”With thousands of fundraising opportunities out there, it can be difficult to know which option is best for you and your group.”
With thousands of fundraising opportunities out there, it can be difficult to know which option is best for you and your group. The selection process can be tedious and overwhelming, and it often seems easier to just do what everyone else is doing.
Just say no: If everyone around you is selling the same product, you won’t be able to generate much buzz about your fundraiser, and community members will be less likely to purchase as much of your product or attend your event. Choosing a fundraiser that your group can get excited about is crucial to your money-raising success.
We want to make it easy on you. That’s why we’ve broken down the multitude of fundraisers out there and packaged them into neat little groups. Because we’re nice like that.
Scan through, see what sections look like they might be a good fit for your group, and check out the options available. Got an outgoing group of kids? Maybe hosting an event will be your thing. Are you a creative bunch? Can you knit or paint? Making your own products is always an option too. Think about what makes your group special. What skills do they have that can contribute to a fundraiser?
Life lesson learned: We’re all special snowflakes. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing, and you certainly don’t have to do a traditional fundraiser. Whether you choose to sell products, host an event, do chores, or have an auction, your fundraising efforts will be a success if your group can get excited and be themselves in the fundraising process.
Catalog and order form fundraising is one of the most common forms of school group fundraising. Requesting catalogs from a fundraising business is the first step; next comes handing them out to your fundraiser participants and explaining the products and selling process to them.
The process is simple and takes the production responsibility off the shoulders of the group members. However, working with a business means less control over what products look like, the quality and the packaging.
Doing a catalog/order form fundraiser can also be difficult for groups with shy members, since reaching out to others is the main form of selling. Face-to-face and door-to-door selling is the most effective way to make sales. Making a personal connection with people helps them understand your cause and see your sincerity and initiative.
Catalog and order form fundraisers also give you a better idea of what your profit will be. You know upfront what portion of the sales your group will receive, and you can use that information to break down how much each member needs to sell to reach a certain monetary goal. This makes planning and goal-setting easy.
Be sure to choose a business that aligns with the mission of your fundraising group. You want to work with a company with similar values that you know you can trust.
Pick products your community will find entertaining and/or useful. If your community is working on a healthy living initiative, it might not be a good idea to sell candy bars. Think about the personality of your community and use that as your guide.
Encourage group members to reach out to family and friends that live far away. Catalogs and order forms can always be sent in the mail, along with purchases.
Direct sale fundraisers are similar to catalog fundraisers, but products are purchased or made (bake sales) in bulk before sales begin. Once a fundraising group has received or made their products, they can divide them up and begin the selling process. Groups that participate in direct sale fundraisers can set goals at the beginning of the fundraising process and know exactly how much product each group member needs to sell to meet their goals.
Direct sales allow for face-to-face transactions with customers. Customers can handle the products before they purchase them and also have the benefit of leaving the transaction with their products in hand.
These fundraisers can be difficult if group members aren’t willing to reach out to potential customers. You’ll have more success if you set up your sale table in high-traffic areas within the community, like grocery stores, convenience stores, auctions and sporting event concession areas. These places are also beneficial because people are already purchasing something and are likely to have spare change on them to make a purchase from your fundraiser. Make sure your leader checks with store owners before setting up your fundraising table.
Direct sales can be a bit risky if your group members are not committed to selling their portion of the product. Since the product has already been purchased by your group, you could be out money if your fundraiser is not successful. If group members are committed and you properly promote your fundraiser, your group should have no trouble.
Choose a fundraiser your group can get excited about. If people in your group wouldn’t use the product you’re selling, it’s going to be hard to convince community members to purchase it.
Work with a fundraising business that fits with the mission of your fundraising group. You want to work with a company with similar goals that you can trust.
Direct sale fundraisers need promotion. Create posters, announce what you’re selling at events, create newspaper, radio and TV commercials, send out a press release to your local paper, include info in a newsletter, send out direct mail pieces, and leave flyers on doors and car windshields. Host a demonstration using the products to raise awareness of your fundraiser. Once people know what you’re selling and for what cause, they may come to you asking to purchase some of your product.
