Each month we take a look at what fundraising opportunities the holidays
and other seasonal events present for the future month.
February 2nd - Groundhog Day
Not many nonprofits of any kind make use of Groundhog Day as an opportunity to fundraise and that is unfortunate. On this day a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil is supposed to come out of his hole and predict whether spring will come immediately or if we will have six more weeks of winter. Maybe (and that's a big maybe) at one time this idea held some water, but it has evolved into just a good time event to bolster a small town in Pennsylvania.
For those of you choosing to hold an event tied to Groundhog Day there are a lot of benefits:
- Groundhog Day isn't trademarked so you can use the name without danger of being sued or paying a royalty.
- It has national recognition by all groups of people
- The press (newspaper, radio and television) covers the event in some form every year.
- Groundhog Day is a light hearted affair that lends itself to good time fundraising events.
- It is well positioned on the calendar. Everyone has recovered financially and emotionally from Christmas and New Years. Most people probably have a case of cabin fever from winter and are looking to get out and have a good time. There are no significant repeating holidays or seasonal events near it on the calendar (Valentine's Day is still twelve days away).
Types of events suitable for Groundhog Day
- Zoo Events
Zoo events are a natural for Groundhog Day, especially if they have a ground hog.
An enterprising zoo can use this day to bring school groups in during a normally slow time. A show and tell event with a ground hog is a natural way for school kids to learn about this animal, their habits and habitat, hibernation, the seasons and how different mammals, birds, reptiles, etc. handle seasonal changes.
Zoos also make good partners for other nonprofits to team up with on Groundhog Day. What an unusual setting to hold your next fundraising event in. Zoos are always looking to host events for outside organizations, both profit and nonprofit. A dance or dinner among the animals sure breaks out of the normal fundraising routine.
- Walk/Run Events
It's a good time of year to hold a pledge based fundraiser like walking and running events. You can have the first event of the year in many areas. No worries about the heat. Groundhog Day can lend itself to both the serious running event or the for fun spoof of a walking event. The only draw back is that these types of events need to happen on the weekend and Groundhog Day may or may not fall on the weekend.
- Dinners, Dances and Parties
I can't say it enough, Groundhog Day is a light hearted event that lends itself to good time events like dinners, dances and parties. Who cares if Phil sees his shadow or not. We all know spring is coming and we're ready to cut loose and celebrate, just give us a reason.
Take the Groundhog Day Stew Contest hosted by Axelson's Cafe in Burlington, Vermont. Sure, almost everybody knows whether Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow that day, but nobody cares. And none of the stews in the contest has groundhog in them, but it makes no difference.
Everyone wanted a taste of the four different stews at the fourth annual event in 1999. Winners were chosen two ways: by a panel of five appointed judges awarding the judges'-choice awards, and the peoples'-choice awards voted on by anyone who wanted to taste the stews and fill out a ballot.
Punxsutawney Phil would have approved of the ingredients. Beef, chicken and seafood, but no groundhog.
February 14th - Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day, what can I say. It's the ultimate romantic holiday and the perfect time for a fundraiser for nonprofits both large and small. Plan yours carefully, make it unique and you will be able harness Cupid's arrow for your own purposes.
For those of you choosing to hold an event tied to Valentine's Day there are a lot of benefits:
- Valentine's Day isn't trademarked so you can use the name without danger of being sued or paying a royalty.
- It has national recognition by all groups of people
- The press (newspaper, radio and television) covers the day in some form every year.
- Valentine's Day is a high pressure romantic affair that lends itself well to fundraising events.
- It doesn't matter where it falls during the week, both men and women can't not celebrate the day.
Types of events suitable for Valentine's Day
A big hit in school for Cupids day is computer matchmaking for the students. It combines mystery with the possibility of romance. This can be done in high schools or small colleges. It can also work with other groups, like youth groups, if they are big enough. You must have permission from the administration for this event.
The typical matchmaking event requires the organizers to sell questionnaire forms to students for $1 to $2 (some pass out questionnaires to everyone and make students pay for individual results). These questionnaires will have from 15 to 35 questions on them that the computer will use to determine who is the best potential love interest for each participating student. Some answer sheets will print out the 15 best and 15 worst matches along with the most compatible staff member and friend.
Some matchmaking program suppliers sell software so the organizers can run the program themselves. Other suppliers furnish questionnaires and do the computer work themselves, returning the results in about two weeks. Some companies supply posters to help raise the level of interest in the event. Some suppliers can tailor the software for recent events or issues relevant to your school to increase participation.
