Fundraising Products

The value of fundraising products is clearly shown through the two examples below. The secret to fundraising through products is finding the product that is right for your organization. The VFW began its Buddy Poppy program from the poem, “In Flanders Fields” by Col. John McCrae of Canada. The poem describes red fields of poppies that blow over a battleground of fallen soldiers. Although the poem may not be well remembered, these bright red poppies continue to help the VFW to raise funds for its many programs. As for Girls Scouts… well, kids and cookies just sort of go together. Today an enormous selection of fundraising products is available and in addition, there are many different ways to sell them for both short-term and long-term fundraising campaigns.

Products Comments
Brochure & Catalog: Main Dishes & Gourmet Items, Magazines, Home Décor (like candles). Although their may be an extra charge for the brochures and catalogs, generally you pay only for the merchandise ordered. The biggest disadvantage to brochure and catalog sales is that they are popular with many organizations! (Cost: None to Low)
Donated goods for event sales: Bake, Craft, Garage Sale Goods. Silent Auction, White Elephant Sales. The advantage is that your “stock” is free. The disadvantage is that you generally have only a day or two to sell it. Event sales also take a fair amount of planning. (Cost: None)
Donations for resale: Cell phones, Aluminum Cans, Inkjet Cartridges. Reselling recycled “empties” is becoming more and more lucrative for fundraisers. Many companies are eager to buy back their “empties”. In addition, some companies specialize in buying recycled products. Your biggest investment is the time it takes to collect the recyclables. (Cost: None)
Purchased goods for direct sales: Bumper stickers, Pens, Wrist bands, Lapel pins, Pennants, Candy bars. Generally, these items are sold in lots that range from 50 to 100 or more. The more you buy, the less they cost per lot. For printed items like bumper stickers, pens, etc. there may also be a small “set-up” charge in addition to the cost of the item. . (Cost: Low Cost Per Item)
“Your Organization” Printed Items: Coupon Books, Calendars, Greeting Cards, Cook books, Clothing (caps, t-shirts, etc). The initial “set up” charge may be high on personalized print items, but like the smaller items above, generally the price of the merchandise goes down in relation to the size of your order. These types of items are an excellent way for non-profit organizations to add visibility to their name and their mission. (Cost: High Initial Cost)

Additional Factors About Fundraising Products

  1. Your cost: Product costs can range from free, donated items to upper-end retail wares. In addition, depending on the fundraising vendor and type of product you choose you may have no up-front expense, need to make a deposit on merchandise, or pay for your fundraising product in advance.
  2. Your profit: How much of the product will you need to sell to meet your goal?
    • Commissions from purchased products can range from 30% to 75%. Some commissions are based on “the more you sell, the more you get”. A good rule of thumb is to dream high, but count low. It’s far better to end up with more money than you need than falling short of your goals.
    • Don’t forget other overhead costs including shipping and handling charges and any promotional costs like advertising.
    • You may also need to factor in estimates for products that are ordered but not picked-up and merchandise that is received in less than perfect condition.
  3. Ease of acquisition: In this case, purchased products are generally easy to acquire, but do find out how long it will take to receive your order. It may take time to find donors for free items, but you can usually stipulate when the items will be needed.
  4. Timing:
    • Is your fundraiser short-term (like raising money for a class trip) or long term (like raising money for cancer research)?
    • If your fundraising campaign is a one-time-only effort, you may not want to sell a product that is purchased in lots of 100 or high-end products that are profitable but take more effort (and time) to sell.
    • Think about when the product will be sold. Of course, you wouldn’t sell Christmas wreaths in July, but consider that the warm weather months might not be the best time to sell chocolate candy bars as well!
  5. Your sales force: How many willing fundraising volunteers or group members will agree to sell your product? Is your sales force large enough to meet your goals?
  6. Your competition: Can you price your product to make it attractive to your prospective customers? Are local businesses selling the same type of goods for far less than your price? Are other organizations selling similar products for their fundraisers?
  7. Marketing possibilities:
    • Direct sales are best for novelty items like wristbands and bumper stickers. In addition to furnishing your sales force with products, they also can be sold at fundraising events.
    • Brochure and catalog sales are best for products like gourmet food packages, candles, and clothing.
    • For those organizations with an established web site that receives a fair amount of traffic, the Internet is an excellent place to sell many types of products. However, it takes a considerable amount of time and there is expense involved to establish an e-business.
    • If your organization doesn’t have a website “up and running” you can still ask members and volunteers who do if they will add a link to your fundraising products or sell your fundraising products on their site to help you achieve your fundraising goals.
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