Monday, August 22, 2011
Every non-profit has been feeling the pinch in this economy. Trying to just break even gets trickier, so groups depend heavily on fundraisers to supplement fees. This past summer I have had neighborhood kids at my door selling something for their team, church, and/or school. I've bought frozen cookie dough, geraniums, smell-n-write pencils, wrapping paper, chocolates, cookies, and seeds, none of which I need. But I'll buy because my own children were once out there trying to raise money for their soccer team, and I was grateful for neighbors, friends, and family who bought what they didn't need.
Most fund raisers require the kids to go door to door, collect orders, return weeks later to deliver the orders, and collect the money. The items are usually overpriced with a huge amount of the money collected going to the manufacturer. But I've also found some good fundraisers meaning they fulfill three important criteria. First, whatever is being traded for money gives something of useful value or fun to the purchaser. Second, the non-profit gets 90 – 100% from what they sell. Third, the fundraising requires minimal/easy effort on the part of the non-profit. I really like the type of product that can be distributed immediately upon payment. Even better, I like the type of fundraiser that doesn't require any product. So here are my suggestions in no particular order.
1. Concession Stand – Professional and college sports venues offer non-profit organizations the opportunity to man the concession stands taking home a percentage of the stand's proceeds. You have to get on their lists and usually only adults can work since many of the stands serve alcohol. But if your club does a great job and shows up consistently with responsible workers then the club can count on several regular working dates.
- Pros – minimal investment by your organization other than gathering workers and putting in a strong effort when on duty.
- Cons – could be difficult to get enough dates and usually only adults can work.
2. Gift Wrapping – During the holidays many malls, department stores, bookstores, and boutiques offer free gift wrapping for their patrons. They contract with non-profit organizations to provide the actual gift wrapping and allow them to solicit donations for the service.
- Pros – no investment by your organizations other than perhaps printing flyers to encourage people to shop and wrap when you're on duty.
- Cons – seasonal work and you have to arrange your dates well in advance.
3. Penny (coin) collection – Select a day for your volunteers to set up tables outside of various locations such as groceries, big box stores, and malls. Have large containers available for people to drop in pennies. Anyone making a paper bill donation could receive some inexpensive item such as a lollipop, penny candy, or sticker. Advertise that your organization will be collecting pennies ahead of time so that hopefully people who have penny stashes at home will bring them to drop off.
- Pros – minimal cost for the organization for flyers and penny candy.
- Cons – need some good coordination with stores so that you can have permission for multiple sites. This is a hit or miss fundraising event. If you advertise the week before and have flyers up at the participating stores you could collect hundreds of dollars.
4. Discount card – This you coordinate with a service which provides the cards. They will canvas local businesses, get them to agree to discounts and freebies, and print off the cards. They will usually give a discount to your organization for upfront payment for the cards or they will accept payment later at a higher rate. Overall the cost is usually reasonable, and most aggressive organizations can sell enough cards to keep the cost in the 10% of profit range.
- Pros – you can give your contributors their card immediately and profits can be fairly high. A strong seller since the product is like a credit card, it fits in people's wallets, and the discounts last for a year.
- Cons – there is a cost risk and you do have to do door-to-door sales.
5. 50/50 Raffle – This is an easy to sell fundraiser that you can do at tournaments, games, or along with another fundraiser such as a car wash or bake sale. All you need is a roll or rolls of raffle tickets which you can buy at most office supply stores. Sell the tickets for a set price such as one for 50 cents, three for a dollar, or an arm's length for five dollars. Your organization keeps 50% of the money and awards 50% to the raffle winner. Occasionally the winner will donate his or her winnings back to your organization.
- Pros – a quick, easy way to make some money.
- Cons – not a huge fundraiser, but if you do it several times during a season could be a big winner for your club.
6. Windshield Wash – Here's an easy variation on the car wash. Arrange with a fast food restaurant in your area to set up a windshield wash service during a busy time at the restaurant drive-through line. Have a group of volunteers stand at the beginning of the drive-through and offer to wash the customer's windshields for free, giving them the option of making a donation. Then mark the cars that want their windshields washed with a post-a-note and have several crews working to wash them after they order their food and before they pay for their food. You can have two washers per vehicle, one on each side, working quickly to wet down, squeegee, and dry off the windshields. Crews should practice before coming on line so they can work efficiently and not slow down the drive through.
- Pros – less difficult and time-consuming than a full car wash, minimal expense, and you don't have to coax anyone off the street to agree to your service.
- Cons – could end up with everyone accepting the service and not making a donation.
7. Dollar Dive – Set up a table outside of businesses which have constant foot traffic. For a dollar donation, people can "dive" into a fish bowl and select a ticket or ping-pong ball whose number relates directly to prizes. Most prizes will be penny candy, but some will be money ($1, $5, $10, and grand prize $20), and perhaps things related to your club (t-shirts, scarves, etc.). Check for any local ordinances which prevent you from offering money as a prize. In a variation you could have a box filled with small prizes that you can buy at a party supply store and let kids "dive" in the box to get a prize.
- Pros – minimal cost for the tickets and prizes. You could even ask people who can't work the tables to donate $10 to purchases the prizes. You can have dozens of tables set up at multiple locations on a single day, improving your fundraising possibility.
- Cons – need to coordinate with the businesses to set up your tables outside of their doors and you will need to do some preparation work to create your prize number sheet. Need a number of volunteers.
Each of these fundraising ideas can be combined with one another or with a tournament you are holding to add extra money. Other than the gift-wrapping, these fundraising opportunities can be done any time of the year in just about any circumstance. With some creativity, you can probably tweak these ideas to make them work even better for your group. Most of these fundraisers will produce in the hundreds of dollars, and since they don't rely on Uncle Charlie needing more magazines, you can do them multiple times with the same clientele. In fact, some of these might actually get people excited about donating and looking forward to being separated from their money, since these possibilities are fun and painless.