Make sure to evaluate each program extensively before you commit to one. To have a matchmaking event this Valentines Day you will have to move rapidly.
- Flowers For School and Church Fundraisers
What woman can resist flowers - or man. In this day and age it's the woman who is doing the buying as often as the man.
The flower fundraiser works great for schools or churches. Get permission from your administration first. Then contact a local florist and discus price and availability of flowers. Carnations are often used because of their abundance at a reasonable price. Think about other colors in addition to red and pink. White is a good neutral color. Make sure your florist gives you a cut off date for your order (most likely will be about a week before February 14). Make sure you buy extra flowers for last minute impulse buyers (but not too many, you don't want to eat up your profits with unsold flower).
Advertise the flower event starting on a day at the end of January. Plan to give your group about a week and one half to pre-sell. Make posters to put around the school or church. Ask permission to make announcements on your school PA system. Plan ahead for an ad in your school newspaper or put a notice in the church bulletin.
A good selling price is one carnation for $1 or 6 carnations for $5. Sell one dozen for $10. Think about charging for delivering the carnations and a card or message to someone in school (clear this ahead of time and don't interrupt classes unless you have permission). Offer carnations before school and at lunch on Valentines Day for impulse buyers. After the lunch hour when you have sold to the last of the impulse buyers, give your leftover flowers to the administration officials who helped you out. This will guarantee permission for an event next year.
- Flowers For Other Groups
Flower sales also have great potential for other groups. They can be sold to members of the group or they can be sold to the public.
Decide what kinds of flowers you want to sell. Roses by the dozen or singly are the traditional favorite. Carnations by the bunch are also great. Think about other colors in addition to red and pink. White is a good neutral color. Make sure your florist gives you a cut off date for your order (most likely will be about a week before February 14). Do not buy extra flowers for impulse buyers.
When selling to the public, advertise the flower event starting on a day at the end of January. Give your group about two weeks to pre-sell. Try and advertise to concentrated groups of people. An office building may let your non profit distribute leaflets to it's workers and post a flyer
on the employee bulletin board. Another non profit may let you talk to their group. Post notices at the mall and laundromat. Be creative.
When selling to your own group you will have to advertise at the last meeting before Valentines Day. It that is too far in advance or too close to Valentines Day to be effective you and a group of volunteers may have to call the members individually or mail to them.
Price your flowers competitively with local florists. Try and sell below their retail price but not too far. Remember, everyone buys their significant other something for Valentines Day. Give them a good reason to make it your group's flowers.
- Product Sales
Valentines Day gifts can be a whole lot more than just flowers. Of course candy is always a favorite. Chocolates, cinnamon hearts, suckers and lollipops, gourmet coffee, sparkling cider, jams, hot chocolate and mixed nuts all make excellent products for your group to sell. Like the flowers above, you can sell to the public, your fellow school students or to the members of your own nonprofit group.
Other favorite gifts to sell are teddy bears, bath soaps, health and beauty products, cookbooks, personalized T-shirts, plants, personalized trading cards and custom temporary tattoos.
Often these romantic items are packaged together in what some call "Cupid Baskets" that can sell as high as $40 to $50. The Northern Virginia Hotline in Arlington, Virginia uses this technique for their single biggest fundraiser every year and clears about $9,000 by getting most of the ingredients donated and using volunteer labor to assemble and deliver the baskets.
- Valentine Coupon Books
- "Personal Valentine" Coupon Books:
These are coupon books that hold coupons for personal services and gifts from the giver. Individual coupons can be for anything from "I'll be your personal servant for the day" to "One TV free day from the giver". Other favorites are, "Take me out to dinner", "You do the dishes", "Take the kids and go to the movies, Now!" and "Responsibility Free Day". Books can be tailored to all kinds of themes. A very popular theme is the "Adult Valentines Gift Theme". These can be can be as tame or a racy as your group can handle.
These coupon books can be very simple or elaborate. They may be composed in a computer program, printed on the computer printer and assembled and stapler bound by your group. Your local printer can also handle the whole thing or parts of it for very professional looking books. Depending on who your selling to and how expensive the books were to produce, they may sell from anywhere from $1 to $5,
- "Romantic Nights Out" Coupon Book
This type of coupon book holds coupons for reduced priced meals and entertainment. From champagne dinners to Sunday brunch. Comedy shows to the theater. Carriage rides to roller coaster rides. A nite at the local hotel to a weekend at a country bed and breakfast.
