Ready to Make This Your Best Season Yet?
A Coach’s Guide to Organizing a
Successful Fall Fundraiser
The Friday night lights are shining bright, nostalgic harvest-time aromas fill the air, and community members young and old join together with school spirit on their minds. It can only mean one thing — fall sports are back!
And with them, the return of fall fundraisers. But before the popcorn stand gets set up ahead of kickoff or discount books are sold throughout the stands, there are a number of steps that go into a successful fundraiser. If you’ve struggled with your fall fundraisers in the past, or you want to build on last year’s success, we’re here to help.
In this complete guide to fall fundraising, we’ll discuss some of the top fundraising strategies, products to sell and avoid, and more. Read the full guide below, select your specific chapter in the table of contents, or learn more about the importance of digital fundraising this fall in our step-by-step guide here!
How to Improve
No matter how prepared you are as a coach for your upcoming fundraiser, you need to get buy-in from students and players if you want to be successful. After all, you can only do so much as a coach — it’s up to the players to tap into their community and raise funds together.
But getting students involved and keeping them engaged throughout the process is easier said than done. To help you get started, here are four strategies to improve student engagement this time around:
- Use a Theme — Universal themes have a way of bringing people together and encouraging participation. Just think about all the themed birthday parties, holiday celebrations, or other gatherings you’ve been a part of. Tie your fundraiser to a theme — Halloween costume contests, school spirit days, etc. — to keep your players involved in the process.
- Communicate Goals — When players have a clear understanding of what their fundraising efforts can lead to, they are far more likely to participate. Want to travel to this regional tournament next season? Everyone needs to raise XYZ dollars. Think it’s time for a new alternate uniform? Meet the team goal of XYZ dollars.
- Pick the Right Time — Planning your fall fundraiser at the right time is crucial for student engagement. Rather than overwhelm busy students during the first couple weeks of the school year, it might make more sense to let them establish their routines before holding the fundraiser.
- Make it Fun — We’re willing to bet your players enjoy a little competition. Tap into that competitive drive by incentivizing better performance throughout the fundraiser. Using a digital leaderboard allows players to track results and see how they stack up to their teammates in terms of funds raised.
Ultimately, your ability to keep engagement high will impact your fundraising success more than almost anything else. Want some more tips on student engagement this fall? Read the complete guide to building engagement here.
Planning a fundraiser shouldn’t be a last-minute decision. While it’s certainly possible to make these last-minute fundraisers successful, they are far more powerful when you plan in advance. Identifying a fundraiser timeline — both in terms of lead-up time and the actual length of the fundraiser — is a crucial step for coaches to take.
To be as prepared as possible this fall, we recommend following this general timeline:
- Mid-July — Start initial preparations in mid-July. How do school administrators need to be involved? What product will you sell, and which vendors can you partner with to ensure you have enough inventory? Getting ahead of these logistics will make your fall fundraiser as smooth as possible.
- Early August — Finalize the timeline for your fundraiser. How long will it last — 1 night, 1 week, 1 month? When will it start to ensure students can participate?
- Mid-August — With practices in full swing, start communicating expectations to players about their involvement, the overall goals, and how they can be as successful as possible.
- Launch! Based on your specific timeline, it’s time to launch your fundraiser and track results. There are a number of successful fundraising times throughout the fall — the first home football game, Homecoming, Halloween, etc.
Organizing your fundraiser in the summer alleviates stress on you as a coach (and parent, teacher, and all your other responsibilities) when the time comes to execute. Take a deeper dive into organizing your fall fundraiser here.
On the Climb: Beef Jerky
With more of the organizational logistics covered, it’s time to get into the actual fundraising products to consider this season. While most products stay consistent year-to-year, it’s always wise to stay ahead of emerging trends to make the most of your fundraiser.
Up first is beef jerky, one of the products on the rise this fall. Along with beef sticks, jerky is becoming one of the best fundraising products to sell. Here’s why:
- Storage: Beef snacks are some of the easiest fundraising products to store in classrooms, offices, closets, lockers, you name it. Whether you over-order the product or just want to get ahead of inventory, jerky will be easy to store and maintain until sold.
- Protein-Packed: Jerky is a healthier alternative to many sugar-based fundraising products, which is especially important considering your appeal to high school athletes. From halftime snacks in the stands to post-game eats on the way home, jerky is becoming a fan favorite.
- Profit Margins: Ultimately, the goal of your fundraiser has to be making money. Because you can purchase jerky bundles in bulk, there is an opportunity to achieve a high-profit margin when setting your price point and selling the actual item.
