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Up-Selling Your Fundraising Message -
Would You Like Cookie Dough With That?

By James Berigan

Over the weekend, I found myself in the checkout line of a Toys R Us store in Traverse City, Michigan, with a very excited seven year old. We were just buying one small Lego set, but the joy of a getting a new toy was still overwhelming for my son.

Of course, as a dad, I was feeling like a big spender ($7.99) and enjoyed basking in the adoration of my off-spring. Therefore, I wasn't really paying attention to the lady at the cash register. We exchanged a brief hello, but I quickly went back to talking to my boy.

As he was showing me how cool this Lego set was, the check-out lady interrupted and asked me for my phone number. I looked up at her quizzically. Her long, red fingernails hovered expectantly over the number pad, waiting to key in my digits. I really didn't like that question, so I told her that I didn't have a phone. That wasn't exactly the truth, but why should I volunteer my personal information at Toys R Us? What business of theirs is my phone number? In this day and age of identity theft and robocalls, that's really crossing the line.

She looked at me with unmistakable indignation and quickly pressed a button that must have been labeled "difficult customer". She then asked me for my zip code. I understood what she was doing, but I just didn't want to play along. So, again, I refused to answer, and she once more pressed the difficult customer button. Twice for emphasis.

I thought that would be the end of the pop quiz. But it wasn't. Ignoring my previous two answers, she then asked if I would like to join the Toys R Us Rewards program. However, I knew that if I did, she'd need my phone number and zip code, so I passed. She wasn't going to outfox me!

After I declined, she then had the nerve to ask me if I would like to apply for a Toys R Us credit card. Was she kidding me!? Here we are, in an absolute credit crisis meltdown in this country, and she's asking me if I want to pay 22% interest per month on TOYS?

I suddenly felt some pity for her. She was just doing her job. She was probably in no better position to get a Toys R Us credit card than I was. But her job depended on her faithfully asking me these questions, so I decided to cut her some slack and take a more humanistic view of her. Besides, there was nothing else, I thought, that should could ask me.

I looked back down at my son and tussled his hair. He smiled up at me, it was truly a priceless Master Card moment.

And then: "So, do you need any extra batteries today?"

Arrrrrrrrrrgh! I gave up. All I could do was just smile. "No thank you. I'm all set."

She finished running my DEBIT card and put the Lego set in a bag that was way too big. I finally said to her, "Wow, they certainly have you asking customers a lot of questions."

She sighed and said to me, "I just want to make sure you have all the information you need."

That last statement of hers really hit me.

"I just want to make sure you have all the information you need."

Since my mind is abnormally and freakishly tuned into to non-profit fundraising, I immediately wondered how such a process of "up-selling" (as the check-out lady was doing) would work in schools.

As many of my readers know, I was once an elementary school principal. Here's how I imagine an "up-selling" conversation would go in the school office.

"Ok, thank you Mrs. Van der Parent, very much for your tuition payment. May I ask if you'd had a chance yet to sign up for the bake sale next weekend? I've heard you bake a mean chocolate chip cookie! We could sure use your help."

"Um, I don't know. I think we're going to be out of town, but I could try. Write me down for three dozen."

"Great. Thank you so much. Hey, speaking of signing up, were you aware that we are still in need of volunteers for our golf outing in May?

"Yes, I did see that in the newsletter. Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to help on that one. It comes at a really bad time for us."

"Ok, no problem. I totally understand. While you are here though, can I ask if you've been receiving our emails? I just want to make sure we've got the right address for you and your husband."

"Oh yes, we've been getting them each week. We appreciate that type of communication. It really keeps us up to date."

"That's great. We've been getting a lot of very positive feedback on our email newsletter this year. Hey, last question, and I'll let you get out of here. What was your opinion of our last cookie dough sale? Did we present it well, was the product high-quality enough, were the prices reasonable?"

"Oh, I thought it was fine. We love the cookie dough, especially the triple fudge. The prices seem fine... we sold a couple hundred dollars worth, I think. Overall, I'm happy with it."

"Great. Thank you so much for your time. If there's ever anything I can do for you or your family, please let me know."

There, that wasn't so hard, was it? During the course of a school day, I had so many opportunities to interact with parents. My office staff had even more. Whether it was in person or on a phone call, we had dozens of personal conversations with moms and dads each day.

If you are able to train yourself and your staff to take the lead from the retail sector and always remember to "up-sell" the parents of your students, you could potentially raise volunteerism, increase donations, solve problems, and provide a much higher level of customer service.

I recommend that you take a few minutes to come up with a script for you and your office staff. Figure out what kind of feedback you would like, what fundraisers need promoting, and which volunteer opportunities are most pressing. Walk your staff through what an "up-selling" conversation would sound like, both in person and on the phone. Of course, this script will change from week to week, so you'll have to always keep up with it. Your staff should make this up-selling a habit.

You may encounter a little resistance at first to this blatant form of marketing, but remind everyone that fundraising is just another form of sales. It is our job to convince parents to donate their money to us. We have to make our case any way we can at every opportunity we can.

Oh, and don't forget to ask them if they need any extra batteries.

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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 http://TopSchoolFundraisers.com/news which includes a variety of fundraising options like fundraising events and school carnivals.



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