By Tony Swartz
Perhaps no other task of an organization is less appealing than the process of fund raising. Of course, the most obvious reason why a chapter fundraises is to ensure sufficient funds to conduct activities of the chapter, yet there are other benefits to fundraising that are less obvious. Fundraising activities provide members of a chapter the opportunity to bond and build working relationships. In addition, fundraising activities provide chapter leadership with the opportunity to involve new members, assigning them tasks which contribute to their sense of belonging. Since most fundraising events are held in a public setting, there is the opportunity for public education–to tell our story–to offer ourselves as examples of competent and independent individuals who happen to be blind.
The initial tasks associated with fundraising are the responsibility of the chapter leadership. The financial blue print of any well-organized chapter begins with the development of an annual budget. The budget need not be an exact or detailed document, all that it need do is specify the main areas of expenditures of the chapter with estimated dollar amounts balanced as much as possible with the desired income of several fundraising activities to be conducted through the year.
The next step in the process is that an individual be selected to be appointed as the chapter’s fundraising chair. The first duty of the fundraising chair is to, in consultation with the chapter leadership, recruit several individuals to serve as members of the fundraising Committee. Often overlooked or conducted in a haphazard manner, this may be the most critical task of the fundraising chair, for it will be the determining element as to how much of the tasks of fundraising can be confidently delegated to Committee members. In other words, the greater the ability of individual members of the Committee, the less work for the Committee chair and the greater overall success of the Committee’s efforts.
Organizational Skills Are the Key
As with most endeavors of life, at the root of all successful fundraising activities is organization. Once the members of the fundraising Committee have been identified and have agreed to serve, The first task is to determine ground rules and operating procedures for the Committee.
Fundraising Committees should meet regularly, at least on a monthly basis, to plan fundraising events, coordinate the Committee’s strategy for each event, and evaluate the result of each of the Committee’s activities. Since transportation is always a problem for most of us, these Committee meetings are more likely to be telephone meetings with the chair as the facilitator, and someone assigned as secretary to take notes. The first task of the Committee is to meet to determine a suggested list of fundraising activities to present to the chapter to be conducted over the course of the year.
Then, the first report of the fundraising Committee to the chapter and its leadership should be the conclusions of this initial meeting. The report should include for each event: the name of the event (how the chapter will refer to the event), a brief description of the event, an approximate date of the event (early fall), and the fundraising goal for the event ($500). Once the report has been presented, request that the chapter president conduct a vote to accept the Committee’s report. Before members vote, indicate to the chapter that their acceptance of the Committee’s report shall mean their commitment to participate in some way in each of these events.
Once the chapter has agreed to one or more events presented in the fundraising Committee’s initial report, the planning begins. The standard procedure for planning and carrying out fundraising projects is through the use of a simplified project planning document. A project planning document need not intimidate anyone, and while there are software packages by which project plans can be tracked, the fact is that a simple plan can be developed on paper. No matter how sophisticated the software, project planning boils down to the following:
- Task: Identify each task of the project to be performed.
- Deadline date: Assign a deadline date by which the task must be performed.
- Assignment: Assign the individual or group of individuals to carry out the task.
- Resources: Identify any resources required to carry out the task.
- Conclusion/Reference: a Note of the conclusion of a task or decision, a note, or reference to a file or attachment which adds detail.
6 a Completion check box: denoting the completion of the task.
When you search the internet for project planning packages or for principles of project planning, you’ll come across other elements of project planning including identifying stake holders, deliverables, and risk assessments, but for our purposes, the six elements listed here which can be tracked on paper or on a simple spreadsheet, are all you’ll need to consider in the organizing and carrying out of a fundraising event.
Example Project: Candy Bar sale
Let’s begin with the organization of a small fundraising project, the sale of candy bars. Let’s assume that in the initial process of developing the fundraising Committee’s proposed list of fundraising projects for the year, The Committee has first determined that there is a local or regional producer/distributor of candy bars, the Best Chocolates Company, and that the company sells in bulk at a whole sale price in quantities of 100 bars or more to organizations for fundraising projects. Before reading further, stop and ask yourself what are the major tasks of the project which will have to be performed and which of those tasks will require organization. Here is a simple list of tasks:
- The Fundraising Committee will first have to recruit members of the chapter to participate in the project. It is essential to the success of all fundraising projects that members beyond the fundraising Committee participate.
