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Product sales are the most common form of fundraising in schools and other youth groups. For the most part, they are easy to organize, parents know what to do, and the results are fairly predictable. In addition, the amount of administrative oversight on a product sale is relatively low, when compared to other kinds of fundraising events like auctions or walk-a-thons. It's no wonder product sales have gained such popularity.
However, this kind of a fundraising activity is only successful if proper planning and forethought go into them. There are several factors that could sink your product sale, if you don't take care. Here are a few to keep in mind.
1. Think About Your Group's Overall Mission
It is wise to take your overall mission into account when deciding what product you want to sell. If you are oblivious to the nature of your organization, you run the risk of very low participation in the exercise, as well as the possibility of alienating the very people you desire to serve.
2. Provide Good Quality Products
When you are speaking to the company, I would even suggest asking them to send you a sample of the product ahead of time for you to judge the quality. If you don't do this level of background checking, you could end up having very dissatisfied customers who will be unlikely to support future sales from your school.
3. The Info Packet Should Be Easy to Read and Understand
Make sure that the information packet that contains all the information about the sale is concise and easy to understand. Put yourself in the shoes of parents with three or four kids. The amount of paper that funnels into their houses on a daily basis is unbelievable. If they can?t understand what they are supposed to do in just a page or two, you?re going to lose them. Don?t drown your families in paperwork.
4. Pick a Sale with a High Profit Sharing Plan
Make sure you truly understand how much money you will earn from each kind of product sale. I don?t recommend going with any company who won?t reward you with at least 50% of what your group sells. If the company wants more than 50%, you really have to ask yourself if it?s worth all the time and effort your community will put in. Also, will parents at large support the effort if it has such a low return? Be wary.
5. Think About Other Fundraisers in Your Community
There will be families who have multiple children, and they will all be selling something at some time. I would strongly recommend doing a little research within your community to find out when various sales forces will be in the field. The United Way, where I live, actually puts together a yearly calendar of all the non-profit fundraising events in our community, for this very purpose. It helps us avoid scheduling two auctions on the same night and so on.
6. Conduct a Formal or Informal Survey of Your Sales Force
One of the common complaints I?ve heard from parents is ?I don?t want anymore wrapping paper!? Or, whatever you happen to be selling. I realize that you can?t please everyone, but it wouldn?t hurt to ask for a wide range of input about what product you actually end up selling. Perhaps there is a trend for environmentally-friendly products or a strong desire for hand-made Christmas Wreaths. Each community is different. Don?t try to sell a square peg to a round hole school.
7. The Importance of Traditions
I have personally found that some parents struggle with fundraising overload. They have multiple children and all of them have something to sell. I, myself, have four children, so I am particularly sensitive to this concern. Therefore, I recommend that you try to find product sales that are so popular with parents that they actually look forward to selling them. I know you'll never please everyone, but this is still an effective strategy to follow. When I worked at the Christian school, there was a tradition of selling locally made Christmas wreaths. I was getting some feedback that we, as a school, were having too many small fundraisers, so I thought about cutting out the wreath sale. Once word got out about my plan, I was overwhelmed with admonitions to the contrary. Knowing that the wreath sale was as popular as it was took away so much pressure from me, it was a totally enjoyable sales experience.
Because product sales have become so popular, there is a wide variety of items to sell. You don't have to rush your decision and make a bad choice. By giving yourself time and by doing your homework before settling on an item, it is very likely you will reach the goals you set.
James Berigan is a former school principal who enjoys guiding schools with their fundraising efforts. He writes for the Top School Fundraisers blog at http://TopSchoolFundraisers.com/news which includes a variety of fundraising options like cookie dough fundraisers and chocolate fundraisers.
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