Fundraising Basics Part 1 – When you’re doing a fundraiser, you’re actually creating and running a small business on a temporary basis. This section on fundraising basics covers the operational details of running a fundraiser – preparation, organization, and execution.
The first thing you need to do is to conduct an annual needs assessment of your organization. Determine what your needs are and prioritize them. You can’t raise money for everything at the same time. Link specific fundraisers to specific needs.
Many times, it’s nearly impossible to get organized while you are in the midst of a large-scale fundraiser. Plan all aspects ahead of time in as much detail as possible. That way you can get a head start on many time consuming tasks. I relate this to having a few casseroles in the freezer just in case.
Define your ultimate objectives
Where do you want to be in six weeks? In six months? In a year? What are your success criteria? Is it really just raising money? Are you building a stronger organization going forward? What about strengthening your merchant ties and increasing your community involvement?
When was the last time you set detailed goals for anything besides revenue? This time around, spell out how you’ll get there by defining what it takes in each category – participation, average unit price, average seller revenue, percentage net, expenses, stretch goal, etc.
Break goals into subsections
Divide up the goals into smaller ones such as daily, per classroom, weekly, percentage participation by sub group, etc. That way you can track all the trends that spell success or disaster. See the Section on Record Keeping for more insight.
Get input on goals
Make sure that your goals aren’t mandated solely from the top of your organization. Use a survey form to gather input and suggestions. Hold informal meetings where everyone is free to speak their mind. Brainstorming now may prevent future “blamestorming” when the going gets tough.
Your goals should be derived from those discussions, benchmarked against last year’s results, based on current headcount, and reflective of any changes to that headcount. The numbers should be linked to a specific need that your group is trying to meet.
Type of fundraiser decision
Many factors affect the type of fundraiser that your group chooses to do. Product sales are the biggest money raisers. Events are of shorter duration, but produce lower revenue. Donations work best for causes or as a simple membership vehicle.
Boost the gross to boost the net
Generally speaking, the higher the gross revenue, the higher the net proceeds to your organization. So, if you want to maximize the amount your group raises, then pick a product fundraiser that is suitable for a group your size. See the Fundraiser Ratings for more information.
When choosing a company from among similar providers, don’t forget customer service. Turnaround time on orders, return process, problem resolution, handling of back orders, and ease of communication are all important aspects of how a company does business.
Trust is important
Look for companies with a “value add” approach. Trust is important. Don’t lose the trust of your customer base because you couldn’t trust your supplier to do the right thing when a mistake is made.
Limit quantity and emphasize quality
Do only a few major fundraisers with quality items and offer appropriately priced goods. Don’t ruin your reputation with shoddy merchandise to make a quick buck. In the end, it will only hurt your organization.
Specify all dates
Every fundraiser should have a clear beginning and end date. Lengths will vary based on the type of fundraiser you are conducting. Product sales are usually 10, 14, or 17 days in duration. If possible, slot each time span to provide multiple weekends, which is when most of the actual selling takes place.
For event-based fundraisers, have backup dates in case of bad weather or similar disruptions. Make sure that all dates are clearly communicated to all participants and supporters.
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