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Innovative Approaches to Education Fundraising: The Online Marketplace

By LeanStream on April, 22 2021

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If I was to ask you for five tried and true ways of fundraising for your school or organization, what would be on your list? Bet just about every list would include a sale of some type. Think about it – food at concession stands, t-shirts, branded coffee mugs and school supplies, tickets, donuts, candy bars, coupon books, magazines, Boston butts (need I go on?) are all things we sell to raise money for our schools. Even fundraising events that aren’t solely sales focused usually have some type of sales component to them. Read on for a few common-sense tips to supercharge your sales fundraiser.

 

Tip No. 1 – Sell something people want. This seems obvious, huh? But think about the things you have bought as part of fundraisers that you did not want. I’ll bet you can think of a bunch. You will absolutely leave money on the table if nobody really wants what you are selling. I think back to a day-long school event I attended where they sold chicken sandwiches from a certain national chain restaurant. People stayed at the event and were happy to eat there. In fact, the school sold out of the sandwiches. Contrast that with another event I attended where they sold “concession stand” hot dogs, “convenience store” style pizza and the like. Parents left the event when it was time to eat. It’s leaving money on the table…

 

The same principles hold true when thinking about apparel. My kids are older now but when they were in elementary school, Under Armour t-shirts were all the rage (they may still be) and their school sold Under Armor shirts as their school swag. It was a huge hit and a huge fundraiser for the school. Contrast that with selling the “same” shirt without the brand on it (which they did the following year) and sales went down. I’ll bet you can think of similar stories.

 

It is actually quite simple – you will sell more of something people want than something they don’t. So, take that into account when planning your sales related fundraising event or program.

 

LeanStream has an online “marketplace” as part of its fundraising platform that is not tied to any specific product, brand or vendor. You can sell anything you want from the vendors you choose for the prices that make sense to you. Get it right and that means more money for your fundraiser and that makes sense to us!

 

Tip No. 2 – Make it easy to buy. Cash may be king but if that is all you take, you are losing sales. A 2019 survey revealed that cash transactions only account for about 23% of overall consumer transactions. My guess is that it is even lower these days. So, a cash-based campaign captures about ¼ of the overall market. In 2021, every fundraising campaign should allow for the use of credit and debit cards.

 

Have you ever found yourself at the school wanting to buy a ticket, to pay to park for an event, buy something at the concession stand or otherwise support the school and you realize that you have no cash? I sure have. What do you do? If it is to get in the parking lot or the gate, you borrow some cash or go to an ATM. But if it is for something that is not essential, you usually just don’t buy it right? Ever pass a fundraiser car wash with a dirty car and realize that you have no cash? Bet you drive right on by. Again, that’s leaving fundraising dollars on the table.

 

We need to make paying easy on parents and supporters. That means letting people pay the way they want to – electronically.

 

And there is an added bonus, electronic payments are much easier to account for and are safer. No need to put the cash in the safe or make a bank run after the event. No need to worry about whether the person taking up the cash is leaving it all in the cash box. No bounced checks. Fewer headaches for sure. So not only does it make life easier for those who are buying, it actually makes life easier for those of you who are fundraising too.

 

LeanStream’s “marketplace” gives you a way to collect sales related revenues electronically with credit or debit cards through PayPal and, coming soon, Stripe. The marketplace is easy to navigate and works well with smart phones. So instead of driving right by the car wash, the driver can slow down, pull up your marketplace, and pay electronically on the spot. Instantly, a “lost sale” is captured, which means more money raised for your event. And because it is all accounted for as part of the LeanStream platform, reporting is accurate and easy too.  

 

Tip No. 3 – Extend the Sales Opportunity (Keep the store open). Let’s face it, you can’t sell anything without someone there to sell it. With fundraisers, we are often dependent on volunteers to staff the “booth” and be there to capture the sale. This also means a good bit of the messaging for the fundraiser revolves around when they can buy something (when it starts and when it ends). So, we sort of spend a lot of time and energy telling people by inference when they can’t donate. Ever thought of it that way?

 

If we have learned nothing else this last year or so, it is that people are getting used to buying what they want when they want it. No time to go to the grocery store? Get it scheduled and delivered. Stuck at home with no dinner (perhaps because you didn’t get to the grocery store)? Pick up that phone and order up dinner with a few clicks. Don’t feel like going to the big box store for what you need or want? Jump online and a package shows up for you in a day or two. In the real world, sales happen 24/7 and that is what we are all used to.

 

There is no reason why your fundraising related sales shouldn’t be available 24/7 too. That means that whenever someone thinks about a purchase, they can make it right then and there, on the spot.

 

Which leads us to Tip Number 4

 

Tip No. 4 – Put it on the world wide web (that’s the internet!). Let’s face it if it’s not on the internet, it’s not real right? Just ask your kids…

 

But for real, if you don’t sell on the internet, you are missing out on potential sales related fundraising. And it is awfully hard to use tip 2 and 3 above if you are not selling online. It is easier than ever to set up the sales tent online these days so there is really no good reason not to.

 

This is yet again where LeanStream comes in. Our marketplace is online and is perfect for e – commerce – education commerce that is! Post images, videos and other graphics, sell by school or system wide, set options such as sizes or colors, post pick-up instructions, generate invoices and get paid with a click. Sell the way you want to. Sell what you want to. And raise big bucks.

 

Tip No. 5 – Promote, Promote, Promote. If you want to maximize your fundraising, you have to promote it. It’s that simple. It may be the most fundamental but yet the most challenging part of fundraising. If you don’t promote your sale, no one will know about it. You have to let people know what you are selling and how they can get it.

 

How? There ae some tried and true ways of spreading the word like flyers, take-home announcements, posters and the like. We have seen some super creative (and goofy) ways of promoting effort like dressing up as characters or doing silly videos. But also, be sure and use school-based channels like electronic newsletters, emails, social media and the like. However, parents get information from the schools is a great way to spread the word on your fundraising effort too.  

 

Tell everyone you know and then tell them again. And again. And again. And again. Spread the word through all the ways you can think of including…social media.

 

Use social media to amp up your efforts. Organic Facebook posts work so try to get your team to post on their own accounts where their friends will see it. School accounts work too. Twitter and Instagram are also good options to reach parents and patrons. Linked In works well for business outreach.

 

LeanStream makes social media sharing easy with buttons to post directly to your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. Share an email with a click too. Get the word out about your fundraising sale and watch the orders roll in.

 

So to recap, to maximize your sales-based fundraiser, just follow our tips: sell something people want, make it easy for your “customers” to buy, extend the sales opportunity with an online store and then put the pedal down on promotion.  

 

At LeanStream, we appreciate the need to have a variety of support tools at your beck and call. So, we included a full featured marketplace so schools and organizations can sell what they want the way they want. Add that to the other innovative options that the LeanStream platform provides and you can build a fundraising program instead of a series of fundraising projects. From loyalty campaigns, teacher honorariums, system-wide, school and teacher level “needs”, the ability to host traditional fundraisers (Boston butt sales, car washes, pancake breakfasts anyone?) online to the innovative and exclusive WiFi on the Go program, LeanStream will give you the fundraising tools you need, all under one online roof, and all integrated in a way that makes your life a whole lot easier! Want to know more? Just give us a click and let’s get going.

Fund raising for the entire education family

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