Office fundraising
Workplace fundraising, best practices for the office

Running a Fundraiser – Logistics

Remember to Say “Thank You” - Fall 2010
Score a Winning Fundraising Sale - Fall 2010
Workplace Fundraising Do's & Don'ts - Spring 2010
Crossing the Finish Line 7 Tips for Closing a Fundraiser - Fall 2009
Looking Ahead Things to Do Now to Prepare for Your Spring Fundraiser - Fall 2009
User's Guide for the Newly Inducted Fundraising Chair - Spring 2009
Remember to Say "Thanks" - Fall 2008
Reaching Your Fundraising Goals in a Weak Economy - Fall 2008
Develop Next Year's Fundraising Plan Now - Spring 2008
Fundraising Help from the Experts - Sring 2007
Ask A Pro: About keeping the momentum
- Fall 2005
It’s a Wrap!
- Fall 2005
Measuring Fundraising Results - Fall 2005
Ask A Pro: About Making The Sale - Spring 2005
Super Sales Secrets – Spring 2005
Fundraising Gone Wild! – Fall 2004
Goal-Setting Smarts – Fall 2004
Workplace Fundraising Dos & Don’ts – Spring 2003
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Fundraisers – Fall 2003
What to look for in a fundraising agreement – Fall 2002
Ten Ways to Say Thanks – Fall 2002
Be Cool. Chill Out. Refrigerate Promptly. – Fall 2001
Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now - Record-keeping Advice from Fundraising Pros – Spring 2001
A Case Study in Gratitude – Spring 2001
Ask A Pro: About Back-Orders and Substitutions – Spring 2001
Ask a Pro: About Return Policies – Fall 2000
Raising Money or Raising Hackles: The importance of setting realistic goals – Spring 2000
Mission: Possible - Cliff Notes for the Newly Inducted Fundraising Chair – Spring 2000
Children and Fundraising: Where do we draw the line? – Spring 1999
Lessons in Fundraising - Sales techniques for teenagers – Fall 1998
Workplace Do's and Don’ts – Fall 1997


Remember to Say “Thank You”

Fall 2010

Did you know that 8 out of 10 Americans – and 9 out of 10 parents – support school fundraisers by purchasing popular consumer items?  Be sure these valuable contributions are acknowledged once your fundraiser is over.  A simple thank you letter from the PTA president, principal, coach, etc. helps parents, family members and other supporters feel like part of the team.  Perhaps more importantly, saying thanks also increases the likelihood that those supporters will be on board for your school’s next fundraiser.

Visit the website of the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers (www.afrds.org) to download a complimentary model thank you letter – available in English and Spanish. 

Score a Winning Fundraising Sale

Fall 2010

For the passionate moms, dads and other volunteer leaders of school booster clubs, fundraising is probably not top of mind.  But in today’s economy, many booster clubs must rely on financial support from parents and the community for their survival.  Today, there are more than 1.3 million booster clubs operating in the U.S., according to the North American Booster Club Association (NABCA).  On average, booster clubs raise about $20,000 each year.

“Fundraising is more important for booster clubs than ever before,” said Steve Beden, president of NABCA and a former high school booster club president in Washington.  “When budgets get tight, the first area [administrators] look to cut is after-school programs.  Many booster clubs today assure their existence by self-funding.”

Most booster clubs, like other school groups, have come to rely on fundraising to help pay for new equipment, uniforms, instruments, trips to out-of-state tournaments/competitions and other essentials not covered by membership fees.  The types of fundraising activities run the gamut:  car washes, golf tournaments, casino nights, auctions, dinners, raffles, selling products, etc.  Booster clubs are willing to try just about anything to raise money.  But selling popular consumer items (e.g., coupon books, food, magazines, gift items, etc.) is one of the most tried-and-true methods available today.  In fact, product fundraising programs help non-profit groups, such as booster clubs, raise nearly $1.7 billion each year, according to statistics from the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers (AFRDS). 

To pull off an efficient, effective product sale, you will need help from volunteers and support from other families and the community.  Think of volunteers as your teammates and supporters as fans.  It’s critical to gain the confidence of both groups, and make them believe in the cause.

Develop a Game Plan
Like any successful business enterprise, a successful fundraising sale begins with a clearly defined goal.  Having a good product at a good price will help, but to motivate volunteers and secure community support, a fundraising program should answer the question of where the money will go.

A worthwhile goal might read:  “One hundred percent of the fundraising proceeds from the candy bar sale will go toward helping purchase new uniforms for the Lakeside High School cheerleading squad.”

Notice that this goal is two-fold in that it relates how the money will be spent, answering the question of why hold a product fundraiser in the first place; secondly it relates the who, what, when and how much as it pertains to achieving the goal.  The most successful programs set goals that are attainable and important to everyone who participates.

Once your booster club has set a clearly defined goal, it’s time to figure out which type of fundraising program will work best for your group.  There are a number of fundraising programs on the market today.  They vary not only in the products offered, but also in how they are marketed, sold, packed, delivered and distributed. 

Part of singling out a program is finding a reputable fundraising company.  Fundraising professionals recommend you get the answers to these five questions when trying to decide which company to partner with for your group’s next fundraiser.

  • How long has the company been in the product fundraising business? 
  • What value-added services does the company offer, and how much do these services cost (e.g., assistance to volunteers, communicating with parents, custom packing, etc.)?
  • How will the company tailor its program to fit your group’s needs, and more importantly, how will it meet your financial goals?
  • Does the company understand and comply with state sales and use tax laws that impact your program?
  • How responsive will the company be should problems arise (e.g., damaged products, back orders, etc.)?

The companies you consider will want you to provide some essential information as well.  Be prepared to discuss your group’s financial goal, the number of volunteers you have available, your timeframe and how past fundraising events turned out.

Recruiting and Motivating Your Team
Recruiting people who are ready, willing and able to donate their limited time to your booster club is more difficult than ever – but it can be done.  The number-one reason why more parents don’t get involved is a lack of understanding of the club’s purpose, according to Mr. Beden.   

“All booster clubs need a mission statement so that you’ll have a good answer when someone asks ‘what does the club do?’” Mr. Beden said.  “There also has to be value and satisfaction in volunteering.  Parents have to feel like they’re part of something important.  It can’t be just another job.”

The same rules apply when it comes to fundraising.  John Scornicka, a veteran fundraising professional in Milwaukee, WI who spent 26 years as a high school coach, says the leader’s attitude about the fundraiser is important. 

“Booster club leaders have to approach fundraising in a positive way,” said Mr. Scornicka.  “It’s not a top priority for the coach, the players or the parents, so you have to be sure those people understand why a successful fundraiser will benefit them.”

NABCA offers these additional tips for recruiting and retaining booster club volunteers:

  • Appoint co-chairs and sub-committees to lighten the load and deliver work in “bite size” pieces
  • Conduct short, to-the-point meetings.  Include interesting guest speakers when appropriate.
  • Say “thank you” often.  Recognize extra efforts of all volunteers.  Make them feel appreciated.
  • Listen to new ideas from volunteers.  Don’t get caught up in the process or fall into the trap of “that’s how we’ve always done it.” 
Legendary football coach Lou Holtz once said, “All winning teams are goal-oriented.  Nothing will distract them from achieving their aims.”  Good advice from a smart coach – and applicable to booster clubs as well.  As booster club president, it’s up to you to get parents, coaches, teachers, students and other supporters motivated and all pulling in the same direction.  When it comes to fundraising, success happens with careful planning and doing the things necessary to get supporters on board, including a good team of volunteers.

Workplace Fundraising Do’s & Don’ts

Spring 2010

“Don’t feel obliged. But feel free (and don’t forget to leave $1).” So read a sign put up in an office break room next to chocolate bars for sale by one mom hoping to help her saxophonist son raise money to pay for a field trip. This is just one idea for how to raise money without raising hackles in the workplace.

More and more parents are looking at their co-workers as potential fund-raising customers. Likewise, more and more businesses are placing limits on what they consider appropriate for fund-raising among co-workers. Here are some ideas for tasteful workplace fund-raising to pass on to your parent volunteers.

Target Your Sales
There are three kinds of fundraising customers: those who have shown an interest in your product/s; those who have purchased from you before; and those from whom you’ve purchased items. Be selective about who you approach and focus proactive efforts on those three potential customers. Make sure in-person appeals to co-workers are only made during work breaks. And be aware that the higher you are on the corporate ladder, the harder it is to prevent people who work for you from feeling pressure to buy something.

... And Let the Rest Come to You
Reserve office equipment for company business only — not fund-raising. Avoid sending broad announcements about your fundraising project via company e-mail. Instead, take advantage of high-traffic, central locations – office and break room bulletin boards – to post fundraising flyers, sign-up sheets and self-serve product kits, after having requested permission, of course.

Merchandise Creatively
Display your fund-raising items in a festive basket or alongside themed props. Example: put candy bars in a festive basket with a baseball and glove alongside a photo of your child in the team uniform with a sign that says: “Buy this candy to support Matt’s dream to ‘play ball.’”

... And Don’t Forget to Say Thank You
Remember to thank supporters, particularly those without children whose generosity is seldom reciprocated. After the fund-raising drive, treat your supporters to donuts or bagels and let them know how much money your office contributed to your child’s school, little league or other organization. A hand-written thank you note from your child will only enhance the “aawwhh” quotient.

Crossing the Finish Line 7 Tips for Closing a Fundraiser

Fall 2009

The end of your sale can be as exciting as the beginning if you make a big deal about reaching your goal and give lots of attention to the volunteers who made that happen.

1 Reward achievements
Make sure that all students who participated – even in small ways – are rewarded exactly as advertised. Present personal and group awards after the products have been delivered. Announce dollars earned, top sellers, and prize winners. Display charts in classrooms or school halls to give students a sense of achievement in helping the school reach its goal.

2 Celebrate
Make a fuss about special achievement. Tell everyone, “We did better than anticipated, so there will be ice cream on Friday for everybody.” Plan a wrap-up assembly. If your principal promised to kiss a pig, tell the students that you’ve located the biggest, smelliest pig in town. Most important of all, talk about what you’ll do with the money. In letters to volunteers, in your newsletter, and on your organization’s website, emphasize what the fundraising made possible. Be specific. You might say, “Because of the success of this sale, we can now fund a new field trip.” Include a photo.

3 Say thanks
Parent volunteers feel extra commitment to a project if their contributions are also recognized. Use the school sign to say “Great job!” To add a personal touch, send supporters photocopies of one child’s handwritten note or add a brief handwritten thanks to photocopies of a typed letter. Use automated calling to say, “thank you.”

