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Ten FAQ's about Product
WHAT IS PRODUCT FUNDRAISING ?
WHY IS PRODUCT FUNDRAISING EFFECTIVE?
HOW CAN WE PREVENT OUR PARENTS
AND OTHER SUPPORTERS FROM BURNING OUT ON FUNDRAISING?
WHAT PERCENT OF FUNDRAISING SALES
SHOULD ORGANIZATIONS RECEIVE?
ARE INCENTIVE PROGRAMS ESSENTIAL
FOR MOTIVATING VOLUNTEERS? WHAT'S APPROPRIATE?
DOES A PRODUCT FUNDRAISING SALE
REQUIRE "DOOR-TO-DOOR" SOLICITATION?
IS IT APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN TO PARTICIPATE?
WHO ARE PRODUCT FUNDRAISERS?
WHY SHOULD COMPANIES BENEFIT FROM FUNDRAISING EFFORTS?
WHAT IS THE ASSOCIATION OF
FUND-RAISING DISTRIBUTORS AND SUPPLIERS?
Evaluating Fundraising Companies: Four Key Areas
IS THE COMPANY OFFERING A HIGH CALIBER,
HOW WILL THE COMPANY'S PROGRAM MEET THE FUNDRAISING
GOALS OF YOUR GROUP?
DOES THE PROGRAM INCLUDE STRAIGHTFORWARD LOGISTICS?
DOES THE COMPANY HAVE A STRONG TRACK RECORD?
SPECIAL ONLINE CONSIDERATIONS
FAQ's about Product Fundraising
WHAT IS PRODUCT
Schools, school groups and other small non-profit organizations
find many creative ways to raise funds -- from bake sales, spaghetti
dinners, auctions and school carnivals to more aggressive advertising,
affinity programs, grant writing and straightforward donation requests.
But few fundraisers are more reliable for reaching specific fundraising
goals than a good product sale.
Product fundraising has been around for over a century.
It typically involves the purchase and re-sale of popular consumer
products by a non-profit group whereupon the group sponsoring the
sale keeps a portion of the gross sales. Products can be purchased
in bulk and paid for in advance by the organization, then re-sold
to supporters. Volunteers may order products using catalogues and
other methods. Supporters pay for the product when the order is
placed or upon final delivery.
WHY IS PRODUCT FUNDRAISING EFFECTIVE?
Product fundraising usually involves a professional
fundraising company - and often a sales representative - which serves
as liaison between the product supplier and volunteers responsible
for the fundraising drive. These companies provide advice, trouble-shooting,
support, products, guidance and other valuable services that can
reduce volunteer time and energy and maximize sales. Special events
and other "do-it-yourself" fundraising methods are more labor-intensive
and frequently yield smaller results. Product sales work because
results are fast and people like buying products for a worthy cause.
Last year, non-profit groups netted approximately $2 billion by
HOW CAN WE PREVENT OUR
PARENTS AND OTHER SUPPORTERS FROM BURNING OUT ON FUNDRAISING?
Three simple suggestions: 1) Set clear goals and
firm deadlines. Communicate fundraising goals and important
dates often to parents and teachers, along with frequent progress
reports. 2) Do a few and do them well. When it comes to fundraising,
less is more. Don't make constant pleas just for the sake of fundraising.
Communicate early on your goals and fundraising plans for the year.
Families are more supportive if they understand and support one
or two tangible goals. 3) Know what others are doing. Share
dates and other important info with other fund-raising groups in
the community to avoid duplicating efforts. See Edge articles
Fatigue and Avoiding Burnout.
WHAT PERCENT OF FUNDRAISING
SALES SHOULD ORGANIZATIONS RECEIVE?
Percentages of sales offered to non-profit groups vary
widely depending on the type of products being sold and the services
offered by the fundraising company. Too often, fundraising coordinators
equate financial success directly with the percentage of gross sales
that their group will keep. Rather, volunteers should be focused
on how the combination of product quality, company services and
percent of profit to be received will all work together to help
the organization meet its total fundraising goal. See Fundraising
Fundamentals section Reaching Financial Goals and Edge article
on Percentage Profit.
ARE INCENTIVE PROGRAMS
ESSENTIAL FOR MOTIVATING VOLUNTEERS? WHAT'S APPROPRIATE?
Organizations eager to reach their goal often add an
"incentive program" to their fundraising effort. Although the goal
itself is motivation enough for some volunteers, prize or award
programs can contribute significantly to the success of a program.
Incentive programs are designed to encourage and reward participation
and add an element of fun, encouraging broad participation of volunteers
so that the burden of meeting the organization's goal does not fall
to a dedicated few. Indeed, the majority of fundraising prizes actually
distributed today are simple tokens (stickers, pencils) to recognize
It is important that school administrators and parent
groups work closely with fundraising companies to ensure incentive
programs are appropriate for their students. As stated in AFRDS
Standards for Professional Practice, companies should be sensitive
to the potential negative impact of placing undue emphasis on sales
incentives. See Edge articles appropriate
award systems and how
to select incentives.
DOES A PRODUCT FUNDRAISING
SALE REQUIRE "DOOR-TO-DOOR" SOLICITATION?
For some people, product fundraising has mistakenly
become synonymous with the term "door-to-door sales." In fact, most
product fundraising sales are made to parents, family members, friends
and close neighbors. A successful product fundraising drive does
not require volunteers - young or old - to canvass neighborhoods.
