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Common Fundraising Mistakes Part 2

by Kimberly Reynolds

Continued from: Common Fundraising Mistakes Part 1

Continuous fundraising

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 and executed.

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.

Bad timing

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.

No rewards

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 decision.

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 effort?

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 results!

For more ideas, read the Section titled Merchant Plan.

Poor rewards

Poor rewards often have the same effect as no rewards at all. Junk is junk, so why bother?

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 sellers.

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 these deficiencies.

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About the Author:

Kimberly Reynolds is the author of Fundraising Success and the "web mistress" of 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,, and discover some easy ways to help your group.

This chapter from the book, Fundraising Success! by Kimberly Reynolds, is reprinted with permission.

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