4 Show appreciation
Express gratitude tangibly. At your next parent/teacher meeting or student assembly, ask all who helped with the sale to stand. Designate a parking spot for a special volunteer of the week or reserve a prime parking space for a top volunteer at the next school event. With each order you pass out, include a pair of complimentary passes to the next ticketed event at the school, or a pencil with the group’s name or a bumper sticker promoting your group. If you hold a volunteer appreciation breakfast or luncheon, send a chocolate bar with the invitation.

5 Recognize volunteers
Broadcast the names of active volunteers. In your newsletter or by email, list the names of all participants. Create a tree of thanks on a wall at school, writing volunteers’ names and brief notes about their contributions on colored leaves around the trees. Take photos of parent volunteers handing out and picking up their orders and post these on your website and school bulletin board. Create a Walk of Fame with a red carpet remnant, decorated with stars that include each participant’s name.

6 Have fun
Remind volunteers that sales can be fun. At your next meeting, play “Jeopardy” with topics relating to your volunteers. Write and read poems about individual volunteers. Buy some goofy yard ornaments such as plastic flamingoes; then plant one each week in a volunteer’s front yard along with a note of thanks. Make your volunteer luncheon a little wacky by calling it Volunteeraville and serving cheeseburgers and milkshakes in a Jimmy Buffet-themed buffet.

7 Give and get feedback
Solicit volunteers’ ideas for how to improve the sale so all opinions count. Schedule a meeting with the fundraising professional with whom you worked. Ask them how it went from their end. Was there anything they’d do differently or suggest you do differently next time? Likewise, share your constructive suggestions for how they can do a better job. Think of things that would have made your job easier if only you had known ahead of time.

Looking Ahead Things to Do Now to Prepare for Your Spring Fundraiser

Fall 2009

It’s been a busy fall, so it’s understandable if the spring fundraiser isn’t top of mind right now. But soon you should start thinking about your group’s next big program. Research shows about 20% of all parent groups say their most profitable fundraiser kicks off in February, March or April. The spring fundraiser is an opportunity to make one last stride toward reaching your overall goals for the year. Here are some ideas for things you can do now to get a head start on this spring’s program.

Thank Volunteers Now
Want to keep those volunteers who helped with the fall fundraiser on board this spring? Then be sure to thank them now. Volunteers are more likely to raise their hands again if they know their time and efforts are appreciated.

“When your volunteers replay their experience thinking of the playground they helped build instead of the catalogs, order forms and monies they organized, this memory just might motivate them to sign up and volunteer again,” said Rick Anderson, a fundraising professional in Minnesota.

Create an environment that celebrates the spirit of volunteering all the time. End-of-semester appreciation is nice, but you might need to recognize your star players weekly, monthly or on some recurring basis. Try offering a prime parking spot with a big sign that reads “Reserved for Volunteer of the Week” or a monthly raffle for “best seat in the house” for school events like graduation or local events such as a hot play or concert.

Put a Bug in the Principal’s Ear
School principals are busy people. In fact, 7 out of 10 principals say “fragmentation of time” is a major concern, according to the National Association of Elementary School Principals. Now is the time to put a bug in the principal’s ear about the spring fundraiser. When it comes to fundraising, principal involvement varies from school to school. But most principals need at least an overview of the program prior to its launch, according to James Hodge, principal of an elementary school in Bridgeport, CT.

“When it has the school’s name attached to it, I have to know what’s going on – what products we sell, what vendors we use – because when someone has a question, I usually answer the phone call,” Mr. Hodge said. “If I don’t know what’s going on, I can’t respond.” Schedule a meeting with the principal to provide a brief summary of the spring program. Use that opportunity to find out if he’s willing to help motivate students by sleeping on the roof of the school or kissing a pig if the fundraising goal is met. Ultimately, the principal’s support and involvement can make or break a fundraiser.

Tap Your Fundraising Professional
Take advantage of the knowledge and experience your fundraising professional can provide. Touch base with your sales rep and ask if they know when neighborhood schools and sports leagues are planning to conduct fundraisers in the spring. It’s easier to shift your dates now to avoid competition if you learn there’s a walk-a-thon or product sale scheduled at the same time as your spring program.

Change the Subject
Following the fall program, after all the products have been delivered, money counted and volunteers thanked, it’s time to change the subject away from fundraising for awhile. Show parents your group does more than raise money. Host a spaghetti dinner, movie night or even a carnival, but don’t charge admission. Instead, promote them as community-building events. Keep fundraising chatter to a minimum between programs to prevent burnout among supporters.

Fundraising Advice from the Experts!

The award-winning Fundraising Edge newsletter is published by the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors & Suppliers (AFRDS), a non-profit organization dedicated to helping groups like yours reach their fundraising goals.

Here’s a preview of what’s inside this issue of the Fundraising Edge!

Learn how to leverage the latest online technology, including Twitter and Facebook, to increase participation in your fundraising programs

Discover new ways to bring a successful fundraiser to a close

Get an early start on this spring’s programs with tips and suggestions from experienced parent group volunteers and fundraising professionals

User's Guide for the Newly Inducted Fundraising Chair

Spring 2009

Congratulations Ms. Cantsayno, you’ve been appointed fundraising chairperson! Your mission, is to oversee the school’s fundraising activities. But don’t panic, because now is the time for action. The following attack plan was developed with the fundraising rookie in mind in consultation with several experienced fundraisers. One word of caution: every fundraising program is different so the logistics can vary greatly. However, once you’ve selected a particular program and a professional company, your fundraising representative can help you map out the details.

Six Months Before
Step 1 - Set a Goal
No fundraising activity should be without purpose and that purpose should be one that everyone can support. Why do you need the money? How much money do you need? When setting the fundraising goal, be specific. Involve all interested parties in setting the goal and then make that the focus of your campaign from start to finish. If the goal is meaningful to school administrators, faculty, parents and children, your chances for success are greater.

Step 2 - Recruit a Committee
New fundraising chairs often try to do too much themselves rather than delegate.
Recruit a team of three or four parent volunteers to help organize the activity and recruit any other needed volunteers. For example, assign one person to take care of publicity, two to handle money collection and record keeping and another to manage delivery logistics.

Step 3 - Select a Company
Get this right and the rest should be a cakewalk (pardon the expression). Pare down your list to two or three companies and make appointments with each. Allow enough time (at least 45 minutes) for a proper presentation. Step 3 is not the place to skimp on time and effort.

Competing companies will need to know your group’s financial goal, the number of potential participants and their ages, and any historical information you can provide (e.g. past fundraisers, participation levels, successes and failures). Visit the “Fundraising Toolbox” section of www.afrds.org for a list of questions to ask when interviewing fundraising companies.

Once you’ve selected the firm, set the dates and place them on a school or community activities calendar to avoid overlap within your own school or neighboring schools. Clear activities and crucial dates with appropriate officials (school principal, coaches, and custodians) to avoid conflicts with other events. Now relax for a few months.

One Month Before
Step 4 - Final Planning
Contact your fundraising representative and meet with your fundraising committee to review logistics. Make a list of materials that you’ll be responsible for and those that the company will supply. Determine how many adult volunteers you’ll need to execute the fundraiser at every step.

Develop a master schedule of important dates for everyone to use as his or her blueprint. Include such details as: advance promotion (press releases, newsletter articles, billboards); arrival dates for company materials; kick-off activities with students/teachers/parents; deadlines for orders/money to be turned in; reminder notices/P.A. announcements; delivery of products and prizes; announcement of results to all participants; volunteer appreciation; and a wrap-up meeting to review the entire event.

Let teachers know about the fundraiser so that they may incorporate it into their lesson plans.

One to Two Weeks Before
Step 5 - Advance Promotion
Send a flier home to parents announcing your fundraising goal and when they can expect to receive their fundraising packets/products. Put up posters around the school and post dates on the school billboard, web site and on the homework hotline. If an open house or parents meeting is scheduled, arrange a display with product samples from your fundraising project.

One to Two Days Before
Step 6 - Countdown
Touch base with your fundraising company, school administrators and custodians to reconfirm logistics. Gather and sort the supplies you’ll need from the company. Check in with your committee and team leaders. Call volunteers to remind them of their responsibilities and when they’re needed. Post reminders to teachers, explaining procedures, reminding them of the goal.

D-Day
Step 7 - All Systems Go
This is when you start to congratulate yourself on all the careful planning. Kick-off activities, if scheduled, go off without a hitch. Appropriate materials finally go home to each family. If your particular event will last over a one- or two-week period, make your final preparations to motivate volunteers. Remind volunteers of important deadlines; the group’s ultimate goal and what progress has been made.

Some families may jump right on the fundraising project, returning their order forms/money immediately. So it’s a good idea to review your process for order and money collection to ensure these early returns are accounted for. Likewise, now is the time to review your plans for product delivery first to your school and then to the end-user. Touch base with the fundraising company representative for an approximate date of delivery. Reconfirm availability of space with school officials. If parental pick-up is planned, begin scheduling times once a firm delivery date has been determined.

Step 8 - Product Delivery
Again, fundraising programs will vary widely. Sometimes products will go home with students. Sometimes parents will pick up the orders. There are some instances that the product may go directly to the end-user. Have enough volunteers on hand to handle products at the appropriate time, making sure there is someone to trouble-shoot missing orders. Forward appropriate paperwork (invoice, purchase orders) to your organization’s treasurer or bookkeeper to ensure prompt payment. Then, congratulate yourself again on yet another well-executed plan.

One Month After
Step 9 - Evaluation
Did your group meet or exceed financial expectations? Are plans underway toward implementing the originally stated goal? (Is the new playground equipment on the way? Are the field trip plans complete?) Communicate the final fundraising results by P.A., billboards, newsletters, parent letters, etc., thanking participants for their support. Meet with your committee to review the entire activity and any notes taken along the way to identify improvements for next year. Provide an overall report to the school principal in a brief meeting. And provide your fundraising company representative with your feedback.

Remember to Say "Thanks"

Fall 2008

When that hectic two or three week stretch known as “the fall fundraiser” is over, many parent groups are understandably ready to move forward with other plans for the school year. But it’s important not to overlook the last item on the fundraiser to-do list: saying thanks to all of your supporters.

Once a fundraising campaign is complete, it’s important to thank everyone involved – especially the parents. Use the opportunity to show-off and show appreciation to the families whose support the school will need again during the next fundraiser. Here are some suggestions:

Send Personal Thank You Notes
Encourage volunteers to thank family members and friends that purchased items. A hand-written thank you note from the student also adds a nice personal touch.

