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Fundraising... It's a Business Decision

Fri, 09/01/2006 - 10:00am
Last updated
5 months ago
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Are there times when it's not legal?

We hear about illegal fundraising activity in the political system, and it seems there are quite a few rules they have to play by in that arena. But what about raising funds for the playground? What are the rules? Can you raise too much money? Can you involve too many people in your fundraising efforts? Can you raise too much money for the wrong type of play structures? Can you only raise money for certain types of structures? Who would make such rules?

Honestly, it seems ridiculous that there could be these types of rules. You need a playground built, you have people who are willing to join the effort to make it happen, and hopefully, you are at the point where you have made a decision on what type of structures and which components you want to have in your configuration. End of story?

Not really. There are some legal things to consider, such as making sure you are not soliciting sales in an area where it actually could be illegal. But there are also questions to ask to make sure you are working with a fundraising company that operates within the legal limits of doing business. Get to know the company you’re considering working with.

The point is not to make you question the reputation of all fundraising companies out there. In fact, it isn’t as though you hear every day of a fundraising company running off with funds. It’s just to get you to think it through, because honestly, it’s a business decision, and nobody should make an uneducated business decision, right? There are so many great fundraising companies out there to work with. You might have a hard time narrowing it down in a hurry, so maybe this will help.

What to ask? Find out who you’re dealing with. To start with, just make sure they are who they say they are. If you have questions about a company, always feel free to call the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have ever been lodged against them and ensure that it is a valid company. This is business, and nobody wants to do business with someone who isn’t really in business. There’s nothing like finding out someone isn’t who they say they are to knock the wind out of your sails and take the play out of your playground. Again, this isn’t brought up to create suspicion, you would verify something like this in any of your business dealings, so just stay consistent and do your homework.

Find out what they have to offer, and get samples of the product if available. What a plus it would be if they could send out a sampler of their wares for you to see. That’s not only good business but it’s good marketing for them as well because it helps you sell, and in turn, helps make this a successful fundraiser. They don’t legally have to do this, but another question to ask is whether they charge for the samples, if available, or if they are just the company’s way of helping you out.

Do you have to have the money up front from your customers, or do they let you place the order and pay upon delivery? Figure out what works best for you and let that help you decide. If you have to have the money up front, just be sure to set your deadline for orders so that your participants have plenty of time to get the money to you first so you don’t end up advancing money from your own pocket first to pay for the order when placed. It just takes a little planning to make this workout.

What about product guarantees? What if your customer wants to return something he bought? Find out what needs to happen to help your customer out if this situation arises. You’re in the business of customer service, so hopefully the company shares that same attitude. You’ll want to know their policies on this.

Do you have an exclusive territory by any chance when you work with them? Some companies offer this, so it doesn’t hurt to ask the question and find out. That’s not to say you couldn’t have a successful fundraiser if another group were to sell something similar in your area, but it does seem the odds would be a little better if you had the chance to have your own territory. Check out your options for this. You might be surprised. They don’t legally have to offer this to you, but it’s something to consider.

Now that you have some ideas about deciding on a company, don’t forget to do your homework. And just as you were taught in school that the only stupid question is the one not asked, the same applies to choosing your fundraising company. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you are uncertain about before you begin. Most fundraising companies are great to work with but don’t forget it’s a business decision, and even though you’re not likely to find a fundraising company that works on a hidden agenda, you always want to read the fine print when making such decisions just so you know all the facts.


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