Everybody wants a piece of the small business owner, huh? Come to this fundraiser, donate to this charity. We’ve got some tips to balance generosity with smart business sense.
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Michael Reynolds Hey, everyone. And welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint podcast, where we discuss the business side of massage therapy. I am Michael Reynolds.
Allissa Haines And I am Allissa Haines.
MR And we’re your hosts. We’re glad you’ve joined us today. Welcome, welcome.
How is your morning going, Allissa? Off to a good start?
AH My morning is going really well. I had — we’re recording in the morning, obviously, everyone, and I didn’t have a breakfast option prepared for myself, and I didn’t — so I ate one of my lunch options. So I just started my day with like a Thai curry tofu stir-fry with rice and fresh lime juice squeezed over the top, and it was delicious.
MR Wow. Sounds super healthy.
AH It — it’s pretty healthy. We’re trying to dramatically reduce the amount of meat that we eat. So — and I prepped a whole bunch of meals on Sunday. It was actually really exciting because while I was prepping meals, I was writing a blog post about how I prep all my meals, so y’all will see that very soon. And yeah. I’ve been getting adventurous about — I’ve never cooked with tofu before, and I’ve done it twice in the past several weeks, and I don’t hate it. Turns out I don’t hate it. Not my favorite thing, but I don’t hate it.
AH And it leaves me full. The last one I did was like a peanut sauce, and that I really, really liked. This one I like — I’m — I could take or leave a Thai curry situation. But yeah. It was really good.
You don’t eat breakfast do you, Michael?
MR I do not eat breakfast. Everyone is so amazed and baffled that I don’t eat breakfast, but I just don’t. Like, if I eat breakfast in the morning, I feel eww. I feel just, like, yucky.
AH But you do like breakfast food? You just eat it at different times?
MR Oh, I love breakfast food. I love breakfast food for dinner especially. Like, yeah. Breakfast food is my — one of my favorites.
AH I can respect that.
MR So I get hungry around 11 o’clock, and I eat lunch around 11, 11:30. So that’s kind of my jam. It’s how my body works.
AH I respect that.
AH What are we doing today, Michael?
MR We’re podcasting about a thing, and the thing is how to give back and stay profitable. I think this was a discussion from our community.
AH It might have been. This — I actually credit you with the idea because we were brainstorming —
MR Oh, okay.
AH — podcast episodes, and you were like, hey, how about this? And I —
MR Oh, yeah. Well, yeah. I’ll take the credit this time, so. [Laughing].
AH Yeah. And I really appreciate it because at first I was like, meh, ugh. And then it totally hit me that this was a really good topic idea because I — tis the season to start getting hit up for all kinds of donations and gift certificates and can do you this and can you do that? And yeah. We —
MR Yeah. I’ve been thinking about this a lot because it’s — all of us, I think, want to give back and to make a difference in the world, but we have to take care of our business so that we can do that. So it’s kind of this interesting cycle/balance point.
AH It really is. And we’re good people. We want to help. But donating, like, free massage on-site or free massage in the form of gift certificates that people are going to make money off of for raffles, it rarely translates to new, regular clients. And add in that unredeemed gift certificates are super annoying and that these events are typically run by volunteers who lack media savvy, so you’re not getting a ton of visibility for your donation. You’re getting some goodwill, but I feel like more often than not, the goodwill is coming to me from people — direct volunteers of the organization. And one of them might win the gift certificate, but they’re never going to come in on their own outside of winning a gift certificate, so that’s aggravating. And then it makes me feel bad because then I feel like I’m giving not with a — I’m giving with expectations, and that can feel weird, and I just hate every part of it.
So I’ve come up with a few ways to consider how you can help when someone asks without losing money or time or feeling angsty about it and with real strict rules and parameters to keep it contained. So I’m going to give a couple ideas, and then we’ll do a halftime, and then I’ve got some more ideas.
So you can run an awareness campaign but not be the middleman about it. You can have a pet cause that maybe you privately donate to or do something to — maybe not even related to your business at all, and that’s cool. And you can simply make people aware. So for example, September is — I think it’s Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month, and I’m probably saying that wrong, but it’s something like that. Now, maybe that’s not a cause that I personally am deep into. I don’t do a lot of pediatric oncology work in my practice, but it’s important, and maybe I’ve got a friend who’s got a — had a kid with cancer, and so I donate personally once a month. I could throw a little link in my emails this month. I could throw a post up on social media. I could put a little blurb on my website with a little logo or something and say, it’s September; it’s Pediatric Oncology Awareness Month; I personally donate to this cause; here’s a link if you want to donate as well. You’re not making yourself the middleman. You’re simply saying, hey, this is a cause that’s a little bit important to me; here, if it’s important to you, you can donate. Like, it’s a little thing. Not a big deal. You don’t have to make a whole big shtick about it. But it’s there, and there you go.