Send Home Fundraising “Report Cards”
On the last day of school or the last day before winter break, send a letter home with students listing the enrichment programs, school activities and classroom purchases funded by your parent group. Be sure the letter includes a personal thank you from the president and the principal and include all of your recent fundraising activities along with the name of the volunteer responsible for coordinating each project.

Take Out an Ad
Purchase some space in your community newspaper to run a thank you ad. Suggested headlines: “Thank You Westwood Elementary Parents” or “We Couldn’t Have Done It Without You!” Be sure the ad mentions how the fundraising dollars will be spent, plus the names of volunteers. And don’t forget the school marquis. It’s a perfect spot to say thank you to the masses (and it’s free!).

Send Constant Reminders
Consider investing in some customized t-shirts, coffee mugs, pens, bumper stickers, etc. and mail them to your top supporters, along with a thank you letter. This will help continually remind them of your group and your gratitude. Your fundraising professional may have some suggestions for low-cost items that say “thanks.”

Reaching Your Fundraising Goals in a Weak Economy

Fall 2008

You probably were not thinking about the state of the U.S. economy when you volunteered to head up your school’s fall fundraiser. High gas prices and the rising cost of groceries were not top of mind when you raised your hand. It’s understandable. Most people would say the slumping U.S. economy is a topic better suited for CNN than PTO. But the slumping economy is certainly having an impact on school and other non-profit budgets. It will influence how much money your group needs to raise and how it is spent. If parents pay annual dues, expect at least a slight drop in membership (and revenue). Be prepared to write bigger checks for field trips due to higher fuel costs. And because discretionary spending has declined among most American households, it’s more important than ever to get the most “bang for your buck” by running efficient, profitable fundraisers.

Reduce Your Fundraising Noise
Regardless of the economic situation, parent groups always try a lot of different things to raise money. Collecting box tops and soup labels, school carnivals, product sales, raffles, walk-a-thons, car washes, etc. Unfortunately, these activities all generate fundraising noise – and the more fundraising your group does, the louder it becomes. In today’s economic climate, it’s vital that your group reduce its fundraising noise. Supporters are already apprehensive about spending or contributing more money. If they develop apathy, then it becomes even tougher to meet your fundraising goals.

John Kukta, a professional fundraiser in Ohio, advises PTOs to concentrate on fundraisers that make the most money for the school and eliminate other less effective programs.

“One well-planned, well-executed fundraiser can more than triple the results of several status quo programs,” Kukta said.

Organizations considering schoolwide programs in particular should forego adding too many fundraisers to the school calendar, experts say. PTOs, parents and faculty need to talk to each other and work together to develop a fundraising plan that accomplishes the group’s collective goal.

When evaluating your fundraising options, consider this: a recent survey shows 8 out of 10 parent groups sell popular consumer items to raise money (product fundraising). Six out of 10 say its the most profitable method for raising money. Each year, schools earn nearly $2 billion through product sales, according to the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers.

Fundraising in a Weak Economy
Here are some more tips for running a successful fundraiser from parent volunteers, principals, fundraising professionals, etc:

Identify the Finish Line
Set a specific beginning and ending date for primary fundraising activities and stick to it. Without a clear target date, the campaign will drag on often without direction.

Rely on Your Fundraising Professional
Rely on your product fundraising company professional for suggestions and advice. They often know what other neighborhood schools and sports leagues are doing. Tapping this knowledge will help avoid going head-to-head against another school’s fundraiser.

Keep Energy Levels High
Communicate before, during and after the program – remind parents, students, teachers and other volunteers of the fundraiser’s goals and deadlines. Provide regular status reports and updates.

Remember To Say “Thanks!”
Don’t forget to thank all your supporters and let them know when the new computers are installed or the new playground is ready to open. After all, it wouldn’t have been possible without their support.

Have fun!
With the right approach, fundraising itself can bring ownership and pride to parents, teachers and students.

Develop Next Year’s Fundraising Plan Now

Spring 2008

Failure to plan is planning to fail. It’s an old saying, but it holds true for just about any major project, including school fundraising. Now that spring is unfolding and summer vacation looms on the horizon, it’s understandable that next year’s fundraisers are not at the top of your list of priorities right now. You may have already signed a contract with a professional fundraising company for next fall’s fundraiser. Hidden away in a file folder somewhere, you may even have a list of other fundraising ideas that you’ll revisit sometime in the future. This is a start, but unfortunately it’s not enough. Fundraising experts and experienced PTA leaders say spring is an ideal time to develop a solid game plan for the following year’s fundraisers – and helps eliminate headaches down the road.

The latest research on school fundraising shows parent groups try a lot of different things to raise money. Eight out of 10 parent groups are collecting box tops and selling popular consumer items, such as gift wrap and cookie dough, each school year, according to an online poll of more than 300 parent groups. The research, conducted by the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers (AFRDS), also found that nearly half of all parent groups are collecting soup labels, running school carnivals and aligning themselves with well-known retailers for a share in profits. Other school-wide fundraisers include direct donations, restaurant family nights, raffles, auctions and “thons” (i.e., Read-a-Thon).

With so many fundraisers overlapping each other, school groups should have no problem raising all the money they need, right? Research suggests it’s just the opposite. According to the AFRDS survey, parent groups that conduct fewer school-wide fundraisers raise more money. Among parent groups that raise more than $15,000 through school fundraising events, the majority (54%) limited the number of school-wide fundraisers to no more than four.

“The more fundraisers you do, the less participation you get on every one,” said Ryan Cady, a fundraising professional in Florida. “Schools and communities would be better off if parent groups ran fewer fundraisers with better participation.”

As you begin to plan for next year, it’s important to take steps to prevent your PTA/PTO from getting stuck in the fundraising traffic jam and channel your energies toward projects that yield real results.

Choose the Best Fundraising Option
With so many fundraising options out there, how do you know which is the most effective? The AFRDS survey shows that selling popular consumer items consistently yields the best results compared to other types of fundraising drives. Among all parent groups polled, 64% said a product sale was the most profitable fundraising project, out-performing all other fundraising efforts. Furthermore, among those parent groups who conducted at least one product sale, 79% said it was the most profitable fundraising method employed by their organization.

“This new research confirmed our suspicions that product sales are still the best option for school groups looking to raise substantial funds in a short amount of time,” said Vickie Mabry, executive director of AFRDS. According to AFRDS, schools earn nearly $2 billion each year through product sales.

Product sales are also one of the least labor-intensive ways to raise money. On average, product sales require only 7 volunteers, according to the AFRDS survey. By comparison, parent groups interested in organizing a carnival will need about 60 volunteers. Auctions and “thons” require more than two dozen volunteers each.

Spring Cleaning: Consider Tossing Some of Next Year’s Fundraisers
Now that you know which type of fundraiser yields the best results, you can begin to cross off some of those other fundraising ideas that won’t be worth your group’s time and efforts. Perhaps more importantly, shortening the list of fundraising projects for next year will help prevent burnout and apathy among supporters and in the community.

“I counsel the parent groups I work with to take a long, hard look at each fundraising project they have planned for the coming year and encourage them to put their focus on the ones that do best for them,” said Cindy Nicholson, a fundraising professional in Portland, OR. “I tell them they should cut out the ‘little stuff’ – which helps avoid volunteer burnout – and urge them to focus on programs that make the most money. I always ask them ‘why do four fundraisers when you can reach your goal with one?’”

Larry Grau, a PTO president at an Indianapolis middle school put it this way. “We have fewer volunteers than ever before, so we have to get the most bang for our buck by streamlining our fundraising efforts,” he said. Grau’s school conducts a product sale in the fall and a walk-a-thon in the spring. Grau said his school PTO funds multiple projects with the money raised during its two annual fundraising programs – including an outdoor ampitheatre and a nature trail.

Once you whittle down the total number of fundraising projects for next year, Nicholson recommends getting the word out early about the fundraisers you will conduct. “Encourage people to get involved,” she said. “Get commitments from volunteers as soon as you can. This helps add life and energy to your program.”

Mabry agrees and said, “By putting more effort behind those fundraisers that really work, parent groups will find that they can get better participation and stand a better chance of meeting their fundraising goals.”

Springtime is the right time to plan for next fall’s fundraising programs, according to industry professionals. There’s no shortage of fundraising options to choose from, but research shows selling popular consumer items consistently yields the best results for parent-teacher groups in the U.S. Working with a professional fundraising company to conduct a product sale gives your group the best chance to reach its fundraising goals as long as you aren’t creating your own fundraising traffic jam with a constant stream of “add-ons.”

For a list of things to look for in a fundraising company, visit www.afrds.org.

Fundraising Help from the Experts

Spring 2007

Parent volunteers, fundraising chairs, school administrators, teachers, coaches, choral and band directors and booster club leaders have two acclaimed publications to turn to for fundraising guidance. Published by the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers (AFRDS), Fundraising: A Handbook on How to Succeed provides an overview of all aspects of the product fundraising process, from setting goals and selecting a product, program and fundraising professional to important steps to take once the fundraising sale is underway. Fundraising Report Card: A Tool for Evaluating Fundraising Companies is an easy to use checklist of criteria to look for in a fundraising company and/or professional. Each publication contains valuable information for experienced volunteers and to those new to fundraising through product sales.

Several top educational and parent advocate groups have reviewed and endorsed the publications, including the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Catholic Educational Association and the National PTA.

To order a free copy of these publications, send a note to afrds@kellencompany.com.

Ask A Pro: About keeping the momentum

Fall 2005

After an exciting sales kick-off, that initial enthusiasm can lag as other matters vie for participants’ attention. The Fundraising Edge asked two fundraising pros for ideas about how to keep the momentum going.

"To keep kids interested, we leave taped messages at the school to be played during the daily announcements. Or we might leave a particular song associated with the fundraiser kickoff so it can be splashed on during the announcements for ten seconds to get kids to remember the sale. A lot of groups this year are using pig races for motivation, and we’re using the CD ‘Who Let the Pigs Out?’ (a take-off on the popular song ‘Who Let the Dogs Out?’). To keep parents aware of the sale, some groups use special signs placed in front of the school so when parents go by the school they remember that a fundraiser is going on. A sign like this needs to be something that’s not always there. These days, it’s more important than ever for organizations to keep promoting their sales, because elementary schools are deluged with fundraising requests, everything from tsunami relief to gathering funds to replace a police department dog who died."

—Michael Freeman, Fundraising Professional, Indianapolis, IN

"It’s important to do something at the halfway point to jumpstart the excitement. Many times fundraising leaders will throw in something new midway through the sale to arouse new interest. They might offer a party with pizza, donuts or ice cream for the topselling class. Or some teachers are willing to embarrass themselves if the class reaches its goal, inspiring kids to work harder at sales for the chance to see their teacher coming to school dressed with her clothes on inside out or singing in the cafeteria or taking a whipped cream pie in the face."

