Common frustrations schools have with student prize programs
Almost everyone who’s witnessed a catalog fundraiser kickoff assembly at an elementary school can see how excited students get once they see the prizes. Their initial response is usually one of great optimism and anticipation. Everyone thinks they can win the biggest and best prize. Most leave excited, ready and eager to go out and make sales as a result.
However, frustration and discouragement sets in once they start selling and fully comprehend just how many items they have to sell to win the really desirable prizes. The way that most prize program work is the low-quality prizes are the easiest to obtain. To get to the bigger and better prizes, students have to sell a lot of items.
Yet most fundraising companies don’t want students to focus on the lower level prizes. Why? They want them aiming for the higher prize levels, even though they already know that most won’t reach them. This means that less money is spent on prizes by the company even though more revenue is generated overall because students still sell more than they would without these more desirable prizes. This benefits the company as well as the school, but not necessarily the students.
Students figure out quickly that in order to get the greater and more worthwhile prizes, reaching those levels on the prize brochure is much more difficult. This often leads to discouragement and disappointment. Most end up not selling, or selling very little. The 80/20 principal definitely applies in this case. 20% of the students do 80% of the work because there are a few parents and students that do put in the extra work.
This is a primary reason school fundraisers have low participation rates which in turn, negatively affects overall sales. Here are other reasons that schools have problems with company prize programs:
1. Parents are Tired of Them
Every year it seems that parents dread the student fundraising packet coming out of their child’s backpack. It gets worse because they see how excited their children are about the prizes. They then become the “bearer of bad news” when they have to explain how hard it will be to sell so many items to get the prize that little Johnny has his heart set on.
On the other hand, if they compromise and sell just a few items, they can win a cheap, junky prize. Unfortunately parents know they can get these types of prizes at the dollar store. Some parents will justify it by admitting that they're helping their child’s school. After all, no good parent will want their child left out of the fun, right?
2. Older Students Don’t Participate
If you’re wondering why your participation numbers are not where you’d like them to be it’s probably because of your older students. Seller apathy is a big reason many school fundraising sales numbers aren’t where sponsors would like them to be. Why? A big Older students are no longer involved because they know what to expect with the prize program.
If you watch the audience closely at a kickoff assembly, they’re the ones who are drowned out by the excitement of the younger students. They don’t need to be told by their parents that the better prizes will very difficult to work for because they already get it. Just think what your sale could be if you could find a way to get more of these students involved.
3. Prize Quality is Unacceptable
Statistics will show, the majority of students who sell, only qualify for the first 1-2 prize levels. And once these students get their hands on the prizes they’re often disheartened by the quality. The prizes either break after a short time period or worse, they don’t work like they’re supposed to.
Even some of the better prizes can be somewhat disappointing. For example, many students who win electronic devises find the quality to not be up to par with named brand equivalents. As a result students who have previous experience with fundraisers end up less motivated to sell the following year.
So why do schools continue to select these types of prize incentives to motivate their students to sell? Perhaps they don’t realize that there are other viable options out there.
4. Prizes Can Send a Wrong Message
Should students be motivated to raise money for their school, only so they can win prizes? Many people are asking this question. What makes matters worse in the eyes of some are that these same students are used as pawns to sell unhealthy junk food. They also feel that this goes against what mandated school health policies are attempting to do to help control childhood obesity.
Some school districts have even gone so far as to ban student rewards for participating in fundraisers. Check out the fundraising guidelines page for Rockwall Independent School District.
The Bottom Line
Schools need money and will always resort to what works. According to a 2016 article in Selling to Schools, an educational insight resource, the majority of the roughly $2 billion schools bring in each year are from traditional fundraising sales. These sales numbers are consistent with the findings reported by Association of Fund-Raising Distributors & Suppliers (AFRDS), an independent trade association devoted exclusively to the product fundraising industry. And what is the key motivator that drives these types of fundraisers? Prize programs.
But are there better and even more meaningful ways to incentivize students for participating in catalog fundraisers? We think there is. Instead of offering poor quality prizes that don’t last, why not incentivize your students with a fun, exciting, and even education school event instead? These types of incentives may not solve every problem schools face, but they’ve been proven to move things in the right direction, including significantly improving student participation and sales. For more information, visit our Big Event Prize Programs section.