Minimize late orders by using three simple steps.
No one likes a straggler. They hold up the line, make everybody late, and worse, put us all in a bad mood. If everyone else can make sacrifices to meet deadlines, why can't these procrastinators? You aim to achieve a smooth and fast school fundraising money collection day.
Waiting for late orders to come in can be stressful while simultaneously creating frustration for the rest of your parents. If you delay mailing your order, be prepared for delayed delivery on the back end and phone calls from unhappy parents.
It's never too early to start thinking about your money collection date. Setting it up properly requires advanced discussion and strategic planning. How do you envision the process happening? Your teachers will likely collect the money from their students and turn it in to you. Easy enough. But how will that happen?
Research has shown that most sales are made within the first 3 or 4 days after the kickoff. Your main objective should therefore be to have your students reach their individual money goals as quickly as possible. We recommend two full weeks of selling. During the first week, you're working to generate as many sales as possible, while a good portion of the second week is spent reminding sellers to start thinking about your turn-in date.
It's worth mentioning that contrary to what you may think, giving people more time to sell won't necessarily translate into a more significant profit. Additional selling time removes the 'sense of urgency' and often leads to procrastination and complacency. Prolonged sales can also be harder on you because you have to manage and oversee the fundraiser for longer.
Consequently, everything about your sale should be geared around "Money Day". PTO Today, an online school fundraising resource, shares money-handling tips in one of their articles. They even suggest that you give people the option to turn in money before the deadline. For more information, refer to the section under 'Handling the Money'.
Here are three things you can do to ensure a productive money turn-in day.
1. Emphasize Your Turn In Date
As mentioned, make sure your end date never leaves the minds of your sellers. You should constantly reinforce the due date with everyone, including your school staff and parents. Not only is it important to announce it at your kickoff meeting but throughout your sale as well. Publicize your end date in your parent letter and on social media.
Sponsors can utilize our school fundraising guidebook, including bilingual parent reminder notices you can send home. Even if you think people are sick of hearing it, your goal is to keep emphasizing when order forms and money are due.
2. Set Consequences for Late Orders
Be ready for the stragglers beforehand with a late order policy already in place. If you decide to accept order forms after your end date, let people know how much time they have. We suggest a 2-day extension. Then stick with it. Otherwise, the continual one or 2-item late orders will drive you crazy. The one exception might be someone who has contacted you in advance and will be turning in a larger order. You can handle these on a case-by-case basis.
On our fundraising timeline page, we ask our sponsors to mail in their order forms one week after their end date. In reality, this gives you time to deal with most stragglers. However, we're all familiar with the saying, "Give an inch, and they'll take a mile". If you tell people they have another week to turn in their orders, they may "exceed your expectations".
Yet, we even have a plan for the 'late-late' orders. We recommend faxing in any late orders that come in after you've mailed in your order within two days. Any orders that come in after that are not guaranteed to arrive with the original order. And don't be afraid to tell people that. Of course, it's up to you whether you accept any late orders.
See 7 Habits of Highly Successful Sponsors
3. Follow the School Fundraising Plan
You may find it difficult at times to stick with your plan. If you waiver, you'll make the money collection process much more difficult for yourself. No matter how tempted you might be to cut corners or make exceptions, avoid doing so if possible. If people see that you're enforcing your policies consistently, they'll be more apt to fall in line.
On the other hand, there's room for flexibility within the structure. Just use your best judgment. Following these principles will help ensure a successful fundraiser turn-in day because people will know in advance what you expect.
For more information on this subject, check out another article that we wrote called Best Fundraiser Tips: How to Get Money Turned in Quickly.
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Clay Boggess has been designing fundraising programs for schools and various nonprofit organizations throughout the US since 1999. He’s helped administrators, teachers, and outside support entities such as PTAs and PTOs raise millions of dollars. Clay is an owner and partner at Big Fundraising Ideas.