How to Fundraise without Losing Your Mind

You can’t!  Just kidding.  Kinda.

For many of my parenting years, I was blissfully unaware of the phenomena called fundraising. About two years ago, I got my first taste of some. We failed miserably at sports cup sales but then I rocked the Tupperware sale. I was indoctrinated into carwash ticket sales strategies, as well as pancake breakfast approaches. And then, of course, there’s World’s Best Chocolate.
This year, Teen2 is inspired to travel on an overseas school trip. I want her to go. It costs a lot of money. A LOT. And once you sign in blood, they will take that money from your checking account each month. Gulp.
I’ve had to get very creative AND allow myself to be educated by young people about fundraising. Because here’s the thing – this is personal fundraising. A few of my great ideas only work if you’re under the umbrella of an official non-profit. I mean, she costs me a pretty penny, but my daughter is not a non-profit.

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I have had to come up with some ideas that work for US. That means me. Because while homemade popcorn balls might sell really well, I do not see myself up late making them and then packaging them appealingly. And I figure some of you have found yourself in this same position or might one day. So I’m going to share what we’re trying and then update with what is and isn’t working for us.

Let me start with our current plan and program.
1. I made free WordPress website for her that shows friends how to support her by listing the donations page, how to purchase things to benefit her trip, the private FaceBook group I created for people to “follow” her adventures and updates about her fundraising activites.
2. I made that private FaceBook group so friends and family could follow her journey. I will post photos of her doing fundraising and photos of her on the trip.
3. I have affiliate accounts with a few companies that I feel have general appeal so I reacquainted myself with those. I am making it clear to everyone (on the website and FB group) that ANY sales of these products go toward her trip. These include:
a. abby+anna, both affiliate sales AND in-person Graphic Tee Parties. This has gone well so far! We held one event in our home and will table a holiday event soon.  Signing up as an advisor is free (through Thanksgiving 2018) and there is no website fee. Fees for direct sales were a deterrent to us trying direct sales as a fundraising option.
b. Skin by Nature skin and body care. I’ll promote this occasionally to our friends, especially as a holiday gift option.
c. Jade Bloom essential oils. I figured – why not? I have the account and promote it anyway.
4. There are a lot of junky items sold for fundraising. But the idea of fair trade chocolate, coffee and tea from Equal Exchange sounded awesome. They will also work with individuals and small groups! Yay! We will do a pre holiday push, especially at church and in the neighborhood. I’ll also send the catalogs to hubby’s work.
5. I let people know she is available for work. She already babysits very regularly and paid for a flight to visit family this past summer. A church friend asked about having her weed, so she worked hard and put all that toward her trip. Much harder than if I had asked her to weed MY yard!
6. Sales. Selling snacks at school.
7. Snack display at hubby’s work.
8.  Papa Murphy’s Coupon Cards.
9.  A jewelry party with Premier Jewelry.
10. Begging. The educational travel company allows people to make direct donations and I am surprised at how many folks have generously given. Every little bit adds up!
What we’re trying: snacks from Costco
Audience: her high school. My daughter’s school does not have vending machines and kids don’t have lockers.
What we’ve learned:
kids are hungry
kids are cheap
kids don’t care about organic, quality ingredients
kids get bored if you always offer the same thing, so change it up
sodas are heavy
try to make at least double what the item costs you
kids won’t pay $2 for a donut that cost you $1 to buy. So buy cheap donuts. They’re so hungry they don’t care how bad they are.
take a break from selling now and then
try to sell each item for $1. No one wants to mess with change. OR say everything is $1.25 and you’ll give them a break and sell it for $1.
What we’re trying: snacks from Costco
Audience: hubby’s work
What we’ve learned:
GET VENMO.  It’s what all the young, hip people use.  Plus a Productive Mama.  Once we got Venmo, sales jumped hugely.
hospital employees will pay a little more
employees are more drawn to higher quality ingredients
brownie brittle rocks
granola bars do pretty well
try to keep each item at $1
people will leave IOUs
some of them will feel guilty about this and leave more when they have it
make a sign and make a bit of a display.
audience: adult friends and family
what we’ve learned: people want to help but online is easier for folks. A few people will stop by if convenient. We positioned this as an “Ask Teen2 About her Trip” event and encouraged folks to come by even if they didn’t want to purchase anything.
We will be trying a table at an event soon.
Audience: local friends and family, mostly from church, work and other community groups in which we participate
What we’ve learned: high school kids and teachers weren’t too interested.  It’s too expensive, compared to a $1 candy bar.  You can only do this fundraiser locally. Equal Exchange is very well organized and has their system down. It’s a lot to keep track of, though.  You collect the money and then EE invoices you. You pay EE after you receive your order.  I’m not sure if our timing was great (November, close enough to promote it for holiday gifts) or if our community was just a great audience for fair trade foods, but this was a huge success for us.  We made about $800 toward the trip, which means we sold about $2000 worth of product! I highly recommend this fundraiser, as EE is willing to work with individuals and their fundraising rep was very professional.
What we’re trying: Papa Murphy’s Peel-a-Deal cards
Audience: hubby’s work and friends
What we’ve learned:  Not as successful as I’d hoped.  These have an AMAZING profit margin.  YOU get to set that for your local market, but it’s at least 400%.  You will need to go in and talk to the manager.  Relatively small investment for us, which we made up with just a few sales. But they didn’t do as well as I thought they would. I wonder if it was because it was January, so holiday budgets catching up with people?  I still think I would try this again.
What we’re trying: Premier Jewelry Party
Audience: family friends (women and girls)
What we’ve learned:  Worked for us!  Mostly, though, my daughter was super excited about this idea.  A big part of whether this is successful probably depends on your jewelry lady.  Ours was on top of things, providing lovely invitations, a facebook event, dropping off catalogs to friends and more.  I strongly recommend her, even if you’re not local to me, though seeing the jewelry in person is very helpful.  We had a party at our house, but also had people order online, which meant this opened us up to a larger audience, especially our out-of-town family.  I was impressed by the fact that not only did we get CASH from the fundraising, but we got hostess rewards, too.  Lots ‘o them, which was good because there are four jewelry wearers in this household!

I DIDN’T USE THIS BUT YOU SHOULD CONSIDER RAISECRAZE!  I love the idea and would consider this for future endeavors. <—- click here.

Ideas of mine my daughter (who has a strong mind of her own) rejected outright:
Direct sales at school. I was thinking Avon or something teenage girls might like?  I would have to sign up for her. She briefly considered Color Street, but we opted to look at other ideas.
Arts and Crafts fairs.  My kids are artistically inclined (way more than I ever will be). But the idea of having to make a bunch of stuff and sit at a table with all of it did NOT appeal to them.
I hope some of these ideas were helpful. Even if they won’t work for you, maybe they’ll get your creative juices flowing and help you come up with some alternatives that WILL.  One thing I’ve learned is you need to think outside the box and find what suits your kid and your family.
If YOU have ideas, especially for personal fundraising, please feel free to share them in the comments.
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