Should Fundraising be Fun

From PhiSigmaPiWiki

Should Fundraising be Fun?

It seems like a question as old as work itself doesn't it? Can't we do what we love and make money too?

In some cases, yes, absolutely. Not only are there fully enjoyable activities that can be profitable for the chapter, but if well planned and executed almost any job is more fun with your brothers. Otherwise, we'd just all go to work and donate the money back, right?

Behind the broad question lies a simpler one. A question that is really for the Fundraising or Event Chair. Sure it should be enjoyable, but which way does your event lean? Are you planning to maximize fun? Or are you planning for maximum profit? Taking this question seriously can lead to you and the chapter to some very different outcomes. And occasionally by planning really well for one direction, can help make the path to balancing with the other more obvious.

Why decide? What's wrong with doing both?

Consider this sob story:

A chapter wants to raise a few hundred dollars, but also do something easy everyone can participate in. They choose neither true fun or true profit, but instead bowl down the middle with the old standard of a funnel cake sale. The committee reserves the kitchen and brings supplies. But the event is weakly attended because:

  • No one believes it will really raise much money,
  • It's a small "easy" event not a big critical one,
  • Is it really more fun to make funnel cakes than go out on a Friday night?

The treasurer and fundraising chair come back to the next meeting flustered. The event was hard work on the few that attended, and there is little money to show for it. What now?

A pretty common situation. If your chapter has great fundraising income and attendance, read no further. You've probably already solved this. But if you wonder why and how a few lucky chapters can take in $5-10,000 or more per year and seem to enjoy it, consider this...

We are worth more together than alone

One of the greatest assets that a well orgnized Phi Sigma Pi chapter can bring is "manpower" or basically exceptional on-call human resources. Consider the value to a small business or university department of 20-30+ very bright, attentive, ethical, team-oriented, and capable college students willing to be trained and work on 2-4 hour shifts or projects. And the value is even exponentially greater for the second time you do a project because: 1) the employer doesn't need to train you as much, and 2) they already know they can trust Phi Sigma Pi to show up, work hard, and get the job done.

Some of the most productive and profitable "fundraising" by chapters really amounts to contracted work for the group. Opportunities like concert setup, stadium sales or clean-up, and blitz tele-marketing all come to mind but there are many, many more. The trick is to get the chapter to agree to this plan before you start to solicit for the opportunities. Once you find the employer, you'll probably need to move fast with everyone to deliver.

Is this fun?

Well, it certainly depends. With the right opportunities, the right planning (e.g. everyone is on-time, knows their role, well negotiated contract, etc.), and the right attitude many of these can be very enjoyable. There is obviously some sweat equity involved. But working side-by-side with your brothers definitely has its benefits.

As a final but important thought, consider well any specific skills or interests your chapter has. A lot of computer savvy? Look for a tech firm that needs beta testing. A flair for the dramatic? Consider being roadies or a set crew for the local event center. Good at ping pong? Not really sure what to do with that but you can try.

What about just a FUN event?

Absolutely. A big fun classic fundraiser can be a blast. Consider a car wash as a good example. The trick with these is to ensure that you're well planned out enough, and event is BIG enough (well attended, well promoted) so that it really is fun. And then you'll probably make a few dollars too. But even if you don't, splash, laugh, and enjoy it. You can look for a more serious fundraiser for next time.

The place where these go wrong is when they are too small. The five poor souls stuck vainly trying to eek out a few bucks and check off their fundraising requirement. No fun and almost always no money. My advice is go big or try something else.

About selling stuff

Most chapters take a stab or two at selling things. From t-shirts and glasses, to cakes, cookies, pizzas, and occasionally something very cool and unusual. I've certainly re-sold a few Krispy Kremes in my time (and eaten them on the way).

Honestly, some chapters are really quite good at this - enough to surprise everyone. But generally, I would not advise this as the first path to consider.

The primary problem with reselling physical items is inventory. Not necessarily the cost of items themselves, but the risk of buying it -- and then the damage, waste, obsolescence, and general loss of it. T-shirts with last year's date on them. That lost or mildewed box of rally towels. And of course the baked goods that go bad pretty much the day after you get or make them. It's a dangerous road. And very easy to find yourself losing much more than you've made.

That said, the chapters who seem to succeed here generally approach the selling opportunity much like small business entrepreneurs. They try to create or find something very unusual and very desireable, and then market and sell it as fast and as hard as they can. Some chapters are surprisingly good at finding "hit" items.

If this works for you, great. My only advice is to ensure you are selling to people outside the chapter, and optimally outside Phi Sigma Pi. Selling items that only brothers would want is a little like creating additional dues. Try to create solutions that bring outside (or at least alumni) money into the chapter.

For most, however, I do not recommend the item sales path. As mentioned above, your greatest asset is yourselves as an organized service workforce. Let someone else take the risk on buying and selling inventory.

In closing

In the end, choose what is right for your chapter and your brothers. But consider the question of whether you're looking for fun first or looking for profit first. Ask the chapter. Sometimes asking that question alone will help brothers understand that you're taking their time for fundraising seriously, and they in turn will help you by showing up to make your well-planned event a success.

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