Who would think that our little blueberry store in downtown Grand Haven would receive requests almost daily for donations? I certainly wouldn’t think we would be on everyone’s radar.

I’m not complaining, but sometimes it is frustrating to have to say no so many times in just a few days. In fact, in the last five days, I have had seven different people ask me for donations:

  1. A group I am actively involved in already and help to promote.

2.  A dear friend who has been active in cancer awareness, and I have worked closely with her in the past to secure funds for her cause.

3.  A downtown associate whose brother had cancer.

4.  An acquaintance raising money for a group in Muskegon.

5.  A Christian Ministry group looking for donations for their annual event.

6.  A group looking for all Michigan-made goods—located on the east side of the state.

7.  Three different local sports teams doing a “Michigan” theme.

As you can see, the requests come from all over, and everyone thinks his or her cause deserves attention. Now, I like to think of myself as a giving person, and, as the owner of a small business in a small town, I think it’s important to support the community where you live and work. However, it’s just not possible to give to every single cause or event. I know many other businesses feel the same that we do when it comes to giving back to our community. We do our best to help with what we feel are great causes, but we simply can’t help them all.

First and foremost, Blueberry Haven gives to Camp Blodgett, a camp located on Lake Michigan that helps youth throughout Kent County. We also donate quite often to specific asks from Grand Haven Area Public Schools. In addition, if our employees ask for a donation for something that is near and dear to their heart, we are happy to help.

I think people sometimes forget that the majority of our business—nearly 85 percent—comes from tourism, and sometimes the asks from others can get a little frustrating. We truly value our loyal customers, and we want to help them just as they have helped us. Even if you visit our business only a few times each year and buy gifts for your friends, we know you are sending others in to Blueberry Haven to experience our made-in-Michigan products for themselves. We have all heard the old saying, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” That saying goes a long way towards success for all of us.

As a business owner in a small town, I would like to offer some hints to those of you who solicit from your local merchants. Here are some things to keep in mind before you decide to ask for something from a particular business:

  • If you aren’t a frequent shopper in that store (you only visit once a year), you probably shouldn’t be asking for a donation from them.
  • When you walk in the door, don’t tell the employees that you love their store but you’ve never been inside the store before.
  • If you can, offer to pay at least something (maybe 50 percent) towards the cost of the goods you are soliciting. The merchant may be more willing to help you out if you are able to help a bit as well.

I have been a part of many groups looking for donations, and I have had to ask for donations many times. It’s difficult to be on the asking end, but it’s also tough being on the end that is always being asked to contribute. Now that I have pointed out what the business owners are up against, I hope you will keep in mind the tips I have shared for successful solicitation!

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