Fundraising for Scouting and Nonprofit Organizations.

 

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:

Fundraising ideas

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.

Leaders

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 are. )


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.

Marketing

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.

Game Day

Make it fun for everyone. Gather the forces (your volunteers) just before the event and tell them the most important thing 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.

Synergy

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.

Thank You

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.

Go Camping!

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