Online fundraising is a whole ’nother animal. We could make an ultimate guide simply for this piece of the fundraising pie. But since you need to quickly weigh your options to find the best fundraiser for your cause, we’ll give you the critical information and our best advice to boot.
First things first, an online fundraiser isn’t for you if you have no online presence. Just as a traditional fundraiser requires established community awareness and support to be successful, an online fundraiser requires that your group has an established online community. This means your group has a website and a social media presence on several platforms, and your members are active on these platforms. Your website, social media, and individual group members’ social media should be branded to reflect the goals and personality of your group. It’s going to be very difficult for your fundraiser to get traction if no one on the Internet knows who you are or what you stand for.
If you do have an online community of followers that care about your group and its cause, an online fundraiser is an amazing opportunity. It allows you to reach out to people beyond your immediate, physical community to individuals all over the world. It affords you the opportunity to spread your message to people you never would have been able to get in touch with through a traditional fundraiser.
Plus, the fundraising process is extremely simple. People can sign up and donate with the click of a button. This fundraiser doesn’t take any time from their day and it’s something they can easily share on social media, giving them positive social reinforcement for their contribution and giving others the chance to see that you’re fundraising.
If you don’t have an established online community in which you’re engaged with your followers, it’s best to choose a traditional fundraiser that will allow your group members to make connections with community members as they fundraise.
Online fundraising can mean selling products online, promoting an event online, or asking for donations online. Some people feel comfortable contributing to an online fundraiser, but you may run into snags if members of your online community don’t trust Internet fundraising or think it might be a scam.
Online fundraisers are great for groups that don’t have tons of time to host an event or have the means to purchase products to sell for profit. Online fundraisers can work wonders for non-profit businesses or organizations that are just starting up. However, without proper preparation and online community building (which does take a lot of time), online fundraisers won’t be successful. If you don’t have an established online community in which you’re engaged with your followers, it’s best to choose a traditional fundraiser that will allow your group members to make connections with community members as they fundraise. Fundraising success is all about creating connections with others.
With online fundraising, it’s all about social, social, social. Promote your fundraiser like crazy on social media and your website. Does that mean it’s all you post about? No, that would get annoying. But you should be posting about it frequently. For sites with scrolling newsfeeds, like Twitter and Google+, you should schedule posts to publish throughout the day through a social scheduling site like Hootsuite.
Use this free advertising as much as you can, but don’t forget about traditional promotion like posters and advertisements. The people who live in your physical community can still be the best ones to jumpstart your online fundraiser.
Pick a fundraising website that matches your group’s goals. If you’re not sure which site is best for your group, look at some current fundraisers on the site. Are they similar to your group’s fundraiser? If so, you’ll fit in with that online community.
Choose keywords that people in your online community would be likely to search. Do some keyword and search engine optimization research before you write the copy for your fundraiser. The key is making your fundraiser easily accessible online.
Get contributions by giving them. The best way to build up your online community is by simply being friendly. Make contributions to other online fundraisers you care about. Share social media posts about other groups’ fundraisers. If you help them out, they’ll be more likely to help you out too. It’s just like living in a real community; you get out of it what you put in.
Raffles can be a fun and simple way to raise funds for your group, but you have to be able to get your hands on raffle prizes for a decent price, be able to make them yourselves, or have them donated in order to make a profit. If you have quality prizes that will result in good ticket sales, you’ll definitely make some money for your group – other than the prizes and the cost to print the tickets, there are no fees to host a raffle.
Before you get started, do some research on your state’s raffle laws. Each state has different legal guidelines regarding raffles, so make sure you can legally move forward with your raffle idea before you put too much brainstorming work in. With big prizes, like cars or boats, you may be legally required to sell a certain number of tickets to give the prize away. Speak with a local attorney before hosting a raffle with cars or boats.
When setting the price for your tickets, think about how many you would need to sell in order to make a profit. What is a realistic amount your group could sell? Then, divide your profit goal by that number. If the ticket price still seems too high, you may need to rethink having a raffle fundraiser, or accept that your group will need to sell more tickets. It’s O.K. for the ticket price to reflect the prizes being raffled – bigger prizes equal pricier tickets – but consider what most people in your community would be willing to pay for a raffle ticket and don’t go too far above that number.
