As a sorority or fraternity leader, you understand how vital your fundraising dollars are to achieving your goals and providing your members with valuable experience. So, it’s your job to run profitable fundraisers that don’t cost you an arm and a leg to get running. After all, you need to make more than you spend for it to be a fundraiser!
If you’re in the market for a new fundraiser idea that benefits you and your donors, look no further than a product fundraiser.
If you’ve ever sold Girl Scout cookies, you’ve already participated in a product fundraiser. It’s a way of fundraising that involves the exchange of a unique product for donations. It’s really that simple, and that’s what makes product fundraisers so popular.
You may not have run a product fundraiser before, and that’s okay. We’re here to tell you everything you need to know about this fun, profitable fundraiser that will bring style to your sorority or fraternity program. We’ll be covering how to:
- Set your goals
- Work with a product fundraising partner
- Decide which products you want to sell
- Get the whole chapter involved
- Conduct outreach
Let’s explore how to get started with product fundraising to boost your campaign while giving a little something in exchange to your donors.
Set your goals
As with any type of fundraiser, the process starts with setting goals. You likely already have a strategic fundraising plan for the year, so use it to determine a challenging but attainable fundraising goal.
However, this process should be focused on more than just the financial factors. Don’t forget to set goals regarding other metrics, such as donor acquisition, percentage of gifts made online, social media impressions, and more. Though these aren’t directly related to your finances, they’re important to assess the overall strength of your fundraising network. Keeping organized data will set you up for success in future campaigns as you’ll know what does (and doesn’t) work.
Choose a product fundraising partner
No matter how experienced you are at running product fundraisers, you’ll benefit from working with a professional. Product fundraising partners will help you with your campaign’s heavy lifting by providing you with products to sell in a high-reward, low-risk format. According to Double the Donation’s guide to product fundraisers, a great product fundraising partner will offer unique, high-quality products, such as:
- Cookie dough
- Custom branded merchandise
- Travel mugs
- Face masks
- Discount cards
Besides providing the products, your partner should also offer great customer service, an online fundraising web storefront, and products that will deliver a high return on your investment. To get started, reach out to a product fundraising partner and see which products they offer that fit your needs.
Decide which products you want to sell
Now, you have a critical decision to make: what should we sell? Or, to better frame that question: what do our donors want to buy?
Your donors should always be at the center of your fundraising decisions, as they’re the ones you want to please. Luckily, you can ask for their input in the planning process to know exactly which products will be most popular. Send out a survey to your loyal donors asking which products they would be interested in, and base your fundraising focus on their responses.
That being said, there is a product that complements sororities and fraternities especially well: branded merchandise. Your sisters or brothers are deeply connected to your letters and motto. So, selling a t-shirt with your branding is a great way to cultivate sister/brotherhood while earning revenue to fund the experiences that made your chapter so memorable. According to ABC fundraising, you can also sell merchandise such as hats, sweatshirts, jackets, socks, face masks, and water bottles to offer your donors more options.
To further target your donors, you can launch campaigns with merch meant for one specific community. For instance, you might make branded merchandise specifically for parents or alumni. Offering your donor segments custom merchandise that aligns with their identity increases the likelihood they’ll purchase it.
Get the whole chapter involved
The more chapter members are involved, the more likely you’ll reach prospective donors through their networks. If you aren’t requiring participation, strongly encourage your brothers or sisters to join. After all, it’s all for their benefit!
One way to pique their interest is by making the fundraiser a peer-to-peer competition. Your members will each run their own product fundraising campaign, collecting as many donations as possible before time’s up. Then, reward the winners with prizes such as concert tickets, appliances, or gift cards. A little healthy competition will go a long way in getting your chapter members motivated to fundraise.
Before you launch the campaign, make sure your brothers or sisters are prepared. Chapter leaders can learn fundraising strategies to then share with their brothers or sisters by looking up professional fundraising influencers experienced with product fundraisers and listening to their products and free webinars. As many of your members joined for skill development and networking, treat it like an educational experience for your mutual benefit.
Finally, it’s time for the most important part of your campaign: spreading awareness of your cause and promoting your product fundraiser. Product fundraisers are unique in that you can promote the campaign by marketing the product itself. For instance, you might not get much external attention for a fraternity or sorority benefit, but if you market it as a cookie dough fundraiser, you’ll appeal to the wider audience who isn’t already invested in your chapter.
Here are some great ways to spread the word:
- Post on social media. Encourage your brothers and sisters to repost the link of your fundraising web store to their profiles to lead donors straight to the page.
- Incorporate it into other fundraisers. If your product fundraiser is an ongoing campaign, you could promote it at your other events. For instance, if you’re hosting a talent show, you could include a branded merchandise booth for attendees to support your product fundraiser.
- Send emails to parents and alumni. These two segments are the external groups that are most likely to be connected to your cause, so target them with custom emails highlighting their relationship with your chapter.
Whichever outreach avenue you choose, be sure to highlight both your products and what you’ll use the fundraising revenue for.
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to put them into action and launch your own product fundraiser! Reach out to a product fundraising partner that specializes in these campaigns, as they know which products university students like you love to buy. Good luck!
About the Author
Debbie Salat is the director of fundraising activities and product development at ABC Fundraising(r) - Debbie joined ABC Fundraising(r) in 2010 and is responsible for launching over 6500 fundraising campaigns for schools, churches, youth sports teams and non-profit organizations all across the USA. With over 20 years of fundraising experience, Debbie knows the path to success for fundraisers which she shares with groups on a daily basis so they can achieve their fundraising goals.