Then if your friend who has the kid who is in remission from cancer is like, hey, did you donate? You can be like, yeah, I donated, and I asked some — I put a little link on my — in my email and whatever for clients to do that. And then everybody is happy, and the pediatric oncology whatever gets a couple bucks, and that’s it. You don’t have to be the middleman. You don’t have to collect funds at your office. You can just say, hey, this is a cause; maybe you didn’t know it existed; maybe you want to donate; here it is.
Or you can do the same thing with advertising — helping to promote an event without getting sucked into it. Like, there’s plenty of local events that I don’t go to, but if one of my clients is hosting a fundraiser for X, Y, Z and I think that’s a perfectly good cause, I’ll share it. I’ll share it on my business’ social media and maybe in an email like, hey, if you want some high-quality crafts and you want to support a cause that is really great locally, here’s the craft fair you should go to. That’s it. You can do things to raise awareness without getting involved in them. And that is good. It’s good enough. It’s good.
All right. So you can also do a thing that I do, which is a little more labor-intensive but not hard. You can be the middleman to ease friction. So here’s the example of my local food pantry. I give to my local food pantry. I have, in the past, run events where we’ve collected tips and they all go to the local food pantry. And what I’ve realized is that, personally, I wanted to be able to drop off dry goods and stuff because, you know, I go to some big warehouse store, and I get two giant tubs of peanut butter, and I only need one. Like, I don’t have space for the second giant tub to be sitting in my pantry for six months. I just want to give the second — I got a good price. I want to give the second one to the food pantry. But they only accept donations on certain mornings each week, and it was a little bit of a hassle for me to get there. And I realized that, as I was talking to other people about the food pantry, they said the same thing. I want to be able to donate more, but I can’t get there when they have the drop-off. And so I decided that I would ease that friction.
I put a laundry basket in my waiting area, and every couple of weeks when it’s full, either from stuff I’ve tossed in there or from stuff my clients have brought in, I make a plan to get to the food pantry when they accept the drop-offs. And it’s really not that hard. Like, I have to make a little note in my calendar to remind me because it’s a small window. And I’ve made friends with the food pantry people now, so even if I’ve got a full basket and I can’t get there, I can call them and say, hey, if I leave this basket outside my office door at — on Saturday morning, can someone swing by and pick it up? And I’m in a suburban area, so there’s not a problem with me leaving a basket of stuff outside my office door for an hour. It works really well. I’ve removed the friction to make it easier for other people to donate, and it doesn’t cost me a penny. It costs me ten minutes of time every couple of weeks. And the only thing that it costs me is, when I get a big shipment of toilet paper because I get my toilet paper online, I throw like five rolls in there. So that’s my consistent donation, and sometimes, you know, extra stuff from warehouse stores.
You can also be the middleman for money donations. If you’re comfortable with that, you can get, for like $8, a little clear, plastic donation box with a frame on top so you can put — slide a piece of paper or a picture there. And you could have that out in your office, and people can just toss their spare cash in there if they want to, and then you can pass that along to the charity. I — people — again, I have my food bank donation. People have started giving me — like, they know that the food pantry, when they accept cash, they can go — or checks or financial donations, money — they can buy super cheap food from the big Boston Food Bank to stock our local food pantry. So some people prefer to give money because it’s easier. I have a couple clients who will hand me 5 or 10 or 20 bucks every time they’re in the office and say, this is for the food pantry. So I put it in the envelope for the food pantry, and once a month or every couple of weeks or whenever I know we’re going to be doing a drop-off, I count the cash, I write a check, I leave it with the donations, and it goes right there.
So I — it didn’t cost me a penny. I’ve just collected it on people’s behalf and given it to the food pantry. I — so — and in the process, it’s ridiculous, but people think I’m a hero. They’re like, oh, thank you for making this so much easier for me; thanks for doing this; thanks for helping the food pantry and et cetera. And the food pantry loves me. And because I promote this in my social media, in my emails on occasion, it actually does give me good exposure because people I know from the food pantry will share that and be like, hey, did you know Allissa’s a great massage therapist locally and she helps us all the time? So it actually solved that problem of volunteers not being really good at marketing and so not getting a lot of exposure for my donations. Where now, it doesn’t cost me anything except what I donate myself, and I’m getting way more exposure from it than I was before.
