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Creating a Winning Combination for Fundraising
By: Heather Gims

Fundraising should be a positive and engaging experience. But all too often, it’s not. For students to participate, it should be fun. Parents want it to be easy. And the bottom line is it needs to be profitable. How do you overcome all the challenges? It might surprise you, but many schools have discovered the benefits that fun food concessions offer.

As you evaluate fundraising options, there are five primary areas of challenge that should be addressed:

1. Ease
2. Price
3. Profit
4. Demand
5. Fun

1. Ease
Where many fundraisers fall short is the ease of the process. If it’s too time-consuming or complex, participants will lose interest before it even starts. The right fundraising programs make it easy to encourage volunteer participation. The same concept applies to potential customers. Simplicity is a key factor that determines if a sale happens or not.

Concession foods are quick and simple to make. The equipment is made to be user-friendly. This means it’s both easy on your volunteers and allows you to efficiently serve as many customers as possible.

For example, hot pretzels just need to be warmed. For popcorn, some may be concerned about finding the right mix of oil and salt. No worries. Suppliers offer kits that already have the proper amounts premeasured. Just heat the kettle, pour in and you’ll have perfectly fresh popcorn. You can even skip the prep entirely and get pre-packaged items like cotton candy, caramel corn and nachos.

Another asset is that concessions are very versatile. They can be sold at multiple events throughout the year, not just during one limited time period. Whenever there’s a group of people at your school, there’s an opportunity to sell concessions.

Just think…you can use them in conjunction with festivals, movie nights, spirit days, concerts, 5k runs and sporting tournaments. There’s also another option of using tins or other containers to sell as gifts, like packaged flavored popcorn.

2. Price
Unfortunately, price is one factor that can often deter individuals from contributing to even the most worthy fundraiser. It’s important to have options at various pricing levels. And not only that, but your fundraiser won’t be successful unless you’re able to demonstrate a tangible value at every price.

Concession foods provide the variety and selection that your customers desire. Items are easily sold as cheap as a dollar or two. You can offer jumbo sizes at higher price points. Or try making combo deals, like a salty and sweet package with popcorn and cotton candy.

There are also creative ways to add value. For example, it doesn’t cost much to add a glaze to popcorn. Special flavors are perceived as an indulgence and customers are willing to pay more for it. Another option is to color the popcorn in your team’s colors. That’s a specialty item that can be sold well beyond just the concession stand.

3. Profit
The biggest challenge of any fundraiser is to prove profitability. According to National PTA, in almost all product sales fundraisers, 50% or more of the sales goes to provide the product. Combined with marketing and other expenses, as well as factoring in time, the overall costs rise even higher.

The profit potential with concession foods is huge. The product costs are all very low; some are less than a quarter per serving. Even when sold at a price of $1.50, popcorn can still yield 74% - 82% profit.

It’s also important to invest in some higher ticket items. The margins may be smaller, but the dollar amount you’ll earn is higher. As you gain experience, you will then be able to evaluate which items are most popular and you can plan your menu accordingly to maximize your profits.

David Roth runs a concession stand at an Ohio high school and says, “Concessions are our main source of income, about 95% of our budget. It’s by far the most profitable when compared to other fundraisers.”

4. Demand
If there’s not a demand for your product or service, fundraising is going to be an uphill battle. The best of fundraisers capitalize on items that are desirable. You should look to meet a need or want that already exists.

Food is a prime example. It is a consumable item and a solution for a basic need. Yet, it also has qualities that are persuasive even when someone may not have food on the mind. You can generate impulse buys. The aroma of freshly popped popcorn can prompt hunger. Kids can just catch a glimpse of cotton candy and it’s practically guaranteed a long line will follow.

If there’s an announcer at your event, request his help to get the word out to promote certain food items. If you’re adding a new item, generate buzz by offering bite-sized samples. One taste and they’ll be back for more.

5. Fun
You want there to be a sense of enthusiasm about your fundraising effort. It shouldn’t be a chore; it should be enjoyable! The fun factor is what will keep students, parents and volunteers motivated and engaged.

And that’s exactly what you can expect from concession foods. They’re called fun foods for a reason! Who doesn’t have fond memories of popcorn, cotton candy or funnel cakes? You’re not just providing something to eat, it’s an experience. When your volunteers like the products, they’ll be more likely to feel confident and purposeful in their efforts.

Plus, it’s excellent for team building. Some schools even offer service hours for students who volunteer. The whole family can be involved in some capacity from fixing food to taking orders to cleaning up.

Concessions offer key benefits when it comes to recruiting volunteers.

• “Everyone is eager to work in the concession stand. I actually ended up with more volunteers than I needed,” – David Roth, athletic booster club
• “Parents appreciated that it was less of a commitment. They only had to volunteer to run the stand for a few hours.” – Katie Sharp, concession stand coordinator
• “The right equipment allowed us to use less volunteers. We probably cut our volunteer needs in half.” – Stephanie Hall, band boosters

It’s easy to see how concessions are a win-win for school fundraising.

VolunteerSpot.com reports, “One of the most underutilized sources of fundraising for schools is the concession stand.”

It’s an effort you can start with minimal investment. And if you already operate a concession stand, there are so many ways to enhance operations and find new revenue generators. Whether you’re just beginning or seeking the next level, ensure your success by partnering with suppliers who understand the industry and are willing to advise you throughout the process.

In terms of overcoming fundraising challenges, it’s clear that fun foods are an opportunity that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Heather Gims is the communication specialist for Gold Medal Products Co. www.gmpopcorn.com.

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