— Elisabeth Jonas, Fundraising Professional, Duluth, GA

It’s a Wrap!

Fall 2005
7 tips for bringing a fundraiser to a close

The end of your sale can be as exciting as the beginning if you make a big deal about reaching your goal and give lots of attention to the volunteers who made that happen.

1. Reward achievements
Make sure that all students who participated – even in small ways – are rewarded exactly as advertised. Present personal and group awards after the products have been delivered. Announce dollars earned, top sellers, and prizewinners. Display charts in classrooms or school halls to give students a sense of achievement in helping the school reach its goal.

2. Celebrate
Make a fuss about special achievement. Tell everyone, “We did better than anticipated, so there will be ice cream on Friday for everybody.” Plan a wrap-up assembly. If your principal promised to kiss a pig, tell the students that you’ve located the biggest, smelliest pig in town. Most important of all, talk about what you’ll do with the money. In letters to volunteers, in your newsletter, and on your organization’s website, emphasize what the fundraising made possible. Be specific. You might say, “Because of the success of this sale, we can now fund a new field trip.” Include a photo.

3. Say thanks
Parent volunteers feel extra commitment to a project if their contributions are also recognized. Use the school sign to say “Great job!” To add a personal touch, send supporters photocopies of one child’s handwritten note or add a brief handwritten thanks to photocopies of a typed letter. Use automated calling to say, “thank you.”

4. Show appreciation
Express gratitude tangibly. At your next parent/teacher meeting or student assembly, ask all who helped with the sale to stand. Designate a parking spot for a special volunteer of the week or reserve a prime parking space for a top volunteer at the next school event. With each order you pass out, include a pair of complimentary passes to the next ticketed event at the school, or a pencil with the group’s name or a bumper sticker promoting your group. If you hold a volunteer appreciation breakfast or luncheon, send a chocolate bar with the invitation.

5. Recognize volunteers
Broadcast the names of active volunteers. In your newsletter or by email, list the names of all participants. Create a tree of thanks on a wall at school, writing volunteers’ names and brief notes about their contributions on colored leaves around the trees. Take photos of parent volunteers handing out and picking up their orders and post these on your website and school bulletin board. Create a Walk of Fame with a red carpet remnant, decorated with stars that include each participant’s name.

6. Have fun
Remind volunteers that sales can be fun. At your next meeting, play “Jeopardy” with topics relating to your volunteers. Write and read poems about individual volunteers. Buy some goofy yard ornaments such as plastic flamingoes; then plant one each week in a volunteer’s front yard along with a note of thanks. Make your volunteer luncheon a little wacky by calling it Volunteeraville and serving cheeseburgers and milkshakes in a Jimmy Buffett buffet.

7. Give and get feedback
Solicit volunteers’ ideas for how to improve the sale so all opinions count. Schedule a meeting with the fundraising professional with whom you worked. Ask them how it went from their end. Was there anything they’d do differently or suggest you do differently next time? Likewise, share your suggestions for how they can do a better job. Think of things that would have made your job easier if only you had known ahead of time.

Measuring Fundraising Results

Fall 2005

Once the money’s been counted and the products have been distributed, your fundraiser’s over, right? Actually, some of the most important work occurs after a sale is over. That’s when you can evaluate its successes and failures and then apply lessons learned to future efforts.

Setting a Realistic Goal
The most obvious barometer is whether you met your financial goal. If you tried to raise $20,000 of a fundraising program’s success and you didn’t, it’s important to figure out why. Maybe the goal was set too high. Or perhaps it was based on “possible” rather than “probable” profits. “A sales rep may say you can make $50,000 on this product and you end up setting that as your goal,” says Elisabeth Jonas, a fundraising professional in Duluth, GA. “But maybe that’s not realistic. A realistic goal needs to be based on the number of students you have in your group. You also need to look at the motivation of teachers and administrators.”

However good your planning, something unexpected can derail it. For example, even if you lived far from the disruption of Hurricane Katrina, it may affect your proceeds. That’s what happened at Manzanita Elementary School in Kingman, AZ, where sales of wrapping paper are down a little. “Our family didn’t buy as much because we sent money to the Red Cross this year,” says past PTO president Elizabeth Metz. “Considering the hurricane and gas prices, our sale is still a success.”

If you met your goal, you may want to look at how to increase profits, perhaps by eliminating less successful fundraisers to concentrate your efforts on a single sale, by rotating fundraisers to keep interest in a particular product from flagging, or by moving a sale to a less congested time of year.

Evaluating the Community Response
Next, evaluate the product. If response was poor, consider whether the problem is the quality of the product or its price. Metz knows a sale is in trouble when lots of items are returned. Some groups send parents a survey that asks, “To improve our fundraising efforts next year, please give us your opinion. How did you feel about the products we sold—quality, price range, appeal of brochure?”

Gather the core group of volunteers—the fundraiser’s project team or fundraising committee— to give the logistics close examination. Were timelines followed? Was the sale organized in a series of clear steps? Were the duties successfully delegated? Did volunteers receive clear training on their duties? And assess the amount of labor the sale required. “If delivery day is a lot of work, it wasn’t a good sale even if the money was good,” says Metz. “With the company we used before, they brought the product in cases and we had to divide it. It took us days.” Another key element of good organization is recordkeeping—not only for evaluating this sale but for helping those who will come after you.

Measuring the Motivation of Participants
Count up not only the total number of participants but also the average number of items sold per participant as well as the retail sales of each participant. Look at what percentage of the group’s members participated and whether this number reflects a rise or decline from the year before. How well did the incentives work? Metz can always tell which prizes drew the most interest as she tallies orders; this year it was a three-foot-long gummy snake and glow-in-the dark slime. One suggestion to boost participation is to measure your results not only afterwards but during the sale as well. Large thermometer charts are often used to track progress.

What about the overall reason for the sale? If young people are raising money for a trip they’re going to take, their motivation might be higher than if they’re collecting for a new computer lab (which, of course, will hold more appeal for their parents). Think back to how well you advertised and emphasized your goal to the participants and their families. It helps to focus on a specific goal and keep that goal front and center throughout the sale. Participants also like to hear that when you reach your goal, you’re done. Once the sale is over, be sure that plans are underway to implement the goal and communicate this information to families. They’ll get satisfaction from knowing that ground has been broken for the new nature trail or that those new musical instruments have been ordered.

A final measurement of success examines even less tangible results. Did participants develop confidence? Did they feel pride in having contributed to a group goal? The surest sign of success in this area will come next year. “It can be measured by future sales where more and more families participate because it’s a positive experience,” says Jonas.

Ask A Pro: About Making The Sale

Spring 2005

As we spring into another fundraising season where warm weather competes for your attention, Fundraising Edge went forward and got answers that can help your school raise more funds at the next drive.
We asked two fundraising pros how they coach their groups to succeed.

"If your group presents a quality product line to the community, to which the buyers respond favorably, your profit will stay consistent and grow through the years. Parents, friends and relatives actually look forward to your annual sale, increasing their order from year to year, telling their friends how good the products are. Oftentimes a school changes fundraising companies annually, thinking that another company or program might work better. However, if the quality of products is inconsistent or service provided is inferior, community trust is broken. The buyer loses confidence in the product sold and, therefore, credibility of the school or school group suffers. People are less likely to support the sale next time. It takes years to build community loyalty and support! If something works for you, stay with it!"

- Elisabeth Jonas, Fundraising Professional, Duluth, GA

My focus is on what will cause the kids to get the program materials out of their backpacks and out of their football or cheerleading gear bags. The chance for something to happen is great if they get the catalog out of their bags and into the hands of mom or dad. Once in the right hands, the program has to cover a wide variety of interests, appealing to singles, moms, dads, older adults, teenagers, adolescents, and children. Then the program has to cover categories of interest, whether it is food, seasonal and holiday items, kitchen gadgets, accessories, and more. More variety means more selling tools on the front line. But it still all comes back to motivating the kid to take the brochure out of the backpack. Strong incentives and a good product mix work well with my groups."

- Gary Ulrich, Fundraising Professional, Carlisle, PA

Super Sales Secrets Spring 2005
How do you maximize your fundraising sales? By Kimberly Reynolds
  1. Emphasize setting a personal challenge goal Have volunteers make a commitment to be their group or subgroup's best salesperson. Structure their sales efforts to emphasize achievement, not failure.
  2. Sellers state their solo goal out loud By publicly stating what you'll accomplish to your peer group, you've reinforced the commitment.
  3. Make a prospect list Volunteers should make a list of prospective customers before they start. Review it and make sure they have at least ten targets.
  4. Define your best customers Stick to the people you know— friends, relatives, neighbors, etc. Don't forget coworkers and out-of-town contacts for your major fundraisers.
  5. Rehearse the sales pitch Have everyone practice your group's sales pitch at home, making sure the goal is stated. Fine tune your two-sentence value proposition and make sure that every seller uses it.
  6. Be armed and dangerous Be prepared. Volunteeers should carry their order form and sales materials wherever they go. You never know when a good prospect will emerge!
  7. Use the power of “because” Use the word “because” when stating the group's goal and your first request for help. It's an extremely potent trigger word.
  8. Ask for the order Always include a direct request for an order in your sales script after the because statement. “Can you help us meet our goal?”
  9. Personalize by picking favorites Tell each volunteer to find one or two items that they like and then promote those enthusiastically.“These green ones are great.”
  10. Ask for more business After the initial order is placed, offer supplemental items for more revenue or ask for referrals, etc. Ask these questions:
    “Can I show you another program we're offering because it's a great deal too?”
    “Can you think of anyone else I should contact?”
  11. Make it easy to buy Do everything you can to make buying your offering easier. Offer to fill out the form yourself. Remind the prospect that a certain item makes a good gift and that it's all for a good cause.

Kimberly Reynolds left a career in high-tech sales to apply her business expertise to the world of fundraising for non-profit groups. Author of Fundraising Success, Reynolds has helped hundreds of school, church and youth groups maximize their fundraising success. This article excerpt was edited and reprinted with permission, all rights reserved.

Fundraising Gone Wild! Fall 2004

How much is too much?

“Some schools fundraise to [hire more teachers and] reduce class size,” says Jan Harp Domene, Secretary/Treasurer of the National PTA. Others raise money for notebook paper and pencils. Not that these are unworthy goals, Domene is only relating how fundraising objectives have changed from simpler times when music, art and drama classes made the fundraising A-list. Domene says it's unfortunate when school fundraising dollars are unable to pay for programs that stir kids' passions. Instead, more and more fundraising dollars are being used to pay for school necessities such as classroom supplies and equipment.

