See’s Chocolates sent me a tin of chocolates they use for a chocolate fundraiser. I told them my blog doesn’t talk about fundraising sales, but they insisted and who am I to turn down free chocolate? 🙂

The tin came yesterday. I was pleasantly surprised by both the assortment of chocolates in the tin and at how good they tasted.

In a totally unscientific poll, I ask our dinner guests:

  1. Did you like the chocolates? They did.
  2. If they were being sold as a fundraiser for your church’s school, would you buy them? They would.

Then I asked, “If you had to raise money for your church’s school, would you prefer to ask for donations or sell chocolates?”

They strongly preferred to sell chocolates. Even after I told them that only a portion of the sale would go to the school, the rest would get sent to California. They still insisted that selling something would be easier. One guest said she’d much prefer to give the person something “tangible” than just take their money.

And she’s not alone. I can talk ’til I’m blue in the face about how asking people for money isn’t taking from them. Jeff Brooks does an even better job. (Listen to my interview of Jeff for my occasional Ask Without Fear! Radio Show to find out more.)

And I could go on and on telling people that selling things dilutes your brand and potentially confuses your message to donors. I could even warn them of the “slippery slope.” Doesn’t it seem that after an organization does one type of fundraising sale, they keep adding on more? Starts with chocolate bars. Then wrapping paper. Then raffle tickets.

But all of these eloquent pleas wouldn’t change the fact that many people think fundraising is taking something from someone without offering something back. And selling them something tangible feels more comfortable to them.

So if your volunteers want to do fundraising sales, it may be a form of engaging your volunteers. I’d recommend asking them to do the research and finding the best ones. (See’s Chocolates may be a good place to start.)

But I’d be sure to reserve the right to make the final decision. Make sure your fundraising reinforces the mission and message of your school or church or nonprofit. (I’m tired of salespeople eagerly trying to prey on my volunteers, hoping they’ll become a cheap sales team for their long distance calling card or other product!)

And while you’re using these types of sales to engage volunteers, be sure to use your nonprofit storytelling skills to educate them on the joy donors receive when giving is moved from a business transaction to philanthropy!

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