Parents are very involved with these programs, often soliciting
support from co-workers. See Edge article on Child
IS IT APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN
School fundraising drives are often a child's first
taste of volunteer service. If presented and supervised properly
by a parent, coach or teacher, a fundraising project to support
school or extra-curricular activities can build a child's confidence,
self-esteem, sense of responsibility, good manners, planning and
budgeting skills, to name a few.
However, children, should never be allowed to sell door-to-door
unless directly supervised by a parent or responsible adult. According
to the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers, fundraising
companies, school and organization leaders and parents must be diligent
in assuring that children participate in fundraisers in a safe manner.
See Edge article on Child
WHO ARE PRODUCT FUNDRAISERS?
Product fundraisers are companies that provide products
and services to schools, parent-teacher organizations, booster clubs,
church groups, youth sports leagues, scouting groups and other non-profit
organizations to assist them in their fundraising programs. These
companies have the knowledge and expertise to help groups select
safe, effective approaches to fundraising. There are large national
companies that specialize in fundraising as well as many smaller,
family owned businesses that collectively employ thousands of men
and women who justifiably take great pride in helping schools and
other organizations raise money. Product fundraisers are also sometimes
referred to as fundraising distributors.
WHY SHOULD COMPANIES BENEFIT FROM FUNDRAISING EFFORTS?
Fundraising companies provide products and services
to help schools and non-profit groups. Like all other services schools
may utilize, professional fundraising services do come with a price.
But the rewards of a good relationship with a fundraising company
are well worth the investment. The portion of the gross proceeds
that go to the fundraiser cover the company's costs of doing business,
including: 1) the cost of the products and other materials (e.g.
brochures, order forms, parent letters); 2) the costs associated
with services such as stocking and handling inventory, packing, shipping
and troubleshooting; and 3) a fair profit so that the company can
provide service year after year.
WHAT IS THE ASSOCIATION
OF FUND-RAISING DISTRIBUTORS AND SUPPLIERS?
The Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers
is an international association of more than 600 companies that
provide products and services to non-profit organizations to assist
in fundraising programs. AFRDS and its members are dedicated to
promoting professionalism and integrity in product fundraising.
The group established the industry's first and only Code of Ethics
and Standards for Professional Practice in product
Evaluating Fundraising Companies:
Four Key Areas to Cover
Choosing a fundraising company is much like choosing
a business partner or hiring a new employee. It's important to work
with a company that can be trusted - and who can deliver. When interviewing
fundraising companies, non-profit groups should prepare a list of
key questions. Download a copy of AFRDS Fundraising
Checklist for a comprehensive list of questions.
IS THE COMPANY OFFERING
A HIGH CALIBER, PROFESSIONAL PROGRAM?
Are the products high in quality and something the organization
can be proud to stand behind? How is safety addressed? Does the
company discourage unsupervised door-to-door sales? Will adult supervision
be stressed? How will these points be communicated to volunteers?
What promotional materials and/or incentive programs will the company
provide? Are the materials appropriate and good in quality?
HOW WILL THE COMPANY'S
PROGRAM MEET THE FUNDRAISING GOALS OF YOUR GROUP?
How will the company's program meet the fundraising
goals of your group? What time and energy saving services (tallying,
individual student and/or classroom packing, etc.) does the company
offer and how much will these services cost? Rather than focus on
percent of profit your group receives, ask what real dollars a group
similar to yours in size and scope can expect to raise? Does the
retail price of the products represent a fair market value? Will
there be a written agreement?
DOES THE PROGRAM INCLUDE
How will the program work? Are products paid for in
advance or upon delivery? Will the company provide volunteers with
easy-to-understand, comprehensive guidelines for record keeping?
Does the company understand and comply with your state's sales tax
laws? How are products shipped and when? Who pays the freight? What
is the policy on damaged or unsold products? Will out-of-stock items
be back-ordered or will substitutions be provided? How quickly will
the group be notified if there is a problem and given a plan for
how the problem will be resolved?
DOES THE COMPANY HAVE
A STRONG TRACK RECORD?
How long has the company and the individual representative
been in the product fundraising business? How quickly will you be
able to reach the company or individual representative should the
need arise? How good has their program worked for other groups similar
in size? Can the company/representative provide references? (Ask
references if the company met fundraising goals? Was the representative
responsive? Would the group work with this company again? ) Is the
company a member of the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors
& Suppliers? And does it follow the industry's Code of Ethics
for Professional Practice established by the Association?
Most online fundraising programs are designed as
online "store-fronts or shopping malls" offering rebates based
on a percentage of the purchase back to non-profit groups designated
by the online shopper. When considering an alliance with an online
fund-raising company, apply the same rigorous research as you
would a traditional fund-raising company. In addition, experts
Clarify the percentage of the rebate being offered.
If the company offers 70%, does that actually mean 70% of the
5% rebate provided by the retailer? Also, different retailers
on a given site often offer different percentages and these
percentages may change as traffic increases.
Ask about residual income. Will your group receive
rebates from purchases made by repeat customers?
How often are payments made? Find out if there is
a minimum amount of money that must be reached before the company
issues a check. How are returns handled?
Is the company's web site and technology easy for
supporters to navigate and make purchases?
names and personal data be sold to others? Most electronic commerce
sites display their privacy policies. If there is no formal
policy, it's safe to assume the company is willing to sell its
How much marketing support will the company provide?
Some have customer service representatives who can provide help
by phone, e-mail or in-person. Many offer printed materials
to help promote the fundraiser.
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