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How much do you need to raise? How are you going to use the money? Who is your target population to get the money from? All these are questions you need to think about carefully before you decide HOW you are going to get the money.

Deciding the strategy for raising funds is one of the most important steps in meeting the goal. Yes, there are many good opportunities and gimmicks for raising funds. Selecting the best one for your organization is sometimes difficult. Weigh factors of potential profits against the time and effort required to implement the fund-raiser and if there are other reasons to use this particular strategy.

Often you cannot raise the total amount from a single effort and multiple programs are needed. Know the potential amount of money any single fundraising program can raise and use this information as part of the strategy to decide on what different programs will work best. Building a series of efforts over a year is often more productive than a single campaign.


Direct Solicitation
Scrip Programs
Participation Events
Selling Merchandise or Services

Direct Solicitation 

Usually the best fundraising effort is to simply ask for the money. State how much you need and for what purpose and then communicate the need to people who can give toward the cause. The key to success in this strategy is to find the target audience who can afford to give and is sympathetic to the “cause”. The “letter” is also important because it must communicate clearly what you want, why and ask for money. Who the letter if from also will influence the results.

In a school, if the parent population can afford to give the amount required, this is the obvious target. The community business and resident population is the secondary target but also important. If the parent population cannot afford to give the amount required, you must research the alternative resources in the community. Local businesses both large and small often are the most productive target.

SCRIP Programs 

A “no cost to purchaser program” that works well to raise funds are SCRIP programs. Local merchants are donating a percentage of their revenues from SCRIP certificates sold by the organization. This helps to promote the business as well as raising funds. There are National organizations who organize SCRIP programs or they can be done locally. It is an effective way to raise funds, but requires a substantial time to organize and promote the program. It also often entails a cash flow of significant funds that must be managed carefully. The profits from SCRIP programs on average can range from 5 to 10% of sales and is a good ongoing fundraising program.

Participation Events

“Thons” and Participation Events have excellent potential to raise funds in various ways. They also serve to bring the community together. Events require many hours to organize and implement, but offer more different opportunities for fundraising within the single event.

Whether it is a Walk, Run, Skip, or Dance-A-Thon, Fashion Show, Entertainment Production, or Auction it can be a success with good planning, promotion and enthusiasm. Events where pledges are made ahead of time or where tickets are sold as the primary focus for funds must also include other fundraising efforts.

Don’t forget to sell advertising in the program, include t-shirts or other merchandise to promote the event, include other mini events within the event such as face painting or bake sales to add to the potential revenues. Even be sure to put a collection box for direct cash donations at the event. These extras can sometimes even exceed the primary fund-raising focus of the event.

Selling Merchandise or Services

Deciding what to sell is difficult. There are many good programs offered by companies who will help with all the paperwork and organization required for merchandise sales. Analyze these carefully. Give first consideration to the questions “What will sell to our target community?” and “How much would be earn from this program?”. Also look into what else might be available that would work better before you decide. Brainstorming is an excellent technique for this decision process.

Merchandise varies according to what it is and the potential profits. Candy, Holiday Cards and Gift wrap seem to be popular choices where there are several Fundraising Program Companies to help. There can be higher revenue potentials in T-Shirts, Coffee Mugs or other merchandise but more work to organize and find good sources. You might consider a safety campaign and sell First Aid or Disaster Preparedness Kits as both a fund raiser and community awareness project. Look for a good Promotional Products Counselor in your area who would be willing to work with you on this effort.

Sometimes there are big results from small efforts. Look for high profit margin items and good selling opportunities. For example, arrange with local shopping centers to sell Balloons at local shopping center events. Balloons and the helium may cost around 20¢ – 25¢ (for big ones) each and you can sell them for $1.00 or more at an event. To generate even more money you could get merchants to donate certificates to put inside the balloons and then sell the “surprise” balloons with certificates inside for $10.00 or $20.00 each (or more)!

Pick the right merchandise or service to sell to the right target audience and this type program will work. Be creative. Find the best opportunities. It does require substantial effort and organization, but it can be effective. Getting students involved is a good learning opportunity for them.

Don’t Forget to Thank Your Donors and Volunteers

A simple thank you note goes a long way. Don’t forget to recognize those who give and those who volunteer to make your fundraising effort work. Although incentives and rewards is another topic, it is important to remember that your next success may depend on your showing your appreciation now.

Appendix of Fund-Raising Ideas – Merchandise Sales

The following are just a few alternative ideas for fund-raising merchandise programs:

Cookbook Programs – a great way to earn funds for an organization.

Balloon Surprise – Get merchants to donate gift certificates. Put the certificates inside of helium balloons. Sell the balloons at an event for $10. or more each. Recipients pop the balloon to see what they get. Balloons alone at a children’s event can be a big money maker as well.

Pencils – Fun printed pencils can be an excellent fund raiser at schools. Buy these either with school spirit designs or with sport designs. Pencil cost should be less than 25¢ and you can sell them for 50¢ to $1. each depending where and how they are sold. (Fun Erasers work too!)

Safety Program – Sell First Aid or Disaster Preparedness kits along with basic information about safety and preparing for disasters. This is both a fund-raiser and a community service.

T-Shirts – One of the best choices if the design is good. Buy for $5 – 8 each sell for $15 -18 each, a goo margin of profit. Consider a basic white shirt with simple black line art that can be colored in with permanent fabric markers. This makes an excellent activity for kids and keeps the cost of the shirt low for maximum profits.

Summer Fun Kits – Sets of plastic tumblers for around a pool, play toys like flyers or yo-yos, bottles of water at a summer event or even packets of sun protection lotion can make excellent summer fund-raising merchandise with good potential profits.

Personalized Greeting Cards/Stationery – Personalized Cards and Stationery can be a good fund-raiser at a meeting or gathering where orders would be convenient to take. These can also be done with a coloring contest to design cards to be sold.

Mugs & More Mugs – Mugs are very popular and make an excellent fund-raising item. You can get a simple white ceramic mug for around $1.50 each (plus set up and freight) if the design is good they can sell for up to $5. each. Or you can try the popular travel mugs or the stainless steel tumblers and mugs that also offer potential high mark up for bigger results.  There was one example where a thermoses and two mugs were sold at a very high mark up for a Sports Fund Raising Event.

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