Fundraising FAQ

In fundraising, many of the same questions come up over and over, so I wrote this fundraising FAQ to help. Here are some questions that should give you some good ideas for your fundraisers.

Answers To Your Questions About Fundraising

1- How do I choose the right fundraising idea for my group?

There are several considerations when trying to decide what to do to raise funds. What is the size of your group, how much do you need to raise, how much time can you devote to the effort, what is the age range of your group, in what season will you be raising funds?

For example, you have 25 in your group and you need to raise $2000 within 60 days. Consider fundraisers that will net each participant $80 profit each. Since you have 60 days to complete your effort, you may choose to sell seasonal items from a catalog.

However, if you only have 30 days to complete the project, choose a cash and carry fundraiser. If you are selling in the fall, holiday items work well. Spring and summer months lend themselves to discount cards or discount cards that people can use at home or on vacation. Scrip works well if you have a tight timeline.

2- How do I recruit volunteers to help?

Build on past success. Often times, you can count on the same volunteers year after year. That includes parents, local businesses, and so on. Make sure you know what you need before you ask for help. How many people will it take to pull off your project? What jobs exactly need doing?

When you call for volunteers, clearly spell out what jobs are available, about how much time each job will require, the specific duties the job entails, and how badly you need help. Always specify your goal to potential volunteers including how the money raised will be spent.

Keeping your volunteers closely involved in the overall effort gives them a sense of ownership; that translates to higher performance no matter what you do to raise funds. Ask every volunteer if they know of someone that would also like to help.

Pull from area community groups and schools that reward or require community service. Don’t forget about those that volunteer year after year. By rewarding their help, you will continue to be able to count on them.

3- It seems like every organization is raising money at the same time. How do I differentiate our fundraiser from all the others?

Most groups tend to approach the same customers year after year. These are called your “usual suspects” and they are typically family, friends, and co-workers. One way to assure that you can approach them time and again is to thank them time and again. Let them know that because of them, your fundraiser last year was successful and your group reached its goal.

Always let your customers know why you are raising money. Be specific. For example, instead of saying, “XYZ group is having our annual fundraiser,” a better way is to say, while looking the potential customer in the eye, “XYZ team from ABC town/city/school is raising money for playoff travel expenses and we really need your help.”

Now your potential customer has a stake in your success. You have differentiated yourself from the elementary school kid that mumbled something about buying wrapping paper while staring at his shoes. Always remember that you cannot thank your supporters too much.

4- What if I don’t reach my monetary goal?

The best way to make sure you never have to address this question is to have several offerings for one fundraiser. Not everyone will want what you are offering, even if it’s for a good cause. It’s called an overlay; a secondary choice that overlays you primary offering.

Even if your primary offering is simply asking for donations, have something to “sell” as a backup. If you are selling a product, make sure you offer something else, even if it is asking for a donation in lieu of the purchase of a product.

To use an example, many groups sell products available by catalog. The customer orders one or more items from the catalog to be delivered at a later date. Not everyone will want an item in that catalog, so be ready with another offering such as a pizza discount card, or cash-and-carry boxed candy. Be sure to always mention that donations can be made instead of a purchase.

A great way to make sure your fundraiser is a successful as possible is to reach as many people as possible. This means going outside your comfort zone, or what we earlier called “the usual suspects.”

Set up tables in front of shopping areas (with permission of course) and work in shifts. Large signs clearly stating who you are and what you are raising money for put your efforts in front of more potential customers.

5 – How soon should I start planning our fundraiser?

Simple answer, immediately. The best fundraisers are those that have been carefully planned as far in advance as possible. Many groups are already planning for next year or next season while conducting this year’s fundraiser.

Use what you learned last time such as what suppliers to use, time lines that were successful, what product or service worked well. Pay particular attention to what did not work last time.

If the fundraising supplier was difficult to work with on shipping or returns, put that knowledge to work this time and ask the right questions far in advance. Now you have enough time to get it in writing. Ask far in advance what additional benefits you can receive my using the same supplier again. (But only if it was a positive experience!)

If last year you sold catalog products and you had too many late orders, maybe you should allow three weeks instead of two weeks for order placement.

If your offering was lack luster last year, it will be even less successful a second time. Change your offering whether it was a product, service, or event. You don’t have to do something completely novel, just something different than you did last time.

Planning well in advance gives you more time to line up volunteers that are best suited to the role they will play. It allows more time to plan your overlay offering. It allows plenty of time to consider customized offerings like logo merchandise and so on.

6- I’m new at this. What do I do now?

It is always best if the person or people organizing a fundraiser have something from past experience to go on. Not that you need to have done it yourself before, but that you can draw on the experiences of those who have.

Urge each volunteer to document his or her duties, calendars, contacts and so on. Collect these and make a simple binder that can be passed on.

If you have nothing like that to go on, contact other groups to find out about their fundraising experiences. Find a professional fundraising consultant to work with if the task is overwhelming. Their experience will more than make up for their fee or percentage.

7- My small group does the same thing, a car wash, every year. Shouldn’t we try something different?

Not necessarily. If you only need to raise a small amount of money in a short period of time, car washes are a great idea. If it continues to raise the amount you need every year, why switch?

These simple fundraisers are almost pure profit, and except for some planning and coordination time, are completed in a day or two. It offers something that people want, and acts as a team building event for the participants. Always price the service reasonably and make it very clear that you are also accepting donations.

8- How do I raise money on a grand scale?

A fundraising event typically raises more funds than most other types of fundraisers. It also requires more planning time and more volunteers than most other fundraising ideas. Autumn Festivals, Spring Carnivals, Black Tie Dine-Arounds, Silent Auctions, Casino Nights, and so on are very successful themes that work well.

Charitable Sporting Events, when organized well, are huge money makers. An organization in North Carolina, The Sisko Foundation, raises money for Breast Cancer with their “Raise A Racquet” theme.

Consider using a fundraising consultant if you go for the large event. Their knowledge and contacts will save time, effort, and money.