Have group members seek donations from local businesses before buying or making raffle prizes. Raffling donations is a much safer option for your group that will mean guaranteed profit. This doesn’t mean non-donated prizes won’t work, but it’s a much better place to start, and you’d be surprised what local businesses are willing to give. Add an extra incentive by explaining to business owners that you’ll share what they’ve done for your group on social media and make sure they are mentioned several times at the raffle and in promotional materials. You’ll basically be advertising their product for them.
Allow your group enough time to sell tickets for your raffle. For smaller prizes, a month will work, but for bigger items, make sure your group has two to three months to spread the word and sell tickets.
Also make sure group members have photos or accurate, detailed descriptions of the items being raffled.
Make sure group members and your promotional materials (posters, advertisements, social media) make it clear where ticket sales are going. People will be much more likely to put money toward a ticket if they know and care about your cause. Also make sure group members have photos or accurate, detailed descriptions of the items being raffled. Potential customers will want all the information about the prizes before spending money on a ticket.
Have well-designed tickets. Ask a group member who has some artistic or graphic design ability to make them, or have them done professionally. They should include a space for customers to fill out for the drawing (name, address, phone number and email) as well as information about your group (name, address, phone number, website, date of raffle and prizes available). This portion of the ticket can be a stub given back to the customer.
Sell tickets anywhere and everywhere. Have group members carry them around in their pockets in case they run into someone that might want one. Set up sale tables at local sporting events, stores, and school-sponsored events. If your group is allowed to set up shop in these places, you should be taking advantage of every opportunity.
Hosting an auction is a great way to raise funds because it can easily generate excitement and bidding wars for prizes, meaning your group can make a larger profit. This means the group that hosts an auction needs to be outgoing and ready to put on a show. For less outgoing groups, a silent auction is still a great way to raise money without the fuss of finding an auctioneer.
Much like raffle fundraising, groups will need to have items for the auction purchased, made or donated before much planning can begin. Once your group has enough prizes, they can move forward with selling or handing out tickets to the auction, or simply promoting it through posters, advertisements, and by announcing when and where the auction will be before school or town events. Your group will need to decide if they want to charge for tickets to the auction or just invite people for free.
It will be easy to generate excitement over big and expensive prizes, but for smaller things, like gift cards, cooking items or sporting goods, make packages that add up to be a bigger prize. These package deals will draw more excitement and leave you with fewer items to auction off, simplifying the process. Don’t have any prizes that are worth under $40.
For a live auction, don’t have more than 10 to 12 items in the show. Audience members will get bored after that point and without the crowd excitement it will be hard to sell the last few items. A live auction also isn’t necessary for products that might not cause a bidding war, so stick to a silent auction if you think most people would pay only a set price for a prize.
Auctions that involve people are a great way to boost crowd excitement. Some common examples are “slave” auctions and date auctions. These are great ideas for school groups in which the people being auctioned and the audience members will know each other and “fight” for these individuals. Most people who want to be in the auction will “donate” themselves to the cause, so there is no cost to host an event like this.
Auctions also offer the opportunity to make items to be sold, meaning the start-up costs are minimal. Baked goods, quilting, knitting and art are all things that groups can make on their own and auction for profit.
Play to the strengths of your group. If you have a group that can generate a lot of excitement in the community and you have prizes that could cause bidding wars, host a live auction. If your group is quieter but great at organizing events, host a silent auction.
Think about the timeliness of your event. A date auction is going to generate more buzz around Valentine’s Day than any other time of the year. Auctioning off athletes to work for people at the end of their season means you can promote them as strong and in shape, capable of any task. Auction items like quilts and knitted clothes right before winter. A big screen TV will sound pretty nice right before the Super Bowl.
Remember that your auctioneer and script for the event could make or break the auction. Make sure your auctioneer can be heard and understood. Make sure their personality matches the tone of the event and your group’s personality. If you are fundraising for a serious cause, having the auctioneer tell jokes might not be appropriate. If the event has a light-hearted theme, make sure they’re willing to have fun with the audience. It won’t be hard to determine these qualities if you’re picking an auctioneer from your group or from the community, but if you’re hiring from an outside source, make sure you do your homework first.