Recent research indicates that 71% of parents are concerned and overwhelmed with having to do more fundraising. Not only are schools running multiple programs each year, parents are also tapped by the local little league, football teams, Girl Scouts, and so forth. Parents and kids are simply burned out on the subject. Naturally, concerned parents who question why they need to do more also will want to know what they are doing it for.

“With so many working families today, there is only so much time and money to go around,” says John Kukta, President of an Ohio-based fundraising company. Kukta says fundraising participation is down, on average, because of too many programs. Some schools hold three and four fundraisers in the fall alone, and the same wonder why only 30% of families participate in a single drive. “You can only go to the well so many times,” Kukta says.

A common misperception is that more fundraising will make more money. And some organizations make the mistake of running a smaller program that returns very little profit, prior to kicking off a larger campaign. This type of back-to-back fundraising can shortchange both programs. It can backfire with an unprofitable result on the small program and, further, taint participation for the “big” fundraiser that can “show you the money.”

Kukta advises organizations to concentrate on the fundraiser that makes the most money for the school.

He says that one well-planned and executed fundraiser can more than triple the results of a few status quo programs. Domene agrees that “less is more” when it comes to fundraising. “Parents would be happy to know that schools are sensitive to their time and money concerns,” she says. Schools and organizations should begin by focusing fundraising on fewer, but higher impact projects. Parents will double their efforts if they know they're going to be tapped only once or twice a year, Domene reasons.

To return participation to effective levels, fundraising experts recommend that organizations considering schoolwide programs forego adding too many fundraisers to the calendar. PTAs, PTOs, parents and faculty need to talk to each other and work together to deliver a common fundraising program that accomplishes a worthwhile goal.

 

Goal-Setting Smarts Fall 2004

Like any successful business enterprise, a successful fundraising sale BEGINS with a clearly defined goal. Having a good product at a good price will help but, to motivate volunteers and secure community support, a fundraising drive needs a purpose — something to rally behind. The goal of your fundraising program should answer the question of where the money will go, so it is safe to say that it should be SMART by nature:

Specific…well defined and clear.

Measurable…quantifiable in terms of

Agreed upon…everybody's on the same

Realistic…within the availability of

Time Framed…with a plan for implementation including who, what and when.

A worthwhile goal might read:

  • One hundred percent of the fundraising proceeds from the calendar sale will bene-fit the new “Eco-Garden” planned for Spring ‘05 to help students' hands-on learning about our environment.

  • Baldwin Middle School expects to raise $16,000 by October 31, through the team sale (parents, teachers, students) of custom- branded calendars to be delivered

Notice that this goal is two-fold in that it relates how the money will be spent, answering the question of why hold a product fundraiser in the first place; secondly it relates the who, what, when and how much as it pertains to achieving the goal. The most successful programs set a goal that is important to everyone who participates.

Workplace Fundraising Dos & Don’ts Spring 2003

“Don't feel obliged. But feel free (and don't forget to leave $1).” So read a sign put up in an office break room next to chocolate bars for sale by one mom hoping to help her saxophonist son raise money to pay for a field trip. This is just one idea for how to raise money without raising hackles in the workplace.

More and more parents are looking at their co-workers as potential fund-raising customers. Likewise, more and more businesses are placing limits on what they consider appropriate for fund-raising among co-workers. Here are some ideas for tasteful workplace fund-raising to pass on to your parent volunteers.

Target Your Sales
There are three kinds of fundraising customers: Those who have shown an interest in your product/s; those who have purchased from you before; and those from whom you've purchased items. Be selective about who you approach and focus proactive efforts on these three potential customers. Make sure these in-person appeals to co-workers are only made during work breaks and lunch hours. And be aware that the higher you are on the corporate ladder, the harder it is to prevent people who work for you from feeling pressure to buy something.

... And Let the Rest Come to You
Reserve office equipment for company business only — not fund-raising. Avoid sending broad announcements about your fundraising project via company e-mail. Instead, take advantage of high-traffic, central locations – office and break room bulletin boards – to post fundraising flyers, sign-up sheets and self-serve product kits.

Merchandise Creatively
Display your fund-raising items in a festive basket or alongside themed props. Example: put candy bars in a festive basket with a baseball and glove alongside a photo of your child in the team uniform with a sign that says: “Buy this candy to support Matt's dream to “play ball.”

... And Don't Forget to Say Thank You
Remember to thank supporters, particularly those without children whose generosity is seldom reciprocated. After the fund-raising drive, treat your supporters to donuts or bagels and let them know how much money your office contributed to the child's school, little league or other organization. A hand-written thank you note from your child will only enhance the “aawwhh” quotient.

References: “Is this any place to sell candy?” by Janet Bodnar, senior editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, January 1999; “Dr. Tightwad on Fundraising Etiquette,” Kids & Money, Kiplinger Online (http://www.kiplinger.com). “Charity Begins at Work” by Ellen Neuborne, USA Today, January 22, 1997.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Fundraisers Fall 2003

We asked a number of fund-raising professionals and experienced volunteers what they thought were the most important traits an individual/group should possess to be successful at fund-raising. Here’s their list, which we found coincides nicely with Stephen Covey’ well known theories detailed in his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

  1. Be proactive. Motivated fundraisers are successful fundraisers. Truly motivated volunteers never wait to be asked. They’re often the first to identify the fact that the playground needs repair or the media center needs more books. Likewise, they’re usually the first to take action to meet those needs.
  2. Begin with the end in mind. Successful fund-raising projects and the people who drive them are supremely goal-oriented. They are, from beginning to end, focused on the reason why the group is fund-raising and take every opportunity to remind volunteers of why they are fund-raising.
  3. Put first things first. Strong organizational skills, including the ability to set priorities without losing track of the details, is one of the most common traits found in successful fund-raising chairpersons. Good math skills and comfort in handling money also are important.
  4. Think win-win. Successful fund-raising programs have at their core a trusting relationship between the volunteer at the helm of the fund-raising drive and the company/company representative with whom they are working. It’s what Covey describes as the “you help me, I help you” concept. If the fund-raising sponsor and the professional they’ve hired both believe in this concept, the non-profit group will benefit.
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. When problems arise (and they always do), it’s great if the person at the helm is unflappable with good people skills. Effective fundraising chairs are good listeners, therefore, excellent communicators and problem solvers.
  6. Synergize. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts; therefore, successful fund-raising coordinators are good at team-building and understand the importance of a diverse committee. Work to make sure that each member’s strengths offset the weaknesses of others, with a good mix of new and experienced volunteers.
  7. Sharpen the saw. Exhausted volunteers are commonplace. To stay fresh, keep a good balance between the professional, family and volunteer parts of your life. Heading up a fund-raising drive can be time consuming. Prepare for it. And always have a backup — someone in training ready to take over when your job is done
What to look for in a fundraising agreement Fall 2002

Ancient Romans called it a "pact." Webster's says it's "a binding agreement." Roget's Thesaurus offers a dozen alternatives - "deal", "arrangement", "understanding", "covenant", or "promise" to name a few. But to Shiree Lynch, Georgia State PTA President, it means only one thing: "A contract is a contract." And, when it comes to fundraising, she says parent groups should not do business without one.
"Written agreements between fundraising companies and parent groups are absolutely vital," Lynch says. "They spell out for everyone exactly what the expectations are of the other."

Jenny Raber, First Vice President of the West Virginia PTA, agrees.

"When making fundraising decisions, parent groups should think of themselves as small businesses," Raber says. She has 15 years of PTA experience but, it's her role as co-owner of two businesses that fuels Raber's belief in the importance of fundraising contracts. Acknowledging that fundraising drives, particularly product sales, can bring in thousands of dollars, Raber believes safeguards should be in place. "Written contracts are one form of safeguard," she says.

Most professionals in the fundraising industry agree that some form of written agreement is a good idea. With all major decisions in writing, both parties can assume responsibility for complying with the terms, and begin the fundraising project with a clear understanding of who is responsible for what. But there is some debate on the necessity of signed agreements.

Alicia Burlew, a 17-year fundraising veteran, works for a 23-year-old fundraising company based in Oklahoma that has always required written agreements - signed by both parties - for reasons she considers obvious.

"It protects the group in terms of getting what they asked for. And it protects our company as far as getting paid," Burlew says. But, she adds, these agreements are vital business tools for other reasons.

"A signed agreement is the first order of business but often it's the final point of reference if questions come up," says Burlew, who uses the fundraising agreements to keep track of details. She even notes on each agreement why the group is raising the money - to upgrade the playground or expand the media center, for example. "That way," she says, "we all stay focused on the target."

Gary Ulrich, president and co-owner of a Pennsylvania-based fundraising company, agrees that good record-keeping is vital from the start. Though he takes a different approach to the notion of "signed" agreements.

Ulrich says the first question he often gets from a customer on the brink of striking a deal is "Do I have to sign anything?"

"It makes them nervous," says Ulrich who tells customers it isn't necessary that they sign a contract. If the group is not satisfied, Ulrich knows he could lose their trust and eventually, their business. The 20-year fundraising veteran believes that's assurance enough that a commitment has been made. Then, with the sponsor's participation, Ulrich completes a "purchase order" containing all the program specifics including costs and a detailed list of products, services, support materials and delivery dates for each. "It's really more for internal purposes, but we can refer to this document throughout the process."

Once A Commitment is Made…

…the tough part is largely over and the wheels are set into motion. Almost immediately, the fundraising company will purchase items (brochures, catalogues, products, etc.) based on that agreement - signed or otherwise. Acting in good faith, companies must often make financial commitments early in the process to ensure the fundraising program is a success.

Michael Keyes, president and owner of a fundraising company based in Michigan, explains.

"Fundraising has become so sophisticated, with hundreds and hundreds of products. Many are imported from other countries," according to Keyes. "Companies like mine find they have to project earlier in the sales cycle so that our suppliers can ensure we will have enough inventory in the fall." Some companies offer early signing benefits which can create logistical issues for some parent groups.

"Spring is usually before the new leadership is elected," says PTA leader Lynch. An outgoing president or fundraising chairperson, eager to make the best possible arrangement for the group, may make a commitment for the following school year without the knowledge or support of the new leadership. But, according to Lynch, prematurely signed agreements - or those that do not have the full support of the incoming leadership - put both the fundraising company and the sponsoring group in a predicament.

She advises outgoing chairs to confer with incoming chairs before making a commitment to a particular company or program. Likewise, she believes, companies should be sure they are working with the right decision-maker before actively pursuing their business.