Your group will have to contact the potential businesses in your geographical area and arrange for their services. Match your coupon businesses to your targeted buyers. This coupon book will have to be professionally printed and bound.
In 1996 the Texas Gulf Coast Chapter of the Leukemia Society of America raised $10,000 selling this kind of coupon book for $1 apiece. Each book held 7 discount coupons from one restaurant. The next year they had two restaurants and hoped to raise $40,000.
- "Make Over" Coupon Book
These coupons can be from one establishment or can combine several businesses. Discounts can be for total "make overs", to a simple hair cut. Getting your nails done to a body massage. Facials to pedicures. Fashion and cosmetic make overs are popular to. Glamour photography is very hot right now. Tanning salons and health spas are other possibilities.
As in the previous coupon book, your group will have to contact the potential businesses in your geographical area and arrange for their services. Match your coupon businesses to your targeted buyers. This coupon book will have to be professionally printed and bound.
- Bachelor-Bachelorette Auctions
Not everyone has a significant other to share the romance of Valentine's Day with. This event can generate a lot of publicity and dollars for your group.
Most auctions feature both bachelors and bachelorettes up for auction. Bidders are actually bidding on a prearranged date that usually includes dinner and an evening out on the town afterwards.
The bachelors and bachelorettes solicited to participate should pay for all cost associated with the date. You may want to solicit restaurants, theaters, sports teams and others to provide free tickets and restaurant gift certificates to offset the costs to the bachelors and bachelorettes. Use these freebees sparingly for the bachelors and bachelorettes who have a hard time thinking of and arranging their date.
Try to get some bachelors and bachelorettes from high profile positions in your community like sports teams, city government, area business leaders, and media personalities from television, radio and newspapers. These will insure good coverage for your event. This is also a good time to make contacts that you can use in the future for both publicity and as donors.
Tickets are sold to the auction. They are usually priced to cover the cost of the auction (the auctioneer) and any entertainment (dinner and dancing) that accompanies the auction. Costs can be reduced by seeking sponsorships and in kind donations for things like the auctioneer, food, entertainment, and the facility. If you want alcohol, make sure it is a cash bar.
Dances can range from simple to the most complex
- School Dances
The most simple of school dances involve hiring a deejay or finding someone with a great system and lots of CDs. Check with your principal for any rules and try to get chaperones that are sympathetic to your cause. Also works with junior high and middle schools.
To kick it up a notch, tie it in with a matchmaking event, candy sales, valentine bucks, raffles and flower sales. The more you decorate the dance the more you can charge.
- Daddy-Daughter and Mother-Son Valentine Dances
I guess the name says it all. Sometimes I wonder about this one.
- Dinner Dances
This is the territory of the older crowd. Usually live music by a dance band and a sit down dinner. Mostly held at restaurants with a dance floor, but can be carried off at a rented hall. Often includes a raffle and door prizes. These events regularly generate large amounts of money and are ideal for repeating year after year.
- Valentines Day Baby Sitting
With so many couples going out on the town on the same night, baby-sitters can be hard to get. Some groups offer baby sitting services for the night. Often, church youth groups do this because they have easy access to a facility already set up for baby-sitting, the church nursery. They also have a built in customer base of church members that are easy to solicit through the church bulletin or newsletter.
- Valentine Grams
Often a card with candy or a flower that are sold and delivered. Singing telegrams can be a fun twist.
- Bar, Store or School Valentine Bucks
These are called bucks because they usually sell for a dollar or $5. They are heart shaped red or pink pieces that are sold in bars, stores or in schools. Your organizations name is printed on them with a space for the buyers name to go as well. When the Valentine Buck is sold it is filled out by the buyer and the seller then tapes it to the wall. The buyer can put his or her name on the buck or both of the couples names. Offer donated prizes to the sellers who sell the most to motivate them.
A successful variation on this theme involves mailing the Valentine Bucks to potential donors. The Friends of the Mill Valley Library in southern California employed this technique by mailing to every household in their service area. Even after substantial upfront costs of $4,000 they cleared over $11,000.
Romantic items are perfect to raffle off before Valentine's Day. Can be as simple as dinner at a restaurant and a movie for two or as exotic as plane tickets to Paris along with food and lodging for two. Carefully consider who your raffle ticket customers are before you pick the prize. Try to get the prizes donated, or at the most pay wholesale cost for them.
February 21st- President's Day
I know this seems like a stretch to turn this day into a fundraising related event, but have I got some good ideas for you.
For those of you choosing to hold an event tied to President's Day there are a lot of benefits:
- President's Day isn't trademarked so you can use the name without danger of being sued or paying a royalty.