Based on the number of members recruited, the Committee then determines what’s a reasonable number of bars to order from Best Chocolates.
The Committee establishes the retail price for each bar and the date by which all bars are to be sold or returned to the chapter, (the project’s end date).
The Committee must ensure that financial accountability measures are put in place. A member of the Committee should be assigned as the project’s accountant to document the count of bars distributed to members for sale and the collection of funds return from members. Accountability measures should be discussed with the chapter’s treasurer.
A member of the fundraising Committee is assigned to contact the Best Chocolates company to place the order and arrange for pickup of the bars.
An individual: member of the Committee, a chapter member, or volunteer, is assigned to pick up and pay for the order.
A process for distributing the bars to chapter members for sale will have to be organized. As an example, members could pick up the majority of bars at a chapter meeting, and a volunteer could be recruited to distribute the remaining bars. Again, whatever the distribution plan, the number of bars distributed to each member will have to be documented, and each member receiving bars must understand that they are accountable and must return funds to the chapter equaling the retail amount of bars distributed to them or must return unsold bars.
Be sure to have assigned a member of the Committee to keep in contact with those members participating as sales persons. All too often this step is ignored until the project’s end date. Given human nature, you will find that some members tend to procrastinate or even forget their commitment, so encouraging members to live up to their sales commitment may be necessary. On occasion it may be required to redistribute unsold bars from one member to another member who may be able to sell more bars. Remember that most projects of this nature require that the chapter pay the entire whole sale amount at pick up, so every bar unsold is a loss for the chapter.
Once the project’s end date is reached, the member of the Committee assigned as the project’s accountant will conduct an account of the number of bars distributed to members and the funds returned from each member. Discrepancies will have to be addressed. Again, chapter members participating must understand that they are accountable to return the retail amount of each bar.
If the Committee member assigned to keep in contact with members participating in the project has performed their duties adequately, then the Committee should have been made aware of any developing problems, and there should be no surprises or very few unsold bars.
Once the project’s accounting has been concluded, the Committee’s chair should report first to the president then to the chapter the results of the project. Whether the project is a minimal or major success, chapter members must be thanked and recognized for their participation.
All the above tasks would be included on the project’s planning document with each of the elements of each task filled in when appropriate. Of course, each of the tasks will require discussion by the Committee as to how the tasks will be carried out.
As an example, The first task identified is the recruitment of members as sales persons. Of course, the easiest way to do this is to ask for volunteers at a chapter meeting. Unless your chapter is exceedingly enthusiastic about the project, this method tends to be the least effective. Though it is more time consuming and requires more work, it is far more effective if a member of the Committee is assigned to contact members individually to make the request. It’s much harder to say no face to face, and if your chapter has a gathering time before or after a meeting, it’s the perfect time to recruit participants because it’s even harder to say no face to face and in front of others.
Finally, no matter the fundraising project, a discussion of steps to ensure financial accountability is paramount. The final section of this document discusses handling cash and general financial accountability, so be sure that all the members of the Committee review this section.
Example project: the hot dog and Cold Drinks Sale
To see each of the planning elements at work in a simplified project planning document, let’s consider a major fundraising event as an example. Our chapter has agreed to hold a hot dog and cold drinks sales event, known as the Hot Dog Sale. We know that there will be many tasks to perform, but since we’ve never held such an event, we also know that we have no idea what tasks will be involved, so how can we develop a plan or determine the order of the tasks? At the outset of course you won’t know all or even most tasks, but that’s why your project plan will be a living document with lots of corrections and insertions along the way. That’s also why frequent Committee meetings to plan each event is necessary.
