Find a product your buyers will love in 2022 (Revised).
Every sponsor starts 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 were this easy. If you've ever started with these expectations only to fall short, you're not alone.
Whose fault is it? Surely you did everything you thought you needed, so it must have been the company's fault. Or perhaps you ended up competing with another group selling a similar product.
Many sponsors are shocked once they collect their students' order forms and money and find that most don't sell anything. 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 always seems to 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 these things, you shouldn't have to experience them again. It's time to learn from the past and move on to greener pastures.
There are two ways to improve sales. One, provide effective sales tools to your students; two, find better products to sell.
You can find ways to improve student sales performance by reviewing our other articles, including 3 Powerful High School Fundraising Tools for 2022.
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 area? To answer this question, you should examine three things:
- What's sold well in the past.
- What schools nearby are selling.
- What you would buy yourself.
Let's face it; some products sell better in some areas. 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 the product determines their decision to buy.
2. Effective Product Marketing
Once you've selected your product, you must still consider how to market it. Let's say you've determined a strong demand for pies in your area. You can then plan your sale before Mother's Day or Thanksgiving.
Potential buyers have another compelling reason to purchase your products if you can schedule your sale around major events. We all know pies taste good, but that alone may not be enough. You are helping people envision how to take advantage of your product in additional ways.
But there's nothing better than establishing a tradition. If your group could 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 donating? 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 leads to more money in their pockets; yet this is a short-sighted approach. Higher profit percentages come at the expense of cheaper products and less satisfied customers.
You can't have both, so a choice must be made. Better quality products 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. Everybody wins if the customer feels they're getting good value by paying a little more for a better quality product.
CW Home, a brochure fundraiser by Charleston Wrap®, is a great example. Schools will ultimately make more money by offering customers better products. Sure, a few 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 make more money off the higher priced item.
Would you rather receive a higher profit percentage but sell fewer items? Lower-quality items eventually lead to lower customer satisfaction and 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 determinant because it considers an item's cost and quality.
So would schools make more if their primary goal was to sell their customers the best possible products, regardless of price or percent profit? Fortunately, there appears to be an emerging trend as a few sponsors realize there's more to successful school fundraising than profit percentage.
Demand for better quality is translating into record sales for some schools. This has also led to repeat business because customer satisfaction doesn't have a short memory. Who doesn't think improved quality won't positively affect future sales?
The simple answer is, "You don't take profit to the bank; you take money!"
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Clay Boggess has been designing fundraising programs for schools and various nonprofit organizations throughout the US since 1999. He’s helped administrators, teachers, and outside support entities such as PTAs and PTOs raise millions of dollars. Clay is an owner and partner at Big Fundraising Ideas.