5 Mistakes Not to Make When Asked to Donate Italian Ice

Posted by Lilly on February 14, 2013 at 4:05 AM

Last Spring, I wasn't two steps into starting up my Italian Ice business when the unexpected happened.  I was searching for a commissary, and I thought it wise of me to ask local churches and synagogues with kitchen space whether they'd partner up with me as my commissary. Shortly after receiving a rejection email from one organization, their contact person turned right around and asked me if I would donate tubs of Italian Ice to their annual 5k event.  Interestingly (and quite clever), she mentioned that the local Rita's had already committed to one tub.  Well, naive, anxious and not to be outdone, I found myself committing enthusiastically for TWO tubs of Italian Ice.  In return, she promised, I would get free advertising exposure in their 5k marketing flyer.  At the time, I thought it was a wonderful opportunity!  A year later, a year wiser and more jaded, I view it very differently.  Let me explain.

On the day of the event, I loaded their two selected Italian Ice flavors into a marine cooler to take over to their event, at 8:00 am on a Saturday morning.  First, the entire point of becoming an Italian Ice vendor is to run by my own rules and my own hours.  Typically I won't sell until 11:00am when it gets good and hot and I've enjoyed sleeping in.  Already, bleary-eyed, I was not as enthusiastic as when I'd made the commitment.  

Next, upon arriving at the event, there were tons of people and volunteers, but my contact was nowhere in sight.  I asked random people to lead me to her, but in the end I never met her.  A kind soul took me to the kitchen freezers where I dropped off my Italian Ice.  Nevermind that their kitchen and walk-in freezer was huge and state-of-the-art!  The freezer shelves were empty.  And yet, they'd declined my request for a commissary.  Yeah, that got to me. 

About two weeks later, I got a a thank-you email from an unknown party for that organization, informing me that my Italian Ice was a hit and that it was gone after one hour of continuous scooping.  What I didn't get, however, was any proof of that advertising they'd promised.  Nor did I receive any letter formally detailing my donation, so that I could write it off on the following year's business taxes. 

So, what did I learn that I now share with you, dear readers? 

  1. Have any organization which wants you to donate tubs or time write you a formal request in advance, that you can choose to approve or disapprove as you see fit.  You could have a page on your website for these organizations with a downloadable form that they can fill out and physically mail to you.  This will create a paper that you can file away with no extra work on your part.  I don't believe we should take time or funds away from our businesses to print out any online requests.  Put the onus on the requesting organization.
  2. Once you approve the organization's request, have them pick up the donation!  My contact clearly had the space for Italian Ice tubs available, and a more suitable time for pickup by her would have been the night before, even a week before - not the vendor making any deliveries the morning of their event.
  3. Have them provide you a copy of their marketing piece showing where they placed your company in their advertising, as promised, before you let any tubs of ice leave your possession.  This marketing material will be printed far in advance of their event, so this is not a difficult request.  And as business owners, we need to obtain proof of agreements. 
  4. Do not provide dishers (scoops) for organizations!  This only makes you have to pick them up (think fuel cost and time).  Or, as in my case, I simply never got it back.  There went a $12 piece of equipment with two free tubs of ice.  I certainly can not afford to do that repeatedly. 
  5. If their event goes well and you get positive feedback, as I did, ask for their permission to use their comments as a testimonial on your website.  This, at least, I did right!

in the end, I learned, and I'm more business savvy.  And I'm certainly not opposed to donating and helping organizations out... on my terms.  So, how about you?  Do you have any lessons learned from times when you were asked to donate Italian Ice to an organization's event?  I'd love you to share them with us in the comments.

Categories: Financial Aspects, Tricks of the Trade, Getting Started

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Reply iceman
6:03 PM on February 17, 2013 
How horrible. I just contributed to a youth home this week end and because the temp. was 39 degrees i decieded to just donate sample size portions to one and all. ended up donating about 400 and met some nice people that may help in the future. I need to send in a invoice for my cost and i will write it off as a donation to a good cause. sorry things didnt work out for you! :)
Sorry things didint work out for you, but remember donate for a good cause! :)
Reply Lilly
7:21 PM on February 17, 2013 
Thanks, Iceman! You're totally right. I think there are some really great causes out there, and probably some that don't need the help as much as others. I think as the community learns more about my business, I will have to be more selective with donation requests. But I will always donate to a worthy organization!