Let’s get started with the first few tasks. While you know that you’ll have to begin checking the availability of a number of venues where the event could be held, a good number of decisions by the Committee will have to be made first, so again, early Committee planning meetings are essential. In your initial plan to the chapter, the Committee reported that a major fundraising event should occur sometime during the summer and the hot dog Sale is the chapter’s grand event, your first planning meeting for this grand event should be held by mid to late February. The tasks for your project plan with a deadline date being the conclusion of the meeting, might look like this.
Task 1: Determine what kind of venue to hold the event,
deadline date: conclusion of first planning meeting,
Assignment: Fundraising Committee,
Resources: example list of possible venues and phone numbers,
Conclusion/Reference: Bob and Mary will contact five identified large grocery stores
Task 2: Determine how many days to conduct the sale and what part of the week.
deadline date: Conclusion of first planning meeting.
Assignment: fundraising Committee.
Resources: Check whether there are conflicting dates with other chapter events.
Conclusion/Reference: Any of the first three weekends in August, a Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Task 3: Determine the time of the sale for each day.
deadline date: Conclusion of first planning meeting.
Assignment: Fundraising Committee.
Conclusion/Reference: The sale times will be 10:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. for Friday and Saturday, and 1:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. on Sunday.
Now that these three decisions have been made, task four can be assigned.
Task4: contact five identified large grocery stores to check their availability/interest in allowing chapter to conduct the hot dog sale.
deadline date: March 15th.
Assignment: Bob and Mary.
Resources: Phone numbers and physical and email addresses of stores.
With a large event such as the hot dog Sale, the Committee should consider assigning major tasks of the project to specific members of the Committee. As a result Committee members should consider developing their own simplified project plan for their particular assignment. A major task of this event will be the recruitment of volunteers to staff each shift of the sale.
In a planning meeting, the Committee has determined that the sale will be staffed by four member teams in three three hour shifts on Friday and Saturday, and two three hour shifts on Sunday. The Committee member assigned to recruit and manage the teams will create a schedule which lists the eight shifts, four slots for each shift. Though the work assigned to each team member, see below, should be able to be performed by a person who is blind, it may be helpful to assign a member or volunteer to each team who is partially or fully sighted to one of the slots, particularly to inform the team of approaching customers. If this is the case, be sure to note this on the schedule.
As mentioned above, the Committee has determined that the sale will be staffed with four member teams. In a planning meeting, The Committee has assigned the tasks to be performed by each team member. One member of the team will cook hot dogs, a second member will take the order from the customer, receive hot dogs from the cook, place them in buns, and hand them off to customers. The third team member will take drink orders and provide the customer with their drink. Finally, the fourth member will add up the customer’s order, convey the total to the customer, and receive payment, making change if necessary. Note that with the sale of unpackaged food items, most municipalities require that food handlers never handle cash.
To accustom yourself to planning events and large tasks within an event using a simplified planning document, As an exercise copy the above template of the simplified planning document, and plot out the tasks associated in organizing, recruiting and scheduling members for the Hot Dog Sale.
Finally, let’s list a number of other issues associated with the hot dog sale that the Committee will have to consider.
Issue, What equipment will be needed to conduct the event and how will it be obtained? Can some of it be borrowed from members or will the chapter have to purchase the items? Equipment such as:
- Several tables to serve as your stand.
- A fryer for cooking the hotdogs.
- Several coolers to store cold drinks.
- A cash box and possibly a decorative jar to except contributions. Why contributions? Not everyone will want to purchase product, but many might consider making a donation.
Issue, Obtaining product. Can hot dogs, buns, and cold drinks be donated or purchased at a discount? Seeking donations and shopping for discounted product requires more work but contributes greatly to your final profit.
Issue, Obtaining supplies: will napkins, hot dog boats, condiments, foil, lunch bags for larger purchases, table coverings, be contributed or purchased at a discount?