Percent of sales fundraising allows groups to work with other organizations to host an event or sell products and receive a portion of the profit. These fundraisers are an excellent way to cross-promote different organizations and groups within a community. Percent of sales fundraisers allow groups to host events and sell products they would otherwise not be able to host or make themselves, allowing for a larger profit. Many groups may ask for “sponsorship” from a larger group or business in the community.
Percent of sales fundraisers are great for groups that don’t have much funding to host a large event themselves or can’t find donors for products. Groups must make sure they are not receiving a lower percentage of the proceeds than they should, and that the fundraiser will still be worth their time and effort. Groups should also know what they should realistically expect to receive as a percentage of sales of certain products. These percentages have a wide range depending on the products being sold. You can check out Chapter 7, “Fundraising Profit Calculations,” to learn more about what your group can expect to make on a percent of sales fundraiser.
Many groups partner with their local school in order to have a facility for an event and to find more volunteer workers to make products and help host the event. The school will be a great place to hang posters and make announcements about an upcoming percent of sales fundraiser.
Think about partnering with other organizations in your town that have workers that would be willing to volunteer for your cause and have a large facility, such as the police department, the fire department, city hall, the library, and the local community center.
Make sure to communicate up front what percent of sales will be going to each group involved with the fundraiser, and make fair and accurate calculations. As long as communication about expected profits is clear, it should be smooth sailing for both groups.
Chore/service fundraising is one of the easiest and quickest ways to raise funds for your group. While you won’t make tons of money, you will make money and performing service throughout the community will always reflect well on your group members. Plus, there are zero start-up fees.
Chore/service fundraising takes initiative by group members to get going. There won’t always be signs up around town asking for help mowing lawns or raking leaves. Sometimes group members will need to reach out to community members and propose work for a small fee to go toward a group cause. Many people can find something they need help with around the house if they know their money is going toward a good, local cause.
Chore/service fundraising can also be event-based, like a car wash. If your group plans to host something like this, make sure it is promoted first around the community with signs, posters and social media. These events often work best when there is no fee assigned to the work, but customers are asked if they would like to make a donation. Many times groups will receive more money when asking for a free will donation that if they charged a fixed amount.
Remember, not every group is equipped to handle some of these tasks. If your group members won’t be able to do a quality job, don’t offer to do the work. Pick a chore/service fundraiser that you know your group can do successfully that will generate more customers.
It’s always better to charge very little to nothing at all than to ask for too much. People will be more likely to give if they feel the price is doable or that they are donating to your cause. If you do a little work for free, don’t worry about it. It’s not time wasted, it’s time you put into your community.
This is where the fun really begins. Hosting an event allows you to have a fundraiser that’s completely unique to your group and your cause. Your group can build a lot of hype surrounding your event, adding to attendance or participation and profit.
Depending on the event, it can cost a lot of money to get started, and there’s no guaranteed profit.
Event fundraising isn’t right for everyone though. Depending on the event, it can cost a lot of money to get started, and there’s no guaranteed profit. Event fundraising success depends on your group’s commitment to promoting the event and organizing a quality event that community members will want to attend or participate in. The event’s theme needs to be something the community can get behind. Some prank event fundraisers, like “Potty Protection Insurance” and “You’ve Been Flocked,” might go over really well in certain communities and be seen as offensive in others. We’ll let you make the call.
Groups that host event fundraisers tend to have outgoing members, but not everyone that works on hosting an event needs to be outgoing. Many group members can help with the behind-the-scenes organization of the event, so these fundraisers can work for almost any group.
Remember, all of these event fundraiser ideas can be modified to a better theme for your group or community. Think about the timing of your event as well and play off holidays or seasonal traditions in your community.
Events require extensive planning, so don’t rely on regular group meetings to get everything ready for the event. Break your group into special teams that can be responsible for one or two aspects of the event organization, like communication, budget, venue acquisition, decoration, promotion, ticket sales, and hosting. Have a leader for each of these teams and have them schedule meetings outside of the regular times. They can report back to the head of the fundraising group at regular meetings with status updates.
