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Planning Your Holiday Giving: The Many Ways Self-Storage Operators Can Make a Difference

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With the fall holidays upon us, it’s time to consider how your self-storage business can help others in need this season. Consider this advice to ensure your holiday giving is successful and safe.

With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, many of us are likely thinking about this year’s holiday gift list. Hopefully, there’s a charity or two that’ll benefit from your generosity as well. Last year, I was proactive on this front. I purchased toys, hygiene products, nonperishable foods, school supplies and other needed items over several months so I could offer one large donation around the holidays. Unfortunately, this year got away from me and now I need to play catchup! Even so, donating to local charities is a commitment I make annually, and I hope you do, too.

We regularly report on the various approaches self-storage operators and vendors take to give back to their communities and even ones that encourage their customers to pitch in as well. These efforts include donation drives, sponsoring sports teams, hosting festivals and so much more. Many operators ramp up their efforts during the holiday season.

If you don’t already have a plan to help, now’s the time to make one. And it can be as elaborate or as simple as you’d like. A minimal way to approach your charitable endeavors this year is to add a collection box in your office for canned goods, unwrapped toys, coats and other items. You can also partner with the local chapter of The Salvation Army or Toys for Tots, both of which accept donations specifically for children. Local pet shelters also need our support. A collection focused on beds and blankest, food, cat litter, and other items are always appreciated by these wonderful places.

To make your efforts effective, you need to tell your customers! Add some signs around the facility, include the information in your emails and on your website. If you have a blog, write about it. To get tenants to participate, you could offer an incentive. It could be a 10% discount off December rent for the donation of 10 canned goods or three toys or games. Purchase some gift cards, chocolate or other small items as a way to say thanks. Or host a raffle for a bigger prize and enter everyone who participates.

If you’re looking to do more this holiday season, there are so many options. Perhaps a local organization would benefit from free use of a unit for 30 days or your moving truck to transport goods. Houses of worship are always seeking volunteers for a variety of reasons. Another avenue is to assist at a local food pantry or kitchen. This is a great team event! Of course, monetary donations are well received by just about everyone.

If you’re not sure which organization you’d like to help, hop online and do some research. Check your paper’s online or print community section and find out what’s going on in your area. Talk to your tenants and learn about organizations in which they’re involved. Or try a charity-matching website such as Charity Navigator. While helping your community might be your first thought, don’t limit yourself. There are hundreds of global organizations that are providing healthcare, food, education and supplies to people around the world.

If you’re keen to keep it within the self-storage industry, consider teaming up with Charity Storage, a nonprofit supported by storage owners, management companies, associations and vendors. Another option is Storage Gives, which enables operators to make cash contributions or donate through facility auctions.

Protect Yourself

While it is the “Season of Giving,” there are also people who’ll try to take advantage of your goodwill. Scammers never take a break and are constantly finding inventive ways to trick people out of money or sensitive information. Here’s some advice to ensure your holiday giving is successful and safe.

Find out about the organization. Do an online search to see what they do and what percentage of donations are earmarked for their cause vs. administration costs. These are unavoidable but should be minimal. Legitimate charities typically have websites that end in.org, not .com. CharityWatch can confirm the company is legit, plus provide details about how they use contributions. You can also ask the charity directly. While it’s safer to give to well-known organizations, you don’t want to miss smaller ones that do good work, too. So do your homework and find a cause that speaks to you.

Don’t rush it. Regardless if you plan to volunteer your time, add a collection box at your storage site or make a monetary donation, don’t be rushed into it. If someone calls you requesting a donation, ask if they can direct you to a website instead. If they’d like a free unit, find out what they plan to store and how often they’ll need to access the space. Just because they represent a charity, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t vet them.

Never give out sensitive information. Don't provide any credit card or bank account information until you’ve reviewed all information from the charity and made the decision to donate. Again, a donation via a reputable website is the way to go.

Keep records of your donation. Always ask for a receipt. It should include the charity’s name, date and dollar amount. A logo, phone number and website should also be included. Many will offer a receipt when you donate goods, too.

The price of food, fuel, rent and other items have surged this year, and many are feeling the pinch. While the holidays are a joyous time for most of us, those who are struggling to obtain basic essentials often feel stressed and depressed, particularly those with young children. Offering your support can provide them a bit of comfort. Even better, make giving a practice that lasts beyond just the fall holidays. It’s just good business.

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