Issue, Set up and tear down: It is extremely helpful to develop set up and tear down procedures. What to consider:
1. How will your stand be configured?
2. What is the order of set up, What gets set up first, second third, and so on?
3. Where are the fryer and coolers placed in relation to the tables.
4. Are the cold drink coolers placed in a specific order and are they labeled with their contents?
5. Where are product and supplies stored during the event?
6. How will you arrange the cash box, contribution jar, supplies, and condiments on the tables.
7. Remember, the last item to set up is the cash box.
1. Will you reverse the order of set up for tear down. Remember that the cash box and contribution jar are the first items to be secured and stored.
2. How will the fryer be cleaned?
3. How will you dispose of the days accumulated trash and any product which would be inappropriate to store overnight.
4. Since this is a three day event, you should have prepared in advance where and how equipment, product, and supplies are to be stored overnight.
Issue, Promoting your event, your chapter, and encouraging greater sales.
- What is your promotion strategy, will you advertise in advance,?
- How will you create and place both your product and price signage?
- Will you create sales specials, “buy three hot dogs, get your drink for free”?
- How will you promote your chapter at the event? Remember that every event is an opportunity to promote your chapter, so the more signage with your chapter’s name and mission the better.
- At the event will you distribute additional literature about your chapter or blindness related issues?
Issue, additional product: Beyond hot dogs and drinks, does your chapter have any additional product to sell that is specific to the chapter or related to blindness?
Issue, Relations with your venue. When a venue provides your chapter with a place to hold your fundraising event, they should be rewarded with gestures of good will. In addition to a formal letter of thanks after the event, consider other ways to acknowledge them. Some local newspapers will accept letters to the editor thanking a company or organization for a contribution to the life of the community. Beyond the fact that they should be thanked, building a relationship with a venue greatly increases the odds that you’ll be invited back the next time you ask.
Of course, every fundraising event is unique to the abilities of a chapter and the circumstances of each event will have unique requirements, but to ensure the success of any fundraising venture, planning and organization are the most essential elements.
One of the greatest threats to the cohesiveness of a chapter and to its reputation within the community is the mismanagement or misappropriation of the chapter’s financial resources. Fundraising projects provide plenty of opportunity for the mishandling or outright theft of funds. Below is a simple list of recommendations which will aid the Fundraising Committee to avoid the most common pitfalls of fundraising event cash management.
All financial transactions must be documented. As an example, when collecting funds from a chapter member, document the name of the member, the date funds were collected, and its purpose. Never rely on your memory, making the assumption that you will document the transaction at a time more convenient. Place the funds collected immediately into an envelope or pouch dedicated to that purpose. Never place the funds collected into a pocket or purse. Even with the best of intensions, it presents a questionable optic.
Before any fundraising event, the fundraising Committee should discuss and organize cash collection procedures and assign only those who are capable of handling funds and making change.
When conducting a public fundraising event, as much as possible, set Up One Cash Point, meaning take cash at one place only
When conducting a public fundraising event, use some form of lockable cash box. Ensure that the cash box is never left unattended. Best practices require that at least two unrelated individuals monitor the cash box at all times. During the event set up, the cash box should be the last item to be brought to the table or counter. During the event tear down, the cash box should be the first item to be securely stored.
Keep all transactions simple. Never take IOUs. If customers say they’ll pay later respectfully tell them to come back later when they can pay, that IOUs are against the policies of the event.
If your event includes the sale of items greater than ten dollars, it is best to create a Paper Trail, this means creating a system to use paper receipts for cash transactions.
When conducting a public fundraising event, be certain to begin the event with sufficient funds to make change. Be sure to record this amount, so that it won’t be included in the fundraising event’s total.
Never make change from change in your pocket or purse, and of course, it goes without saying, never mix the chapter’s money with your own.
At the conclusion of the event, in a secure setting, total funds, then separate the opening balance (the make change funds), the remaining funds will equal the total raised for the event.
As soon as possible after the event, Deposit funds in the chapter’s account, never your own, or turn all funds over to the chapter treasurer. Never let cash or any receipts sit for a few days.
Immediately after the event, once the funds have been totaled, the Committee member assigned should prepare a report both for the treasurer and the chapter. While the report should of course include the amount of funds raised, it should also include any observations or detail any issues encountered so that the next time the event is held, the chapter is better informed.