Does that make sense, Michael? I kind of tangented there because I was —
MR Yeah. Yeah, it does. This helps me a lot personally because I — part of my issue with giving and supporting and making a difference is I feel like there is never enough that I can do, and so I just paralyze — I get paralyzed and don’t do anything because I’m like, oh, my gosh, my little contribution is not enough. And the way you talk about this kind of feels like it gives me permission to do a little bit and feel like that’s okay, and that really is helpful to me.
AH You know, I spend — I mean, you guys — y’all know that I’m digging my way out of debt, right? And I feel like I’m a really lucky, privileged person. I’ve had a lot of opportunity. I’ve had a lot of good circumstance. I haven’t had a lot of life setbacks that are not controllable, so I feel like I need to be giving back. And at the same time, I realized I was doing so much for so many people for so long that I was slowing down my own pace of getting out of debt and having a more sustainable life and business. So it’s hard. Like, I don’t want to triple my grocery bill because I am donating $100 a week to the food pantry. At the same time, I want to be giving back because I have resources [laughing] and have opportunity, and the idea of some little kid not getting to eat a lunch in the summer because there’s no school — they’re not getting subsidized lunch — it breaks my darn heart.
So to do a small donation on my own, to do five rolls of — or actually, it’s like ten rolls of toilet paper every time I get a big, giant case of it in the mail — and, you know, extra peanut butter now and then — and I actually do a thing, too, where because food pantries are so low on hygiene supplies like soaps and then feminine hygiene supplies, whenever there’s — whenever I go to the a big warehouse store, I buy whatever feminine supplies they have coupons for, and I give them. So it’s probably less than $100 a month that I personally am donating to the food pantry. But because I decided on specific things — toilet paper, hygiene products — I do those, and then I let the rest go. I let the rest freestyle. So it’s how I personally weigh my guilt and my privilege. [Laughing]. That was way off topic, I’m sorry. But I —
MR No. I’m following you. It makes sense.
AH You know, we got to be sustainable ourselves.
Anyhow, let’s flip to our halftime sponsor. Michael, who’s our halftime sponsor today?
MR Today, it is Acuity. And I am thrilled because I think it was just yesterday in a consulting session we recommend Acuity to one of our members, so.
AH We sure did.
MR Thrilled to talk about Acuity.
AH I’m like, you need online scheduling. And she’s like, you prefer Acuity, right? And I’m like, oh, yeah; I use it in my own business, so yes.
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AH Okay. So our second half.
When — if you want to — so here are some ways that you can give. A little bit’s going to come out of your pocket, but you can do it in a structured way so you don’t feel like you’re taken advantage of, you don’t feel like it’s gone on forever. Give something for a set amount of time within your niche. Like, make sure it matches your business goals. So you got to know your niche. Maybe that’s athletes. Maybe that’s mental health. Maybe that’s oncology. I’m going to give examples for all of these.
Let’s say your — you work with athletes, and there’s not — and they — there’s lot of fundraising races in your town for different causes. Pick one. Pick one event. Pick one charitable fundraiser from the running club. Just pick one thing and do it. Go to the event. Work it for free. Work it for tips that you donate to the cause. But only do the one. The one event or the one running club fundraiser event or whatever. One race. Whatever. You pick one. And then throughout the year if people ask you to do other things, you can say, you know what? Locally, I choose to just focus my time and effort on one event — on this one event, so I cannot participate in your other cause. I’ve got to focus my energy on this one thing. And that’s it.
And ditto that if you specialize in mental health. Choose an awareness month with a specific cause or fundraiser event, whether it be an actual event or something just online. But choose one. So if your niche is mental health, then on one of the mental health awareness months — there’s a couple of different ones. There’s a depression and there’s an anxiety month, and there’s a suicide month, and there’s a blah — you know, there’s all of these things. And I don’t mean to be flippant about that. But there’s a lot, so find the one that most resonates with you, and do something for that month. Whether it be making a small donation on your own — maybe if it’s anxiety awareness month, you do ten blog posts over that course of that month talking about anxiety, self-care, how massage is helpful for that. This is a great time to spiff up and republish old blog posts that maybe have stagnated a little. Make a couple of videos about breathing techniques. Make an article about all of the tech tools you use to reduce — or you suggest to help reduce anxiety like meditation apps. Do a review of meditation apps. Whatever.
