3 questions companies should be asking you about your fundraiser
It’s that time of year again. Many schools are in the process of looking a fall fundraiser. This may also involve the unenviable task of talking to several different companies. Have you ever interviewed someone for an important job, and they simply said “yes” to everything you asked? Make no mistake, everyone wants someone who’s can tackle every item on our checklist in a proficient manner.
But do we really want “yes men”? The old adage that says, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”, definitely applies here. Our advice? Run for the hills if you’ve interviewed any fundraising companies and they answer you exactly the way you want them to. This usually means that you’re going to run into some surprises along the way. Nothing ever goes perfectly 100% of the time; however, that doesn’t mean that there’s not a solution to anything that can come up. Good companies who’ve been in the school fundraising business a long time already know this.
It may be that these company reps lack experience and haven’t been through enough situations; or their objective is to simply sign the business and ask questions later. Believe it our not, there are a lot of companies out there that have that mentality.
Most companies ask very few questions, but instead aim to assure you that your sale will run smoothly, and you will raise a lot of money. They really can’t tell you why your sale will thrive, they just know what your hot buttons are. And you guessed it, successful fundraisers that are easy to run are at the top of most schools lists.
Rather, when you’re interviewing a company, believe it or not, they should also be interviewing you. By the end of your meeting both sides will agree on any nonnegotiable parts, and where compromise can happen, the reason need to be clearly understood as well.
In other words, both sides have standards that they need to abide by. You and the company should be concerned about asking questions and getting answers. A successful interview is about coming to a complete understanding and agreement of how everything is going to work.
If you’re experienced enough as a school fundraiser sponsor and have examined your needs thoroughly, it’s inevitable that there will be some things that need to be hashed out. The same goes for the company. You should be able to express all of your needs, and the company needs to be able to explain in detail how those needs will be met.
Whenever we are approached by a school to do a sales campaign we hope they are prepared to ask us good questions. This tells us they've thought through what they want and expect. These schools tend to experience more successful sales results because they have clearly defined objectives.
Plus, what if there are some things you haven’t thought about that can make your sales campaign turn out even better? Good companies are supposed to get you to think outside the box. They should have lots of great fundraising ideas that will help your school exceed its expectations, not just meet them.
So, just as we expect questions from potential customers, here are 3 questions that good fundraising companies will need to know about your school as well:
1. Why are you fundraising?
We hope you have a well thought out purpose. Are you attempting to solve a real important need, or are you just selling because it happens to be that time of year? For example, schools that take the time to interview their staff, students and parents about what they think needs to be addressed, usually raise more money. Why? Because everyone will believe in the project intrinsically and will feel a part of it because their opinion mattered.
On the other hand, you may feel you need to have a campaign just because the fall is when you think you’ll raise the most money. Or perhaps someone came up with a great fundraiser idea that they’re convinced will be a hit. For many schools, fall is a more convenient time because they have a lot of testing going on in the spring.
Unfortunately these schools usually turn out to be less successful. We call this “zombie fundraising” because everyone ends up going through the motions without really addressing the “why”.
If you don’t have a good purpose yet, it’s the company’s job to help you define, develop, and promote it.
2. What types of fundraisers have you done?
For instance, there’s a big difference between schools that are experienced with catalog fundraising and schools that are new to this type of selling. We handle groups that have experienced it a little differently from those that are interested in trying it for the first time.
Sponsors who are not as familiar with this type of campaign will need to have the process explained to them in a little more detail. “Why are you considering a brochure fundraiser?” is probably one of the first questions we’ll ask. Ferreting out any questions that these inexperienced schools hadn’t thought about yet will be very important.
On the other hand, sponsors with experience will want to know how our program works, but will probably need to know more about how we're different from their previous company. And we hope they’ll have lots of questions for us.
3. How successful were you last time?
In other words, how much money did you raise? Knowing how much money you raised with your previous program, based on the number of students that you have, helps us understand how we can help you improve your sales results. Not only do we need to know what your enrollment is, but how many students actually participated last time. What type of prize incentive did you use? What promote strategies did you incorporate for your fundraiser? Did you offer any additional incentives? When we ask these questions, we’re looking to see how we can improve your student participation which is a key factor if you want to increase sales.
In order to help make your initial dialog as productive as possible, we recommend having a well-thought-out list of questions prepared. Since you’re looking to enter into an important working relationship with a company, it's important that both sides be able to come to a mutual understanding. The only surprise you should end up having is a pleasant one, once you find out how much money you made.