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What is product marketing fundraising?

Let the monks of the Abbey of the Genesee do your baking for you.

Product marketing fundraising is selling something for a good cause. You already know more about it than you think. There’s a knock at the door. When you open it, a cute child in uniform says, “Hi, I’m Dorothy. Would you like to buy some (cookies, popcorn, chocolate, magazines, etc.)?” How can you say no? The child takes your order and a check, and in a few weeks you get whatever you bought.

With product marketing fundraising, the amount you fundraise comes from the difference between the cost of what your selling and the price your customers pay for it. So if biscotti costs $1 and you sell it for $2, then you raise $1 for every biscotti sold. Therefore, it is very important to choose the right product.

Results vary for this kind of fundraising. Since they typically focus on consumer items that are modestly priced, raising $1,000-$2,000 should be considered successful. So it’s the right size for a club trying to go on a trip, but not for a capital campaign that’s trying to build a new… anything.

What do you need to succeed?

This kind of fundraiser requires a few essential ingredients.

1. Leadership.

A product marketing fundraising drive needs leadership to succeed. This might be a single person or a committee that coordinates the drive. Most often you’ll have one person who is in charge.

The team leader or leaders will be responsible for the following:

  • Choosing the product or products to market.
  • Finding volunteer solicitors and training them.
  • Setting the timeline for the drive. These drives shouldn’t last forever.
  • Marketing the drive.
  • Collecting orders at the deadline.
  • Sending one big product order to the vendor.
  • Distributing the product either to the purchasers or to the volunteers who solicited the order.
  • Thanking everyone for their involvement.

As you can see, this is a lot of work for one person, though it can be done. Even if you put together a committee and divvy out the responsibilities, it will work better if you have one person who makes sure that all of the pieces come together.

2. Volunteers.

Volunteers make it happen. The success of your drive depends entirely on the number of volunteer solicitors that are involved. Each person will have a limited number of friends and family and coworkers that they can ask to participate. You can find ways to reach out beyond those close circles, but the core of your fundraising will likely happen within your volunteer’s personal networks. Natural volunteers are members of the club, organization, or church that is holding the fundraiser.

Set reasonable goals for each volunteer and consider some kind of award structure to get them excited about selling. A starting goal might be 25 sales per individual, with awards or prizes for anyone who hits the 50 and 100 mark. Keep in mind that some people (most people, in fact) will say no when asked. Selling 100 products of any kind takes a lot of work.

3. Marketing.

People need to know about the drive in order for them to get involved as a volunteer or purchase one of the products. Think about the many ways that you can tell them.

  • Social media.
  • Announcements.
  • Posters in community areas.
  • Emails.
  • Mail postcards (maybe… this can get pretty expensive for a drive of this size).
  • Volunteer contacts.

In a church setting, announcements after Mass can be a very effective way to market the drive. Just put up a sign up sheet and materials at the entrance to collect orders. Have volunteers stationed to take orders and answer questions.

For the most part, your biggest tool for marketing your drive is that last one, volunteer contacts. Nothing beats a personal solicitation. Door to door sales is one way that has proven effective, although in this day and age, a child under 18 should be accompanied by an adult. Adult volunteers can reach out to personal contacts, or announce the sale at their office if permitted.

If you have a good relationship with a local business, you might get permission to setup a table and ask their patrons if they’d like to purchase something to support a good cause. Large national chain stores are unlikely to allow this, but a small local or regional one might. Make sure that your volunteers are respectful of the store customers and don’t harass them. A warning on this technique, it is very time consuming and can have a low return of funds raised for time invested

4. Training.

If you want volunteers to ask people to purchase the product, you’ll see better results if you teach them how to do it. Give them a sample script and have them practice. It’s even better if you can demonstrate with some role play.

A sample script might be something like this:

Hi, Uncle Bob, I’m selling biscotti to help pay for my mission trip to Guatemala. We are going to help families rebuild their homes after the terrible mudslides that hit the area this summer. Our biscotti come in Dark Chocolate Chip, Sea Salt Carmel, Orange Cranberry, and Anise Almond and are just $7.50 a box. How many boxes can I put you down for?

This is an example of a hard sales close. If you want a slightly softer close, change the last sentence to something like, “Would you like to two or three boxes to give as gifts?” or “Would you like to buy some (product)?

The essential components of the sales pitch are:

  1. Tell them what you’re selling.
  2. Tell them why you’re selling it.
  3. Ask them to purchase something.

Tailor your practice pitch to your product and mission.

You can also give your volunteers a similar email to send out to their contacts. With the email, you might do a slightly less aggressive sales pitch, but don’t be afraid to ask for people to purchase.

5. Logistics.

Once you’ve completed your sales period, it is super important to fulfill the orders quickly and without hassle. We live in the internet age, where people can get almost whatever they want delivered to their doorstep overnight. In some cases, they can get it the day they order it. It looks bad for you and for your organization if it takes you more than a month to fulfill the orders.

Therefore, you need to have a plan in place for fulfilling those orders as quickly and easily as possible. If you’re doing a bulk delivery of product and letting your volunteers deliver it, make sure that they know when that day is and how important it is to distribute the product promptly. Some product partners may have the ability to ship directly to your customers, but the increased shipping costs will reduce the amount of money you raise.

Pick the right product.

Finding a product that works for your organization is super important. It has to be something that excites your volunteers. If they love the product, they’ll feel comfortable selling it.

Monks’ Fundraising

Here’s an example of a great product. Recently, I saw an advertisement online for Monks’ Fundraising. This peaked my interest because my brother-in-law’s uncle is a monk at the Trappist Abbey of the Genesee in upstate New York where they make Monks’ Bread. If you’ve never tried it, imagine the excellence of Trappist beer in bread form.

In recent years, they expanded their bakery to produce specialty items like biscotti, cheese crisps, and jams that work nicely as a product marketing fundraiser. Everything they sell is made by the monks, and the proceeds help to sustain the monastery. They have a suggested retail price, but allow you to set your own price point to match your audience. The average profit margin on their products is about 45%.

Their fundraising coordinators will work with you to create the kind of fundraiser that you want to do. They can do a standard product marketing program that takes and fulfills orders to individuals. If you prefer a one time event, you can make a large bulk purchase and host a one time bake sale. Or you can use their treats as thank you gifts for your big donors to help boost your donor retention.

Wrapping it up.

Putting on a product marketing fundraiser is a lot of work. Make sure that you do a good job thanking your volunteers. The leaders of the drive are responsible for personally thanking and congratulating each of the volunteers. Whether you do this with an event, a phone call, a hand written thank you note, or an email, make sure that you say thank you.

Perhaps most important, make sure that you keep your list of donors. You have just done a very labor intensive donor acquisition. Don’t miss the big opportunity. People who have donated once are highly likely to donate again. Hold onto that list, keep it safe, and when the next year or fundraising season rolls around, break it out. You can give the lists to your new volunteers, give them back to the same volunteers who first solicited them, or reach out to them directly with email or letter. A significant number of the donors will give again if asked.

Looking for more articles on charitable enterprises? Try these:

Check out The Fundraiser’s Playbook for a full list of fundraising articles.


Would you like to learn more about raising money for Church and Ministry? Check out Letters From The Almoner, now available on Amazon.com.

Image courtesy of Monks’ Specialty Bakery.