Not every organization is the same, and picking a fundraiser at random without considering what makes your situation unique is no way to get good results! In order to really excel, you’ll need to take a few things into account:
1. Price point of the merchandise.
It seems obvious that you should consider the price of the merchandise you are selling, but I think sometimes people can get this wrong. Cheaper isn’t always better! Remember, during a fundraiser you get a portion of the proceeds, so if your items are too inexpensive then you won’t be earning what you possibly could.
A good rule of thumb here is that the items really should be priced just a little higher than you are completely comfortable with, but not so high that it drains the financial resources of your supporters. This is something that is going to depend on the area you live in however. A lower income area will do better with items priced between $4 and $7 while a more affluent area should consider beginning at $10 and going as high as $20+. Money can be made reselling items you buy for $1 at $2, but it is a laborious process!
2. Live versus Order Forms.
A Live fundraiser means one in which you have the product in hand and complete the transaction all at once. Order form based fundraisers involve making sales and getting cash up front with the promise to deliver later.
Live fundraisers do best if there is a specific event that can be sold at. If there is a competition or tournament of some sort that your organization is attending these can be great places to directly approach people and raise money. It is especially helpful that you are able sell to people you may never see again, while with an order form that wouldn’t be possible. This can be really useful for organizations that need to raise a lot of money over time because after a while, their direct supporters (friends and family) may become less happy to continue buying. The organization really needs to get outside of its direct area of influence and get fresh money in! Live fundraisers can also do better in lower income areas because often these items will fit into the less expensive $4 to $7 price range previously referred to as being the lower income sweet spot.
Order Form based fundraisers work best if there already exists an extensive network of friends and family to take orders from. Generally speaking, it is relatively simple to get orders from people you don’t see every day but do see once a month or so by taking an order you will fill later, as opposed to somehow getting a candy bar to Grandma within a few days like in a live fundraiser. Order forms also give you the opportunity of going after the very valuable online social media sales and workplace orders that can drive a single seller into the many hundreds of dollars!
3. What sort of products.
Fundraising can happen with anything that can be sold! A quick google search will generate many dozens of different options for fundraising, and it can get fairly overwhelming to decide which one will be best for you. Here is quick rundown of some different kinds and what you can expect out of them:
a. Candy and snack foods.
This is the classic fundraising item, and for good reason. Nobody “needs” any of these things, but everyone wants them! With live fundraising it can be very effective to wave a fun snack in front of someone’s face and it is easy to convince them that they are breaking their diet for a good cause. Order form based fundraisers work very well with snack based items as well because, again, since there is no “need” for them a person can’t really use the excuse that they don’t need it in order to say no. In general, snack food based fundraisers are the most classic and safe option, and should always be given a thought when trying to decide which fundraiser to choose. If there is any negative, it is that it can be difficult to sell a huge number to any one person. Once they’ve bought the candy bar or know that the cookie dough or popcorn is on the way, they have little reason to get even more.
b. Durable goods like candles, shirts, or trash bags.
These are an interesting lot. Practically speaking, these items do not jump to people’s minds when they think fundraising, and for a pretty simple reason: they satisfy the “need” aspect much more than the “want” aspect, and as such, getting going selling them can be tougher. Definitely not something you want to be doing if you need some quick simple cash. It isn’t all bad however. The best part about the durable goods is that they are, of course, durable. Since they don’t go bad, you can possibly make some very large sales. You may find someone who could buy t shirts for the whole family or trash bags for a year or candles for the whole house. Because these things generally have a higher price point as well, it isn’t hard to imagine how these larger sales could potentially add up quickly. I would consider these more of an advanced fundraiser for an organization that has more experience and is quite sure that they have reliable supporters who can be called on to cough it up and make a longer term minded purchase in order to support the organization.
c. Discount cards.
Discount cards are a very unusual fundraiser because of their more complicated nature. An organization can’t just decide they are coming out with a discount card next week. There is a process of selling the individual coupons or deals and then printing the cards. This is not handled by the organization of course, but by the fundraising company. Because of the extra work that goes into creating the coupon card to begin with, it presents a unique situation: if you are a large, longstanding organization in the community it can be very easy to raise large sums of money with discount cards. If you are a smaller organization, you might not be able to get a discount card. Often, every year the football team or band of the local high school will put together a discount card fundraiser that goes really well. Great for them! What about everyone else though? There is a severe amount of diminishing returns with how many discount cards can exist in a given area. My opinion on these are that they are great for the people that can get them but that many don’t really have the opportunity.