But pick a month and get all of your advocacy and all of your awareness into that one month so you know for that one month you’re going to do five blog posts, every one of them is going to end with a link to donating to your favorite mental health related or whatever this cause is related charity, make your own donation, and limit everything to that one month. And then, again, when other people ask you to donate to other causes through the year, you can say, thank you so much for thinking of me; I’ve decided to focus all of my charitable efforts on anxiety awareness month each April, and that’s — my resources are limited to that. Period.
Ditto that for oncology. If you’re trained in oncology in massage, this is — this would be — these things kind of write themselves, right? You just heard me do it for anxiety. You can do the same thing for oncology. You could combine this and actually attend an event. There’s all kinds of walks and events and things like that. You could decide that you don’t want to do any of this stuff yourself, but you have a best friend who walks the Relay For Life, and you know they’re fundraising. Piggyback on that. Hey, you know this cause is important to me. I am not at this event, but my friend is, and here’s how you can donate. So you can do that same thing.
You could also choose to not do any of that extra work. You don’t have to do the informational stuff. You don’t have to write a bunch of posts. You don’t have to share a bunch of stuff. You could simply say, colon cancer awareness is important to me; for the month of — I know there’s a colon cancer awareness month. I don’t know what it is. I feel like it’s in the summer, so you could say, for the month of July, I am going to be donating 10% of each massage price to that cause. And that’s it. It’s a one-time thing. You’re making a one annual donation.
So yeah. That’s kind of my thing. I think that creating structure around this is a really good idea. If you decide to do an actual campaign, if you decide you’re going to do — like, this summer I did a month of reminding people to donate to the food pantry because they’re low in the summer. I did a whole thing. Additionally — and it’s a thing that we forget about — is the marketing component of this. Obviously we’re giving to give. We’re giving because we care about this. But if we’re going to give our resources, it’s okay to make sure that it gets promoted to get a little more name recognition in your community.
So if you can — and this is the thing I dropped the ball on and I was regretful of it, and I’m going to make sure I do it next — make sure you have a point person at the cause. So I should have made sure that my food pantry contact — I should have made more of a schedule about dropping off a big donation; when I did it, gotten a picture with her; I should have written a press release or — and I should have said to her, this is going to go up on my website tomorrow; if you were to share it among your network, I would love that. I would love to get my name out in the community a little bit more. It’s okay to ask that. People who are volunteers who regularly are asking for donations and things like that, they’re going to be happy to share that information because when people in the community see you donate, it will inspire them to donate. So it helps them. It helps you getting your name out a little bit. And don’t be shy about saying, I’d love to do this donation; will you be there to get a picture with me so I can share that and inspire donations from other people in my community?
That is what I have to say, Michael.
MR That was incredibly helpful.
AH I hope so.
MR Yeah. It really was. So thank you.
AH Thank you for bringing up this topic.
MR Yeah. Awesome.
Well, we will wrap there, then. So again, I would just want to say I know why you thought this was maybe not the — you weren’t super excited about the topic, I think, when we first brought it up. But I just really want to say one more time how helpful it really was to talk through this and to hear your thoughts on this because charitable giving is fraught with so much emotion and guilt and just emotional stuff around it and baggage and we just — we’re doing our best, and your thoughts were very, very helpful. So thank you.
MR All right. So we’ll wrap it up there.
Reminder, you can visit us online at massagebusinessblueprint.com for lots of information about what we do including our premium member community, which I think we haven’t really talked about in-depth for a while, so I’ll just give it a little shout-out again. Our premium member community is — includes a lot of stuff including free stock photos every month that you can use in your own marketing, your own website, a free blog post you can use to adapt for your own website and your own articles. So we already give you a ton of content you can use in your marketing right away. And a couple of the other features that I think are some of the best things we offer are — one is our office hours. So every month we give maybe three or four different office hour sessions throughout the month where you hop on a video call with me and/or Allissa and a whole group of your peers that are super smart, and you just talk through challenges and bring up challenges and concerns and have some peer mentoring, and it’s incredibly helpful.
And we also offer the best massage therapist focused Facebook group on the internet. I’m just going to say it because I think it’s true. The best group out there. It is full of super smart people that don’t argue about essential oils all day. Instead, they talk about how to grow your business and get better and support and help each other. And it is the smartest group out there. So check out the premium membership if you want to learn more about that.
And if you have a topic or a question for us or anything you want to say, email that to us a email@example.com. So thanks for joining us today. We’ll see you next time.