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Gimme a smile: Having fun fundraising

Posted: December 2, 2012 - 12:02am

It’s fundraising season again, as usual. The ultimate goal of fundraising is to get someone else to pay for something you want to do. The trick is to make your benefactors feel good about giving you their money. You can accomplish this by giving them something fabulous in return, either a dazzling performance or a tasty treat or the chance to win. Just be sure they know that it’s for a good cause, and remember — it’s supposed to be fun.

By far the most popular method of giving your benefactors something for their money is the raffle. Friends, family and kindly strangers pay for the chance to win some fantastic prize, all the while knowing that only a handful of the hundreds of raffle tickets sold will produce prizes. Humans have an infinite capacity for hope. I’m sure I’ve bought hundreds of raffle tickets in my adult life here in Juneau, and I have never won yet. (Of course, now that I’ve said that in print, I’ll probably win the next raffle and prove myself a liar. Wait, how could that be a bad thing?)

Another way to give people something for their money is to sell them something, either something they can actually use, or something they don’t really need but will grudgingly buy from you because it’s for a good cause. It’s never hard to sell Girl Scout cookies, for example — everyone needs a cookie now and then, right? Crafts, on the other hand, go much slower. Not everyone needs hand-knitted baby booties, regardless of how cute those booties are or how cute the kid who knitted them is.

It’s a well-known fact — the younger and cuter the kid selling the product, the easier it is to make a sale. The schools count on this phenomenon to raise money through the parent / teacher organizations. I remember when I tearfully (on my part) sent my oldest child off to kindergarten. He did have two years of preschool (and two raffles) under his belt, but kindergarten was a whole new ball game. During his first week of settling in and adjusting, he brought home a form for selling wrapping paper for the school. In the very first week of kindergarten! The school didn’t make much money from us that year.

The best way to raise money is to call in past favors. Remember all those raffle tickets I bought from your kids when they were raising money for (fill in the blank). Now it’s your turn to buy my tickets. Really, fundraising is nothing more than a wealth transfer. I’ll buy a ticket from you for the football raffle if you’ll buy my ticket for the band raffle. We’d be better off if we each just donated ten dollars to the cause and skipped the cost of printing the tickets and providing the prizes (since I know I’m not going to win anyway). But wait, where’s the fun in that? What we need is “Raffle Wednesdays,” when everyone with raffle tickets to sell brings a pile to work or school and trades ticket for ticket in a big free-for-all. Now that would be fun!

So I’ve been selling raffle tickets pretty much every year for the past 13 years. It started in preschool where each kid was required to sell ten tickets at ten dollars apiece. It seemed like a lot of tickets in those days, and I ended up buying most of them myself. These days the requirement for the choir raffle is 30 tickets, but I have learned a trick or two along the way. If you’ll buy a raffle ticket from me, I’ll let you in on my best strategy — alumni. Find someone who used to have a kid in your program — someone who fondly remembers the wonderful times their child had doing the activity while at the same time has not forgotten the struggles to sell all those tickets. In the rush of relief at not having to sell tickets anymore, that person might even buy two.

So, good luck with your fundraising efforts. Give them something good for their money, and be sure to have fun. After all, it’s for a good cause!

• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother and aspiring author who lives in Juneau. She likes to look at the bright side of life.

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