Jerky has been rising in popularity for years, and it’s time you take advantage. To learn more about incorporating beef jerky into your fall fundraiser, read the full article here.
Consider Something Else: Candy Bars
For years, candy bars have been viewed as a reliable fundraising product. We’ve probably all been approached by an organization selling candy bars in bulk for their fundraiser, and while they can be successful, there are better alternatives to sell this fall.
Some of the downsides of candy bars include:
- Melting Concerns: Unlike jerky and beef sticks, candy bars are some of the most difficult items to store in bulk. Driving from event to event with candy bars in your car is almost certain to result in melted chocolate, and if you order in bulk at the beginning of the season, you have to find a reliable way to keep the candy from melting before selling it.
- High Upfront Costs: Whereas jerky often leads to high profits, it’s more difficult to make money when selling candy bars. With relatively high upfront costs and little ability to mark up the product, you will have to sell more candy bars to make a profit.
- Health: Don’t get us wrong, everyone loves a sugary snack in the fall. And that’s okay! A candy bar here and there won’t hurt at all. But when you’re trying to appeal to other athletes and or parents that prioritize health, buying candy in bulk won’t be the best option.
We break down some of the steps to help you avoid a candy bar fundraiser flop in this full post. Read more to avoid disaster this fall!
Always Dependable: Popcorn
Everyone loves their seasonal favorites. From winter-time Girl Scout Cookie sales to new swimsuits every summer, some people fall into a routine of purchases and stick to it. Popcorn sales are no different.
Popcorn cans featuring various flavors from butter and cheddar cheese to caramel and chocolate have become staples in households throughout the nation. These time-tested classics are some of the best, safest choices when it comes to raising funds. If you don’t want to gamble on a newer product or have been burned in previous years, popcorn may be the best choice for you.
Even better, there are a number of different ways to buy and sell the product:
- Sell bags at school games and shows that fans can enjoy during the event.
- Host a popcorn booth at community fairs and other events.
- Sell larger tins with multiple flavors using advance orders on your fundraiser website.
Because popcorn is such a common fundraiser, we recommend taking some specific steps to make yours more unique. Take a look at our tips and tricks in this guide!
Community Favorite: Discount Cards
Every fundraiser relies first and foremost on community engagement. Without it, players and parents will have an increasingly difficult time selling items and making an impact. With it, community members rally around a team and a common goal to help make their community a better place.
This is where discount cards come into play. Rather than purchasing one-off, specific items, discount cards allow donors to reuse their items multiple times. Here’s why discount cards are preferred throughout many communities:
- Local Businesses — Partnering with local businesses is one of the best ways to create buzz for your fundraiser. When you can partner with everyone’s favorite neighborhood restaurant or the local hardware store, you’re doing your part to lift local businesses.
- Community Members — The buyers of the actual discount cards benefit, too! What’s more appealing — a couple of candy bars you can get anywhere or a book of 2-for-1s and other discounts at small businesses and restaurants throughout the community? Having the ability to use their purchase multiple times while keeping their money in the community is a huge selling point.
- Fundraisers — Lastly, you and your team also win! Because of the benefits to both vendors and donors, discount cards are frequently among the easiest items to base a fall fundraiser on.
For more information on how to make your discount card fundraiser as successful as possible, read the full posting here.
Products by Sport
We’ve discussed a number of products up to this point that you can consider for your fall fundraiser. However, the truth is that some products work better for specific sports. Here’s an introduction to some products you might consider for popular fall sports this year:
- Football and Soccer — High-energy sports need a high-energy product — beef jerky. We discussed the benefits of the product above, and those become increasingly valuable and relatable when your football and soccer teams are selling the snack.
- Cheer and Gymnastics — While many products are popular for cheer and gymnastics teams, popcorn is one of the most tried-and-true products to sell. Gymnastics meets are some of the most entertaining events of the fall with multiple events going on, making it the perfect time for snacking.
- Volleyball and Cross Country — From early-morning cross country meets to grueling state volleyball weekend tournaments, fans are going to need a pick-me-up. Coffee is a great product for these early mornings and late nights to help fans stay energized throughout the event.
This is only a snapshot of products and sports to consider. For more information, read our guide to fall products here.
Launch Your Fall Fundraiser
Fall fundraisers are an exciting time for everyone. But when you approach the season with a lackadaisical mindset, it becomes stressful very quickly. Our team at Launch Fundraising is here to help prevent the most common headaches associated with fall fundraisers.
We know what it takes to organize a fundraiser from the ground up, keep community members and students engaged throughout the process, track progress, and simplify the process. If you’re ready to make this fall your most successful fundraising season ever, get started with Launch today!