August 24, 2009
Back to school: No brainer fundraisers
Karin Piper/Charter Schools Examiner
Economic challenges are facing our schools in multitude of ways including reduced funding, budget cuts––and less income from fundraisers.
Education providers may be counting on its families more than ever to step up monetary contributions, but that may be overly optimistic this year.
Many families are living the same frugal financial reality as the organizations they wish to support, willingness to contribute does not always equal ability to do so.
We are not yet out of August, and doorbells are already ringing hot from pint-sized sales people. Coupon books, frozen pastries and gourmet popcorn have already been pitched, sold and rejected.
It was the uniform-clad popcorn salesman who got me thinking. I didn’t realize that he had knocked on the door more than once, until I opened the door, and halfway scared the kid to death.
“Uhm…I rang twice because your garage door is open,” he explained. Without flinching he broke into a well prepared spiel about helping out his troop so that he would have a chance to go to camp this year. He skillfully displayed the glossy brochure with specialty popcorn and closed the sale by asking for my business. While I was digging through my purse for my checkbook to buy the $10 basic tin, he shared that if he sells $175 worth of popcorn, his family does not need to pay for his camping trip.
“What if you don’t make your sales goal?” I asked. I should probably add that this was not the first year I’ve bought something from this troopster, so I’m not that really a creepy stranger.
He looked at his sneakers and replied:
“My mom says we’ll figure something out.”
So what are schools, and other non-profit organizations that rely on donations, to do in a tough economy? What kind of money raising activites are not met with blinds pulled and unanswered doors, like it’s past 8 o’clock on Halloween eve?
Some schools are turning to less traditional fundraisers. These income boosters are what’s called the “no-brainer fundraisers.” What fundraiser is a no-brainer? The kind that do not ask supports for anything beyond their ordinary behaviour or purchases. For example:
- School supplies: Most of us venture on a wild-goose-chase at the end of each summer with list in hand, like school supply scavenger-hunters. Companies like School Tool Box offer an option. Participating schools send out an order form to families and you can have the supplies sent directly to the school off the teacher wish list. Prices are competitive, you don’t have to drive from store to store to find graph paper, and the school makes a cut.
- Gift card sales: Grocery stores will sometimes sell giftcards with a certain return to the school. One school has been selling $25 giftcards to the nearby grocerychain and $5 is returned to the school for profit. The cards are also good at the gas station. Do you spend $25 a week in groceries or gas?
- School uniforms: Charter school students are often required to adhere to specific dress code. Check with the local school attire providers. Many will give back a portion of sales to participating schools. Online stores like www.frenchtoast.com have affordable price points, set up dress suggestions specific to your school, make custom embroidery–and donate a portion of the sales.
- Used clothing and books: What did you do with last year’s required reading and outgrown, but just fine, uniforms? Donate them to the school for resale.
- Recycling: Schools can set up recycling bins for all sorts of items: retired cell phones, batteries, ink cartridges, cans, bottles, and plastic bags. This no-brainer fundraiser not only permits everyone to participate, but teaches a lesson in caring for our environment too. Ask for details from organizations like Phoneraiser, fundraisingweb, and thinkrecycle.
- Sponsorships: How much money do local businesses spend on advertising on shopping carts, move-in packets, and direct mail? Some are open to making purchases for your school in exchange for advertising. One orthodontist in Colorado purchased jerseys for all the local youth
- athletic teams in exchange for sporting his business name and phone number on the back of each shirt. Clearly guidelines for this type of business agreement need to be thought through, but under the right circumstances it can be a smart match for both school and vendor.
- Food: The path to a man’s wallet is through his stomach. Okay, so maybe that’s not how it goes, but honestly we have to eat even when going gets tough (maybe especially so). It is pricepoint that matters here. Think about local restaurants that will give back money to the school should patrons mention your fundraiser, or old fashioned bake sales, or drink sales during school sport events.