3 Steps to School Fundraising Success in 2020

How to find a product your buyers will love

Every sponsor starts off with the greatest of intentions. Your group needs money so you search the internet for companies that carry the product you’re interested in selling. Students seem ready to go out and make sales and your gut tells you people will buy.

If only school fundraising success was this easy. If you’ve ever started off with these types of expectations only to fall woefully short, you’re not alone.

Whose fault is it? Surely you did everything you thought you needed to do so it must have been the company’s fault. Or perhaps you ended up competing with another group who also sold a similar product.

Many sponsors are shocked once they collect the order forms and money from their students and find most didn’t sell anything at all. You found this surprising because your students seemed interested, at least at first.

You can always blame it on the sales catalog. People weren’t as excited about the products as you thought they’d be. Or, perhaps they’d already purchased from someone else. Sometimes people express “buyer’s remorse”.

This happens when an item purchased from a previous fundraiser doesn’t meet expectations. Many times it’s because the item ended up being much smaller than was expected. Or it doesn’t work right. The ensuing excuse seems to always be, “What do you expect, it’s a fundraiser!”?

All of these hurdles will have to be overcome if you want to be successful. If you’ve ever suffered through any of these things, you shouldn’t have to experience them again. It’s time to learn from the past and move onto greener pastures.

There are 2 ways to improve sales. One, provide effective sales tools to your students, and two, find better products to sell.

You can find ways to improve student sales performance by reviewing some of our other articles, including 3 Powerful High School Fundraising Tools for 2020.

However, this article focuses on how to overcome buyer resistance by fixing your product issue.

1. Learn What Motivates Your Buyers

How do you know there will be adequate demand for your product in your specific area? To answer this question, you should examine 3 things:

  1. What’s sold well in the past.
  2. What schools nearby are selling.
  3. What you would buy yourself.

Let’s face it, some products sell better in some areas than in others. To be successful you need to think like a local retailer when choosing a school fundraiser. Retailers survive because they understand what their consumers want and need.

Therefore, you’ll need to pick a product that will compel your community to want to support your group. People may be able to relate to your cause, but it’s the product that determines their decision to buy.

2. Effective Product Marketing

Once you’ve selected your product, you still have to consider how to market it. Let's say you’ve determined there’s a strong demand for pies in your area. You can then plan to have your sale before Mother’s Day or Thanksgiving.

If you’re able to schedule your sale around major events, your potential buyers have another compelling reason to purchase your products. Sure, we all know pies taste good, but that alone may not be enough. Helping people envision how they can take advantage of your product in additional ways is even better.

But there’s nothing better than establishing a tradition. If your group was able to exclusively sell pies before Thanksgiving you would own the pie fundraising market in your area. Wouldn’t it be great to have people start to anticipate and ask about your pies in advance every year?

3. School Fundraising Quality vs. Profit

Is it any wonder most buyers who are talked into supporting a fundraiser either purchase the cheapest item in the brochure or end up just give a donation? Most catalogs have a reputation for offering expensive but low-quality items that only look good in a picture. Once delivered, the customer is often disappointed.

For years schools have pushed for a higher percentage of total sales thinking that’s what leads to more money in their pockets; yet this is a short-sighted approach. Higher profit percentages are coming at the expense of cheaper products and less satisfied customers.

You can’t have both, so a choice must be made. Better quality products ultimately yield more sales because of the ensuing satisfaction and demand. However, there is a trade-off. Groups need to be willing to settle for a lower profit percentage.

Yet this doesn’t mean you’re putting less money in your pocket. If the customer feels they’re getting good value by paying a little more for a better quality product then everybody wins.

Kitchen & Home, a brochure fundraiser by Charleston Wrap®, is a great example. The idea is schools will ultimately make more money by offering customers better products. Sure, a few of the items may be a little more expensive but many are willing to pay for improved quality. And even though the group makes a lower profit percentage, they often end up making more money off of the higher priced item.

Would you rather receive a higher profit percent but sell fewer items in the end? Lower quality items eventually leads lower customer satisfaction and ultimately less demand.

Unfortunately too many groups make their fundraising choice based mainly on profit percentage, and it’s the wrong way to choose a product to sell.

Value is the best determination because it considers both the cost and quality of an item.

So would schools make more if their primary goal were to sell the best possible products to their customers, regardless of price or percent profit? Fortunately, there appears to be an emerging trend as a few sponsors are starting to realize there’s more to successful school fundraising than profit percent.

Demand for better quality is translating into record sales for some schools. This has also lead to repeat business because customers satisfaction doesn’t have a short memory. Who doesn’t think improved quality won’t have a positive effect on future sales?

The simple answer is, “You don’t take profit to the bank; you take money!”

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