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Fundraising Idea of the Month:
Professional Fundraisers

by Doug Nash


While most fundraisers like to run their events with little or no outside help or influence, their are times when a little professional help can pay big bonus. Ask any secretary of a not-for-profit if there are any fundraising companies that you can consider approaching and they will show you a cupboard full of literature. Each of them extolling the virtues of their particular product or line of products. Add to this the internet also has blossomed as a repository of fundraising options. You are no longer alone and you have more choices than ever. Now you can choose from a range of fundraisers and fundraising products that can be overwhelming.

There will be those who will oppose this help. The main objection will be that you will not retain all of the profit and this is a fair concern that must be addressed. You do not want to put in all that hard work to simply to see all the money disappear into someone else's pocket . You must be sure that you will be in a better position after the fundraiser. Remember ten percent of something is better than one hundred percent of nothing. Ask yourself is that percentage worth the effort. Professional fundraising companies need to make a profit and so do you, this is why you need to decide if the split in the profits is equitable and acceptable.

One problem fundraisers face each year is people associated with an organisation or the fundraising base complain that the major fundraiser is boring or has gone stale. By turning to fundraising companies you may be able to inject some spark, a freshness that will boost your bottom line. You need not completely replace your major fundraiser however maybe by supplementing it or replacing it for one year may reap worthy rewards.

The one thing you must decide is which of all the products will suit your organisation and members. Don't be afraid to ask around. You will instantly know if the product is not for your organisation or members - your members will tell you. If you feel the product is right then investigate the company that is promoting it. Both the product and the supplier must be acceptable. The important point to remember here is that you are effectively going into a partnership with the supplier and so the reputation of the supplier will be linked to yours. Ask for references and names of others who have used the services of the fundraising company, they should be able to supply at least ten. Make sure you ring them all to make sure that you are partnering up with someone trustworthy.

So what other benefits are there to using a professional fundraising company? If the company runs the fundraiser like a business then you run yours like a business and that has to a good thing. Apart from offering a quality product at a reasonable price, the company should be able to help you promote you, the product and the fundraiser. You should be supplied with professionally designed glossy brochures. The whole plan of the fundraiser should have been tested and refined due to use elsewhere. End result here is that you will have a better run and better promoted fundraiser which should mean a better return for effort invested.

Because the fundraiser has been tested and refined elsewhere it means that the financial side of the fundraiser should also be better organised. Normally the company should provide collection and record sheets that help you track your fundraiser better. You should be able to track all aspects of the money collection and product distribution. This is a key area that can make or break a fundraiser. The better you can control these aspects the more profitable your efforts will be. Not only for this fundraiser but for the next one and the one after that. With each fundraiser you are building a reputation and this reputation is either enhanced or damaged by each fundraiser you run. Rarely will a fundraiser be judged separate from all that have been run previously.

There two other major facets to consider when partnering up with a fundraising company. First is that you do not need to spend any money up front. Be very wary of any company that asks for money up front, if they do then double your efforts when considering the need to do so. Absolutely that you do a very thorough check of the reasons why and the company itself. Seriously consider only doing business with companies that don't ask for any upfront money - especially if you are not a fundraising veteran. There are many fundraisers that do not need what is called seed money, that is money spent up front before any fundraising is conducted.

The second major facet is that any unused product can be returned, if unopened and undamaged. Many a fundraiser has been hurt due to over ordering. Two aspects that can't be controlled are people and the weather. The other major source of fundraisers is under ordering. There you are all sold out and the event like a fete is not even half over and you have to stand there and watch all that possible profit walk past. The ability to accurately forecast fundraiser is more an art than a science. Make sure you know that if the fundraiser is not as successful as you expect you are not left with a leftovers that has to sold off cheap, donated to some other worthwhile cause. Unsold product comes straight out of your profit. Like the previous you may want to only use companies that offer this benefit.

Delivery is an aspect of fundraiser that can make it or break it. People who have separated themselves with their hard earned cash don't want to wait for a long time to receive the product. Delivery must be timely and fundraising companies also rely on delivering products on time and in good condition. They can help you with their experience in this regard.

Consistent quality of product is what makes companies preferred to others, they spend a lot of money in what is referred to as quality control. This is a built in benefit of using a fundraising company whether they deal in food or other products. One or two products of inferior quality can have enormous detrimental effect on your reputation and so effect any future fundraiser you may choose to run. You need to have a company that takes it's quality very seriously and has very clear options of dealing with inferior product.

Incentives is a method used by many fundraising companies to attract your business. They are used to first attract your business and secondly to help you do as well as you can. These incentives can be aimed at your volunteers or your organisation as a whole. You need to consider if the incentives are in harmony with your organisation and members.

Chose well and their are very few downsides to using a professional fundraising company. You may not have all the profit however you may still make more using this method than if you do it all yourself. Do your homework and you shouldn't go wrong. Like all fundraisers there is an element of risk and no-one is perfect. Consider your options and situation and move forward in a steady and thoughtful manner and you should do well.

***********************


    About the Author: Doug Nash lives in Logan City in Queensland, Australia. He has graciously consented to share a fundraising idea with us every month. Although many of the ideas aren't new, each of them has a unique flair that comes from being developed and refined half a world away from ours. Visit his web site at http://www.home.gil.com.au/~dnash/ for more fundraising ideas.

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