Pat Bieneman, president and co-owner of a fundraising firm in Washington state agrees.

"Most of our contracts are signed by the organizations' outgoing officers," admits Bieneman. "But we encourage them to involve the incoming board or fundraising chairs in planning the fall fundraiser." In fact, Bieneman says, many of her groups have found that good planning makes for smoother transition among volunteers.

Savvy parent groups, according to Bieneman, appoint a new fundraising co-chair every year to serve a two-year term. The first year is spent learning, gaining experience and helping select next year's major fundraising project - a project they will lead in the second year of their term as fundraising chair. The continuity is helpful in many ways, Bieneman says, but, most importantly, "there's agreement among leadership from one year to the next and no one feels like a fundraiser has been foisted upon them."

Despite efforts to reach consensus on fundraising programs, sometimes unforeseen circumstances prompt groups to want to renege on their commitments. Parent group leaders and fundraising experts agree, this is almost always a bad idea. It doesn't matter if the agreement was sealed with a handshake or a signature.
"If a group has an agreement with another company, we politely decline and walk away," says Burlew. Her company belongs to the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers (AFRDS), a professional trade association for companies that assist non-profit groups in their fundraising efforts. AFRDS developed the industry's Code of Ethics and Standards for Professional Practice which includes the following: "No member shall knowingly interfere with the contractual relationships of any party or entity." To do so, Burlew and her AFRDS colleagues believe, reflects badly on the company itself and the industry as a whole. "I don't work that way and I don't want our salespeople to work that way."

Ulrich agrees. "A big red flag should go up if a sales rep suggests you break an agreement with another company," he says. Likewise, companies say they are wary of groups eager to break a contract with another firm for what they perceive to be a "better deal." "What does that say about the integrity of the organization?," company reps will speculate. "Will the group ultimately decide to back out of their agreement also?"

When Lynch hears from a local PTA having second thoughts about following through on an agreement with a particular fundraising company, she asks, "Do you have a signed contract?" If the answer is "yes," she repeats her mantra: "A contract is a contract." Unless the company has committed some kind of flagrant offense, Lynch counsels groups to follow through on the agreement.

According to Ulrich: "I work hard to stay close to the decision-maker. If I do my job right, I'm listening and answering their questions - leading them through a process to find a good fit. Rarely do they change their minds." Few would disagree. A successful venture between two parties in almost every business enterprise, including fundraising, is about finding "a good fit." And folks who know fundraising say, once you've found a good fit, it's best to get it in writing and then - whether you sign it or not - stick to it.

What to look for in a fundraising agreement

While some companies do not require sponsors to sign a contract, most rely on some type of written statement to document arrangements. Here are some things to look for when reviewing a fundraising agreement:

  1. Check all the numbers. Are the costs, amount of profit to the group, etc., the same as those you agreed to verbally?
  2. Are all of the services you require included? (For example: kick-off presentations, incentive programs, tallying, packing, shipping.) Is it clear who - the sponsoring organization or the fundraising company - covers the cost for these services?
  3. Are the promotional materials you reviewed and approved listed: (take-home brochures, display kit, sample packs, etc.)?
  4. Are important dates included and consistent with your verbal agreement?
  5. Is there a clause covering the procedure for handling damaged, unsold or returned merchandise (appropriate for some products)? What about back-orders and substitutions of popular items?
  6. If you are required to sign a contract, be sure you have ALL the appropriate signatures (many groups require at least two) and that it is clearly an agreement between two organizations, NOT between two individuals.
Ten Ways to Say Thanks Fall 2002

 

Be Cool. Chill Out. Refrigerate Promptly. Fall 2001

For decades, product sales have reigned as the fundraising method of choice for most small non-profit organizations.

However, the choice of products available to the fundraising chairperson today has grown exponentially, reading like a What's What in consumer goods. In fundraising drives across the country, the ever-popular candy, magazines and wrapping paper are found alongside everything from non-perishable cheese and sausage to light bulbs, birdseed, fresh fruit, tee shirts and scads of gift items.

Now refrigerated and frozen foods - from pizza and cheesecakes to cookie dough - are gaining popularity in the parade of products sold for fundraising purposes. These products bring with them a whole new set of distribution and handling considerations. As a fundraising decision-maker, your primary goal, of course, is to conduct a smooth, profitable fundraiser. But don't lose sight of the fact that the foods sold through a fundraising drive are still intended for people to eat and enjoy, safely.

"There's a misperception that foods sold for fundraising purposes are indestructible," reports Jim Messina, a New Jersey-based supplier of frozen foods for the fundraising market. According to Messina and others in the business of manufacturing and distributing frozen cookie dough, cheesecakes, pizzas and other frozen food items, the parameters for preserving these increasingly popular fundraising items are no different from products purchased from the grocer. Tom Lundeen, another frozen food supplier based in Iowa agrees, "When you buy ice cream at the corner supermarket, you don't leave it in the trunk for two days."

Products sold through non-profit groups for the purpose of fundraising usually make one or more extra stops before they reach the consumer. Therefore, care should be taken throughout the fundraising distribution chain to see that the final product is safe and delicious. The key is good planning, communication and teamwork.

A professional fundraising company/representative with experience in dealing with frozen foods should be able to guide you and your volunteers through the process.

Product Quality, Packaging and Labeling

Focus some of your early questions on the products themselves. Find out as much as you can about the source.

  • Is the product made by a reputable processor following good manufacturing practices? Check the ingredient statement. If the product (e.g. cookie dough) contains eggs, be sure they are pasteurized.
  • Are the products properly packaged and clearly labeled? Are the individual containers properly sealed and tamper-evident? Do the labels carry storage and handling instructions?
  • What about the outer carton (which holds multiple containers)? There should be easy-to-read handling instructions (such as "Keep frozen or refrigerated") to remind volunteers to store product in cool areas while awaiting pick-up.
  • What assurances do the manufacturer and/or fundraising company offer that the product will be properly handled along its route before your group takes possession?

Proper Transportation

A frozen food product made with high quality ingredients, under strict manufacturing guidelines and properly labeled can still suffer if it isn't transported under proper temperature controls. According to USDA, bacteria multiple rapidly between 40° and 140° Fahrenheit. Foods left to sit in this "danger zone" for more than 2 hours (1 hour in temperatures above 90° F) may be at risk. While most cookie dough manufacturers claim that these products (made with pasteurized eggs) may be left unrefrigerated for longer periods, it is still recommended that all refrigerated foods be shipped at or below 40° F and frozen foods shipped at 0° F.

When considering adding frozen foods to your fundraising drive, ask the company how the product will be transported from the manufacturer to the organization.

  • Will frozen food trucks be utilized? If not, what measures will be taken to ensure the product remains refrigerated or frozen?
  • Will the fundraising company take possession of the product before it reaches your facility? If so, will the product be placed in cold storage at or near the company's warehouse or facility?

Delivery-Day Strategies

Delivery day is a critical point in assuring a successful fundraising drive, particularly when perishable food items are involved.

"Knowing the delivery time and knowing that you can count on that not to change drastically is the single biggest issue," according to Dave Simons, a Maryland-based manufacturer and distributor of frozen food for fundraising. Richard Glass, another manufacturer based in Pennsylvania, agrees. "Groups should carefully choose delivery times and communicate to the parents to be sure the product is picked-up," he says. Here are a few strategies they suggest when working with frozen food products:

  • Send reminder letters two to three days in advance of the delivery with specific dates and times for product pick-up. And then again the day before and the day of delivery. Stress the importance of being on time, allowing no more than a four to five hour window for final pick-up.
  • Select the coldest location available (out of direct sunlight and heat) as the point of distribution.
  • Use space blankets and/or sleeping bags to insulate the product during the unloading process. If dry ice is used in the shipping process, it requires extreme caution and should be handled only by experienced carriers.
  • Have a plan in place for short-term freezer storage for products that are not picked-up. (Most school cafeterias will provide temporary freezer space. Local supermarkets may also be willing to provide short-term assistance.)
  • To quickly contact no-shows, have on hand the phone numbers of all parents scheduled to pick-up product.
  • As orders are picked-up, remind parents to put the products in the freezer as soon as possible. It may be a good idea to include a written reminder with every order.

Executing a successful fundraiser with a frozen food product may require a few special considerations, but it is easily done when working with an experienced fundraising professional working with a reputable supplier. And the rewards are worth it!

Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now - Record-keeping Advice from Fundraising Pros Spring 2001

Ever felt like that before? Ask any former fundraising chair that question and you'll get an unequivocal, "YES!" Then they'll tell you how their predecessor could have made their job easier.

"Keep good notes. Include procedures for tracking money, organizing volunteers. No information is too trivial," according to one fundraising volunteer.

Otherwise, as California principal Susan Van Zant put it, "First-time volunteers are left to devise their own systems which often create more work for the group and the company." Indeed, with a good record-keeping system in place, experts say organizations can save a lot of time.

Cynthia Francis Gensheimer, an avid school fundraiser and author of Raising Funds for Your Child's School, agrees. "Imagine how much easier your job would be as first-time chair of an event if you were handed a file from your predecessor containing a report of what he or she had done the year before,"she notes. "When it comes to fund-raisers that are annual events, keeping good records from year to year is imperative."

Just what is a good record-keeping system? One state PTA describes it as easy-to-use and understand; reliable and accurate; and designed to provide financial information quickly. Most office supply stores carry products for simple record keeping with complete instructions for their use. There also are com- puter software programs available. Members of the National PTA may access the organization's Money Matters which contains very specific guidelines useful to PTA treasurers.

Many professional fundraising companies offer suggestions, if not written guidelines, for how their particular program should be conducted, along with appropriate materials (e.g. order forms, collection envelopes, tally sheets, etc.) to help groups execute the fundraising drive. After all, it is in their best interest that the fundraising chair is organized and successful in keeping track of the program's progress.

The Music Booster Manual, published by the National Association for Music Education, suggests that each fundraising project file contain a permanent record of: financial goal and results; number of participants and total work-hours expended; breakdown of areas of responsibility; support requirements; committee assignments; problems encountered and recommendations for improvement.

According to Gensheimer, the best-run PTAs and PTOs ask the people who chair their fund-raisers to submit reports a few weeks after the event. These reports should contain information mentioned above, as well as a calendar or timeline - when to begin interviewing fundraisers, soliciting volunteers, promoting the event and so on. She also suggests keeping copies of fliers that were sent to parents, memos to teachers, signs posted at school, and simple reminders.

Once the fundraiser has been evaluated and a report filed, it's a good idea to provide a copy to the school administrator or advisor and the fundraising company with whom you partnered. That way everybody will be in the loop and ready to make next year's fundraising activity better than ever.

