May 2011 Archives

May 26, 2011

Volunteers' Guide to Fundraising Newly in Print!

If you could only know the process that goes into creating a book like The Volunteers' Guide to Fundraising -- a bit like sausage-making, but in a good way.

FLIB.gifThis latest addition to the Nolo nonprofit series is meant for PTA parents, team and band booster volunteers, librarians who never realized their job was to include fundraising, church, synagogue, and other religious group members, and so on.

It's a guide to the most likely types of fundraising when your group is short on time, paid staff, and other stuff that an established nonprofit might have, such as a database of donors and a five-year plan.

 These include special events, selling candy (and many alternatives to candy), auctions (online and off), walkathons, home & garden tours, benefit concerts, and more.

Now, back to the writing process: To make sure the book didn't just recite tired instructions that you've heard before, I talked to dozens of people in the same categories just described. They generously shared their stories, favorite tips, nightmare mistakes, and so on. The book includes direct quotes from many of them, along with sample materials, checklists, and other advice. Here's a quick sampling:

  • Regarding scheduling an event, Emily Shem-Tov, a volunteer fundraiser with the Morgan Hill Library Foundation, warns: "One year we held our Silicon Valley Puzzle Fest on the same afternoon as the Super Bowl. That was a mistake. We thought that crossword puzzle people and Super Bowl people would be mutually exclusive, but no, attendance was definitely down."
  • Regarding planning house tours, Michael Crowe, of the Oakland Heritage Alliance, says, "Tourgoers do like to see big, grand houses. No matter how much you talk up the virtues of more modest homes on your tour, they may stay away entirely if you don't present at least some grand ones."
  • Regarding hiring a professional auctioneer, Jackie T., a parent volunteer, says, "Our hired auctioneer suggested clever ways to us to have the kids help out -- like having a little girl carry the quilt onstage that all the kindergarteners had helped make, with cutout patterns of their hands -- it sold for several thousand dollars, our top revenue -producer for the live auction -- or having the Cub Scouts get on stage in their uniforms to model the leaf raking that they'd do for the highest bidder."
That's just the beginning! Read and enjoy.
May 16, 2011

Rubber Duck Race Planners: What's Your Duck Budget?

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As any fundraising special events planner knows, part of the key to making a profit is to create a budget that carefully accounts for all possible expenses, and then to make sure that the likely income from the event will exceed the total expenses by a healthy margin.

But who knew that rubber duck races were getting so popular that you might need to purchase upwards of 40,000 ducks?

That's right, from Texas to Hawaii, duck adopters are flocking (oops, bad pun) to join the race. You can read about it in the article, "Rubber duckies go with the flow of charity," by Kristin R. Jackson.

The good news for the people making the budgets is that, according to my online research, two-inch rubber duckies can be had for about 39 cents apiece. So maybe it's storage space that should be your biggest concern.

May 9, 2011

Nonprofit Auction Item: A Vasectomy for You and Your Cat!?

The humble school bake sale is dead, according to NPR's recent story, "Forget Bake Sales: Schools Turn to Luxe Auctions," by Lauren Silverman. The story describes how (as every parent knows), trying to fill the gaps left by reduced government funding is forcing parents to put in as much effort at special events such as auctions (live or online) as they did for their own weddings.

Even if to you, this is old news, the story is worth a listen for:

  • its ideas on the latest items to attract bids (though not every school has access to an unwashed Lance Armstrong T-shirt, I assume) and
  • the professional auctioneer demonstrating how she slows down her normally rapid-fire patter when dealing with a benefit auction audience (who isn't used to live auctions).
cat.jpgUnfortunately, you won't find anything in the story about what type of doctor is able to offer a vasectomy to both the top bidder and his cat!

Whichever of your volunteers can line this one up probably deserves a prize.