Set up a timeline as soon as you start planning the event. This can change over time, but having soft deadlines will help your teams start moving forward and avoid procrastination. If you never set a hard date for the event, your group will just keep pushing it back.
Create a start-up budget and stick to it. Events allow for a lot of creative ideas, but if you try to do it all, you’ll never make more than the money you spent putting the event together. You have to spend money on an event to make it a success, but make sure you map out what you can realistically spend and what you expect to make during the event, and don’t go beyond those means.
Event fundraisers, especially sport tournament-related events, can generate money not only from entry fees, but from merchandise like shirts and hats. Think about what other merchandise can be sold at your event along with ticket sales.
Don’t forget to have a good time! Once an event has started, you just have to sit back and enjoy it. Your group won’t be able to control everything, and the point is to have fun with your community. Once the planning is over and the event is in full swing, don’t stress. Enjoy the event and worry about the clean-up and profits later. It will be more of a success if no one is micro-managing the whole time.
Donation/collection fundraising is perfect for groups that are just getting started or have very little money for start-up costs. However, this type of fundraising can be difficult if community members are approached at the wrong time or in the wrong way. Simply asking for money or donations without providing anything in return can be very intimidating, so this isn’t the right fundraiser for every group.
Donation boxes for clothes, shoes, non-perishable foods and other items can be set up around communities or schools and promotional materials and announcements at events can help spread the word about these donation drop-off sites. Create incentive by hosting contests at work or school to see who can bring in the most of a certain item for a prize. Groups can also work with local stores to have cashiers present the possibility of donating a dollar to your group when customers pay their bill for their goods or groceries.
Donations can also be requested door-to-door, by phone, through the mail or the Internet. Social media is a great platform to alert your community to your fundraiser. This is also a good place to get a feel for the community’s tolerance of door-to-door donations. Ask the community online if they would be willing to give. If you receive pushback, door-to-door fundraising isn’t right for your community.
Train group members to be polite and unassuming when going door-to-door for donations or to collect items like loose change, recyclables or canned foods. Avoid interrupting people during dinner or late at night. Some people will not be willing to give and may be upset at the request. As long as group members clearly explain their cause and are not pushy if they are turned down, there should be no complaints.
Set clear goals before the start of your donation/collection fundraiser. With definite goals in mind, group members won’t be able to simply give up when they’re struggling. They’ll know they have to provide a certain amount of items or money in order for the group to be successful, so they’ll keep asking around and maybe even go outside their comfort zone in who they’ll approach.
When sending group members out to request donations or collect items, pair a more experienced or older member with a younger member. The older member can guide the younger member and the younger member will learn from their partner and feel more comfortable.
Warn your group that they may experience negativity from some people and that’s alright. That’s often part of the fundraising process and they just have to brush it off and move on.
At the conclusion of your fundraiser, send personal thank-you notes to everyone who donated or was involved. This is a nice gesture that could motivate those individuals to donate again to your next fundraiser. Remind your group members to take down names and addresses when they receive a donation. If donors seem hesitant to give out this information, it’s fine to explain that it will be used to send them a thank you card. This information could also be used to send them a personal flyer about your next fundraiser, but share that possibility with them if that’s something your group has planned.
Custom product fundraising is different from regular product fundraising in that these products can be personalized and play to people’s sentimental sides. Personalized items will set your fundraiser apart from others. Selling these products also allows you to promote local teams or other causes in your area. These products are special and may not be sold ever again; community members will be willing to pay a little more for custom products.
Custom products can be ordered in advance if they will simply feature a local team or city logo design. Your group can also work with a screen printing company to sell plain blankets, clothing and dishware through catalogs along with some kind of personalization to be added later like names or team logos.
Your group can also host a fundraiser that allows people to send customized holiday-themed gifts to people at their school or workplace. Products to make the gifts will have to be purchased first, and your group needs a member who is willing to customize the gifts and deliver them.
Custom product fundraising requires a lot of creativity by the group, but is a great idea for communities that have been overwhelmed with more traditional fundraisers.
