In fall 2012, the Chemistry Student Association at the University of Texas at Dallas ran one of our most successful fundraisers. In the process of running the event, we developed some very helpful strategies. I summarized these strategies into the guide below; I hope it will be helpful for other student chapters!
Find what students are required to have for their classes by looking at past syllabi. If you’re uncertain about class requirements, talk to the professors who teach that class. Common requirements include safety glasses and notebooks, which are both great sellers at fundraisers.
If you are unsure of whether something will sell or not, I suggest buying a small batch to sell alongside other items. If these items don’t sell, the loss is minimal. However, if they sell well you can buy them on a large scale next year. Be sure to keep records of what sells and what doesn’t!
After determining what you want to buy, you will need to find a supplier:
- Talk to your faculty advisor and those who oversee labs — they will often be able to recommend suppliers!
- Call local stores and consider seasonal sales — basic calculators, spiral notebooks, and similar school supplies can be bought at a steep discount at back-to-school sales during the fall semester.
- Thoroughly search the Internet for online providers. Don’t forget to consider shipping costs when looking at prices!
How much will you charge?
It is vital to price below on-campus suppliers, so:
- Don’t worry about beating off-campus supply, unless they are a very short walk away.
- Choose a round number. It’s best to choose a whole number ($2.00, $3.00, etc.) for a price; it makes transactions much easier for both the buyer and seller.
- Consider the profit margin for each item and how much effort it will take to sell the items.
How much will you buy?
Choosing how much inventory to buy can be very tricky. I like to determine a “break even” point, and then compare that number to the number of potential buyers. This helps put things into perspective.
Here’s an example:
If you buy 500 units of goggles at $1 apiece, then sell them for $5, that’s $500 spent on inventory, and in order to break even, only 100 goggles (100*$5) will need to be sold. If there are 1000 students who will need goggles, this is probably a safe investment.
Keep in mind resupply times. If it takes weeks to ship an item, you won’t be able to restock your inventory in time if you run out. If the number of items you need to sell to break even is low enough, it might be wise to over-buy and save the leftover stock for another event.
How will you sell the items?
First, choose a convenient location for those you are selling to, and then do whatever is necessary to reserve the space. For example:
- Run your events outside large gen-chem lecture halls.
- Use a table or booth.
- Choose a time of high demand, usually the beginning of a semester if you are selling required materials.
- Put up event flyers and send out announcements about 2 weeks in advance.
- Email any relevant professors to let them know when and where you are running the fundraiser.
When running the event, there are a few, very important rules:
- Bring a good amount of small bills to make change with, and make sure this level is maintained from day to day.
- Maintain consistent hours, and keep the booth constantly operated by at least one person.
- Keep the table neat, with your products presented in an attractive fashion.
- Never leave your money or inventory unsupervised.
- Try to run the event for a good length of time; our must successful fundraiser was run for two weeks.
It helps to post large, easy-to-read signs listing what you’re selling, which classes require them, and how much they cost. Signs addressing common questions, like the difference between safety glasses and goggles, are also helpful. If you run out of inventory mid-fundraiser, it may be wise to buy from local suppliers. Although their prices may be higher, it’s still better to make a sale with a little profit rather than no sale at all. Finally, carefully record the numbers of each item sold, and save these numbers for next year. This will help immensely when estimating how many items to order.