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Rethinking Fundraising for New Levels of Success

by Joseph Heilner, Vice President of Smart Circle Fundraising™

Don't forget the positive impacts that competitive pricing has on fundraising.

The doorbell rings. It's Johnny from next door and he's armed with a fundraising order form. As he begins his pitch, you wonder what product he's selling this year. Overpriced candy, houseware goods or food? Magazines you're already subscribed to? Buckets of cookie dough? More holiday and gift items?

Although you are glad to support Jonny in his community activities, you find yourself wanting to offer cash rather than bother with the pricey novelty that comes along with your payment. You understand it's overpriced for a reason. You are actually the source of funds for Johnny's leadership retreat or trip to the championships. Why can't there be a better way? Read on-fortunately, there is.

The History
Courtesy of cutbacks and economic demands, organizations of all kinds have become increasingly dependent on fundraising for their daily operations. Fundraising is now a $2-billion industry with more than 1,500 companies-all seeking to differentiate themselves from one another.

Industry pressure to differentiate fundraising solutions has created a curious duality. On one hand, the dramatic increase of fundraising programs has caused the emergence of unique fundraising products, from beef snacks and tree seeds to custom-label bottled water and car magnets. On the other hand, these highly-unique products are often less relevant to consumers' daily lives.

Product irrelevancy exacerbates as the prices of fundraising products become more heavily marked up to enable organizations to retain the profits. When fundraising groups inflate pricing on items that supporters could buy cheaper at a local store, the supporters become the source of funds for the fundraiser.

Rethinking Fundraising

Both organizations and consumers can benefit when the fundraising campaign:

1. focuses on the sales and distribution of products consumers really use, and

2. provides consumers with superior value they can't get on their own.

In this situation, fundraising groups are not forcing buyers to change what they buy-rather the way they buy.

When Jonny appears at the door, imagine your pleasure at finding out that you didn't have to select the least uninspiring tin of cheese popcorn. What if you could instead select tickets to professional sporting events, dinner for two from the neighborhood restaurant or pizza place, 18 holes of golf, or a night at the movies with family at a substantial discount? How much more successful would Johnny's current fundraiser be? How much more receptive would you be to him next time has asks you to support his group?

Now that Jonny has impressed you with products that you're actually interested in, he informs you that the price of the ticket is one-tenth the full value of the offering. How pleased would you be to find out the movie or sports tickets, the meals, or golf game paid for itself after the first use—and had a total value several times the price Jonny was charging for it?

Fundraising groups that use such ticket promotions can be vastly more successful in raising funds: The consumer wins. The fundraiser wins. The merchant-sponsor wins.

Keys to Selecting a Successful Fundraiser
The key to this particular fundraiser is the source of the funds. Under the traditional plan, the consumer would provide Johnny's group with the funds it needs by overpaying for items that could be purchases at the local supermarket.

Using ticket or coupon books as fundraising solutions, though, a fundraising group partners with local businesses that offer significant values on their brands or products to enable Johnny's group to raise his funds. The local businesses are motivated by genuine desires to support their local communities as well as the increased sales they generate with these positive brand associations.

To ensure a successful fundraising campaign, it's important for fundraising groups to not only be selective about which products to sell, but also which companies to partner with. Below are a few helpful strategies to guide organizations in selecting the best fundraising companies to meet their goals quickly and easily:

Consumer-Preferred Products: Don't try to change what people buy, just the way they buy it.

A Value, Not Price Inflation: Use a fundraiser that leverages the generosity of local businesses to provide strong values to your consumers versus over pricing products.

High Profits Per Each Sale: Check how much your organization keeps per sale. One "scratch-off" fundraiser boasts up to $90 earned per scratch card. This means that with an average profit per sale of $2, your sellers will have to make an average of 45 sales to reach your goal, which makes for a long and labor-intensive fundraiser. When considering the worth of the offering, don't be afraid of higher-priced fundraisers as long as the purchase has a strong value.

No Risk: A good fundraising company will accept returns on unsold goods.

Out-of-Town Sales Capabilities: Friends, associates, and family members are key sales opportunities to fundraising sellers, but what if they live out of town? The Internet has opened a new world of opportunity for sellers to reach out of town contacts. Some of the best fundraisers offer automated email invitations for out-of-town online sales.

Support and Training: Fundraising groups should use partnering companies that will support and provide the group with extensive training and sales materials to help ensure success, such as sales scripts and parent letters.

To find our more about Smart Circle Fundraising, visit the company's Web site: 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.