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Merchant Plan

A merchant plan is a step-by-step outline beneficial to both sponsors and those fundraisers.

By Kimberly Reynolds
Kimberly Reynolds is the author of "Fundraising Success" and maintains her Web site, Fundraising Ideas for Fundraisers, at:

A merchant plan is a step-by-step outline covering the development of a mutually beneficial relationship with area merchants. Local businesses are an excellent fundraising resource. They should be part of every non-profit group's fundraising strategy. When asking local merchants to get involved with supporting your organization, think like a business owner. Make sure it's a win-win situation.

Remember the Most Important Word
What word has a tremendous amount of power? Me. Specifically, "what's in it for me." Self-interest is a basic human instinct and one that you need to pay close attention to when developing your plan. Put yourself in the merchant's shoes and ask: "What's in it for me?" If you design your plan so that every step of your merchant relationship provides value for that merchant, you will be very successful indeed.

How To Get Started
Build your relationship gradually. Nobody wants to be "used." Whatever you do, try to give the merchant something of concrete value in return for their assistance. Don't ask them for anything (yet). Offer to help promote their business at no cost to them. How do you do that? By partnering with them in ways that will increase their customer traffic, while at the same time providing benefits to your supporters.

Check Them Out
Find out what ads they are paying to run. Incorporate those same promotions into a free giveaway flyer that's handed to everyone who's a participant, supporter, buyer, and even a prospect of your fundraiser.

Help Them Out
Give the flyer away to your supporters as a way of saying thanks. The merchant gets a free ad campaign. Your group gets to make a positive impression on everyone they contact by giving something of value.

Broaden Your Horizons
Approach all merchants within a five-mile radius. Have a sample contact script written out. Make sure your script clearly communicates what your organization's goals are and what's in it for the merchants. Key points for a merchant contact script are:

What's in It For You?
What results can your organization expect? First, you've gained the support of several local businesses. These merchants will be impressed when they see the same promotional offerings they've paid others to distribute coming back from your hand-delivered support.

Don't think a merchant won't recognize a positive ad campaign result when they see it. And, it's free to boot! Second, you've created a very positive impression by giving a flyer to everyone your group touches.

"This group cares enough to give me this set of coupons even though I didn't buy anything. They value my time. This group has the support of the community merchants. They are a quality group."

Third, the flyer results in repeated exposure of your group's name and contact information. Every person looking at the flyer receives what advertisers call an "eyeball impression" of not only what the merchant offers, but who are the group's sponsors.Make sure your group's name and information is prominently displayed across the top of the flyer. And, lastly, the merchants are well on their way to becoming your supporters.

Next time around, your group can ask for extra discounts for your supporters that are "exclusive" special offers. You can also ask in the future for other forms of support and partnership. is brought to you by a recognized and established name in the school athletics arena, MomentumMedia—publisher of Athletic Management, Coaching Management and Training & Conditioning magazines.