Fundraising

Beneficial to students and the bottom line

08/23/2010  |  JEFF ELLENBERGER
fundraising
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As a direct result of current uncertain economic times, many schools and school organizations are relying on fundraising to bridge the gap (fill the holes) in their budgets. More so now than ever, the importance of a successful fundraiser is critical.

The benefits of fundraising can be two-fold. An effectively executed fundraiser can supplement tight budgets and possibly avoid program cuts. Just as important, the fundraising experience, can be both fulfilling and educational for the students involved. Select your fundraiser, then work with students to set a realistic (attainable) goal and develop a plan of action. Use this opportunity to teach students how to create a business plan. Engaging them to develop their own strategies for marketing, advertising, sales coverage, scheduling, and distribution will create a more meaningful and successful student experience. Use the “learning tool” approach for your next fundraiser to make it more effective, more educational, and more fun.

With many options from which to choose, selecting a fundraiser may seem complicated. Carefully consider the many options available, then follow your instincts. Base your selection on what you feel will be of most interest to both the school community and your community at large. Then, make sure the product you’ve selected meets your school’s approval.

Once your decision has been made, be sure to choose a reputable fundraising company. Do not hesitate to ask for customer testimonials and referrals. Check out ratings with the Better Business Bureau. Ask how long the company has been in business. Is customer satisfaction guaranteed? Needless to say, it is important to deal with a well established, reputable fundraising company that stands behind its product.

Like you would expect from any other business, products that fail or arrive damaged should be replaced at no additional charge. Check the bottom line and look for hidden costs. Make sure that all of the support materials you need, such as brochures and order forms, are furnished free of charge. Remember, any add-on costs, like shipping (shipping should be free!), detract from your profit.

Keep it simple! The group leader in charge of the program does not want to be saddled with complicated tally sheets and order forms. It should not require an MBA to calculate your profit. Work with products that are easy to sell and with a program that’s easy to administrate. Remember, this is supposed to be fun for both the sellers and the group leader.

Customer service is vital! When and if questions arise, there should be a toll-free number available to connect with a trained customer service staff to directly handle any questions you may have (i.e. running the program, questions regarding product, additional orders, tabulation, payment, etc.).

The price of the product is key to success! Let’s face it, money is still tight. A fundraiser with products selling for $10.00 or less has greater appeal than sales of more expensive items. In the “belt-tightening” economy in which we live, today’s consumers – out of necessity – are more budget-conscious than ever before. Bottom line – the higher the price, the tougher the sell.

Value is as important as price. Your customers are making a purchase (not a donation), therefore they expect the product to perform and meet their expectations. It better look as good as the beautiful picture in the sales brochure on which their buying decision was based!

Once you’ve decided what you want to sell and selected a company to work with, it’s time to create some excitement! Enlist a highly motivated and organized individual to serve as your fundraising chairperson. Hold a kickoff meeting to generate enthusiasm, get organized, stress participation, and review the program. Do not assume everyone knows what they are supposed to do.

Get your sales team off to a comfortable start by advising them to start with family, friends, and neighbors. Remind them to always be courteous and polite. If your group has uniforms, ask the school for permission to wear them as they solicit sales. Set a goal that’s realistic and convey the importance of achieving it. Keep everyone on the same page for maximum results. Schedule your fundraiser to avoid competing with others your community. Tap your local media outlets to help spread the word. Set a clear end date (two to three weeks recommended). Upon completion, hold a wrap-up meeting to thank everyone for their efforts and share the results. Don’t forget to acknowledge key individuals and thank the community.

Most importantly, have fun!

Jeff Ellenberger is president and owner of Dutch Mill Bulbs. For more information visit dutchmillbulbs.com
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