The Fundraising challenge
Let me start by saying I know of no easy way to get people to reach into their pockets, pull out money and give it to you, no matter how worthy your cause. That would be what is called charity and it is something I have no idea how to get. Instead, I encourage you to think more in terms of products, services and especially events. As I think you will begin to see, the trick is to seek out large gatherings of people or find ways of gathering them yourself and present your products and services. And yes, it is a lot like business except you have volunteers not employees, you don't pay taxes on your 'profits' and it's easier for you to get free advertising. Huge advantages, I might add.
That gives us these big concerns to address:
What are the products and services?
How do we present them to potential supporters (customers if you will)?
Who is going to do this? (The fact that you are reading this makes you one of the active
- concert - the easiest way I know to get into fund raising is with a concert. All your have to do is find two or three good bands and explain your worthy cause to them. (Who knows maybe they have been scouts when they were young.) You would like to talk them into performing for nothing. If they are all local groups and thus don't incur traveling expenses then I guess that's alright. What I prefer though is a 'split the pot' kind of deal where they get half and your cause gets half. Also, if you can find performers that have CD's for sell then they might be inclined to perform just for what they make on the sell of those and you keep the door. Remember though quality and fun are the paramount issues.
- talent show - this is my personal favorite and one that, if done right, can make a bunch of money quick. I'll bet you will be surprised at how much talent lies within you grasp. You might very well have capable musicians, comedians, actors, twirlers, dancers, singers, magicians etc. right there within your own scouting organization. Treat it something like a variety show and have a good emcee. Make sure the acts are short and fun. Have your scouts intersperse some skits into the mix. Have auditions and a dressed rehearsal and practice getting the acts on and off the stage quickly. Quality and fun are the bywords, if you can do that people will be looking forward to next years effort. The key to setting up a successful concert or talent show is to make sure you don't lose money. Therefore, try not to offer guarantees to performers or venues. If you can't get such things donated then setup a percentage deal with them. That way if your event flops or something really bad happens ( i.e. 911 ) and nobody comes out, then your not out any money.
- pancake breakfast - work out a deal with your local shopping center ( where a lot of people will be going ) and set up your camp kitchen in their parking lot and cook breakfast for a fee, of course. Often you can get the food for these efforts donated if you put your request in writing to the right people far enough in advance. Check with your county health department in your area as there may be county health limitations. This could also extend into a hot dog/hamburger type lunch and even into a Dutch oven dinner in the evening. (If you have a cowboy type singer around your parts, they could add a lot of color to this.)
raffle - here is where you try to get prizes donated from your local merchants. Virtually no business is going to be willing to just give you good merchandise. The trick here is to be able to explain to their manager/owner how this is going to benefit their business. Show them how their donation gets them promoted in your newsletter, emails, displayed on your event posters in your calendar etc.. Then sell your raffle tickets for the merchandise you get at every event you have and do the grand prize drawing only once a year (perhaps at your talent show). I played at an event last year where the sheriffs department was selling tickets ($10.00 each as I remember) for a grand prize of a Harley Davidson motor cycle. The guy who does the selling told me they started out years early with smaller prizes and just kept working their way up.
- annual calendar -Take a lot of pictures at all your outings and events and especially your fund raisers and collect them into a calendar that you produce and sell at your other events. You can get all your scouts, den mothers and scout leaders birthdays in the calendar, maybe with their pictures and, of course, get the times and locations of next years fund raising events in there too. If you do this right grand parents and friends are going to want these. These can be produced in low quantities right from your own computer if you have the right printer and know how.
- work force - in return for a specified tax deductible donation you troops might clean up peoples yards, wash cars, mow lawns, shovel snow etc.
- make Christmas gifts - If a guy spent some time looking around on the internet you might find some woodworking and craft type projects that would be suitable for 'mass production' and sold for presents. Seems like there are a lot of Christmas decoration ideas that could work too. Hey how about a Christmas tree lights service?
- fashion show - Your local clothing store might be interested in working with you, perhaps on a commission bases, to put on a little local fashion show. I suspect the girls would have a lot more fun with this than the boys. Have the kids model the cloths and your troop gets a commission on anything that sells. I think this would be easy to integrate into a talent show..
- yard sell - If you can get good stuff donated from your members this will work out pretty good.
- contest - horseshoe, darts, ping-pong tournament etc. works well with a cookout of some kind. Charge an entry fee and split the pot with the winner/s.
