For many school bands and orchestras, the importance of annual fundraisers cannot be overstated. Fundraising – and the deadlines and headaches that go with it – has become an indispensable tool, critical to survival. But survival hasn’t been easy.
With alarming frequency, school music programs are seeing their budgets slashed or even eliminated as schools are forced to cope with financial setbacks and budget cuts of their own. These setbacks have triggered a demand for fundraisers that are not only effective, but also in tune with the needs of their student-based membership.
In an effort to fine-tune already successful money-making programs, many fundraising companies are getting out of the office and making an effort to learn more about the organizations that comprise their sales force.
Recently, developers and marketing managers from many of the nation’s most popular fundraising initiatives journeyed to San Antonio for the 56th annual convention of the Texas Bandmasters Association – the largest state band directors association in the world. From that convention, and others like it, it became abundantly clear that simplicity was the number-one priority among directors when choosing a fundraiser.
Raising money for their bands and orchestras is important to directors, but it shouldn’t be their primary responsibility. Music and education are the primary responsibilities of directors. With that in mind, fundraising organizations need to work hard to simplify the fundraising process and take the hassle and worry out of raising money. This allows directors to refocus their attention toward what matters most – their students.
So far, the countless hours of focus groups, surveying, and informal interviewing appear to be paying off. Whether it’s candy, cookie dough or candles, fundraising organizations are recognizing the need to streamline their programs for educators with overcrowded schedules.
Planning has become easier, thanks to programs that are carefully mapped out ahead of time.
Previously, band and orchestra directors were forced to implement their own incentive programs to reward their top student sellers. Now even that chore has become an afterthought. Big-name moneymakers have begun inserting value-added incentives in each carrier. Mars’ “Reward Points” system allows sellers to accumulate points redeemable for a variety of prizes, while Hershey’s offers a free movie ticket for each 40-count carrier sold.
Smoother lines of communication among distributors, vendors and sellers have also reduced the hassle of the process.
But simplicity is just one element among many that organizers look for when planning a fundraising program. As most directors will attest, ease-of-use might make an organizer’s job less stressful, but it isn’t going to help sell the product to consumers. In the science of fundraising – where the results can range from delicious to disastrous – at least three more ingredients are necessary.
A quality product (to boost customer satisfaction), name recognition (for an easier sell), and increased profit margins are the final pieces of the fundraising puzzle.
The immediate name recognition and unmatched quality of products from Hershey’s, Mars, and other confectionery giants make fundraising simple for organizations in need of extra income.
One of the more thought-provoking pieces of research uncovered during our conversations with directors is that bands and orchestras really are an integral part of their communities. With that in mind, it makes perfect sense that the products they sell in their communities should be products that aren’t going to tarnish or jeopardize the valuable relationship they’ve worked so hard to create.
To help directors maintain that relationship, Hershey’s Fund Raising has unveiled a new $2 Premium Selection of candy bars. The Premium Selection represents an ongoing effort by Hershey’s Fund Raising to offer the same high-quality candy that customers have grown to expect, but with a greater return on investment for sellers. Among the 40 bars offered in the new carrier are the Hershey’s Golden Almond, Symphony, Cadbury Royal Dark, and the Cadbury Fruit & Nut – the number-one premium candy bar in the nation.
The new offering is backed by solid research and proven sales figures. Sales of individual premium candy bars have experienced double-digit growth over the past two years – proof that consumers aren’t afraid to spend a little more for a quality treat. The $2 Premium Selection complements the successful $1 assortment carriers that will continue to be a part of the Hershey’s Fund Raising product mix.
The Premium Selection is just one component of Hershey’s Fund Raising’s “Dream, Reach, Succeed” effort. The strategy – which focuses on the end result of fundraising efforts rather than on the fundraising itself – was created earlier this year to provide more direct benefits and more outreach to participating organizations.
Part of that outreach effort can be felt in Hershey’s Fund Raising’s sponsorship of several recent contests and features designed to recognize outstanding student musicians and their directors. Last year, Hershey’s was one of several backers of SBO magazine’s 2002 Scholarship Essay Contest and the magazine’s annual 50 Directors Who Make a Difference feature. Both sponsorships will continue in 2003.
Hershey’s is also the sole sponsor of MENC: The National Association for Music Education’s upcoming Hershey’s All-USA High School Band program.
Even today, the strong influence and core values of Hershey’s founder, Milton S. Hershey, can be felt throughout the Hershey Foods Corporation. Echoing the founder’s desire to safeguard children, Hershey’s Fund Raising developed a program in the fall of 2002 with the American Football Coaches Organization (AFCO) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to begin working with the two organizations toward their goal of fingerprinting every child in America.
The initiative, known as the National Child Identification Program, will help the FBI and other law enforcement agencies in their efforts to recover the nearly 800,000 children that are reported missing each year. More than 14 million identification kits have already been distributed to parents of the nation’s 60 million children, making the program the largest child identification effort ever conducted.
To help reach the remainder of the population, Hershey’s will distribute one free Child ID kit to fundraising organizations for every $1 or $2 carrier sold. Each kit contains an inkless fingerprinting system that allows parents to store their children’s fingerprints in their own home. If needed, this information can be turned over to authorities to help reunite a missing child with his or her family. The kit also contains forms for recording vital information about children, including medical information, physical characteristics, and a photograph.
Customer feedback is overwhelmingly positive and reactions from organizations using Hershey’s products echo that response. Sales of Hershey’s products are on the rise, as are the bank account balances of participating organizations. For fundraising-dependant bands and orchestras, that’s music to their ears.
Curt Robinson is the Marketing Manager for Hershey’s Fund Raising.