References: Raising Funds for your Child's School, publisher Walker and Company, NY, NY.

A Case Study in Gratitude Spring 2001

Once a fundraising campaign is complete, it is important to thank everyone involved - especially the parents. You might even use the opportunity to brag a little.

On the last day of the 1999-2000 school year, parents of Kennesaw Elementary School students in Cobb County, Georgia, received a letter listing more than three dozen enrichment programs, school activities, and classroom purchases funded by the PTA during the past school year. The letter ended with a thank-you: "Your participation in the following programs is what makes us able to provide these enhancements to our children's education." This was followed by a list of all the fundraising activities coducted nthroughout the year; the amount of money each project raised; and the name of the volunteer responsible for coordinating each project.

Every parent has come to expect the flood of fundraising materials, especially during the first weeks of school. Few expect to receive an "annual report" on the last day of school, as was the case at Kennesaw Elementary. It's a nice opportunity to show-off AND show appreciation to the families whose support the school will need again next year.

Ask A Pro: About Back-Orders and Substitutions Spring 2001

Because so many fundraising programs involve imported products, supply problems resulting from tight delivery deadlines can trickle down to fundraising sponsors. We asked a few fundraising professionals for advice on how best to prepare for this occasional challenge involving product sales.

"When interviewing fundraising companies upfront, ask about their policy should an item be back-ordered. Will they let you know as soon as they know there is a problem? And what happens if an item simply isn't available? Will they make a substitution automatically or will they offer options? What measures will they take to make the process relatively painless for you and your customers?"

Stu Nickell, Englewood, CO

"As a fundraising distributor, I have formed a strategic alliance with my customer and my supplier. It's critical for me to maintain credibility with both partners… that we all communicate early and honestly with each other so that all of us succeed."

Michael Keyes, Frankenmuth, MI

"Look for signs of good communication and customer service. There's nothing worse than not being able to find your sales representative when you have problem. Find out who will provide that support if it's not the sales rep. Look for companies with a plan and policy in place for trouble shooting and good record-keeping procedures to track orders."

John Kukta, Akron, OH

Ask a Pro: About Return Policies Fall 2000

Sponsors can learn too late that the fundraising company they've contracted with has a different return policy than what they've experienced in the past. Some companies have a strict return policy, while others may be more lenient. We asked a few professionals for their advice on how to avoid surprises at the end of a product sale.

"Sometimes the finer points of a contract are lost in the fervor of making the sale, so we attach to every contract a one-page summary of important points - including the return policy. Typically, we accept returns only if the cases are unopened. When products are delivered, I tell our customers AND our drivers to make sure they count everything before they sign a document accepting the delivery."

Paul Muscat, San Diego, CA

"The best way to deal with returns is to avoid them in the first place. Unrealistic expectations create the most problems. A sponsor may order product based on how much money they want to make vs. how much they can realistically sell. We try to guide our customers to order responsibly - by listening to their history, goals and number of volunteers. Then we must be prepared to ship reorders as quickly as possible if the group needs more product."

Jim Pike, Lakewood, NJ

Raising Money or Raising Hackles: The importance of setting realistic goals Spring 2000

Her son's school needed two new baseball fields and Kim Whittemore didn't have the patience to wait for the glacial pace typical for most school acquisitions. So her first move as the brand new PTA president for the Cumming, GA, elementary school was an obvious one. She went to the the local county parks and recreation department; found out how much money it would take to build the fields; and took her proposal to the school's PTA and principal.

"Everybody was behind it. The students. The teachers. The parents," says Whittemore. She didn't know it at the time, but Kim's "first move" was a masterstroke in fundraising according to professionals in the field.

"There's nothing more important to a fundraiser's success than a meaningful goal. If its something they believe in, parents and kids will always rise to the occasion," according to Russ Colombo, vice president of sales for a regional fundraising firm based in Houston, TX.

Jesse Kenney, owner of a fundraising company in Watkinsville, GA, agrees. "We can't really get started until we know more about the group's goals."

Indeed, Whittemore's school rallied behind the baseball field project netting $40,000 in school profits (instead of the required $30,000) leaving enough money to eliminate a spring fundraiser and still pay for the school's planned sock hop and tennis tournament.

"If you build it, they will come"

Jesse Kenney's company had the formidable task of working with Whittemore's school to raise the necessary funds to build the baseball fields. And they did their homework.

"One of the first things we try to do is keep everybody focused on the Big Picture. How much money do you need and what kind of program and service mix is going to get you there?" reports Kenney. He knows before he arrives at any school, what the enrollment is and, has a good idea (based on experience) of the average number of items each family is likely to sell. Taking those numbers and the profits the school will make per item sold, Kenney can predict for the sponsor how much they can expect to put in the bank at the end of a fundraising sale.

"Do a few and do them well"

The key to fundraising success, according to Kenney and others, is participation -- a chronic problem in those schools where too many fundraisers have led to burnout. Colombo warns groups to make sure their goals are realistic and that people have time to "recover" before launching another fundraiser. "If people come to expect one fundraiser after another, they won't know which one to grab on to. They'll say 'I'll wait for the next one' and they never get it done."

It's a mantra heard among successful fundraising experts: Do a few and do them well. When faced with lofty fundraising goals, Colombo, a former coach, approaches his groups with a year-round plan featuring two major product sales — one in the fall and one in the spring — interspersed with only a couple of service projects that promote camaraderie, like a car wash and a spaghetti dinner. "That way volunteers still feel good about what they're doing without jeopardizing the overall impact of product sales which, frankly, are the bigger money makers."

Once a band director himself, Kenney, also knows how to build enthusiasm and motivate kids. According to Whittemore, "We gave Jesse a few minutes in an assembly with each grade level to explain the particulars," says Whittemore. "It was more like a pep rally for the school, the baseball fields, and what we were all going to do to make it happen." She reports that her "field of dreams fundraiser" had 95% participation with each family selling an average of 11 items each. Better yet, six weeks later the North Georgia school had two new baseball fields.

Mission: Possible - Cliff Notes for the Newly Inducted Fundraising Chair Spring 2000

"Congratulations Ms. Cantsayno, you've been appointed fundraising chairperson. Your mission, should you decide to accept (and you will because we know that's the kind of person you are) is to oversee our school's fundraising activities. Good luck."

Do not panic. Fundraising is not for wimps. You'll never hear Tom Cruise whine, "But…but…I've never done this before." Now is the time for action. The following attack plan was developed with the fundraising rookie in mind in consultation with several experienced fundraisers. One word of caution: every fundraising program is different so the logistics can vary greatly. However, once you've selected a particular program and a professional company, your fundraising representative can help you map out the details.

Six Months Before

Step 1 - Set a Goal

No fundraising activity should be without purpose and that purpose should be one that everyone can support. Why do you need the money? How much money do you need? When setting the fundraising goal, be specific. Involve all interested parties in setting the goal and then make that the focus of your campaign from start to finish. If the goal is meaningful to school administrators, faculty, parents and children, your chances for success are greater.

Step 2 - Recruit a Committee

New fundraising chairs often try to do too much themselves rather than delegate. Recruit a team of three or four parent volunteers to help organize the activity and recruit any other needed volunteers. For example, assign one person to take care of publicity; two to handle money collection and record keeping; and another to manage delivery logistics.

Step 3 - Select a Company

Get this right and the rest should be a cakewalk (pardon the expression). Pare down your list to two or three companies and make appointments with each. Allow enough time (at least 45 minutes) for a proper presentation. Step 3 is not the place to skimp on time and effort.

Competing companies will need to know your group's financial goal; the number of potential participants and their ages; and any historical information you can provide (e.g. past fundraisers, participation levels, successes and failures).

You will need to learn from each of the companies you interview:

  • How long has the company been in business?
  • How many years of experience does the company representative have in fundraising?
  • Are the program's product/s of high quality that the organization will be proud to stand behind?
  • What services are available to save you and your volunteers time and energy?
  • How will the program work? Are products paid for in advance or upon delivery?
  • Does the company understand and comply with your state sales tax laws?
  • How is safety addressed? Does the company discourage unsupervised door-to-door sales? Will adult supervision be stressed? How will these points be communicated to parents? Children?
  • What promotional assistance will the company provide? (kick-off assemblies; parent letters; posters; samples for display; etc.)
  • Is there an incentive or prize program? If so, who pays for it?
  • How are products shipped and when? Who pays the freight?
  • What is the policy regarding damaged or unsold product? What about back orders?
  • Will there be a written agreement?
  • Can the company provide references? (Be sure to call and check these references.)

Again, it's important to remember that there are many types of fundraising programs. Not all of the above criteria may apply to your organization or the company with whom you choose to work.

Once you've selected the firm, set the dates and place them on a school or community activities calendar to avoid overlap within your own school or neighboring schools. Clear activities and crucial dates with appropriate officials (school principal, coaches, and custodians) to avoid conflicts with other events. Now relax for a few months.

One Month Before

Step 4 - Final Planning

Contact your fundraising representative and meet with your fundraising committee to review logistics. Make a list of materials that you'll be responsible for and those that the company will supply. Determine how many adult volunteers you'll need to execute the fundraiser at every step.

Develop a master schedule of important dates for everyone to use as his or her blueprint. Include such details as: advance promotion (press releases, newsletter articles, billboards); arrival dates for company materials; kick-off activities with students/teachers/parents; deadlines for orders/money to be turned in; reminder notices/P.A. announcements; delivery of products and prizes; announcement of results to all participants; volunteer appreciation; and a wrap-up meeting to review the entire event.

Let teachers know about the fundraiser so that they may incorporate it into their lesson plans.

One to Two Weeks Before

Step 5 - Advance Promotion

Send a flier home to parents announcing your fundraising goal and when they can expect to receive their fundraising packets/products. Put up posters around the school and post dates on the school billboard, web site and on the homework hotline. If an open house or parents meeting is scheduled, arrange a display with product samples from your fundraising project.

One to Two Days Before

Step 6 - Countdown

Touch base with fundraising company, school administrators and custodians to reconfirm logistics. Gather and sort the supplies you'll need from the company. Check in with your committee and team leaders. Call volunteers to remind them of their responsibilities and when

they're needed. Post reminders to teachers, explaining procedures, reminding them of the goal.

D-Day

Step 7 - All Systems Go

This is when you start to congratulate yourself on all the careful planning. Kick-off activities, if scheduled, go off without a hitch. Appropriate materials finally go home to each family. If your particular event will last over a one- or two-week period, make your final preparations to motivate volunteers. Remind volunteers of important deadlines; the group's ultimate goal and what progress has been made.

