The Chocolate Life

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I'm a long time lurker, first time poster. Many thanks to this website and its members. You all helped me choose my enrober and cutter and I have gotten great honest answers to several questions here.

Recently I have been contacted about donating a table at a college fundraiser. It is a very nice event with clientele in my target market. I had already donated a 2 session class for four people to the silent auction when the Friday event chair contacted me about the sample night.  They want 3 tastes per person with 800 people expecting to attend. I would cut the truffles into 3-4 pieces and have 2 different ganaches that I would give sample tastings of. I can also fill in with less labor intensive things like chocolate covered Oreos and bark.

The chair keeps telling me what great "exposure" this would be for me.... but I don't want to expose myself into bankruptcy either. It would be fun to do some show pieces to get my name out and work the event. It would not be horribly expensive product wise but definitely expensive time wise. I would not be able to sell retail at the event and I do not have a storefront so no one would be able to rush to my store to buy my candies.

I keep going back and forth in my mind. I would appreciate any thoughts, comments or concerns.

Thanks in advance,

Sheila P

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Hi Shelia- I seem to be in the same boat. I don't have a storefront either so I need to be creative in getting my product out to the right market but how much should you give away for the exposure. I made take home boxes for a local up scale restaurant for their signature valentines day dinner. I have received no sales from that investment. A local nonprofit is having a chocolate evening fundraiser and I've been asked to donate truffles ..again for exposure. I'd like to see the advice you get from other on this post

Opening a chocolate shop immediately puts a target on your back for every non profit company and worthy cause to approach you with their hands out.  It's crazy!!!!!  I get an average of 3 per week.  Silent auction items, grab bags, table settings, and the list goes on.  You will always hear them extoll the virtues of what great exposure you are going to get and how good it is for business, and how you will get honourable mentions, your logo printed on the menu or brochure, and even exposure in some of their print ads.




I empathize with the volunteers commissioned with the arduous task of soliciting donations.  After all they want to keep the cost of the event to a minimum while giving their attendees a maximum bang for their donation.


I have tried all of them - silent auctions, grab bags, place settings.... you name it.  The amount of business I got from the thousands upon thousands of dollars of product I've donated and hundreds of hours of time I've donated has been ZERO, ZILCH, ZIPPO.  Here's why:  People go to these events to socialize, eat, drink, and have fun.  They don't think about remembering the chocolatier or the caterer, or the company who donated the flowers.  If you don't believe me, think about the last event YOU went to, and name off a few of the donors.  If you were able to name two, you are spectacular.


Now, I'm not saying don't give back to the community.  Choklat does, and does so in a big way.  However, the manners in which my company donates is a win-win.  Here are a couple of examples:

  1. Choklat donates seats to our popular "Choklat Snobbery 101" wine and chocolate evenings.  In fact we donate an entire event per month to a non-profit.  The non-profit sells the tickets for $40 per person, keeps the receipts, and we host the event at Choklat.  Once per month 10-12 people pay a non profit organization $400-500 to become a captive audience at our shop for 2 hours, where at the end of it they've had a great time, are now (hopefully) devout customers, and have donated to the community.  Our cost for 10-12 new customers is $80 for wine and $60 for my staff member's time.
  2. We have put in place a "million smiles" campaign, whereby people pledge $25 per box of custom truffles.  $12.50 comes to us and $12.50 goes to the organization running the pledges.  Each customer gets to choose their own combinations of truffles, and my staff make them.  We've done this for swim teams, schools and other organizations, and it's worked great.  We cover our costs, and the families of the pledgees (usually families) get a welcome break from having to buy those crappy chocolate covered almonds, or microwave popcorn that usually floats around.

When I started getting bombarded with requests, I didn't want to say no, and I didn't want to just ignore the person.  Like I said above, they have a difficult job - asking for donations.  I put this program in place, wrote a polite form letter explaining our programs, and invited them to participate in any of the programs if it fit within the parameters of what they were trying to do.

You too can do the same thing (by that I mean a form letter and a program that you find acceptable).  There is nothing wrong with offering to sell your product to the event at your cost, or at a substantial discount.  However you aren't a "non profit", and don't be fooled into thinking that the caterer is donating the meal.  If they really want chocolate, they can work a buck or two into the cost.


Yes... Believe it or not, I can be empathetic at times!   Shhh!  Don't tell anybody.  I'm still basking in the glory of my reputation for being combative and petulant!  :-)


I have attached a copy of the form letter for your reference.






Wow, thank you Brad!

I appreciate you taking the time to reply and share your experience with me. I do think we are in the type of business that gets the "touch" alot. I decided not to donate boxes of candy or gift certificates anymore because they get lumped together in a basket with 5 other unrelated things to try to get a bigger donation and nobody appreciates or remembers any of it. Your reply has given me two alternatives to the handout and I like the win win approach. I am a big believer in giving back but it felt like I was giving away the farm in the process.





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