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Selecting the Right Fundraiser: Part 2 - Criteria

The second part of a two-part series about selecting the right fundraisers for your club. This section focuses on evaluating criteria.

By Kimberly Reynolds

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

Let Your Goals Be Your Guide
Your organization's financial goals are the number-one criteria for your fundraiser selection. Be sure to select a fundraiser that will meet or exceed all of your goals. Don't settle for generating less than what your group needs just because it's the same fundraiser you've always done. Consider all the possibilities and do the math first to narrow your choices to the most productive ones.

Revenue Is King
Remember that higher revenue is directly related to a higher net. Maximize your results by selling higher priced offerings or using a quality catalog that will inspire a multiple item purchase. Make sure your fundraiser offerings focus on getting the highest possible total sale from each customer.

Percentage to Organization
Your gross margin is the percentage of the selling price that you get to keep. As discussed previously, bigger is not necessarily better. Pick the right product and make sure you're getting the best percentage deal that you can. Don't be afraid to shop your business around to several suppliers. A bidding war can be a good thing for your group.

Percentage Isn't Everything
Percentage to organization is important, but so is the perception of the offering by both the potential buyer and the seller. A higher percentage profit sometimes means either lower quality goods or overpriced ones. The percentage doesn't go in the bank, just the net results.

If your revenue per customer is lower due to poor quality or lessened reception, then you've lost money, not made more. The bottom line is that extra profit percentage points aren't available because one supplier is more generous than another. Once everything is factored in, you'll find that extra percentage is made up somewhere along the line.

Net to Organization
Revenue times percentage less expenses determines your net results. You want to maximize your revenue to maximize your net. Be sure to get the lowest cost on your product and watch out for hidden expenses. Get everything in writing up front.

Work Involved
Determine how much work a potential fundraiser will be. Sales with delayed deliveries are more labor-intensive than sales with immediate deliveries. Heavier items are also more work. Certain food items like cookie dough and cheesecake may require special handling to keep them cold until they reach the customer.

Product Quality
Top quality goods sell better, period. Inspect the sample items carefully for flaws. Compare them with catalog/sales material descriptions. If they're food items, check the weights and the quality of the packaging. Freshness counts.

Price vs. Retail
How attractive is the unit price of the items being sold compared to comparable items in nearby retailers. Put yourself in the customer's shoes and evaluate the price points carefully. No one wants to overpay for something.

Ease of Doing Business
A reputable supplier should be easy to do business with. They should have an 800-number, fast turnaround on documents, quick delivery of samples, no upfront monetary commitment, clear descriptions of all potential extra charges, and a friendly attitude. Why conduct business with jerks?

Average Unit Price
Generally, a higher unit price will produce more revenue and a greater net to your organization. A catalog of items with a high average price will do better overall than a catalog of lower priced merchandise, within reason of course. You need to be careful though that the supplier hasn't inflated the average unit price to an unrealistic level. Also, make sure that the product price points are appropriate to your target market.

Variety and Selection Mean More Sales
A wider variety and better selection offers a greater likelihood a potential customer will find one or more items that they want to buy. You've gone to a lot of effort to put your fundraiser message in front of each prospect. By broadening your selection, your products can be confusing, so find a happy medium.

Caliber of Supplier
A high quality supplier will focus on satisfying their customers to earn repeat business. A supplier of shoddy merchandise knows you won't be coming back for more and acts accordingly. Look for Better Business Bureau affiliation and membership in AFRDS, Association of Fundraising Distributors and Suppliers.

Quality of Support Materials
Interview sales reps from suppliers. Ask for samples and compare them to their brochures. Be sure that the collateral materials that your sellers will show to potential buyers are in color and that they contain appropriate descriptions that are easy to read.

Ease of Sale
The product selected for the fundraiser should be an easy sale. You don't want to put your participants at a severe disadvantage with hard-to-sell goods. Generally, high quality goods at attractive prices sell themselves.

