Every adoption fundraiser takes planning and effort to be successful. More and more fundraisers are utilizing some form of crowdfunding, like the puzzle fundraiser, Pure Charity or a t-shirt fundraising campaignand asking a lot of people to make a small donation and to share their event with friends on social media. In similar fashion, many adoptive families try to minimize costs and maximize proceeds toward their adoption by asking for volunteers, product donations and sponsorships. These are good things that contribute to increased participation, better events and more $ raised toward the cause.

The goal of this post is to equip you with ideas and tips that will enable you to get more product donations to maximize the financial success of your next adoption fundraiser. We’ve been involved in putting on several events ranging from a handful of participants to thousands. While asking for product donations requires some time and effort, you’re more likely to be successful if you follow a few basic principles.

Design & Promotion

Design a professional event flyer. If you know someone that is a graphic designer, ask if he or she would donate his or her skills and time. You can also post a listing on Craigslist. If you don’t have any luck, you can hire a professional on Fivver that will design your flyer for $5. Depending on what you’re looking for, other good places to find a designer include Elance and deviantART. With so many affordable resources at your fingertips, there’s no excuse not to make your event stand out. If you aren’t willing to dish out the 5 bucks, you can do it yourself with an amazing, free tool called Canva. Once your flyer is designed, get at least 25-50 printed so you can pass them out to local businesses. Ask your local printer to donate the printing costs.

Create a campaign page, Facebook event, or website. Create a place where people can view your event, RSVP, and register, if necessary. It’s very important to have a place where you can direct people to from your blog or social media. Even if it’s a simple event page, try to make it look as professional as possible. If you’re putting on a race like a 5K run or cycling event, there are several full-service registration sites that can help you plan your event and don’t charge an upfront fee like Running Guru.

Send out letters to friends and family members. Tell the people closest to you about your upcoming event and ask them to spread the word. Ask around for anyone willing to donate products, money, or volunteer their time. If you’re not into sending letters, you could craft a well-written email to accomplish the same thing.

Promote your event on social media early and often and ask for product donations. Ask your friends and ask them to ask their friends. It’s not a one-and-done. Be sure to ask several times until you get what you need. You’ll be surprised how many people will step up and provide donations and sometimes financial support for your adoption fundraiser. We’ve found that Facebook and Twitter are most effective because they reach the most people.

Approaching Businesses

Everyone has different a personality and style. When talking to businesses, use your strengths to your advantage. Be creative and figure out what works for you. If you’re not having much success, try a new approach.

Here’s the format that has worked for us:

  1. Walk into local a business (with your event flyer).
  2. Request to talk with the manager.
  3. Speak confidently and share details about your event.
  4. Ask if they are willing to post your event flyer in their window or in a visible location in the store.
  5. Ask if they would like to participate in your event and provide products (for auction or raffle), samples for participants, financial contributions or whatever they are willing to donate to get involved.

Typically, we hear the following responses:

  • “The manager isn’t available” – Ask for the manager’s business card and follow-up with a call or email.
  • “You need to contact our corporate offices about sponsorships and donations” – Ask for the name and contact information of the person at the corporate office and follow-up with a phone call.
  • “No” or “we’ll talk to the owner about it” – If a business isn’t interested or your event isn’t right for them, say thank you and hand the person a copy of the event flyer with your contact information. Tell them if anything changes to call or email you and walk out.
  • “I’m interested but really busy now. Will you come back in 2 weeks?” – Follow-up is the name of the game. Be sure to stop by in 2 weeks.
  • “Sure, how can we help out?” – Now’s your chance. Be specific and tell’em what you’re looking for.

Plan ahead and ask in advance. Don’t wait until the last minute. Local businesses are most responsive when you give them 30 days notice or more. For larger, national chains, most require 3 months notice if you’re asking them to make a product donation. Sometimes, it takes 6 months if you’re looking for financial support or sponsorship at your event, especially if decisions are made by the corporate office.

These are just guidelines. If you don’t know, be sure to ask each business who makes the final decision and how long it typically takes to get an answer. Of course, there are always businesses that will act quickly and sometimes even give you what you need on the spot. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Businesses To Contact

Some people only like to target specific individuals or businesses for donations for their event and don’t do enough asking. Especially for an adoption fundraiser, we recommend asking anyone and everyone for donations because most businesses have something of value that will appeal to someone at your event. Below are a few types of businesses that have consistently given generously to local causes.

  • Grocery stores – Will often provide in-store gift certificates to cover food and drinks or product donations like fruit, chips, soda, water and other snacks.
  • Restaurants – Chick-fil-A is amazing about supporting local causes and will often provide food for various fundraising events. Pizza parlors are great about donating pizza and soda for your event. Other restaurants are very supportive also and often provide gift certificates for auctions and raffles. We’ve had several hand us gift certificates on the spot and wish us luck.
  • Food & beverage companies – Giving away free products through sampling is often a key part of their strategy. These may include water, soda, coffee, energy drink, popcorn, snack and energy bar companies to name a few.
  • Banks & credit unions – Big banks, small banks and credit unions are always competing for business and looking to support local events. Make sure to speak with the branch manager.
  • Hair and nail salons – Gift certificates are a biggie.
  • Nutrition stores, apparel and shoe companies, bike and running stores – For active and outdoors fundraisers, these types of companies are great about providing gift certificates, product samples, and items for auctions and raffles.
  • Hardware stores – Home Depot, Lowe’s and Ace Hardware are great about providing gift certificates and items for auctions and raffles.
  • Multi-level marketing distributors – Network marketers are always looking to share or donate the products they represent with other people.

One last piece of advice. Though many adoption fundraisers are small and cater to family and friends, there is often a lot of planning and work to be done. To pull off a great a event, you need help! Delegate tasks and consider asking people to be in charge of a particular area such as registration, cleanup, volunteers, product donations and sponsorships, the silent auction, the bake sale, and food/concessions to name a few so that no one feels overwhelmed by your event. If your fundraiser is larger and requires more planning such as a 5K run/walk, you may consider forming a committee to handle specific tasks.

photo credit: theboybg via photopin cc

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Jeremy Resmer

Child Advocate. Entrepreneur. Fitness Junkie. Parent. Jeremy is an adoption fundraising coach that provides creative strategies and resources that empower families to adopt without debt.

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