Why Fundraiser Prize Programs Need an Overhaul

Learn how company prizes can actually hurt student participation

Many sponsors don’t realize that most school fundraising companies that offer prizes with their brochure programs, provide them free of charge. We get a lot of submitted lead forms from interested schools that have ‘no prize program’ selected. Groups are obviously under the impression that if they add a prize program, it will come out of their profit.

Not cost? That’s the good news about fundraiser prize programs. The bad news is many are tired of the same prizes every year. Parents don’t even have to open up their student’s packet when they get home from school. They already know what to expect. And older more experienced students simply roll their eyes.

Are there any incentive plans out there that everyone can embrace and get excited about? Granted, the prizes are free to the school and are designed to get more students to sell, but it seems that once you’ve seen one program, you’ve seen them all.

Prize programs have become boring and predictable with the same cheap dollar store prizes at the lowest levels and off-brand me-too products at the higher levels. The hope is that the more exciting knockoffs will be enough to lure students to work harder to earn them. However, the goal is not to earn the bigger prizes but rather to just sell more than they ordinarily would.

This brings in more profit for both the school and the company, which is a ‘win-win’. And companies make even more profit if students fall just below their bigger and more expensive prize item levels.

Fundraiser companies are constantly hit up by prize suppliers with new ideas; however, most of what they have to offer is met with a dull roar at the consumer end. The options for companies are also somewhat limited because they have to keep the prices down to maintain their relatively slim margins.

Unfortunately the customer’s voice speaks loudest in the end and many parents can’t justify selling for trinkets unless they have other motivations. The bottom line is that they know that they can simply buy something similar at the dollar store, but at the same time they don’t want to disappoint their child. In the end, they are helping the school.

Here are some of the reasons that schools are looking elsewhere for fundraising options and for ways to incentivize more sales:

Parent Apathy about Student Incentives

It’s true, prize programs target the students as well they should. But what about the parents? Since they do most of the selling, it’s easy to see why the prizes don’t make them eager to approach friends and family. Even though their children may be excited about the prizes, that may not be enough.

Money is definitely being left on the table. Student participation is a key measuring stick that’s often used to determine the effectiveness of previous fundraisers. Many schools report to us that only about 15-20% actually take part. And this takes into account all students who have sold at least 1 item. There may be additional reasons for the low involvement; however lackluster prize programs appear to be playing a major role.

Learn how to get more students to sell

Fundraiser Prize Programs Discourage Older Students

Elementary schools are normally divided up into lower and upper grades. The lower grades which are the younger students are typically sell more than the older students. The primary reason is they haven’t been exposed yet to how the prize programs work.

On the other hand, the older more experienced students have, and they’ve expressed that they’re tired of these prizes by not selling. What do they know that their younger counterparts haven’t figured out yet? They understand that to win the bigger and better prizes they have to sell a bunch of items out of their brochure.

They’ve basically figured out the same thing that their parents already knew. The meaningless prizes at the lower levels aren't worth the effort and the better prizes are too hard to obtain.

Incentives are Targeting Younger Sellers

It appears that parents of the younger primary age students are doing the bulk of the selling. This is basically half of the school. These parents are still relatively new to the school and are usually more willing to help out. Their children are naively excited about the prizes and thus push their parents to sell.

It appears that most fundraiser prize programs are geared more towards the younger students. Just think about how much money you could raise if your older students became excited as well.

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