Sunday, June 7, 2009

Fundraisers. . . good for business?

by Barb Macy of Accent Yourself

As I work on a couple of fundraisers with my jewelry, it got me thinking about using fundraisers as a way to boost sales in Etsy shops and home based art/craft businesses. This sort of thing could be a good idea if:
  • You are trying to start up a home jewelry or have a new Esty shop you want to promote

  • You want to breathe new life into a business that may be struggling

  • You have recently moved and need a new local customer base

With both of my current fundraisers, I'm not using them as a means to get new customers, a mailing list, or anything like that - I'm too busy right now to deal with more work! My main goal is to be able to donate some money to a couple of good friends. But, I will admit, I have gotten a few extra random sales due to these fundraisers. It is inevitable!

If you are looking for ideas on how to increase your customer base, doing a special fundraiser for a group or organization would be a GREAT way for you to do'd have a built in audience; plus, depending on how much you donated, you could make some decent money as well. Similar to Pampered Chef, Tupperware, etc., you could offer 10% and up of the sales to a would work for scouting troops, sports clubs, civic organizations, etc. You would have a built in audience or market! For my current fundraisers, I’m donating 50% of the sales, which basically covers my expenses. In the past, however, I’ve donated smaller amounts (10-40% depending on the group), which pays for my expenses and leaves some in my pocket.

Here are my observations and things I’ve learned:
  • Research what other home-based party companies are offering as fundraisers. Be competitive, and maybe offer a little more. You have much less overhead.

  • Have set dates. Don't leave the fundraiser open-ended. You can always extend a fundraiser to go longer, if needed. Go for a short, reasonable amount of time, and extended as needed if sales are still strong. For me, I scheduled my Heart fund raiser at a busy time of the year for me, plus all of the items were to be shipped. Packaging and shipping take a lot of effort & time! I originally didn't have an end date, but quickly learned that I was getting busy with life; family, kids, etc. come first in my world!

  • Think about setting a donation maximum amount...the fundraiser will end once a certain amount has been raised. This also goes along with setting an end date to the fundraiser. You could be committed to making bracelets for months if you leave it open! For my first fundraiser, I donated 50% of the sales through Mother's Day, then decreased the amount to 25% for the duration. And, orders are still trickling in!

  • Designing a special item for the group is a good thing. It will help capture your audience and they will feel a connection and want to buy your product. I designed a school spirit bracelet for a high school dance squad to raised a few hundred dollars for the group. The Heart was designed for a girl who recently had a heart transplant. Make it relevant and/or something people would want to buy.

  • Include the possibility of doing a “trunk show” at the organization or at one of the group’s meetings or special events. You could donate a portion of the sales from the trunk show to go along with a sale from you Etsy shop...cross promote!

  • Doing a fundraiser is a good way to get an Esty shop off the ground. Run all your sales and transactions through Etsy and Paypal to help get sales in your shop. If you are after a lot of feedback, include a gentle reminder for customers to leave feedback in the Etsy system. If you are going to use Etsy, remember to include the additional fees when determining a price and donation amount; with Etsy comes listing fees, selling fees, and PayPal fees. Fees take a piece of the pie! Don't make the mistake of forgetting about fees, which could make you end up losing money on a fundraiser!

  • If you will be making the item personally, make sure it is something that can be easily duplicated without a lot of effort. And. if needed, kids/spouse/friends can help assemble. Don't make it too complicated. Luckily, I thought of this; I had a reasonable design idea, that I could duplicate easily, and assemble quickly. My main "nag" was the packaging and shipping process. I've got back-up help ready for this next fundraiser...any help from hammering circles to packaging to distributing...several friends have already offered to help when needed.

  • Be prepared for orders! For my first one, I wasn't. I sold over 25 pieces the first 24 hours! Luckily, though, I had plenty of notices in my Esty site and listings that customers might need to wait up to 2 weeks for delivery, in case I got swamped with orders. I did. Everyone got their products delivered in about a week. But, you need to be prepared for supplies being back ordered, slow postal service, etc. You never know, so you want to communicate with the supporters. I was just lucky MonsterSlayer had all my supplies in stock and are really quick with shipments.

  • Use the organization to help promote! If they are going to benefit, they WILL help promote what you are doing. It is in their best interest. Have order forms, websites, and plenty of information available for the people who will be selling or attending an event.

  • Have several ways to accept, check, credit card, PayPal...all work. If someone is paying with cash, they need to pay you directly. Keep all these funds separate from personal accounts and well documented in your business account.

  • Keep detailed records! Excel spreadsheets are the best way I know to keep myself organized. Also, you need to keep track of deliveries and shipments. You don't want to forget anyone who's contributed to the fundraiser.

  • Make your donations in a timely manner. Don't hold onto the money and get a false sense of a fat bank might end up spending it on beads!

Anyway, I just wanted to put this out here. I know sales are lagging for a lot of us home-based jewelry designers, and craft businesses in general. Fundraising might be the answer in this struggling economic time. Organizations need money, we need money to buy supplies or support our families - you both can win!

Finally, think about this. . . donating 20% of the total sales to a charity is better than giving 40% to a consignment shop or 50% on a wholesale order, right?

Good luck!

The SATeam blog features artisan handmade creations by the etsy starving artists jewelry team. SATeam members create handcrafted jewelry and beads. More information about our team and its current etsy shop owner members can be found at


ALN Designs said...

Great ideas!! Thanks, Barb.


Meghann said...

Great article :)

Cat said...

Very interesting and thought-provoking, thanks!

galadryl said...

What a wonderful article. Thank you very much for sharing.

danagonia said...

Intresting article... Lots of good points... In Denmark we don't have tradition for foundraising, because a big part of our taxes goes to it, so everything is surported through that... So to me it was very infirmative...

Leilani said...

This is great. I have always found success doing fundraisers or donating pieces for fundraisers. Not to mention the good energy it's bound to bring your way!

Bonnie said...

A great article thanks Barb. The FamiLee jewels do fundraisers several times a year and donate 20% of sales to the sponsoring organization. It is also nice to give a piece to the organization to raffle off. Good publicity for you and they are likely to deal with you in the future.

Barb Macy said...

Thank you for all the positive comments. I am very blessed that I am at the point in my life where I can give back. It hasn't always been that way, and probably won't always be.

Nicola said...

Great Article - We do fundraisers for Marie Curie Cancer Care and I'm just about to make a range for another charity to raise cash for them too :)
Nic x

Anonymous said...

Great post Barb! Lots of excellent ideas!

Lisa Holley said...

very good idea and great tips

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful information...Thanks Barb!