In the Money: Tips and Tricks from the Fundraising Trenches

Jeffrey J. Jett, IIby Jeffrey J. Jett II
Midwestern Student Representative, 2011-2012
Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL

Greetings from Xi Delta Chapter! This is Jeff, current chapter President, your guide to the wonderful world of fundraising opportunities. There are a litany of options available to you and your chapter if you choose to pursue them, and many are right in your own backyard! These include local businesses, other organizations on campus, chain restaurants and hosting a book drive through Better World Books. With this said, though, careful planning and strategy is required to ensure that a “good” fundraiser becomes a “great” fundraiser for your chapter. If done properly, and with enough tenacity, your fundraising ideas will be a regular event on your campus, or in the neighborhood. Here are a few of the key details to keep in mind when hosting a successful fundraiser:

NIU's XI Delta Chapter Bake and Book Sale Menu1) Set yourself/your chapter apart: Because there are many organizations and clubs vying for your peers’ dollars, it helps to make your ideas unique and interesting. Our chapter often makes treats tied into a seasonal theme such as pumpkin spiced cupcakes, or hot chocolate in the winter. Other great ideas include Penny Wars, where coin donations add points ($0.01 is one point) to a given genre, book or author, and bill donations subtract the same amount in points for a given genre, work, etc., where $1 would remove 100 points for example. Last year, our chapter pit the Harry Potter series against Twilight and made significantly more money as people donated paper bills (Ones, Fives, Tens!) to ensure their favorite series won. Other ideas include selling sonnets and love poems in February, or selling soda bread or other Irish treats in March while celebrating Irish authors. Other options include selling notebooks, comic books, bookmarks, and the like.

2) Research potential business opportunities: If your chapter is looking to expand beyond your local university prospects, you might consider looking towards local businesses or restaurants to host an event benefiting your chapter. Chain restaurants such as Buffalo Wild Wings, Panda Express, or Chipotle oftentimes have a mutually beneficial method of raising money for your club/cause. I have found that if enough people are able to purchase items from these locations, it is a wise and lucrative venture, but keep in mind that it is possible to lose money, rather than raise funds, if you cannot meet the restaurant’s minimum threshold for sales. Also, be sure to have documentation of your chapter’s 501(c) non-profit status, as these restaurants may require it for you to host your event. Choose wisely, as local, independent businesses are possible ventures as well. Our chapter partnered with a local tea shop and sold samples (and advertising) from their shop. Both parties involved benefited greatly from this venture.

3) Partner with other organizations: One of the best ways to increase your chapter’s reach and appeal, while making money for a given cause, is to partner with other clubs and organizations and potentially split the difference between each respective organization. Oftentimes other organizations will be very interested in cross-promoting their clubs, as their members have the benefit of knowing and networking with your members as well. Our chapter members are also involved with other organizations on campus, including our student publication, Towers, and PRISM where they oftentimes host open-mic nights with local businesses and sell tickets to raise funds. Since this is a collaborative opportunity, the organizations have the benefit of each others’ contact lists. If you have a great fundraising idea, but are without an impressively large volunteer base, you may consider seeking out another organization to aid your quest for dollars.

NIU's XI Delta Chapter Bake and Book Sale SignAnd don’t forget Sigma Tau Delta’s national partnership with Better World Books (BWB). BWB will provide chapters with everything they need to run a campus book drive, from posters to collection bins, and will even pay for shipping so that chapters don’t need to spend a penny. Each accepted book nets your chapter $1 AND provides a donation to one of their literacy partners. BWB Campus Book Drives also provide another great opportunity to partner with other campus organizations, as drives run by two or more campus groups usually make more money than the groups could have made on their own competing against each other.

4) Plan Carefully: As with any event your chapter hosts on campus, or in the wider campus area, the sooner you reserve your table, booth or space, the better the chance for success. Time and careful planning make “good” fundraisers into “amazing” fundraisers. This is true of any sale, but if you are raising money to help your chapter, or a local charity, be honest. Staying true to your goals and your own convictions will ensure your fundraising drive is a successful one. One year our chapter pledged to match all donations to T.A.I.L.S. Animal shelter (a local charity), and people donated far more than if we were saving for personal chapter expenses. Likewise, if your members and potential donors know how well your fundraiser is going or how close you are to succeeding, it might make all the difference.

These are key aspects and elements to hosting an amazing and lucrative fundraising opportunity at your university. Taking your time to carefully plan and consider all variables will ensure that a successful event is only a scant few weeks away. Keep these tips in mind–set your chapter apart, be honest about your goals, involve local businesses, partner with local organizations, and reserve your spaces early–and you will have an incredible fundraiser that will add to the overall financial health and well-being of your chapter.

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