Blog 157 of 265

Be Selfish If You Donate Your Rental

By William May
Published: 04/19/04 Topics: Comments: -

New owners of Vacation Rental homes quickly learn how many friends they really have. And I don't just mean cousin Jenny and her 12 screaming kids who would love to spend every week end at your lake house this summer chowing down on your hamburgers and chips.

No, I am referring to all the truly great not-for-profit groups who will think it is a nifty idea for you to donate a week at your house to their annual auction, bazaar or awards dinner give-away.

Let me say that I am the first to support every good cause I can afford. Penny and I have volunteered and worked on boards for the zoo, children's safety, theatres, dance companies and the like. If you too are a softie for these organizations, congratulations. You are doing your part to make the world a better place.

Offering your home to charities allows you to provide a unique benefit to those who need your help. But many rental owners are besieged with more requests than they can afford to donate. If you have ever donated you may not recognize the problem.

Give a single week's use to, let's say, your daughter's brownie troop auction and your name as a willing benefactor will ripple through the community. Soon, you'll be hearing from well meaning "procurement" person at every not-for-profit around.

Maybe all of this is good news for our fledgling industry. Vacation Rentals are often the highest priced item in many fund raisers. That means consumers value the opportunity to stay at a nice private vacation home.

SHOW ME THE MONEY

At the same time, however, if the income from vacation rental homes is essential to the financial well being of most owners. As much as you may want to be a big donor ad supporter you also have to pay the mortgage.

Big companies have learned they are also targets of the well meaning fund raisers. You can imagine the thousands of legitimate requests that large companies receive. It may serve us well to learn from those firms about how to be concerned and involved citizens without giving away the farm.

As an example, Microsoft Corporation's primary philanthropic system (aside from its founder Bill Gates giving away billions of dollars personally) is to setup a matching system for employee donation. Staff member donations are matched by the company up to a certain amount. This serves to help charities but control the outflow.

Other large corporations set strict budgets on donations and require charities submit proposals on an annual basis. They generally don't entertain short notice pleas for help. This means only the organized and persistent causes get helped. Plus it eliminates the interruptions and soul searching that might disrupt the work of their employees.

You will notice that the largest companies often provide small item donations. Your grocery store chain, for example, might donate a bouquet of flowers or video rental. Unfortunately, the rentals we offer are comparatively expensive.

They are especially expensive in relationship to the size of our small businesses. A $750 rental donation could be five percent of your annual income whereas a $50 donation by Safeway is peanuts.

WHATS THE IDEA

If large well organized companies see fit to control their charitable giving it is logical that we smaller vacation rental home owners do likewise. So here are some ideas on how to go about formalizing your "Donation Program."

First, stop and decide what your charitable objectives are. If you don't really need the income and you can afford to donate repeatedly then please do so. We'll all think highly of you for that.

But if you have to generate income from your home you might want to be a little strategic. For example, we have decided that donations are a great thing if and only if they provide benefit for us as well as the charity. We limit the number of gifts and we set rules for how the rental should function.

If you have ever had to make procurement calls for your favorite charity you will have heard all kinds of responses from business owners. Some will donate a small item to most everyone who asks. Others donate only to their favorite causes or groups to whom they belong.

And others are rather crass about demanding something in return for their donation such as patronage by everyone in your group. And almost all of these people will feel rather sheepish about responding. They get tired of being "hit up" but they know it is bad for business to decline.

ASKING FOR PROMOTIONAL VALUE

For example, we ask for promotional value in order to accommodate requests. I think its the secret to being really good citizens. In short, we only donate to groups who will help us promote our rentals. When you think about it that helps them as well. If donating secures other paid rentals then your income grows and you can afford to donate again.

When someone calls soliciting a donation, its acceptable for you to ask some questions. (Believe me the big companies do). Here is what you want to know. Most requests now a days are for an auction or raffle so I'll preface my questions as if that is the case.

ASK QUESTIONS:

- Who will be attending the event?

- How many people will attend?

- Will your item be offered in the silent or live auction?

- Can you write the live auction description?

- Will the description be included in the auction catalog?

- Can they put photos in the catalog?

(Good for them and for you)

- Can you put up a post and display for the silent auction?

- And for the live auction?

- Can you get a complimentary ticket to the event.

(Its good to meet and great and hand out cards.)

- Will they give you names & addresses of attendees

(So you can mail to them)

- Can you put a flyer at each seat?

- Or put a flyer in each "good bag: given to attendees?

- Will they immediately provide you with the winner's name & address

- Will they disclose what the winning bid was?

WORD OF MOUTH. Auctions and similar events are valuable if they provide word of mouth advertising for your rental. To stimulate such promotion, it is wise to require a display, offer flyers or participate in the auction more than just making the donation and getting a 10 second announcement.

BE THOUGHTFUL. Never make a commitment immediately especially on the phone. Ask for all the information and then give it some thought. Think of donations as if you were giving them CASH money. In many ways you are. If you don't make the donation and sell the dates instead you are essentially giving them the cash. Think of it that way.

DON'T GIVE AWAY THE BEST. Most charities are so thankful for a donation that they are not terribly picky about dates. Its wise to give them desirable dates so they will get a significant price. But you don't need to give the your high season. Make sure the auction description clearly explains the dates and exclusions and legal requirements. Require the winner use the dates within one year of the purchase.

STRATEGIZE THE DATES. It seems easy to donate a week to a good cause but you don't have to donate that much. Consider limiting your gift to three or five days. It still shows your support. You will be surprised how many winners will ask to buy additional dates at the regular rates. Be sure to mention this possibility in the description.

WRITE A GREAT DESCRIPTION. The auction description or photos or display are your chance to sell your product. Write exciting, descriptive information. Don't be afraid to sell your product. Remember to sell the resort or area as well. Not everyone will be familiar with your destination. And include the legal stuff in the description.

WRITE DOWN THE DETAILS. If you agree to a donation make sure they provide you with a written contract explaining what you are giving and what you are getting. Most such forms are very short. Don't be afraid to attach a letter confirming the number of attendees, the live description.

GUEST PAPERWORK. Require winners to sign the same paperwork you require for paid guests. Always require a cash deposit to protect yourself from damages and overages. Make sure its clear the booking is non-cancelable and non refundable.

AN ALTERNATE. Another way to get value is to donate "designated dates". In this method you give the charity specific dates to sell such as your mid or low season. Ask them to offer these for sale exclusively to their members by instructing the member to purchase.

Then remit all the cash to the charity. You will find that they will appreciate the real money donation more than they do the equivalent value in dates.

SPLITTING INCOME. Or how about giving a charity certain low or mid season dates to sell with the agreement to split the income with them. You get at least some income for harder to sell dates and they'll promote it to far more constituents than those who actually buy. You get lots of exposure and possibly regular bookings in the future.

SAY NO. Do you find some of these suggestions demanding? Maybe, but your home is your investment. The more you get out of it the more you can support your favorite causes. Say no to those who do not provide good value so that you can say yes to more of those who do.

Set a limit on how many dates you are willing to donate. Groups who call to late to be considered can be encouraged to apply again next year.

SEEK OUT DONATIONS. Don't reward only those who solicit you. Keep your eye out for great causes with events that might promote your rental well.Give them a all to ask what they are looking for. Even though you may be soliciting them don't hesitate to ask the same questions before donating.

Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0046 – 04/19/04

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