- It has national recognition by all groups of people
- The press (newspaper, radio and television) covers the event in some form every year.
- Because there are virtually no other fundraising events tied to this day, you will have all the press coverage to yourself.
Types of events suitable for President's Day
Don't scoff at the idea. Sure it takes a lot of pennies to amount to anything, but it can be done. Some big nonprofits do it on a regular basis. A lot of small groups use it as an educational experience that has the wonderful side benefit of raising money too. And best of all, nobody misses their pennies and most are happy to donate them and other loose change to your cause.
Because past presidents almost exclusively decorate our money in the United States this is a great time to play on the association for press coverage of your event.
- Collecting Pennies for the Small Group
This idea works best a classroom setting for a whole school, church or other similar group. It makes a great educational experience as well. As with all fundraisers, it helps to have a well defined goal and purpose for the money to motivate your penny collectors.
This is a competitive event that pits one classroom against another for the prize of raising the most points by the end of the Penny War.
Start by determining a set period that your penny war will run. One to two weeks is usually the most you will want it to go. Keep it short to avoid burnout. You can have more than one penny war per year, just space them out.
Each class will need a large container to collect money in. It can be as simple as a plastic milk jug with a hole cut in the side to an old glass water container. If you decide on the glass container keep them close to the ground to avoid breaking. You will also need a pair of narrow tongs to retrieve bills from glass containers.
Label each container with the teachers name, grade, classroom number or some other way that is identifiable to all participants.
Keep the containers together and displayed in a central location that is visible to all participants and make sure it is under adult supervision at all times to avoid the possibility of theft. Outside the school office or in the library works great.
Here is how the game works:
Students put their pennies in their classroom's container. Each penny is worth one point.
Students can put silver coins and bills in other classroom's containers to subtract points from that container. Each silver coin and bill is worth negative points and reduces the point total for that container. A nickel is -5 pts, a quarter is -25 pts, a dollar is -100 pts, and so on. This is where the fun part of Penny Wars starts.
To keep the donations flowing and the competition high, empty and count the containers daily and post the results next to the containers. This is the educational part of the experience for the participants. Make sure everyone participates in the counting. It helps the competitive spirit to announce the results at the end of each day and at the same time to encourage participants to remember to bring money the next day. Promote the event in your newsletter before, during and announce the results after. Time your Penny War to coincide with another event like a concert and encourage visitors to participate too.
At the end of your penny war reward the top one or two classes with a prize like a pizza lunch or ice cream. Whatever the prizes try to get them donated.
To boost your final total ask local business' to match the funds you collect.
You are going to have a lot of coins at the end of your Penny War, so ask a local bank or credit union to donate their time to count and roll the coins.
Make sure you acknowledge all who participate in your Penny War. This can be as simple as an announcement of the school P.A. system for the students, a fresh flower for the teachers, and a certificate for the participating business'. If you have a sign in front of your school, use it to thank everyone (name the business').
Don't forget to use any contacts you make at area business' as a springboard for future help. Low impact events like these are a great way to get your foot in the door. Remember, fundraising is really friend raising.
Events like Penny Wars, Penny-A-Thons, Common Cents Coin Drives, Penny Drives, Coins for Cops, Penny Harvests, Penny Pitches, Lucky Penny Collections and others can raise anywhere from a few hundred dollars up to tens of thousands.
- Collecting Pennies for the Large Group
Large groups and business' use penny collections to raise big bucks consistently time after time. Examples include the Salvation Army, Ronald McDonald Houses and Habitat for Humanity.
Specific efforts include:
The "Penny for AIDS" group in Los Angeles raisers $100,000 annually for AIDS research.
The Ronald McDonald House "Penny-a-Pound" program in Colonie, New York has raised $80,000.
The Albuquerque, New Mexico Public Schools and the APS Foundation have raised nearly $50,000 for 18 local nonprofits.
These are large scale events that involve multiple locations collecting not only pennies but all coins and currency. A corporate partner with many retail locations will help your effort. Many of these efforts involve rounding your bill up to the next dollar amount and donating that to a nonprofit or charity. Events like these will take much planning and publicity to achieve these kinds of results.
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About the Author:
Deane Brengle is the editor of several free online publications that cover fundraising for small nonprofit groups. You can visit these publications and read more about fundraising in articles by him and other experts in the field at The Fund$Raiser Cyberzine, The Fundraising for Small Groups Newsletter, and Fundraising Booklets.