How to craft the ultimate pitch for your fundraising product
Fundraising programs for your school are, on a practical level, extremely effective ways to close critical funding gaps and ensure your school has the resources it needs for your child to be successful in their education. In addition to quality products and compelling prize programs, one of the key elements of a successful product fundraiser is the big pitch.
Since many product fundraisers rely on person-to-person selling, this often means that students are the ones making the all-important ask. At Big Fundraising Ideas, we know this is a critical moment in the fundraising process, so we’ve put together a guide with five outstanding tips to help prepare your students to be successful in their money raising efforts.
Together, we’ll walk through the basics of crafting a compelling sales pitch that will help your students develop strong public speaking, sales and persuasive skills while meeting big goals to earn industry leading rewards.
In his acclaimed book, To Sell is Human, Daniel Pink makes a critical observation that will guide our fundraising pitch: “To sell well is to convince someone else to part with resources—not to deprive that person, but to leave him better off in the end.”
When your fundraiser is product-based, you have the tremendous benefit of offering something in exchange, rather than relying on the even more difficult sale of pure philanthropy. Sure, your customer base—friends, family, neighbors and coworkers—will be giving up a small sum of cash, but if you sell well, the product they get in return and the intangible benefit of helping their community succeed will seem like an absolute bargain.
With the idea of “leaving him better off in the end” in mind, consider these five tips to guide your fundraising efforts and the creation of your personal sales pitch:
- Be mission-minded: sell the what and the why.
- Learn your product.
- Practice your pitch.
- Monitor the pressure.
- Serve the customer.
School Fundraising Pitches Should Be Mission-Minded
Fundraising for your school isn’t just a gratuitous act; more than likely, your school is trying to meet real needs that will make a real difference in the quality of life. With teachers getting less and less of a budget for school supplies—some as little as $1.60 per student, according to a Time Magazine report—fundraisers may mean the difference between barely getting by and thriving in the classroom.
When sitting down with your child or student to draft a fundraising product sales pitch, explicitly include what it is that your elementary, middle or high school is trying to accomplish with the funds raised. Consider the following examples:
- “My school is trying to raise money for five new computers for our media center.”
- “My school didn’t get enough money this year to cover any experiential learning, and research shows this is critical to student success.”
- “Our classrooms have outdated textbooks, many of which are falling apart. We’d like to buy a new class set so we can all have the same opportunity to learn.”
- “The neighborhood high school can’t subsidize the extracurricular sports or arts program as it has in the past. Without this fundraiser, students might not have those programs, which hinders their current academic success and future opportunities.”
The “need” forms the basis of your mission. In a previous article, we shared why the mission should be the fuel for your communication strategy, which includes the all-important in-person sales pitch:
When your fundraising strategy has a product at the core of its operation, you must connect this product to the good work being done as a result of its sales if you want to retain donors annually and fight the attrition present in exhausting and inefficient fundraising programs.
There’s no doubt they’ll love the pretzels, cookies and flowers you’re selling them; but what they really need to love to feel good about their purchase is the difference it’s making. You can accomplish this by framing your fundraiser with a strong mission.
In short, don’t lag or shortchange your mission. It accomplishes what Pink suggests by showing the customer how they, and their community, will be better off if they buy what you’re selling. Once you’ve covered the platitudes (Hi, Ms. Greene, how are you?, etc.) get right to your mission. It’s the hook that will put people in the right frame of mind for you to share about your product, and receive this information in a way that is more likely to turn a lead into a sale.
School Fundraising Pitches Should Show a Love of Product
When your school selects a product, they’re giving students and other sellers a significant advantage in the fundraising marketplace by providing an opportunity to learn and love this money-making tool. When preparing for your sales pitch, it’s important that you, too, develop a personal love of the product you're selling.
Start by spending some time reading the information provided to you by your school fundraising committee, such as the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). If you can, do some research of your own and read online reviews to find out what customers who have purchased a particular brand of a product have especially enjoyed about it.
Geoffrey James, contributing editor at Inc.com, suggests “The most successful entrepreneurs never "sell" as a separate activity and neither do the most successful salespeople. Whether their passion is to change the world or just help people one by one, it's that passion that does the "selling."
