Can’t I just bake some cupcakes?

I remember when my kids were in elementary school and my wife, after much volunteering, was invited to join the PTA Board. A lot of mom’s take this as a huge compliment at first, as did my wife. It means she was well thought of, others enjoyed having her around, and she could look forward to all that bonding. Maybe one day, she might have some influence. Whereas those things may all be true, the other ingredient was that someone felt she had the most-needed gift for a PTA board member – the fund raising gene.
This blog isn’t only referring to PTA however; it’s for anyone involved in a community fundraising situation, from community theatre to soccer moms. It seems like many mom-types love certain aspects of serving on these committees. From making the cupcakes to stringing the decorations, it’s a good feeling watching the kids enjoy it all while chit-chatting with the other parents. The hours and hard work seem rewarding and fun. But, all that comes to a squeeching holt when the board president announces that its fundraising time, and even more terrifying, everyone needs to try and find 3 business sponsors.
The volunteers go on their not-so-merry way to make phone calls, some stop ins, and maybe write some letters. They also might comprise an email to blast out. The message says we have great kids, and we have some great projects, so please sponsor us. It’s not much different than every other donation request most businesses receive. This does work a small percentage of the time when the small business sees that a large part of their revenue comes from this group’s membership. It also works if the business is aggressively looking to support the community, but that’s not a common scenario.
Let me now move the shoe over to the other foot. Here I am – a small business owner. Rain, sleet, or hail (okay, we don’t get much sleet in Florida) don’t delay the daily requests for donations from their rounds to my business. Usually it’s by mail or email, and the personal visits are down. I’m just stating facts and not necessarily advocating for the personal visit. We are now getting to my motivation for writing this blog. I would like to really help these volunteers in their mission to get the small business support they are shooting for.
What does the PTA, or other community group, have to offer that is free and valuable to a small business? What does a small business need in today’s market place that is hard, if not impossible to purchase, and he needs outside help to obtain. Answer: Google Ranking.
Today’s market is not different than yesterday’s in that referral is still the number one form of effective marketing. But, the thing that is different is the internet, and more specifically, Google. We don’t have to go down the Google discussion, right? We all Google everything. The challenge for the local business is showing up higher on the Google search ranking. They can either become internet suave or pay a hefty fee for it. Or they can get some help, lots of help, to do it organically.
Google reviews are highly weighted by Google. Yelp, Foursquare, Superpages, and others will also be scored, but of course, Google will guarantee attention to the ones on their platform. Get five good reviews on a business and it will move their ranking 2 or 3 spaces up the ladder (that’s a layman’s explanation – which works for me). The more good reviews and the further they will move up.
This proposal of mine goes out directly to the PTA groups in my area, but others should listen up. Imagine the power when your board and a large part of your PTA organization start writing reviews for the businesses that are currently supporting you. Imagine the response when that business sees, online, that members of the Just-around-the-corner Elementary PTA are popping up with reviews left and right. What will he think when he sees that his business is now ranked on Google higher than the chain store at the mall because of local online support from your association? Now, just think, is that business going to hesitate to sponsor you next year? Are other businesses going to be easier to get on board when you show them the number of reviews your committee delivered to their neighbor?
I am not proposing any false reviews. Everyone should absolutely visit the business and give it a try and decide what to say in the review. What if you are compelled to write a bad review? No problem. Bad reviews are great too, if the business knows how to handle them. First of all, the bad review still counts as a review and helps the ranking. But, as far as those that would read these reviews, they show that these reviews are honest and not purchased, thus making the good reviews even more believable. A smart business owner will take the opportunity to reply to the bad ones and invite the customer to seek a solution. The engagement will show their personality and make them more transparent to others.
The beauty is that you don’t need to have everyone shop the business to write the review. They can just acknowledge and thank them for the support – online! Many committee members probably already do business there and can jump on line immediately and write a review. They can also tell others about the business and encourage them to try it.
I’m telling you, this whole concept is such a no-brainer, and I don’t know why it’s not being done already. When I mention it to the local PTA members, I know the problem is that they have so much on their plates that the idea doesn’t make it out to the car. So, maybe today’s blog can help. Print it out and take it to the next board meeting. Get the fundraising goals hit and then bring me some cupcakes. – David Hevia

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