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Testing a New Approach

Rather than sticking solely with traditional methods, the Brookline (Mass.) High School boys' tennis and co-ed alpine ski teams decided to give a fundraising company's mattress sale a try.

When a fellow coach introduced Brookline (Mass.) High School boys' tennis and co-ed skiing coach Slava Heretz to the idea of hosting a mattress sale as a fundraiser, he was skeptical. "My hesitation initially was the quality of the mattresses," he says. "We don't want people buying them and then having them fall apart or start sagging a year later.

"If it's cookies at a bake sale, whether or not you end up liking what you've bought, it's just a couple of bucks," Heretz continues. "But this is a big investment, so we don't want it to turn out to be poor quality. The fundraising company has franchises in 42 states, but the one we worked with just started within the last year, so there hasn't been enough time to hear about any issues with the mattresses."

With some hesitation, Heretz decided to go ahead and give the sale a try. "It was a risk-free fundraiser on our part, which was the deciding factor," he says. "My teams didn't have to put any money into it, so there was no financial responsibility on our end. The way it works is that the school or group provides a showroom--a gym or cafeteria--and refers people to the sale. Then there's a set percentage, which we got back on the sale of mattresses."

It took about six weeks to get the sale set up after deciding to go ahead with the idea. The company provided materials to use for marketing and did some on its own through Facebook--with about two weeks spent getting the word out. The franchise also put in the work of setting up and tearing down the showroom, which was in the high school cafeteria, and selling the mattresses.

"I think this is a brilliant fundraising model, but it's important to make sure you really want to partner with the company and that you understand all of the specifics," Heretz says. "For example, the company sold several mattress accessories at the sale, which we hadn't expected--and the teams didn't get any kickback from those items. You also may want to review the company's marketing materials before they're distributed."
 
At the end of the day, the teams received $1,200 from the sale, with a total of 17 mattresses sold--15 of which had been referrals from the student-athletes. "The company came in and set up mattresses and box springs, so customers could test them out," Heretz says. "It was a one-day event from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. And if you purchased a mattress, the company arranged to ship it to you. So in that way, it was a nice arrangement."
 
Looking ahead, Heretz has outlined a few things he would do differently next time. "If I were to do it next year, I would proof the marketing campaign and set a very different payout scheme--rather than a fixed amount per mattress, it would be just a pure percentage of total revenue," he says. "I would also make sure I was more in control of the fundraiser.

"The business you're working with cannot make its money without you, so you should be the one calling the shots," Heretz offers. "Don't make the same mistake I did, which was basically letting them run the show until the process had already begun. For the best experience possible, you should be making the decisions--even when you're working with a fundraising company."



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