Some families may jump right on the fundraising project, returning their order forms/money immediately. So it's a good idea to review your process for order and money collection to ensure these

early returns are accounted for. Likewise, now is the time to review your plans for product delivery first to your school and then to the end-user. Touch base with the fundraising company representative for an approximate date of delivery. Reconfirm availability of space with school officials. If parental pick-up is planned, begin scheduling times once a firm delivery date has been determined.

Step 8 - Product Delivery

Again, fundraising programs will vary widely. Sometimes products will go home with students. Sometimes parents will pick up the orders. There are some instances that the product may go directly to the end-user. Have enough volunteers on hand to handle products at the appropriate time, making sure there is someone to trouble-shoot missing orders. Forward appropriate paperwork (invoice, purchase orders) to your organization's treasurer or bookkeeper to ensure prompt payment. Then, congratulate yourself again on yet another well-executed plan.

One Month After

Step 9 - Evaluation

Did your group meet or exceed financial expectations? Are plans underway toward implementing the originally stated goal? (Is the new playground equipment on the way? Are the field trip plans complete?) Communicate the final fundraising results by P.A., billboards, newsletters, parent letters, etc., thanking participants for their support. Meet with your committee to review the entire activity and any notes taken along the way to identify improvements for next year. Provide an overall report to the school principal in a brief meeting. And provide your fundraising company representative with your feedback.

Now you can proudly pass on your file and vast knowledge to the next, more fortunate fundraising chair, because … congratulations, Ms. Cantsayno, your successful fundraising efforts just landed you the position of incoming President!

Children and Fundraising: Where do we draw the line? Spring 1999
Defining the Child's Appropriate Role

When 11-year-old Kiernan Fox sold cookies for her girl scout troop a few years ago, she also sold cookies for her older sister Caroline. Now three years later, she's helping little sister Bridget perfect her pitch. “Just be polite,” she encourages. “Don't, like, try to bother people. If they tell you they're on a diet, they really mean ‘no.' ”

With her determination and easy smile, it's hard to imagine anyone saying “no” to Kiernan. For her, fundraising has always come naturally. “Kiernan's one of those industrious kids — always wanting to do her best no matter what,” according to her mom, Susan. “As a child I never liked fundraising, but she seems to really get a charge out of it.”

By the time she was eight, Kiernan had sold magazines, gift wrap, tee shirts and candy for dozens of worthy causes. The money she raised helped pay for camping trips, playground equipment, softball uniforms, library books and scores of “extras” to support her education and busy lifestyle outside of school. For Kiernan, and so many other children her age, fundraising is a fact of life.

Indeed, there are some that would say fundraising is out of control — that children shouldn't be expected to help finance their own activities. They fear that fundraising drives place too much pressure on kids to become “little salespeople.”

Others believe that product fundraising performs a necessary service for underfinanced schools and youth groups. They understand that product fundraising provides an effective avenue for raising a substantial amount of money (nearly $2 billion nationwide annually) in a short amount of time. And, if handled properly, supporters say this grassroots mode of fundraising offers valuable lessons for today's youth.

There will always be a need for money and few argue that fundraising should go away altogether. So the question many organizations are left asking is, “Where do we draw the line?”

Salesmen or Messengers:
Defining the Child's Role  


Once a group decides a product fundraising campaign will meet their needs and a fundraising company is selected (see story on page 2), it is important that children play an appropriate role in the fundraiser's success. According to Lorri Campbell-Franckle, a professional fundraiser in central Florida, most children are involved in product fundraising drives primarily as “messengers.”

Every time she makes a fundraising presentation to a group of kids under the age of 16, Campbell-Franckle's message is always the same, “Stay within your circle of friends and extended family and never solicit sales without parent permission and supervision.” Campbell-Franckle believes that safety concerns are the primary reason most people object to having children involved in fundraising.

Like most of her colleagues, Campbell-Franckle repeats safety messages at every opportunity: first in oral presentations (often called fundraising “kick-offs”) and then again in parent letters and on all other company literature, including order forms. Ideally, children will learn more from the experience if parents escort them on fundraising expeditions, says Campbell-Franckle and others. But, the reality is most families are too busy, so working parents help by taking order forms to the office.

For years fundraising sponsors and companies have followed similar procedures, according to Russell Lemieux, executive director of the Association of Fund Raisers and Direct Sellers (AFRDS). The international association of nearly 700 professional fundraising companies has been tracking fundraising trends for over a decade and, according to Lemieux, “the success of these fundraising drives does not rely on children knocking on doors, but rather children asking for support from family members and friends.”

AFRDS supports the position that “Children should never be allowed to sell door-to-door unless directly supervised by a parent or adult. Fundraising companies, school and organization leaders and parents must be diligent in assuring that children participate in fundraisers in a safe manner.”

The challenge, according to Lemieux, is making sure children hear important safety messages from group leaders, school administrators, fundraising companies and parents. Leslie Horne, AFRDS member and former PTA president, agrees: “This is no less important than bicycle safety.”

Horne, like others in the fundraising business, works almost exclusively with youth organizations. She prefers to have a few minutes with every group to talk about the fundraising program and the importance of adult supervision. To avoid interrupting classroom time, however, some schools restrict lengthy group assemblies, opting instead for: brief classroom presentations and video messages; lunchtime presentations or closed circuit TV. Some schools will rely on the parents to get the message to their children.

“First we have to get the kids to take the information home and, at the very least, encourage their parents to read the information,” said Campbell-Franckle.

Recognize Participation with Appropriate Awards  

Every other Monday, students at an elementary school in North Kingston, Rhode Island, enjoy outside speakers on a variety of topics as part of their school's cultural arts program. The program is completely funded by the school's PTO with money raised from one product fundraising sale in the fall.

However, fundraising chair Diane Linnane said that the children “don't really understand and, therefore, need extra motivation.” That's why her PTO includes a multi-level incentive program for students who participate in their fall fundraiser, starting with a small award or “thank-you” gift such as a pencil or a ruler just for taking the fundraising information home to mom and dad.

Many groups reward 100 percent participation with school-wide or group parties. Other groups encourage volunteers with the prospect of watching their favorite teacher, coach or principal kiss a pig or catch a pie in the face (see story on page 6).

Fundraising is a voluntary activity and should be promoted as such. The key, say organizers, is to avoid flashy, expensive prizes that award only a few “top-sellers.” These incentives may unintentionally entice kids to ignore warnings against unsupervised door-to-door soliciting. The best incentives add fun and excitement to encourage participation even at a minimum level, says Campbell-Franckle, and are “quality programs that everyone, including parents, can feel good about.”

Responsibility 101

Kiernan Fox admits that, when it comes to fundraising, the prizes are nice. She also likes knowing that she did her part to help her class fund a field trip. But, according to Kiernan, whose father is a successful entrepreneur, it's seeing commerce in action that gets her excited about fundraising.     

“I like counting the money and putting it in the envelope and making sure I have enough,” she says. And her parents like seeing Kiernan's enthusiasm and budding business acumen. According to mom, “I wish we could bottle it.”   

Indeed, many experienced organizers say there is a lot to learn from participating in fundraising drives. They cite: increased self esteem, confidence, appreciation of value, responsibility, as well as lessons in public speaking and good manners. Fundraising drives are often a child's first introduction to volunteerism allowing them to participate in a community activity while at the same time witnessing their parents own civic-mindedness. Some groups will make charts of their fundraising progress to integrate the fundraising project into the classroom in age-appropriate math lessons.    

“If you want something in this world, you have to work for it. I want my kids to learn that before they leave school,” according to one mom, whose PTO raises $10,000 each year to pay for extra programs at her children's elementary school. She, too, likes that her children are actively involved in fundraising because of the valuable lessons they learn in ownership and paving their own way.    

Each organization must carefully consider what role children — young and old — should play in fundraising efforts. Only by working together can adult volunteers, administrators, parents and fundraising companies ensure the experience is a positive and rewarding one.

Lessons in Fundraising - Sales techniques for teenagers Fall 1998

Today, just as it has been for decades, thousands of American teenagers are fundraising to pay for their extra-curricular activities. But, getting teenagers enthusiastic about fundraising, or any school-related activity, can present a challenge. Here are some fundraising reminders to help motivate teenagers:

Pitch in for the team.
Fundraising should be a voluntary activity for students and promoted as such. Once they understand the personal and group rewards from active participation, most students are willing to step up to the plate. Focus on family, friends, and familiar neighbors. It’s safer and usually yields higher sales. In fact, most fundraising sales today are made to family, friends and parents’ friends and co-workers. Discourage solo selling without adult supervision. Even older teens should practice safe-selling techniques by working in groups.

Perfect an introduction.
Never start with the question "Would you like to buy..?" because the standard answer is ‘NO.’ Students should introduce themselves, their group and their group goal with major emphasis on the GOAL. What’s the money going to provide? Student volunteers who communicate the organization’s purpose make better ambassadors.

Think like a salesperson.
Be positive. It’s not unusual for some kids to say "You might not want these." If they present the product in a positive light throughout the presentation, chances are better they’ll make the sale.

Look "professional."
A nice appearance and identifying apparel adds credibility and helps make the sale. If possible, wear a group uniform or a tee shirt with school logo.

Say "thank you" for the support.
Remember to say "thank you for helping us meet our goal," and restate the goal.

Sources: B&O Band and Orchestra Product News July/August 1998 "Selling 101" The Official Football Fundraiser’s Guide, J. Alden Briggs, Jr., published by Boosters Clubs of America

Workplace Do's and Don’ts Fall 1997

Here are some suggestions for tasteful workplace fundraising that you can share with parent volunteers this fall.

  • Be careful not to make broad announcements about your fundraising project via company e-mail, reserving office equipment for company business only.
  • Be selective about who you approach. Focus on interested colleagues and past supporters.
  • Use high-traffic, central locations — office and breakroom bulletin boards — to post fundraising flyers, sign-up sheets and self-serve product kits.
  • Make in-person appeals to co-workers during work breaks and lunch hours.
  • Remember to thank supporters, particularly those without children whose
    generosity is seldom reciprocated. After the fundraising drive, treat supporters to donuts or bagels and let them know how much money your office contributed to the child's school, league or other organization.
  • Be aware that the higher you are on the corporate ladder, the harder it is to prevent people who work for you from feeling pressure to buy something.
  • Thank you notes from the child go a long way to build future support.

References: "Dr. Tightwad on Fundraising Etiquette," Kids & Money, Kiplinger Online (http://www.kiplinger.com). "Charity Begins at Work" by Ellen Neuborne, USA Today, January 22, 1997.

Logistics for the workplace
Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers (AFRDS)