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Expand Your Sales Force with Non-Profit Fundraising
Author: Marla Tabaka
Friday, November 10, 2017


Wouldn’t you love for people to volunteer to sell your product? Well, that’s exactly what you get when you skillfully position your product as the perfect fundraising vehicle for local organizations and causes.


“The fundraising industry generates $3.3 billion in annual sales, of which $1.4 billion goes to participating schools, churches and other organizations,” Jon Krueger, executive director of the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers told the Chicago Tribune. That’s a very large pie, but it is sliced in many pieces.

Fundraising is a complicated industry. There are professional fundraising organizations, allowing parent teacher organizations and other non-profits to hire professionals who organize everything for them. These professional organizers often create partnerships wherein they work with large manufacturers, like Yankee Candle, to create custom lines solely for purposes of fundraising. And, the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers, which can be found at www.afrds.org, sets the standards for those who wish to organize fundraisers for their own organization.

Still, there are local schools and non-profits that prefer to handle their own events; these are the people you might consider approaching. You’ll need to be organized and present a professional front with marketing materials and a program to help organizers achieve success. Remember, the people involved usually don’t have marketing and sales backgrounds, so any tools and assistance your program offers will set you apart from other companies.

Draft up a marketing plan.
Do your research on everything from pricing models and markups, to profit margins for both your company and the organization selling your product. Fundraisers usually receive at least half of the proceeds for selling a product, can you afford that? What minimum order guidelines will you put in place? How will you package your products; will you bundle them? Create unique names for the products and give some thought to what you will include in a ready-made sales kit. Again, the key is to have everything in place to make the job easy for volunteers and to make your product irresistible and easy to sell.

Do your homework.
Get your marketing plan to the point where your ideas are clear and your basic research is nearly complete. I don’t recommend going all out on it before you evaluate the odds of being accepted by local organizations. Test first, polish the plan later. Once you have your ideas and strategy outlined, speak to a few people about what they look for, what problems plague the process, and how your company can make their job easier. You may already know the right people through your children’s school, local churches or community organizations. Do your homework prior to investing more time into your plan.

Consider co-branding.
You can really pique an organization’s interest if you make it possible for their logo to appear on the packaging. Contact your graphic designer and printer to determine the cost of custom labeling and the minimum number of labels required. Printers may encourage a run of at least 500 labels to make it cost-effective, don’t let that discourage you. Even small groups can reach these numbers because they are motivated by their cause. This is a perk that other small companies may not think of or care to afford, so it may be worth the money and effort. Put that creative brain of yours to work and think about additional add-ons that other companies may not offer. Of course, make sure to run your numbers before making these decisions.

Find the right organizations.
Organizations often advertise their fundraising events in local newspapers. If your library keeps these on hand or archives them to their website, you can peruse the papers to find past fundraisers. Online searches may turn up contact information on your school district’s administrators, as well as the names of the PTO volunteer leaders. Of course, it always helps to know someone to open doors for you, even if it’s through a third-party introduction. Take time to contemplate who you know, as well as who they may know.

Build out your sales kit.
Design a prototype of your kit. It can include a simple order form to keep track of orders, payments and delivery information. If you are approaching schools, remember that your volunteer team of sales people are children; everything must be basic, yet efficient. Make it convenient for them by adding envelopes for checks and cash. Address possible concerns if children are selling your product by offering tips on safety–parents will appreciate your insights. Also, provide a basic script, making it easy for them to describe your product and ask for the purchase.

Utilize your website.
As you gain traction you may want to build a basic website for your fundraising company, or add a members-only section to your current site. Include videos featuring your safety and sales tips. Perhaps you’d like to let them download their own forms for the cost-savings benefits. Organizers may appreciate tools to help them keep track of sales. If you can afford to create a masterful video about your product for the homepage, all the better.

Do you see fundraising endeavors as part of your company’s future? Review your vision, business plan, and financial goals to make sure it’s a good fit. If it appeals to you, you’ll be involved in making a difference in your community—not a bad payoff.



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