On BB, we have a little phenomenon that we call donation magic. The goal of it is to obtain everything from trip necessities like food and gas for the van to things for our own enjoyment, like ice cream and fireworks. I think the whole thing is pretty funny and interesting so I guess I’ll write a post about it.
Donation magic is especially important for food purchases because we may be unable to rely on our host for meals. We’ll know these instances ahead of time and they don’t occur too often but when they do, we live off of really old leftovers or food that BB has to buy out of pocket. As with any non profit, the money we spend on food and other trip costs would be better off donated to our mission statement, which is the primary reason why donation magic is so important. On a day that we cannot expect host food, anybody in the group is encouraged to approach a business anywhere along the route or in the host city and ask for a donation in the form of a gift card to that store or leftovers that they would throw out at the end of the day which are still edible.
The process is as follows: if a rider sees a store along the ride that they would like to “DM,” all they have to do is go in and ask for a store manager. Then, they give the pitch, which obviously would entail the BB basics: we’re a group of thirty bicycling across the country for affordable housing and any way that you can help us reduce costs would increase the amount we contribute to affordable housing organizations. If they accept, we generally are given a gift card (if it’s a grocery store or Walmart or such) or food at the end-to-end of the day when the store closes and occasionally will call the van for tax forms and a BB brochure if the manager requests it. If they don’t have anything to offer, we thank them and move on. In either case, we use sidewalk chalk (a popular form of BB communication on the road) to draw a house in front of the store, indicating that someone has been there to DM something.
I was pretty terrified for my first time trying to DM something just as I was with my first donation request letters in December. But, as with other donors, businesses are generally pretty receptive. Today was an especially good day to DM because our ride was exceptionally short and we’re staying in a town with a lot of stores. I and the riders I was with hit up a local Dairy Queen (which once gave us all free ice cream a couple states back), CVS, and a locally established grocery store. The DQ was awkward because nobody drew the house in front of the store so after I gave him the pitch the manager kindly informed me that three other groups had already come in to do the same thing but that he’d give us a 10% discount on anything we wanted. The manager at CVS was especially kind and gave us a $50 visa gift card and two $25 CVS gift cards, which is generally more than most contributions we are given. The last grocery store across the street gave us $25 to the store. We were surprisingly successful today, though yesterday we got turned down almost everywhere because a lot of managers told us to go through corporate, which isn’t realistic. But we did get a large cheese pizza from Papa John’s and a $10 gift card to a grocery store franchise. Another group got $150 worth of fireworks today which is weird but it’ll be a lot of fun, as all things on BB are!