A Sidewalk to Success
This past year, the Middleboro High School Athletic Department undertook its most successful fundraiser ever. The school created an engraved brick sidewalk that generated a $7,000 profit within only a few months and will continue to bring in revenue for a long time to come.
by David Paling
David Paling is the Director of Athletics, Health, and Physical Education for the Middleboro (Mass.) Public Schools.
The basic idea for this fundraiser is to sell engraved bricks to athletes, alumni, businesses, organizations, and community members. When the Middleboro School Committee initially heard my proposal to create the sidewalk, they supported the concept but needed more specifics. Where would the sidewalk go? How much would bricks cost and who would buy them? Was start-up money needed? What would the walkway look like? What sales strategies would we use?
The first step was figuring out the best place to build the walkway. The site we selected would need to be both visible and large enough to accommodate many years of brick sales. We found an area behind the school that has access to several fields, with plenty of room for expansion and clear visibility from many directions.
Next, I talked with a stone engraver. I discovered that four-by-eight-inch gray granite bricks were attractive and durable, and would cost $25 a piece including three 18-character lines of engraving. Larger eight-by-sixteen-inch bricks would cost $100, accommodate four lines of engraving, and offer the option of adding logos. Appearing before the school committee, I proposed selling these two brick sizes, the smaller ones for $75 and the larger ones for $200. I also suggested that blank red bricks costing 65 cents each be placed randomly in the walkway to add a bit of color.
To avoid start-up costs, I recommended that bricks be sold via order forms and that sections be installed once or twice each year using the total number of bricks sold to that point. This way, the fundraiser would always operate at a profit. The school committee gave its approval and sales began in earnest.
Coaches were asked to solicit purchases from players and their parents. Announcements were made at home games and flyers were placed around the school. The local newspaper did a series of stories on the walkway, the school put an order form on its Web site, and we set up a sales booth at home football games. We also sent mailings to alumni, former captains, local businesses, and past class officers. A display easel was placed in the school's main foyer area.
The best sales tactic of all, however, turned out to be phase one of the construction project. Our initial sales efforts translated into 26 feet of sidewalk, and when we began putting the bricks into place, many more people started asking how they could get involved, so we added a sign at the entrance to the walkway that explained how to purchase bricks.
Our efforts yielded more than $12,000 in sales the first year. The profit was approximately $7,000, thanks in part to a parent who offered his brick laying services at no charge.
Purchasers were free to personalize the engravings on their bricks. Names of individual athletes with their sport and year appear on some, and family names with years of graduation appear on others. Many businesses took advantage of the engraved logo option. Some buyers used the bricks to memorialize deceased athletes and coaches. A few of our teams purchased bricks with each member donating a small amount to the purchase. A couple of bricks went out for free to long-time coaches who had recently retired.
The strength of this project is the flexibility it offers. For example, a local businessman asked if a $1,000 donation could buy an even larger brick, and we quickly figured out that special orders could be accommodated. We've found we can make the walkway fundraiser work no matter how many bricks we sell, or what size they are. As we proceed, the walkway can grow wider or longer, and take any shape that makes sense to us.
The best part of the project is its ongoing nature. We don't have to continually come up with new or unique ways to fundraise anymore. It's an idea that has the potential to feed itself, and I suspect more and more athletes will buy bricks to leave their names behind when they graduate.