Volunteers and Resources
The fact that we are volunteers ourselves means there is a finite amount of time we have to devote to our worthy cause. In nonprofit efforts this is addressed by building a team of volunteers so you can spread the work load out among hopefully many people. In scouting you have scout leaders, den mothers, parents and let's not forget the troops. The trick to getting volunteers is to have well define tasks. So you don't ask " would you help us do this fund raiser on Saturday?" Instead you say " could you flip hot cakes at our pancake breakfast from 8:00 to 10:00 on Saturday?".
This tells people you are organized enough to know what you want from them and allows them to know exactly what you want so they don't feel like they are giving you a blank check on their time. I have found that people will help out above and beyond their original commitments once you get them involved. And successful, fun efforts have little trouble getting future volunteers.
The easiest place to get volunteers is from your common cause group but it's not the only place. There might be appropriate people from outside your group who would help out with your cause. Friends, relative and perhaps coworkers are good places to look for additional volunteers. This is particularly useful where you require special skills that may not be available to you within your organization.
And don't forget the veritable gold mine of potential volunteers and resources and that is other organizations. Collaborative efforts can yield magnificent results as that makes it much easier to gather potential customers since you add their base of support to yours.
Unfortunately leadership requires a certain skill set that not everybody has. What you find here though, is that the leaders you end up with in these efforts are often the same leaders you see out there doing other things in your community because they have that skill set. Also it's something like the "Little Engine that Could", if you think you can, you're right. So if you have an enthusiastic person who is willing to take on a leadership role then get behind them and give them your support. This is a very pivotal issue, though. The results you get, now and in the future, will be directly proportional to the effectiveness of your leader/s.
Defining the Fund Raising Vision
Usually things will originate from within one mind. (Perhaps yours?) But it takes a lot of thought and work to get these kind of things off the ground. Therefore it is best to gather as many enthusiastic, energetic supporters as you can as early as you can and brainstorm the possibilities. This is the fun part. Keep those devils advocate type, nonbelievers at bay till you have a clear idea of what you're going to do and how you're going to do it. ( There are certain kinds of people who just love to stomp on the little seedlings your ideas grow just as they pop out of your visions' fertile ground, thus killing ideas before they ever have a chance. You probably know who these people
I like to do this brainstorming, first in small pieces, maybe even just me and the other principals individually or in small groups. Then when you have what you think are good viable ideas, you pull your entire volunteer group together. This does two big things for you, first it gives ideas time to 'incubate', a key element to achieving creativity. Second, it builds a base of preliminary support as you have giving people a little time to mull things over for themselves and adjust to the ideas.
The Fund Raising Plan
The work begins when you have to turn your collective vision into an executable plan. Here is where you generate the specific 'to do' list and put names beside each thing to do for each element of your fund raising plan. This is where those knit-picky, devils advocate type people can actually help you avoid problems. They may point out things you hadn't thought about like, "it could rain on this pancake breakfast". A very solvable problem but it does generate another "to do" on your list, namely putting up an awning. (And, who knows, maybe you can get them to do it?) And it may in fact help you avoid disaster later on.
I honestly think the biggest mistake most organizations make is to try to move too quickly from vision to plan. Often this is attempted in the same meeting. Bad idea. I know we think it saves time but frankly good things take time. There is no way around it.
The hardest part of any business (and non-profit fund raiser) is selling your product or service. It's been my experience that there are three main ways people find out about these kinds of things:
1. Friends - make sure all your friends and relatives know you are involved in this and be sure to express to them how much it means to you, personally. There is very little I wouldn't do for a good friend and I'm sure yours are the same way. Incidentally, ask all of the other volunteers to do the same.
2. Posters - have someone design a spiffy, eye-catching poster and get it well distributed around your area 2-3 weeks prior to your event.
3. Media - The best friend any fund raising effort can have is a good public relations person. This is who writes, distributes and follows up on your events public service announcements (PSA's) and press releases and maybe even sets up and does you local TV and radio interviews.
Consider aligning your fund raiser with existing community events like your local fair, forth of July parade etc.. It's always nice when other people are kind enough to gather a crowd for you.
Make it fun for everyone. Gather the forces (your volunteers) just before the event and tell them the most important think is for everybody to have fun, especially them. If they are having fun it's a lot more likely your customers will too. Take a lot of pictures as that is a good way to get smiles on faces and may help out with your calendar and yearbook efforts too.
If possible, present every offer you have at every event you do. If your scouting troop sells popcorn or cookies, then have a table setup for selling those. And push any other products you might have.
When all is said and done be sure to send a letter to your editor of your local paper thanking all those who participated especially merchants and business people who helped out with merchandise and advice.
Did I mention how important quality and fun are? Remember your best and worst advertising for next years event is how well or poorly you do this years.