Whether you’re working with a screen printing company or customizing products on your own, make sure your group is clear with customers about how things will look and what types of personalization you can and can’t do.
Choose themes that your community will get excited about. Would an athlete calendar be something the community would be interested in? What about blankets or clothes with a photo of a historic landmark in your town?
Think about the talents and skills of your group. Are there members that are good at baking, designing or sewing? If you choose to make custom products on your own instead of working with a company, you can spend even less money on start-up costs. Dig deep to find those hidden talents. Group members who like to sing may be able to provide singing Valentines to community members, even if your group has nothing to do with music.
Prices can be a little higher than non-personalized products, but don’t set prices so high that it turns people off. Base your prices on the labor your group puts in.
Make sure to promote your fundraiser throughout the community. Fundraisers like this really do offer something for everyone, but if no one knows about it, you’re not likely to get many requests from customers.
It’s been a doozy, but you made it through Chapter 5. Hopefully your brain is packed full of fundraiser ideas and you’re raring to get started.
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, never fear! We have plenty of advice left to help make any fundraiser you choose simple and successful.
Let’s recap the main points we learned in Chapter 5. As you work through the rest of the guide, refer back to this wrap-up to remind you what we talked about.
Structured fundraiser, easy to show products to potential customers through catalog, no production process, allows for face-to-face/door-to-door fundraising efforts, easy profit projection, and wide geographic selling area
Less control over products and packaging, less personalized for your group and community, difficult for less outgoing group members, group must handle distribution
Structured, customers can see and handle products before their purchase, little to no production process, allows for face-to-face/door-to-door fundraising efforts, easy goal-setting and profit projection, opportunity to host a demonstration using products
Risk of not making a profit, less control over products and packaging, less personalized for your group and community, requires strong “sales pitch” attitude, remote selling area, storage of product before selling
Quick and easy set-up, flexible and personalized, not geographically limited, no production process, potential to go viral and reach new connections, promotion can be done for free through social media, easy for potential customers to contribute
No profit guarantees, requires active and engaged online community, some people may not trust online fundraisers, no person-to-person connection and sales pitch, possible negative social push-back from online community
Quick and easy set-up, can make large profit by raffling donations from local businesses, little to no product production process, high-end products bring in ticket sales, person-to-person interactions will help sales
Geographically limited, needs to be traditionally promoted throughout community, requires outgoing group members to request donations and sell tickets, ticket price could make or break fundraiser, need access to large area to raffle items like cars and boats, legal issues could stand in the way
Quick and easy set-up, can make large profit by auctioning donations or homemade goods, little to no product production process, the right auctioneer/host can mean more excitement and boosted profits, bidding wars will boost sales
Geographically limited, needs to be traditionally promoted throughout community, requires outgoing group members to organize and host the event, need access to large area to host auction (possibly a stage)
Opportunity to work with established business or group in community, cross-promotion can bring in more customers, guaranteed profit, events can become established, annual
Geographically limited, profit may not meet group’s expectations as compared to effort, requires outgoing group members to organize and host the event, need access to area to host event
No start-up fees, need always exists in the community, not much planning is required, face-to-face interactions take place
Geographically limited, profit may be low, requires outgoing group members to ask to provide services, time-consuming
Fun fundraiser, lots of anticipation by community, face-to-face interactions take place
Large start-up costs, lots of set-up, geographically limited, no guaranteed profit, extensive planning is needed, time-consuming, area to host event is needed, clean-up is often required, needs a lot of promotion far in advance
No start-up costs, no extensive planning or set-up, face-to-face interactions can take place, not geographically limited, guaranteed profit, little promotion is needed
Intimidating, could cause pushback and negativity from community, requires outgoing group members, requires training of group members
Unique to community, face-to-face interactions can take place, can be themed around holidays, customers are willing to pay more for personalized products
Some start-up costs, planning is necessary, geographically limited, requires outgoing group members to sell/promote products, requires creativity, promotion of fundraiser is needed
And there you have it. The part of your brain associated with fundraising (we’re not quite sure what part that is) just got a whole lot stronger today (we are sure of that). Take a breather, figure out what questions you still have, and breeze through the rest of the guide to find your answers. They’re all here, we promise!
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