While your mission fuels a significant part of this passion, so does your product or idea. If, for example, you’re choosing a popcorn fundraiser, tell your customers about how you’re excited to get your own, because your family always makes popcorn a feature of your family movie nights. Share with them how it’s guaranteed to be a fresh and flavorful snack, or a great treat for the kids. Popcorn isn’t just a salty (or sweet!) treat, but a way to bring people together.
You’re probably feeling a little bit more empowered by popcorn after reading that, right? A strong mission followed up by a personalized message accentuating all the great benefits the customer will receive by buying your fundraising idea is a one-two punch in the sales world.
School Fundraising Pitches Should be Practiced
Any public speaking expert will tell you that practice is the key to becoming an effective public speaker. By practicing, you’ll gain a tremendous amount of confidence out in the field, which will translate positively to your customers, who will feel that you know and believe in your product.
Over and over again, clients ask, “TJ, do I really have to watch myself? I hate watching myself on video!” Sorry, but you do. The same way you have to read a letter before you send it or look at yourself in the mirror at least once before you leave for work in the morning. Is it painful to watch yourself? Yes. But this is less painful than wasting the time of people you are speaking to because you were boring or hard to follow. So grab a video camera, a cell phone with video capture, a Webcam, or any other video device and record your speech. Then watch it.
His analogy is perfect—anything we want to improve, we seek feedback on, often being our own harshest critic in the process. Consider this: won’t you have the most confidence and be able to deliver the strongest pitch if you’ve seen it yourself and worked through the rough spots?
In addition to increasing your self-confidence in your pitch, practicing will help you maintain brevity. Ideally, the selling situation will end up being a natural and comfortable conversation, but it’s your job to deliver that initial two to three minutes of high-impact pitching, and that’s the powerful piece you should internalize before hitting the neighborhood to sell your fundraising product. And, speaking of a time frame, U.S. News offers some great tips on short and punchy “elevator pitch” writing that can take your selling conversation to the next level.
School Fundraising Sales Pitches Should Monitor the Pressure
Everyone who has ever picked up the phone only to be greeted by a solicitor of some kind knows the discomfort of having to engage with a high-pressure sales person. This is true even when we need the product they’re selling.
Sales pressure is experienced when the consumer feels that they are being cornered or otherwise coerced to make a purchase they’re not ready and/or willing to make. Typically, because product fundraisers for schools are time-bound, you will only have one shot with each customer, so it’s important to look for cues that might mean a customer doesn’t want to commit right away.
The following cues might indicate that a customer is not ready to purchase a product to support your school fundraiser whenever you show up and their doorstep:
- Requests to leave a brochure or information about your product(s).
- Distracted, hurried or busy body language (doing other things while you’re sharing).
- Delaying or avoidant language. (I’ll have to check with my spouse first.”)
- Straightforward denials of interest. (“I can’t this year.)
Rest assured that, with the exception of the last cue, none of these necessarily mean the customer won’t participate in helping you raise money for your school. Rather, they probably want time to consider how they can best help support you and purchase a product they feel good about.
If you encounter one of these cues, the best response is to offer to leave some information, and then arrange to follow-up in person or by phone at a later time. Be sure to set a date within the parameters of your fundraiser, and give them a means to contact you should they have any questions. Money is hard-earned, and even for something as good-natured as a school fundraiser, people want to ensure it’s well-spent, too. Remember Daniel Pink’s advice: you want to leave them feeling better off in the end.
School Fundraising Pitches Should Serve the Customer
Think about your best service experience at a restaurant or hotel. What was it that made this experience so great? Did their interaction feel genuine and authentic? Did they make you feel like your needs were the most important?
The best sales experiences are quality customer service experiences. From working around a potential buyer’s schedule and delivering their goods in a timely manner to keeping them informed about what their purchase is helping your school do, you can ensure that your friends and neighbors feel like they’ve done more than just buy a great product; you can make them feel like they’ve had a great experience.
In everything you set out to do, ask yourself the question, “Is this in the best interest of the customers who are going to help my school reach its goal?”
With that mindset, you’ll be on a path to fundraising success. If you’re interested in learning more about great fundraising products, or simply want to do your research in planning the perfect school fundraiser, check out our school fundraising ideas and products!