We have just had that time of year. The time of year where many of you will have had to brace yourselves for the onslaught. You may currently be buried under a pile of these, you may have even used them to build yourself a fort. Yes, you know it, you have just survived the peak time for those donations that strike fear into the hearts of even the most formidable of fundraisers – welcome to Easter Egg Gate.
Gifts in kind (GIK's) can be a wonderful thing. They can provide us with that “money can't buy” raffle prize, that piece of equipment that you couldn’t quite secure funding for, or those day to day essentials that keep the charity ticking over. They offer a great way for charities to gain or maintain corporate support and can break up the cycle of the usual monetary asks.
The majority of GIK's are solicited. You have approached that business for that raffle prize, or piece of equipment, or toiletries. It could have just taken one phone call to a warm contact, you may have been asked to write a letter to head office detailing your exact needs and intentions with said gift, there’s a chance you were even required to go through a lengthy application process. One thing is for sure - it is incredibly rare that you will get a phone call one day from a corporate supporter and they say “we have decided to give you THIS”.
Around this time of year, this all changes. Our wonderful corporate supporters turn this whole process completely on its head and become proactive. They decide that they are going to step up to the mark, grab the Bunny by the ears, and make a difference.
And so, the corporate easter egg collections begin. A quick google for news articles shows that more often than not they elect to donate to children’s charities - hospitals and hospices. Now this is all well and good, it would seem; these charities care for children; children like chocolate; they deliver the chocolate; the children are happy; the staff have done a good deed; everyone is happy, right? Wrong. Now there is a strong chance that I am preaching to the converted but for those who may not work in this specific area of charities I will highlight a few of the initial problems with donations such as this:
• Children who use hospitals or hospices are often too poorly to eat, or physically cannot eat at all. Lots of these children may be tube fed so there is zero possibility of the eggs having any benefit to them.
• If the children can eat, chances are that their family have already purchased them some eggs. A lack of Easter eggs aren’t the problem in the majority of these families, the problem is that their child needs ongoing medical care.
• Donations are often received too late to convert into fundraising – no one wants to win an Easter egg bundle post Easter/chocolate overload.
• Everyone else has had the same idea. So, whilst one corporate has dropped 50 eggs off, the next 5 might drop 100 off. There are only so many brothers/sisters/neighbours that we can give eggs out to. This means that inevitably a significant amount can get wasted, which is not what the donor or the charity want.
It can be tempting to just take these donations, say a huge thank you, cart them back to the office, and add some extra height onto your fort. However, aside from providing you with an enclosed safe space, that’s not really helping the charity or your generous (and non the wiser) Corporate supporter.
I have put together a six step plan for how to deal with these donations, how to build your relationship further, and how to transform them into monetary (or more useful GIK’s) in time for next year.
1. Breathe - Sometimes it’s easy to forget that not everyone understands the charity as well as you and the rest of the team do, and become frustrated (especially by the time the tenth load is delivered). What can come across as a little insensitive to you is usually down to a lack of understanding some supporters have of the issues your children/patients face.
2. Thank – These corporates have specifically chosen your charity, and their staff have gone to the effort of buying the eggs and donating them. They have done an incredibly kind thing, and that needs to be recognised.
3. Inform – Don’t be afraid to let them know exactly how the donations can and can’t be used. For example, you could share with them that only a small handful of the patients are physically able to or have the appetite to eat, so you will also give some to their families, then use them for fundraising purposes (time permitting).
4. Thank again! – Even with the best delivery in the world, finding out that the children won’t be able to eat the eggs will inevitably be disappointing. Your job here is to re thank and recognise once again the efforts they have gone to, and their ongoing support. You need to pick them right back up!
5. Use it as an opportunity – When you began this relationship, it’s unlikely that it was necessary to go into details such as how the children are fed. This is the perfect excuse to set up a meeting with their CSR team and give a more in depth talk about the problems that your patients are facing, and ways the charity helps to overcome these.
6. Work together – once you have talked through the ins and outs of why buying Easter eggs might not be the best way to support the charity, ask them to contribute to an ideas session to come up with ways they can put a spin on things next year to raise funds instead. A supporter is much more likely to action something that they have come up with themselves, so if you do get this opportunity – go for it! You can then share their story with other corporate supporters for next year and transform their Easter giving!
By putting this plan into action, you are not only educating them more on the cause that is close to them, but you are demonstrating that you have a strong enough working relationship to be honest, and showing that you are confident that you can work together to make a real difference in coming months and years.
Here are a few ideas to get you started for your next Easter campaign (some of which are already being put into practice by some super pro active charities!)
• Foodbanks – Charities such as this are the exception to this article. After speaking to a local foodbank, they told me that they are delighted to receive as many donations of Easter eggs as possible as it may be the first time the person receiving them has had chocolate for months. Why not consider partnering up with your local Food Bank or Soup Kitchen? Ask the corporate to collect cash, donate half to your charity and use half to purchase eggs for the other. This way your corporate doubles their impact and is still able to perform the coveted easter egg handover.
• Wish List – It is usually the tangible, physical aspect of the donations appeals at Easter, so why not ask for gifts to be purchased that would be of great use to the charity? Haven House Hospice have created their very own Amazon Wish List full of toys and equipment that the children staying in the hospice would love. The items range from £3.99 to £115.99 to ensure that anyone can get involved.
• Virtual Easter Eggs – Each year some children's hospices run Virtual Easter Egg Campaigns. This follows the simple principle of asking supporters to make a donation in return for their Virtual Egg. This process generally begins with a simple introduction about why Easter Eggs can’t be eaten by their patients and how a donation would help instead. Some have even gone one step further and linked to a Virtual Garden where you can select an Egg to sponsor, with the option to leave your name and a message. You can simplify/build upon this concept as much as you like to suit your organisation.
• Fundraising Activities – Ask your supporters to get creative and hold an egg decorating competition in their workplace or community group – making a donation for each entry. Use social media as your vessel for supporters to interact and share their creations – you could even crown the most egg-cellent overall entry as the Easter Champion.
Whatever the outcomes of this year’s Egg-Gate have been, remember that a huge amount of people have come together to support your cause, and that is an amazing relationship to have and to build upon. We would love you to share your cracking Easter Campaign ideas! Drop me a line using the details below. Now, after all of that I think I fancy some chocolate…
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