Change Your Approach to Fundraising for Better Results
By Dan McMaken

Are you tired of fundraisers that do not yield expected results? Do the parents in your program lack enthusiasm for participating in fundraisers? Are you struggling to find ways to simplify fundraising efforts and keep the time invested to a minimum while at the same time increase fundraising dollars?


This article will end your fundraising frustration by helping you decide when to sell, whom to sell to, what to sell, and how to sell.


When to Sell

There is a definite season for fundraising, and it centers around the start of the school year. Some child care programs like to hold their fundraiser in August to “beat the schools,” or in November when most schools have completed their fundraising efforts. But conducting a fundraiser around elementary and high schools misses the prime fundraising season, which lasts from early September to mid-October. Fundraisers held during this time period have the greatest success. A second fundraising season takes place in February and March. Typically, this season is smaller in size and focuses on delivering products for Easter.


Whom to Sell to

Picking a fundraising program is key to success. When choosing a program, try not to focus on what parents will buy or what would be “fun to sell,” but on identifying who will buy the products. Most likely, parents of the children in your program will have to sell to their friends, family, neighbors, and businesses.


What to Sell

Look around. What retail stores have the biggest parking lots? The answer is those with a variety of merchandise (Wal-Mart and K-Mart). Variety encourages more shoppers, and more shoppers mean more sales dollars. Fundraising programs are a lot like retail stores. Fundraisers that offer little or no variety have limited appeal. Catalog fundraisers with a variety of products raise the most money.


When choosing a catalog, look at the quality of the printing and design. Does the catalog cover have a good visual appeal? Does it say “open me”? Remember that the catalog will have to capture the interest of potential customers. If the catalog/brochure doesn’t have “eye appeal” it isn’t going to do the job.


How to Sell

Once you have decided what to sell, you need to develop a sales force. Teachers and staff cannot do all of the fundraising. The parents of children enrolled in your program will need to participate as well, and not just as customers. Keeping parents motivated, however, can be a challenge. Parents and the customer base they sell to burn out easily. For best results, limit fundraising efforts to two or three fundraisers a year. In addition, tell parents of the fundraising plans when they enroll their child at your facility. They will work harder if they know fundraising is not an ongoing assignment.


Set a goal. Show parents and staff how the children will benefit from their fundraising efforts. If they can see how their children will benefit, whether it be new playground equipment, games, materials for arts and crafts, or books, they will be more inclined to sell.


Offer a reward. Ask yourself, “What would motivate parents to participate actively in their child’s fundraiser?” A free week of child care? Dinner for two? Movie tickets? By making an investment in a prize to the top seller or sellers, you help encourage sales.


Promote! Promote! Promote! Advertising is everywhere…on television, on billboards, on the radio, in your mailbox, and even through telephone calls to your home. Businesses invest in promotions because advertising increases sales. You want increased sales, too! Promote your fundraiser by writing letters to parents that include the product catalog or flyer explaining the fundraising program. In the letter, inform parents of the goal and what the money raised will buy. In staff meetings, encourage everyone to remind parents personally about the upcoming fundraiser. In addition, put up a bulletin board (or two, or three) for parents to learn more about the fundraiser, along with a picture of the item that will be purchased with the money raised. One child care program actually got the item they wanted to purchase on loan from their vendor and put it on display so parents could see it. Parents responded, and the center reached its goal.


Train the sales force. Teach parents to look for potential customers at work, in the neighborhood, and in their own family. Encourage parents to be creative, too. Leaving the sales catalog on the break room table with an order form will bring in many extra dollars. The note can be as simple as: “My child’s child care center is raising money for _______. Please look over the catalog and help them reach their goal.” One Pennsylvania child care center had a parent approach a local company. The parent sold more than $12,000 in merchandise when the company decided to use the fundraiser to buy Christmas gifts for their employees. Another parent noticed a fishing mug in the fundraising catalog and decided to contact a local fishing club. The fishing club purchased 100 mugs!


Share the results. Encourage parents to share success stories with you, and then pass those success stories along to other parents through word of mouth or through a newsletter. When the fundraiser concludes, let parents and staff know how well they did. Share the sales results with them, thank them for their help, and tell them that they did a good job. Then when the new item purchased with the money raised from the fundraiser arrives, invite parents to stop in and see what the money was able to buy. This will help pre-sell them for the next fundraiser.



Raising money to buy “something extra” for your child care program can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Using the suggestions in this article will not only make fundraising a snap, but will increase fundraising sales.


Dan McMaken is president of The FundFactory, Inc. For more information, please contact him by calling 800-777-8140 or by sending e-mail to