Student-athletes at Marshwood High School in South Berwick, Maine, aren't allowed to go soliciting door-to-door, and are generally expected to do their fundraising in-season. In one exception, the ski team and its boosters make the most of the community's summer strawberry festival by selling kabobs, noodles, and snow cones to a long line of neighbors and visitors.
By Lisa Greenblatt
President, Marshwood High School Ski Team Boosters Club
South Berwick, Maine
Skiing is expensive, so even though athletics teams at Marshwood High School are generally well funded, our team has a greater need for booster fundraising. Unlike football and basketball, we don't have concessions at our competitions, so we have to find the money somewhere else.
For the last eight years, our most successful moneymaker has been the South Berwick Strawberry Festival, which is the biggest local event of the summer. It's held on the last Saturday in June, and it's entirely staffed by non-profits like us. The festival gives us the booth for free, and they've even given us money to buy a snow cone machine, which has worked out much better than having to rent.
We sell beef kabobs for $4, chicken kabobs for $3, cold sesame noodles for $3, and snow cones for $1. Our line starts in the morning and lasts until we run out of food, which usually happens around 2 or 3 o'clock. We have shifts of eight volunteers inside the booth, with boosters on the grills and student-athletes on the snow cone machine. This year, we had a beautiful, sunny day, so the line was always 25 people long, and we sold close to $1,000 snow cones.
It takes a lot of people to pull this off, including parents, kids, and coaches. Everybody pitches in, and because we've been doing this for so many years, we have a plan that's very manageable. We don't make many changes from one year to the next, because we don't need to. With an outdoor festival, we're very dependent on the weather, which makes us fairly cautious. We can't afford to be caught with more food than we can sell, so we take a look at how we did the year before and kick it up a notch.
The boosters lay out the up-front expense of buying the meat, the noodles, all the supplies. This year, we had 50 pounds of beef, 70 pounds of chicken, 30 pounds of noodles, and 600 pounds of ice for snow cones. That cost about $800, which we made back within the first couple of hours.
The week leading up to the festival is a busy time. We buy the supplies and all the ingredients for the marinade in advance, and to keep everything as fresh as possible, we pick up the meat on the day before the festival. That night, we have a meat-cutting party at the home of one of the boosters, and believe it or not, it doesn't take much longer than an hour and a half to cut 120 pounds of meat. While we're cutting and marinating the meat, the kids are making the syrup for snow cones. They're high school kids, so quite frankly, anything that we can do, they can do. When the work is done, we'll all sit down to dinner together.
Because we've been doing this for so long, it's relatively easy to organize from one year to the next. We have lists of all the equipment we need, from grills to spatulas to meat to paper plates.
If you're thinking about trying a fundraiser like this, my advice is to speak with people who've worked that festival in the past. What's it like? How many customers do they usually get? What do people want? To learn what works, get a sense of history and keep a record of everything you do. Whatever you buy, write it down so you'll know what to do the following year. Come up with a plan, and keep it simple. Sell something that people want.
We have a sign up on our booth so everyone knows we're the Marshwood High School Ski Team Boosters Club, and we have photos of the team. We're a winter sport, but on that one day in June, we have some added visibility in the community. People know they can find us at the festival, so they come by to make donations. It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun, too. And as long as we're raising money--we made close to $3,000--and selling out, I'd say we're doing well.