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Grassroots Fundraising:
Coupon Books

by Doug Nash

Coupon books have been around for a long while, done right they can be a very worthwhile fund-raiser. A coupon book is a book of discount deals or other offers by businesses to the purchasers of the book to promote their business. The book offers the owner tow for one deals, buy one item get another free, or discounts on presentation of the coupon in the book.

Coupon books are ideal for small non-profits for three main reasons. First you are raising funds from the community as well as your own organization, it is one of few ways to raise funds without relying on the same pockets that you usually have to rely on. The other reason is people and businesses do not have to be related to your group - they benefit from buying or advertising in one of the coupon books. Purchasers get the benefit of using the coupons - by saving on what they would have to do anyway or to access an opportunity to try something new, restaurant or cinema, at a price that appeals. The business gets an increase of sales or profile - hopefully both. So you can see everyone benefits, you raise funds, the businesses raise sales and the buyer gets an in-expensive way to do or try new things.

Take heed of the sales adage - sell the benefits to sell the product. Both to the enduser and those businesses you approach to be in your book. There are very good reasons for both to participate, you may even find the businesses agreeing to be your book wanting a copy or two for themselves!

By having an expiration date you add a little urgency to their decision - This offer is only good between this time and that time. This is a very common selling principal, just take notice of the advertisements on the television. If it’s good enough for the professionals it’s good enough for you. An added feature to your selling of the coupon book is that the valid time of the book, the time in which the book can be used, should be aimed directly to the time when the business are trying to lift their trading in a slow period.

You do not need an army of volunteers to produce a coupon book, however you do need dedicated people. In fact one person could produce such a book if so motivated. The returns for the effort of a coupon book can be very satisfying.


100 ADS @ $20

250 SALES @ $5

LESS COSTS, printing







This chart shows the simplest method of calculating the dollars return in theory, though it does not show the hours to be invested. It is impossible to calculate these hours as they vary greatly from area to area. In some areas businesses may be very eager to be part of such a promotion while in others they might not be willing at all. The only sure way to find out what your area’s potential is to go out there and ask.

The hardest part is recruiting businesses to advertise in your book, this means you need people or a person who is not intimidated by asking for support or in essence selling the idea to local businesses. This could be minimized by approaching the local Chamber of Commerce, or your local equivalent, to support your fund-raiser. This local official group would also be a goldmine of information as to who to approach and what they regard as the best way to present your book. They might also be able to help you avoid the errors of previous efforts.

There are good reasons why a local business would want to be involved.

  • The book is a good and in-expensive way to advertise,
  • to promote trade during known slow periods,
  • to raise their profile,
  • to trial, introduce or increase sales of a particular item or service.

The use of coupons can enable them to keep their own record of how successful the promotion was.

There are a few things to consider to help boost the appeal of your book. Make sure that the presentation, how the finished product looks, is as professional as you can get it. Remember the old saying "don’t judge a book by it’s cover"? Well this is a situation where potential buyers will definitely judge your book by it’s cover so make it a good one. Use quality paper and ink. If you can’t produce one on a members home personal computer approach a local printer and offer him a full page advertisement in the book in exchange for his services - like his printing of the book if you supply the paper. This is an excellent way for a local printer to advertise and build a local profile. If you are considering doing a book on an annual basis then it is even more critical that the final product be as professional in standard and presentation as possible. If there is a local graphic artist, approach them to see if they will contribute to your book. Not only does a picture say a thousand words they also make the finished product much more appealing.

Do you sell the book for a small fee or give it away at a larger fund-raiser? Instead of having a raffle you may want to offer the coupon book for five dollars instead. Use it as a lure to get people to attend by having a copy included in the entrance price. If you use a theme you can target a particular group or increase your appeal at a certain time of the year. For example if you have a theme of "back to school", you approach those businesses in your area that sell goods related to school - uniforms, books and other school related items, then promote the book during the month leading up to the first day of the school year. A very popular theme is to concentrate on restaurants and other recreational businesses.

To help minimize the risk of outlaying funds, try to think of a way to presell your book. Let people know what you are doing, when you are doing it, why you are doing it and what will be in it. You should always make every effort to minimise your risks.

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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.

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