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How to Increase Product Sale Participation

By Jim Berigan

Most schools rely on product sales to generate much needed revenue for their programs. These kinds of events are great ways for schools to raise money and accomplish goals. However, there seems to be a growing reluctance by some parents to participate in such sales. Without active and enthusiastic participation, however, product sales cannot succeed.

So, as school fundraising leaders, we have to employ every strategy we can in order to ensure success. Here is a list of 11 ideas to help you maximize parent and student participation in product sales events.

1. Limit the Number of Product Sales Per Year
Like anything else, you don’t want too much of a good thing. Realize that most parents have other children involved in other non-profit groups, that are also doing product sale fundraisers. Families only have so much of a budget for this sort of thing. Be considerate in your planning.

2. Clearly Tell Parents the Number and Dates of Each Product Sale for the Year
Parents like seeing that you have a plan. If you can absolutely promise that you are only going to do two product sales this year and they’re going to be in October and May, the parents will be grateful for the advance warning and the consideration you showed them. This helps them plan.

3. Tell Parents the Goal
Make sure you clearly state the financial goal for each product sale fundraiser. If you need $1,500, be sure that families know this. Likewise, when you complete the event, be sure to tell people how close you came to your goal or if you met or exceeded it. You never know, if you fall short, someone might offer to make up the difference. You won’t know until you put it out there!

4. Conduct a Formal or Informal Survey of Your Sales Force
One of the common complaints I’ve heard from parents is “I don’t want anymore wrapping paper!” Or, whatever you happen to be selling. I realize that you can’t please everyone, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask for a wide range of input about what product you actually end up selling. Perhaps there is a trend for environmentally-friendly products or a strong desire for hand-made Christmas Wreaths. Each community is different. Don’t try to sell a square peg to a round hole school.

5. Provide an Attractive “Opt-Out” Option
Some parents don’t want to be bothered with any product sale at all, but aren’t opposed to donating to the school. Therefore, every school should offer a clear, consistent, and attractive “opt-out” option for parents who wish to by-pass the products. I wrote a blog entry on this very subject that you can read here.

6. Explain the Reason for the Product Sale
It’s hard to get motivated if you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing. In the information that goes home to parents, make sure you are making a strong argument for this fundraiser. Even if the revenue from the product sale you choose goes into the “general fund”, I would still give it a name and a purpose of something already approved in the budget. Make it something that parents can really get behind- something visible and popular, like a long-established field trip or a popular performer for a school assembly.

7. Decorate the School Office and Hallway
This is similar to encouraging the students. Posters, fliers, and results charts (like fundraising thermometers) work great in getting kids excited about the product sale. If every time a student turns a corner or enters a room in the school and sees an attractive poster about the sale and why they are doing it, they are more likely to keep pushing hard for the duration of the event.

8. Pump Kids Up During the School Day
This is an easy one. Every time you see a kid in school, remind them to sell, sell, sell. Obviously, do this in a friendly, encouraging way. Never make a kid feel bad if he or she isn’t selling anything. All you are doing is being friendly, excited, and hopefully motivating. This can also be done during school-wide announcements over the PA.

9. Create Good Incentive Prizes for High Sales Person
Kids love incentives. Do some research to find out what some hot products are that would motivate kids to sell. If you don’t want to spend money on a prize, consider coming up with a prize that doesn’t cost anything, but still has great value, like five free homework passes or they get to be first in line at lunch for a week. Something like that can be very effective.

10. Provide Prizes for High Sales Class to Promote Teamwork
The same applies to classes. It really helps sales, if a whole class is pulling together toward a goal. Perhaps a reward for a class would be lunch brought in from McDonalds one day or a field trip to a park- you know, something out of the ordinary that a class can definitely use as bragging rights over the others.

11. Regularly Communicate With Parents during the Sale
You’ve heard the old expression, “Out of sight, out of mind.” This definitely applies to fundraising. The kids can get all pumped up on the first day of a sale, but after they leave a couple of messages with aunts and uncles, they can get bored and forget about it. If you have a means to communicate with parents on a regular basis (email or a flier put in the child’s folder, for instance), you should plan on updating parents on the fundraiser’s progress toward your goal, a reminder of why you are conducting the fundraiser, and some encouragement for parents to keep after this for the duration of the sale. Don’t do this too often- maybe once or twice during the sale is plenty.

Conclusion
If you are going to take the time and put the effort into a product sale fundraiser, you shouldn’t use any half-measures. Employ the “Kitchen Sink” strategy, to borrow from recent political lingo. Take every advantage you can to pump up your sales and thus your income. Remember, you’ve got to send a big portion of your sales back to the company, so you want to keep as much as you can. Good luck!

About the Author: James Berigan is a former school principal who enjoys guiding schools with their fundraising efforts. He writes for the Top School Fundraisers blog at TopSchoolFundraisers.com/news which features a variety of fundraising options.

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