Feel Good Rating
Each major type of fundraiser is analyzed and ranked. A unique Feel Good Rating is assigned to each category that reflects how your organization's participants and supporters will most likely feel about that particular style of fundraising.

Sales Incentives Provided
Check to see if sales incentives are included in the prices quoted. Net them out if you don't want them, but don't forget their real purpose. Sales incentives exist to motivate your sellers to do their best. Don't put a disincentive program into place.

Extra Discounts and Freebies
Always ask for extra discounts before you place your order. "Is that the best you can do?" Just asking that question will often get you an extra few percentage points. Also, find out if there are bonus offerings available based on the size of your order. If you don't ask, you'll never know for sure that you got the best price.

Check the quality of packaging on sample products. Remember that your customers are often repeat buyers on future fundraisers. Poor quality packaging usually indicates poor quality merchandise. Also, the shipment packaging of sample merchandise is often a true reflection of how well your actual shipment will be packaged. Damaged goods can be a major headache.

Tallying Orders
Check out all support materials in advance. How easy to tally are the supplier's order forms? Does the supplier provide an individual order tally sheet with each lot being pre-sorted within the main shipment?

Displays and Samples
You can't always judge a book by its cover. Be sure to get samples of as much of the catalog as the supplier will send. Find out if there's a charge for it or if there are free samples. Are there display materials available for items sold? Check the quality of these and compare it to the comparably priced retail equivalent.

Return Policy
Determine ahead of time what the return policies are. Are partially sold case lots returnable? Is there a customer satisfaction guarantee? Are undelivered goods returnable? Who pays the freight for the return?

What guarantees does the supplier offer on things such as damaged goods? Do you have to pay in advance for replacement goods? Is there a customer satisfaction guarantee on food items?

Turn Around Time on Orders
Find out how quickly your potential supplier ships an average order. If the time frame quoted is one to three weeks, that's about normal. Try to get a firm timeline established ahead of time. Once you sign the agreement, you're stuck and your bargaining power is zilch. Pay careful attention to what their policy is on backordered items.

Expedite Charges
Get firm pricing up-front on what freight charges the supplier covers and what constitutes an expedite charge payable by your organization. Be sure to get it in writing if it's not part of the supplier agreement.

Payment Terms
Most items are paid for in advance. The reason for this is most fundraising organizations are not businesses with credit histories and offices. Expect to pay for all items before shipment, including any expedited last minute shipments.

A reputable supplier should have no problem supplying references upon request. Most will have generic references posted on their web sites. Take the time to get the numbers and verify results, problem resolution, quality of goods, etc. Always ask if they're still using them as a supplier.

How Long in Business
Longevity is often an important indicator of financial stability. If they haven't been in business for more than three years, ask for bank and/or trade references.

Shipping Point
Find out where the supplier is shipping from and who pays the freight. If the supplier quotes you FOB Destination, it means that you pay the freight. Oftentimes, there is another supplier offering exactly the same product or catalog with more favorable freight terms.

Problem Escalation/Resolution
Review all written statements from suppliers on how they handle the inevitable snafus. Check the supplier's references for information on how well they've handled problems such as missing items, damaged goods, etc.

Don't Forget To Maximize Your Results
Remember that you can always use a supplemental catalog sale or any type of discount card on top of any other fundraiser. Capture something for everyone through offering something different like a pizza card after you've pitched your regular items. These usually retail for $10 and cost as little as $2. That's a great percentage payout and has a different appeal than what you're already offering.

Alternatively, you can offer a $10 discount card featuring local merchants that might cost you $2 or less. If your sellers can add one of these to half their sales, then you'll enjoy a significantly higher net. Don't forget that most of your sellers will approach less than 10 prospects. Just be sure not to offer it until after your regular fundraiser has been offered or you will just be taking revenue away from your primary offering, not supplementing it.

In closing, when choosing the right fundraiser, be sure to weigh all the criteria. 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.