understandably turned away).

In most cases, donations come from a place that is good. Whether the supporter is a business owner or an individual.

1105 new businesses signed up to Work for Good to fundraise through their sales! (Twitter Post)

So why do charities turn away offers of legitimate donations from businesses that want to raise funds through their sales?

From years of chatting with fundraisers, there seems to be two answers:

1) The business’s donation does not meet the charity’s minimum threshold for a corporate partnership.

2) There is not a clear internal process to steward the business efficiently and effectively.

Either way, turning away a potential business supporter brings with it four clear risks to the charity:

  • Reputational: Many would say that a charity's reputation is its most important asset. So if a donor is turned away, what does it say to them about the charity?

    A poor supporter experience can really have a negative impact. It can impact future relationships, as this valuable supporter may no longer want to support your charity and they may well tell others about their experience; leading to a potentially negative reputation.

  • Being seen as inflexible: The cost of donor acquisition is very high and therefore donors should be retained not rejected. Businesses tend to donate to charities that align with their values or those they have a personal connection with, and many may already be an individual supporter. Furthermore, in the current economic climate, it makes sense to offer supporters as many different and flexible ways to donate and fundraise.

  • Income: Unrestricted income is vital for the survival of charities, so turning it away is a huge loss of potential sustainable funding! If supporters feel a charity doesn't need or want the donation they are offering, this is demoralising and will impact the chances for a donation in the future. They may go somewhere else that welcomes their support!

  • Opportunity: Charities should recognise and value donations of all sizes but also be open-minded to start-ups or sole traders. Being too selective at the outset can be detrimental to the longer-term opportunity. Every business has to start somewhere and embedding giving into a business venture from the off should be encouraged NOT discouraged.


Image courtesy of Crimpit.

Crimpit is a small business selling a cool toastie gadget. When they launched the founders also started to fundraise for The Trussell Trust. The Commercial Participation Agreement was set up via Work for Good.

From February 2022 they started to donate .10p from every sale to the charity via a monthly donation. The amount raised every month grew, as did the business.

In one year Crimpit raised over £17,000.

Never ignore a start-up or a small business. A small initial donation could grow to become a considerable regular donation if enabled from the start.

So what can fundraisers do?

Taking some time to implement a clear internal process, including using an easy, affordable Commercial Participation Agreement solution, will open doors to a valuable source of sustainable income; as well as loyal sales fundraising supporters for years to come.

Charities small and large such as Mind, Alzheimer's UK, Surfers Against Sewage, TreeSisters, The Bendrigg Trust and Women’s Aid have shown there is no need to turn a business away; no matter the size of the donation.

There are simple steps that can be put in place to steward business supporters and any charity can do this.

Check out this case study to learn how Mind has done just this.