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So You're the New Fundraising
by Robert Palmiter
How did this happen? All you did was take an interest in the running of your organization. You showed up for a couple board meeting and when you opened your big mouth the board somehow misinterpreted your comments as a show of leadership and unanimously elected you Fundraising Chairperson.
Now what are you going to do? You are charged with the sole responsibility of raising the entire working capital requirements of the organization, with or with out the support of the membership. The bad news is that, if you succeed, you'll probably be stuck with the position forever!
There are many different ways to raise funds but chances are that you'll probably be doing some type of a product sales fundraiser. Well here's a little advise from someone who's been there and spends a great deal of time helping others in your position.
TIP #1 - Don't re-invent the wheel. If your organization has a pet product fundraiser that they have done before, regardless of how unsuccessful it has been, stick with it. Any fundraiser that raises funds is a successful fundraiser. To try to introduce a new fundraising idea to the group right off will certainly be meet with a great deal of resistance requiring much debate and will make your job twice as hard. Besides, you're going to have a hard enough time with the members who believe that the money should just "come in"! Wait until you have a success or two before you deside to take on the committee.
TIP #2 - Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Rarely are fundraisers ever successful enough so you'll probably need a back up fundraising idea or two ready to present to the board. Always be looking for fundraising ideas that work well for other groups. Plan several fundraisers in advance even if you feel confident that one or two will produce the funds you need.
TIP #3 - Pick a fundraising company for their fundraising expertise not the products they offer. Regardless of the product you select, the chances that the people you solicit will be in the market for that product at that price are slim to none. People will buy from your organization mostly because they are compelled to help you, not because of the products you offer. You can buy products wholesale easily enough, what you really need is a company that specializes in helping groups raise money.
Good fundraising companies understand that you might not have a great deal of experience in conducting fundraisers. They will assist you in planning the fundraiser dates and point out any pitfalls you maybe setting yourself up for. They should also have a system of collecting orders and distributing them to your participants that is easy to organize and saves you time.
How do you find a product company that knows fundraising? There are hundreds of companies that see fundraisers as a nice way to sell a little more of their wares. Look for a company that promotes fundraising as their main marketing effort, can provide you all the materials, i.e. order forms, reconsiliation forms, etc., will consult you on how best to conduct a fundraiser using their products. And, of course, get references from groups that have used their fundraiser before.
TIP #4 - Organize your organization. The attitude of many participants of an organization is amazing. 80% will sit back and do nothing figuring that someone else will take up their slack. It is unrealistic to expect every member of your organization to contribute the maximum effort but there is a lot you can do to increase the productivity of the slackers.
First, never start a fundraiser with out a "Kick Off" meeting involving all the participants. If you have several groups with in your organization such as Cub Scouts, etc., set up a leader meeting to train the leaders in conducting their individual Kick Off meeting.
The objective of this meeting is to get a commitment from each and every participant to set, and work to achieve, a personal sales goal. At leader meetings you get a group commitment from each leader. The best way to do this is to start the meeting by explaining what the fundraising goal is and where the funds will be spent so each participant can see who will benefit. Then, break down the fundraising goal to a dollar figure by participant. For instance, if you need to raise $1000 and you have 20 members in your group, that's $50 profit per member. Convert this amount to a sales goal. If your profit margin is 50% then each member must sell $100 in goods. You may even want to brake it down to the number of items i.e. $5 item = 20 items to sell.
Then, get their heads nodding by looking them in the eye and asking, "Can you sell 20 items?" This is when you answer questions about the fundraiser, after they have committed to a personal goal. Anything you say before you get everyone involved and their goal has been set will go in one ear and out the other.
By the way, don't ever figure that everyone will know what to do just because you have done this fundraiser before. Some of your best contributors have left your group and some of your member are new and don't know what to do so they will probably do nothing without clear instructions.
TIP #5 - Always reward the participants for selling at or above their goal. In the long run, this will cost you nothing. Small incentives will increase your sales as much as 20% or more so set aside a portion of your profits to purchase rewards and incentives. With a few phone calls it is easy to get the local theatre or the pizza parlor to kick in a few free coupon if you purchase a few.
Be creative and make your incentives attainable for everyone. Never reward just the "Top Salesperson". This actually de-motivates anyone who thinks the other guy has an advantage (everyone).
TIP #6 - Don't fragment your organization. Many groups will give back the profits directly to the individual who sells the goods. This is very counter productive. "I'm only hurting myself" is what everyone says so nobody sells anything and no one benefits. Not much of an organization is it!
Even if only a few members of the group will be benefiting directly from the use of the funds, what's wrong with the other members helping out a little? When it's their turn to go to the meet, or the camp, etc. they will benefit from the support of the organization as well and that's what it's all about.
There will always be individuals who, because of sales skills or associations, will sell more than most of the others in the group. These people can raise funds with out the organization. It's the people that have difficulty raising funds who need the support of the organization the most so put it all in the kitty and distribute it evenly. In the end you will have produced much more revenue and a stronger organization.
About the Author:
Robert Palmiter is the owner of Berbranon Marketing, distributor of New Day Gourmet Coffee. His experience helping New Day Gourmet Coffee fundraisers has inspired him to write this article. Stop by the company web site at http://www.coffeefundraiser.com to see how your group can move beyond bake sales and car washes with their professional support.