According to a survey by the
Association of Fund Raisers and Direct Sellers, product fundraising programs raise nearly
$2 billion net profit each year for schools, school groups and other non-profit
organizations. Schools and school groups account for 88 percent of those profits. The
money pays for computers, field trips, athletic, music and art programs no longer covered
by shrinking school budgets. Clearly, the practice of fundraising is serving an
increasingly significant role in providing resources for thousands of school and youth
"Fundraising is simply a means to an end," according to Carol Talbot,
a parent in Columbus, GA, and current treasurer for the Georgia State PTA. The typical
school fundraising drive lasts only the few weeks it takes to reach an immediate goal. But
despite its short-term nature, Talbot believes fundraising activities should be approached
in a professional manner and run like a business. "Most of running a fundraising
program is common sense," says Talbot.
But, she cautions that a well-meaning and
overly trusting volunteer is vulnerable to careless mistakes sometimes with
devastating results. "I know of units who went thousands of dollars in debt due to
mismanagement," Monroe reports. Ohio PTAs Executive Director Barbara Sprague
agrees, "We have PTAs with budgets that range from $3,000 to $100,000. And, Ill
bet most of these units, regardless of their ability to absorb a significant loss, have
paid a price, at one time or another, for carelessness."
These losses can severely
hamper a parent groups ability to meet their organizations goals or fund new
student programs. But, many believe these costly lessons can be avoided with careful
recordkeeping and a strong buddy system.
- Two heads are better than one
Whenever money is involved, experienced fundraisers say that
two people should share the job of handling the money. "If two people are counting,
recording and verifying each others amounts, youll catch each other,"
according to Monroe. Ideally, each will have experience and feel comfortable working with
money. But Kerry McCullough, a fundraising company owner in El Paso, TX, believes math
skills are secondary to good organizational skills. "To be successful, treasurers and
fundraising chairpersons need an accurate paper trail."
Its also a good idea to
assign money handling responsibilities to individuals from separate households. Even
innocent mistakes made by a husband and wife can be misconstrued, experts say.
Further-more, many groups provide fidelity bond insurance to cover losses resulting from
honest mistakes. Band booster Susan Farris says her group uses a "drop box"
buddy system. "Weve got 360 students and just as many booster members. You can
imagine how difficult it is to collect all the forms and money on a particular day and at
a pre-determined time." Her club installed a "drop box" to which only she
and the president have a key. "That way, we control who has access to the money. And
the kids have a central, secure place to deliver their money."
Before deposits, think
like a teller
"Fundraising groups can make it easy for themselves and
their bank if they prepare their deposits properly," according to Lou Gresham, branch
manager, Premier Bank in Acworth, GA. Her first advice: make sure all checks are signed
and endorsed properly with your organizations name and account number. Many groups
encourage student and parent volunteers to include the students first and last name
on every check. That way, if a check bounces, the affected student is easily identified
and the product order can be adjusted.
When counting the money, use a calculator. Better
yet, Gresham suggests using a printing calculator to actually record each check amount.
Then attach the tape printout to the bundled checks. She also recommends that bills be
"strapped" together by denomination using pre-printed, self-adhesive paper
straps. Many volunteers use recordkeeping systems or accounting software, to manage cash
flow. However, Talbot warns that any bookkeeping system is only as good as the data it
receives. It must be updated regularly and accurately for fundraising organizers to reap
the full benefits.
Deposits should also be made in a timely fashion, daily if possible
and, again, by at least two people. Lisa Newburn, a representative of North Carolina-based
First Union, also suggests that volunteers vary the times they make deposits and avoid
forming any type of pattern that may be observed. Between visits to the bank, make
arrangements to keep money under lock and key.
What to do when checks
Unfortunately, fundraising is not immune from the
occasional bad check. So, as a prudent business owner would take measures to collect the
debt, so should fundraising organizations, experts advise. "You are serving as a
steward for your organization and as such you must watch the money wisely and pursue it
legally if necessary," says Texas PTA Treasurer Monroe. In her workshops, she
suggests running the check through the bank a second time. If the check bounces again,
many fundraising coordinators will place a courtesy phone call to the person who wrote the
check.Others suggest calling the bank first before making the second deposit attempt. At
most banks, a check can be presented 2-3 times for deposit.
In most cases, it is simply a
matter of timing. However, if the person who issued the bad check is non-responsive,
Monroe and her colleagues suggest the same procedure followed by most businesses: n Send a
certified letter (which requires a signature and provides the sender with a proof of
mailing) to the person who issued the check;n State in the letter that the check was
returned and for what reason (e.g., insufficient funds) and that the party has 10 days to
provide a cashiers check or money order for the appropriate amount. Experienced
fundraisers agree that timeliness is critical. The longer you wait to follow-through on
bad debts, the tougher it is to collect.
Look to the
There are almost as many fundraising programs as there
are products and services available today. Some are structured as a pre-pay orders
are paid for upfront. Other programs are set-up as post-pay orders are placed in
advance and product is paid for upon delivery. Each organization must work with their
fundraising company to determine what system will work best for their group. Fundraising
companies will provide simple instructions to volunteers on how to complete the paperwork.
They also have the knowledge and expertise to provide information on tax laws,
recordkeeping and other administrative issues. "We have an obligation to make this
easy on sponsors," says Frank Miller, a Tennessee-based professional fundraiser.
"You cant always avoid problems, but you can show people how to be prepared for
and deal with them." For example, Millers company provides sponsoring
organizations with collection envelopes, order forms and other necessary paperwork along
with detailed instructions on how to complete the paperwork, samples of completed forms,
as well as computer generated reports to track results.
These are just some of the
innovative services available to help make fundraising drives painless and profitable for
volunteers. Such services however, may affect the cost of the program. It is important
that sponsoring organizations understand and thoroughly evaluate services before reaching
an agreement with a fundraiser. Summing up her feeelings about fundraising, band booster
Susan Farris notes, "We arent doing this just to make money. Were doing
this so our kids can have instructors, new sheet music, participate in local and national
Indeed, fundraising has become a significant resource for American
youth. It is more important than ever that fundraising activities and the monies raised
through these activities be handled professionally and with great care.
Additional Resources: The Official Football
Fundraisers Guide by J. Alden Briggs, Jr., published by Boosters Clubs of America;
PTA Money Matters, published by The National PTA; Raising Funds for Your Childs
School by Cynthia Francis Gensheimer, published by Walker and Company, New York, NY and
Earning More Funds by Chip and Ralfie Blasius published by B.C. Creations, Fort Wayne, IN.
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This article is from the Fall 1998 issue of the Fundraising Edge, an online publication of the Association of Fund Raisers and Direct Sellers and is reprinted with permission. Visit their web site at http://www.afrds.org/ for more information and a look at the complete issues of the Fundraising Edge.