Wanna buy some cookies?

Girl Scout cookies are the quintessential fundraiser. Most people love the product, feel good about supporting a good cause, and like the idea of supporting budding entrepreneurs.

But how much of every four-dollar box of cookies goes to the Girl Scouts? (Turns out this is not easy to determine.)

  • What is the value of a fundraiser beyond the fundraising?
  • Why do we do fundraisers?
  • And how do we determine if they are worth it?

We all have fundraisers that make us groan. And yet there are others and cause us to light up with generosity. We can’t wait to get out our wallets.

How do you determine if a fundraiser is a good idea? What metrics do you use to determine the bang you get for your buck?

I’m assuming that most fundraisers want the best return with the least amount of work… in other words: leverage. It’s a fundraiser. The point is to raise funds.

So I’ve created this little matrix to determine if a fundraiser is worth it:

  1. Profit
  • What is the net expected profit from this fundraiser, given past experience?
  • Are there any downsides to unsold inventory, etc. or variables such as the weather?
  • What is the profit goal for this particular fundraiser?
  1. Volunteer Hours
  • How many total volunteer hours are required to pull this off? Assign an average hourly wage and calculate the “cost.”
  • Would it be better just to simply ask each volunteer, for example, for a $20 donation?
  1. Hassle Factor
  • This is the most difficult intangible cost to determine: How much of a hassle is the whole thing?
  • Do people groan even thinking about the fundraiser?
  • Does it involve counting pennies, keeping food refrigerated or coordinating the pick up of 1,000 items in 90 minutes?
  • Just assign a number between 1 (easy) and 10 (total hassle cluster).
  • Do you find yourself asking every year: “Can’t I just write a dang check?”

There’s not a neat formula for this, but I think the more we know the profit numbers, calculate the volunteer hours and consider the hassle factor, the better off we’ll be in deciding whether or not to do a fundraiser.

But it’s more complicated than that, isn’t it? Here are some other intangibles:

  1. Teamwork

Accomplishing something together as a team is a valuable life skills. Sometimes fundraisers achieve this end. I also think that sometimes this intangible gets too much play. Is the fundraiser actually achieving this end? Is it developing a cohesive team or is this just something we’d like to think it is doing.

  1. Entrepreneurship

I truly think this is also overrated. True entrepreneurship is developing something on your own, not simply selling someone else’s great (or terrible) product. How cool would it be to create something as your organization from scratch and sell that?

  1. Sales and Marketing Training

I do think fundraisers can be leveraged to teach creative ways of doing sales and marketing. But this only works if mentors in those fields (read: parents) are willing to teach those skills before the fundraiser begins.

What is the value of fundraising to you?

What metrics do you use to determine if it is worth it?