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Laurel Marchinowski | July 2017

Question: My flute choir plans to audition to perform at the NFA Convention 2018 in Salt Lake City and at several regional flute fairs. Our university does not have the funds to cover our travel expenses. Do you have any advice about which fundraisers yield the best results?

Answer: “Fruitcake? Nobody likes fruitcake!” That was my reaction to being told that I was now part of a Fruitcake Drive. It was my first year of teaching and not one of my college classes had prepared me for fundraising. In the years to follow, I was involved in hawking candy, pizza (make your own, kits, frozen, coupons to pick up at local vendors, you name it) pies, cheesecake, wrapping paper, gifts catalogs of all sorts, Avon, greeting cards, stationery products, candles and accessories, soaps and cleaning products, spices, cookie dough, fruit, cheese, sausage, plants, Tupperware, jewelry, raffles for Las Vegas trips, raffles for cars, lightbulbs, magazines plus participatory events such as Practicing for Pennies and sponsored events such as Ice Cream Sundae Night and silent auctions. The most profitable and successful products we sold had elements in common: useful to the purchaser and good value for the cost. The products that best met these two requirements were pizza (good pizza), soap and cleaning products, and spices.

Getting Started
    Determine how much money needs to be raised. Decide if the fundraiser will cover all of the flute choir member’s expenses (registration fees, food, lodging, and transportation) or if each member will be responsible for a portion of the expenses. Make a list of the expenses and decide if the goal can be met by your chosen fundraiser. Depending on distance of travel, consider using a university bus rather than a commercial rental. Check to be sure that this trip will be covered by the university’s insurance.
    Meet with your administration to be sure that they are on board with your having a fundraiser and that it meets all university guidelines and will not compete with existing fundraisers. Be prepared to present a plan of action with projections of the cost of the project and the expected profits plus a timeline of when the event will be held.
    Set up an account with the school or department of music so you will have a place to deposit the money and pay for the products you sell. Each school has different rules and procedures to handle this so be prepared for just about anything.

    Once the plan has been decided upon, delegate the responsibilities among the flute choir. This project can be a useful experience for students especially for music education majors who will be faced with doing this in their first year of teaching.

Constructing a Team to Assist You
    As the leader of the flute choir, you will work closely with the co-chairs in each area of responsibility. I have found that it is useful to appoint co-chairs to handle the following areas:

•    Paperwork and dealing with the fundraising company.
•    Receiving the money from the orders. You should oversee deposits and the paying of bills. It is best to have customers pay when they order rather than during delivery. Payment by check reduces the liability of flute choir members.
•    Advertising and working with local media to get promotion for your fundraiser.
•    Sorting (cheese pizza, pepperoni pizza, etc.) and delivery of items.

    Everyone in the flute choir should participate in the selling and delivery of items. Delivery can be made more efficient by having specific dates and times for order pickup. If you decide to have a pick-up location only, ask several flute choir members to play duets, trios, and quartets in the background. It adds a nice touch to the event.

    The time when students could go door-to-door has past. If students go door-to-door in dorms or the community, they should follow the buddy system and sell in groups of twos or threes.

    For some groups having incentives for the person who sells the most product is necessary, but for a flute choir trip without cost, the goal should be incentive enough.

    Now about those fruitcakes. The event turned out much better than I expected. The fruitcakes had been sold before and were an excellent product. The project lasted for three weeks in late October and early November. The cakes sold themselves due to reputation and an annual reordering system, and we actually saw an increase in sales from the past year.