Continued from: Common Fundraising Mistakes Part 1
Another common mistake is doing too many fundraisers. The result is burnout of
your volunteers, your participants, and their customers. You know your group is
in trouble if you belong to the "Fundraiser of the Month" club.
Limit your group to two or three main fundraisers each year. Take the time to
design the right approach that will maximize the results of each fundraiser. A
well conducted fundraiser can double the results of one that is poorly planned
Other warning signs of doing too many fundraisers include low sales volume or a
declining net per customer transaction. Why do fundraisers at all if you end up
generating less than $5 or $10 net profit per salesperson?
This book is full of suggestions on how to maximize your revenue for each
fundraiser. One is to have a supplemental offering on top of each major effort.
There are literally dozens of other ideas too numerous to list here.
If you absolutely feel that your group has to raise money year round, move it to
your website. Create a silent fundraiser there via a store, set up a click-through
sales commission program, provide a gift certificate/scrip program there, etc.
See the Section labeled Website Benefits for additional information.
Take advantage of the rest of this book and avoid the burnout problem. Read a
concise package of suggestions in the Section entitled 101 Tips & Techniques.
Problems that fall into the category of bad timing include conflicts with holidays,
poor weather, competition doing same thing, lack of interest due to another
event, overlapping school exam time, etc.
Avoid planning anything that spans major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas,
New Years, Easter, July 4th, or Labor Day. Those are wasted time slots within
your calendar due to the lack of availability of participants and supporters.
Poor weather means not doing a candy fundraiser for a youth sports group in
August when the candy is likely to melt. For the same reason, don't offer special
handling merchandise like cookie dough, cheesecake, or pizza kits at those
times either unless you plan everything very carefully.
Stay alert to what other fundraisers are going on in your community. Having a
pumpkin patch sale on the school lawn two weeks before Halloween isn't a good
idea if there are three other ones within a mile. Offer something different and
stay in touch with the leaders of other groups.
Scheduling an event-style fundraiser is a bad idea when it conflicts with another
major community event that will draw away most of its customers. Check the
schedules for sporting events and community functions. Don't be like the group
that promoted a Saturday car wash at a site only to find that all nearby traffic
was blocked off that morning for an annual running event!
If your group relies on student sellers, don't forget to check when midterms and
finals are. Their parents won't appreciate extra time demands when academics
are the highest priority.
The message is that your success depends on being aware of the community
around you. Find more detail in the Sections on Preparation and The Basics.
Sometimes this is appropriate; other times it is not. It depends on what the
seller's motivation is and what's yours (the group's leaders) is in making that
If you're not offering rewards because it's a band fundraiser and all the money is
going to pay for new uniforms, that's OK because the goal is the reward. There
is no need for performance rewards.
However, if you're not offering rewards because they come out of the group's net
profits, rethink your approach. Your net profits will suffer because your sellers
don't see anything that incents an extra effort. Ultimately, you end up with less
profit because your sales are lower. Don't make the mistake of offering a reward
to everyone just for participating. Always make it attainment based.
A nationally known health organization sponsored a "jump rope-a-thon" at an
elementary school. Among the materials sent home with each child was the
prize or incentive sheet showing what each child could win with certain levels of
monetary sponsorship. The low-end prize was a bookmark ribbon thanking each
child for their support.
The level of sponsorship required for this prize was $0 to $10. Where's the
reward for the child who got $10 versus the child who did nothing? Sure, they're
just kids, but what message are we sending to our children if we reward zero
Other sections of Fundraising Success detail ideas such as seeking donations
from local merchants for seller rewards like a two-for-one pizza offer or a
discount coupon from a sporting goods store. Get creative and maximize your
For more ideas, read the Section titled Merchant Plan.
Poor rewards often have the same effect as no rewards at all. Junk is junk, so
Relying on supplier freebies isn't always a good idea. As mentioned above, go to
your local merchants for a cooperative program that will drive customers to their
stores while encouraging the merchants to supply motivational rewards to your
Invest the time in designing the right reward program. The increase in sales will
more than pay for a slight additional cost.
For more information, look in the Section on Rewards & Incentives.
Letting problems fester
Remember that when you're conducting a fundraiser, you're a small business
owner whose livelihood depends on maintaining a good reputation. The old
"word of mouth" rule is that each person who has a good experience with your
group will tell one other person, but the person who has a bad experience will tell
five other people.
Claiming that you're overworked is no excuse for not being responsive. Don't put
any customer satisfaction issue in the "get around to it" pile. You'll be harming
your organization in more ways than you realize.
Deal with all problems immediately, even if it means dropping what you're doing
right then. Follow the Golden Rule and do unto others as you would have them
do unto you. Consult the Section on Organization for other tips.
Picking the wrong fundraiser
Sometimes a fundraiser is just wrong for a group. It might be because that
particular one works best for a larger sized group. It could be that it requires a
longer time period than is available.
Others might not fit because it was picked for its higher percentage payout rather
than the quality of the offering. The poor value of the merchandise ends up
lowering sales instead of generating profits.
A fundraiser might have pricing that is wrong for community. Higher priced
merchandise or gourmet food items aren't a good fit in some areas.
Put "best practices" in place within your organization. Design a decision matrix
that weighs the various factors to help you make the right choice. Be sure to
take the time to review the other sections of this book, particularly the Sections
on Selecting The Right Fundraiser and The Best Sellers.
Allowing these mistakes to continue within your organization is costing you extra
time, lost revenue, lower profits, and it's eroding your support base. Root them
out now. Act like a business owner and put a detailed plan into place to correct
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About the Author:
Kimberly Reynolds is the author of Fundraising Success and the "web
mistress" of FundraiserHelp.com. She brings a high-powered background
to the fundraising arena, including a dozen years of sales experience
with Dell and Cisco Systems.
Her book, Fundraising Success, is packed with powerful tips that are
guaranteed to boost your group's results. Kimberly focuses on helping
schools, churches, and youth sports groups by providing event ideas and
advice on organizational techniques.
Visit her website, http://www.FundraiserHelp.com, and discover some
easy ways to help your group.
This chapter from the book, Fundraising Success! by Kimberly Reynolds, is reprinted with permission.