Cost-Benefit Analysis

We all get asked to do a million things.  Personally you get asked to host a direct selling party, chauffeur the youth soccer team or watch your neighbor’s child.  Professionally you may get asked to be on the committee planning the holiday party or to walk as part of a team for a charity event.  As a business owner you likely get asked for donations for school auctions, local charities and more.

I won’t begin to try to offer guidance on the personal front, but I will weigh in on the professional and business owner matters.

If you work for a company and get asked to do anything that is not illegal, immoral, dangerous to your health or takes place on your spouse/child’s birthday – accept!   It’s always good to be seen as a “team player” and the opportunity to network outside your immediate work circle has many career benefits.  Few companies have so many of these extra-curricular activities that it will be a huge imposition and the investment of time and energy will be noted by those in positions of authority within the organization.

As a business owner, it’s a trickier question.  Because you are not on anyone’s payroll, time is money – if you aren’t working, you likely are not making money.  When asked to do something that takes your time, you have to weigh the cost.  How big is the time commitment?  Is it during your peak period or can you volunteer during a slow time?  How could this time investment pay off in terms of future business?  Will you be exposed to potential new customers?

The same is true for all the requests to donate to both charity and local school auctions.  When asked, it’s important to learn as much as you can about the attendees to the event as the event itself.  Are the attendees your target customer?  

My husband and I once bought an introduction to ballroom dancing package at a the JDRF silent auction, enjoyed the experience so much we paid for lessons for the next 3 years.  In that case, the donation was certainly worth the cost!

If  the potential customer base is a good fit but your services are too expensive to give away, can you offer an “introductory” item?  Perhaps a brief consultation and then discount for services?  How about an hour of work or credit of an hour towards a package purchased?

If it’s not feasible to give your exact goods or services away – is there a related item you can offer instead?  At Sleep Country USA we couldn’t possibly give away a mattress to every group that asked, but we purchased quantities of king-sized sheets to donate along with a logo mug with our Gosanko logo chocolate bars.

Whenever you donate your time or merchandise – make the most of the exposure opportunity.  If you work for a company and participate in an event, be sure to introduce yourself to everyone there you don’t yet know.  If you are a business owner who provided the floral centerpieces for an event, have the group give you a ticket to attend and then network like crazy!

As with the dance lessons, if the new customer comes to you from a charity auction donation – give them a “wow” experience.  Thank them for supporting the community with their purchase (they did spend $$ to buy your service even if you didn’t get the cash).

Also, don’t hesitate to say “no” when the situation doesn’t fit for you.  Explaining that you get a lot of requests and allocate only so much each year for donation is a graceful way to decline.  Remember, no one can solve all the world’s ills.  If the cause is near and dear to your heart – go for it.  If not, weigh the cost to your business and make a business decision about where, when and how much to give or you may not be around to give again next year!

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