Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Thoughts on Loving Fundraising from a Small Business Owner Perspective

I really appreciate hearing different perspectives. I'm convinced every job I have ever had has shifting how I see some things.
Being a small business owner with a storefront in a "smaller" town for 2 + years gave me the biggest shift in thinking I have ever experienced. I had to work through a lot of things, but the thing I would like to share about today is Fundraising.

About 7 years ago I was going on a missions trip and we were needing to raise money. So we went around to lots of businesses and asked for donations. I'll admit it still isn't my favorite thing to do, but my husband likes to remind me we are letting people in on an amazing work they will be reaping eternal rewards for as well.
Anyhow, we got to the Red Bowl in Charlotte of off Providence Rd. and the manager said he be delighted to help and handed me a paper. We said, "thank you" and left and proceeded to read.

Basically the company would set up a code for our group and we would tell people to go eat at the Red Bowl and they would give them the code. Red Bowl would then total the amount and give a check for a percentage of the sales. I found it very interesting but too much work for me...

4 years later I end up having a store on Main Street in downtown Fort Mill. I had countless numbers of people coming in asking for donations, monetarily or pieces for auction. I am very thankful for all the times I was able to help, but I admit I had to work through a lot of hurt...
May I paint you a candid picture?
You are a small business "shopowner"aka accountant, bookkeeper, producer, instructor, marketer, webmaster, customer service giver, clerk, coffee maker, janitor, consultant and secretary. You have not been able to pay yourself anything personally through your business. You are struggling to pay your monthly overhead: rent, utilities, insurance, internet, phone, pos system lease, cc fees, taxes, alarm. You are here to serve the community, to provide a place where they can sell their amazing handmade products made in the U.S.A. Offering couches and coffee so people can hang out and use the wifi and have someone to talk to. Giving food, company and shelter from the cold to the homeless staying nearby. You love people and want to bring a little bit of joy to their lives and connect with local artisans and learn a new creative skill. You are at this shop 7am to 7pm Monday through Saturday ready to love and serve.
You with me so far?
So this particular week, foot traffic has been slow... really slow. I'm talking maybe 1 person a day coming in and we are now at Thursday and it seems to be the season of fundraising. Last week about 7 people came in asking for donations and your weekly sales total was about $400. Another lovely smiling person walks in and is asking for another donation for their school or missions trip or church or non-profit. I smile on the outside, but feel sadness on the inside, because a person has finally come in the shop today, but they have no interest in investing in this business or the 72 artists that had their items there. I feel a bit panicked because I LOVE to give, but I am literally behind on monthly goals just to cover the overhead. There seems to be a sense that because someone has a business that they must have lots of money. I'm here to tell you not just from my experience, but from several close storefront owning friends, having a business doesn't mean you have lots of money, or any personal money for that matter.
Great sob story, right? No, I am so thankful for the people I met and chatted with and I even thankful for the many people who came in to use my bathroom at the Tree Lighting or Parade and walked right out not buying anything. But I will tell you it took me a little while to get to the thankful place in my heart for that because I felt... well used, unloved, unimportant by the community. It seemed many people verbally said, "I hope you do well." "I'm really glad you are here." But never got a coffee or cocoa or brought a friend in later. I recently had a long trip and had to use the bathroom, so I went and ordered one of the cheapest things I could find before I went. For me, especially being in Mexico where I paid for toilet paper in public places, I am very mindful and thankful that someone paid the bills so I could use the facilities. I had serious Divine help to be in a place now of complete love in my heart for every person that I interacted with.
For most of us that have fund-raised, we want to help make the world a better place. To bring love, true love with skin on to people. For me I want to represent Jesus who is Love.

So what am I saying here?
I am NOT saying you shouldn't ever ask small businesses for donations. I don't think everyone that goes in a shop should buy something. But if you are asking for money or donations offer to put flyers out at the library in exchange. Or if you are taking something from the business, consider loving them with something... a blog post, a shout out, a check-in, bringing in a friend.
What I am saying is considering loving them too. See how you can partner with them, be the marketing campaign. In exchange for a wreath from them, can you let your friends know they are there. Better yet, can you bring your friends there? One of the most darling people I know owns Z Bakery and she was quoted in an article in the Herald Online saying, “If you want a local business to stay, you have to support it.”   She has seen an amazing and compassionate side of this local community.    

How can you not only love the animals or people that you are raising funds for, but the people you encounter along the way? Seem like more work? Yes, love takes work, love is a choice.

There are many lessons I could expound on, but for now I just want those of you who have a desire to make a difference to love not only the cause but to support small businesses who bring love and light to their communities.

P.S. I am still super thankful to all you helped me on my shop journey and you are still in my heart and on my store "wall".

Read more here: http://www.heraldonline.com/news/local/community/fort-mill-times/article45998530.html#storylink=cpy

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