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The "Ticket" to a Successful Fundraiser

Robin Rziha
Hoisington KS USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 41 No. 1, February-March 2005, pp. 7-9.

How do Groups and Areas decide what fundraisers they want to undertake? When La Leche League of Kansas, USA was brainstorming about ideas for the 2004 World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) Celebration that could include all Kansas Groups, one idea came to mind. Why not a drawing for a special prize? Having coordinated a successful drawing of a glider rocker in 2003, I was familiar with the legal requirements about drawings in Kansas. What would be more popular than a rocking chair? A car!

Do Your Homework

In early March, I thought through the details of holding a car drawing and made a visit to Marmie Motors, a local car dealership, to inquire about them donating an electric blue PT Cruiser.

When asking for the car donation, I explained that the dealership would get statewide publicity for the donation. I also mentioned that the National Ad Council was launching the Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign and this would be a prime time for Kansas LLL to seek publicity as well as to raise money to support the mission of LLL.

The owner of the dealership said that an average day brings four to five requests for donations, and they donate thousands of dollars to well-known organizations. I agreed that each of these organizations was very worthy causes as is La Leche League. I explained that if more babies were breastfed then the other organizations wouldn’t need as much support because people would be healthier. He agreed! I also mentioned that LLL is a nonprofit organization that has been around for nearly 50 years. The car dealer had never even heard of LLL before, which only strengthened the case that LLL needed something big to market the organization to the public. He offered to donate a car if LLL of Kansas would be willing to pay $5,000.

He also agreed to allow us to drive the car to different locations throughout the state. Local Groups could display the Cruiser to promote ticket sales. Other dealerships loaned out cars to be displayed at local fairs and events when the actual prize car was being displayed elsewhere.

Putting Plans Into Action

Within two weeks of visiting the car dealership, the Kansas LLL Area Council had worked through many questions and concerns. I was given a check for $5,000 from LLL of Kansas to take to the dealership. The car was ordered with an expected delivery date of mid-May.

By March 30, every Kansas LLL Leader received a letter introducing the campaign. Groups were encouraged to begin thinking about dates from late May through September to hold local events where they could publicize the PT Cruiser drawing.

In April, solicitation letters were sent to potential supporters. Within one month we had a list of businesses that wished to support the campaign. The $1,850 (US) raised through the business supporters covered almost all of the expenses of printing, postage, fuel, and mileage associated with the Kansas World Breastfeeding Week campaign.

The first week of May we went to print—the drawing tickets, flyers, posters, and business cards that were placed on LLL of Kansas key chains.

On May 20, Marmie Motors kicked off the 2004 Kansas World Breastfeeding Week PT Cruiser campaign by inviting a local radio station to the dealership. LLL of Kansas had four radio spots during the three-hour live broadcast. We also sold tickets from a booth in the showroom and handed out basic breastfeeding information.

Each of the 16 Kansas LLL Groups received a car kit—basically a fundraiser-in-a-box. These included everything the Groups needed to do this fundraiser:

  • Three-ring binder that included campaign information, promotion ideas, and tally forms.
  • Ledgers for tracking sales, both as an audit check and to keep a written record.
  • Suggested donation for a ticket was $10.
  • Posters, flyers, travel mugs, key chains, and LLL of Kansas calculators
  • Promotional buttons with the words, "Win a PT Cruiser, Ask Me How" were donated by Topeka, Kansas Leader, Lara Williams.
  • We had royal blue t-shirts made with various slogans and the Kansas LLL logo in white.

Selling the Tickets

We found that the tickets didn’t always sell themselves. Here’s what we did to increase sales:

  • Encouraged members to sell tickets by providing incentives.
  • Set up ticket outlets at local businesses. While they did not bring in large ticket sales, they helped market the campaign. Marmie Motors, the car dealership, was our most productive ticket outlet.
  • Submitted press releases to local newspapers to publicize the campaign and the ticket outlets.
  • Wrote campaign letters to family, friends, and mothers who were helped in the past through LLL.
  • Participated at local fairs and festivals where they would be visible.

Having the PT Cruiser at an event made a huge difference in sales. Jane Tuttle, Lawrence, Kansas LLL reported from her experience in helping with the Ottawa LLL exhibit, "Whenever anyone would tell us they breastfed, we’d say, ‘Well, you saved more than $10, buy a ticket.’ Most laughed and commented that they saved a lot more."

Barb Gabbert-Bacon, Wichita, Kansas shared what worked for her and daughter, Brooke, while selling tickets at a local auto show:

  • Arrived early to position the car in a highly visible location.
  • Opened up the hood, rolled down the windows, and partially opened up the doors as this makes the car more appealing.
  • Put "Win This Car" signs in the windows along with the PT Cruiser flyers.
  • Stood by the car and approached people as they walked up. Whenever we sat down for awhile, our ticket sales would slow down.
  • Prepared a speech or opening line such as, "Would you like to buy a chance to win a car? For a $10 donation, your name will go into a drawing...we support mothers and breastfeeding babies in Kansas. It’s 100 percent tax deductible! Also, the winner can choose to keep the car or sell it back to the dealer and keep the cash."

Leader Sandy Aldrich’s big attraction with her LLL exhibits in Hay was to have bottles of ice cold water to hand out at the booth for free, plus crayons, and coloring sheets.

Kimmy Hinck, with the Osage County LLL Group, added an extra incentive at their exhibits by soliciting donations from local businesses and offering a "second drawing." Those that registered at the event became eligible to win other prizes, too, as well as a chance for the car. Kimmy states, "This was a great motivator for the people registering at the fair since it gave them two chances to win something."
For the final event of the campaign, we used Kimmy’s idea and solicited donations of gift certificates from 20 businesses. We held drawings every 15 minutes to give the certificates to people who had bought tickets. We even had a timer set to ring when the 15 minutes were up. This was highly effective!

Any type of incentives that could be given out seemed to be appreciated by those who purchased a ticket. Prizes included the key chains, travel mugs, t-shirts, die-cast toy PT Cruisers, and mini motorized fans.

The drawing was listed on at least three Web sites—two were for listings of nonprofit organizations having drawings for vehicles. These two sites were very effective in ticket sales and got our organization publicized to the world via the Internet.

Ticket sales usually happened for one of three reasons. First, if there was already a personal connection between the registrant and the ticket seller then the tickets were more likely to get sold. Second, if there was a connection with either LLL or breastfeeding then people would make a donation for a chance to win the car. The third reason was that some people just liked the car!

Media Coverage

We were successful in getting radio coverage and many newspaper articles about the campaign. We believe the publicity helped sales and also helped raise awareness of LLL in Kansas.

Nearing the Halfway Mark

Around July 21st, a letter was sent to all of the Kansas LLL Leaders reminding them that we were at the halfway mark in the fundraising campaign. An update was requested from each Group on the number of tickets sold and events that they still had coming up. At that point, our estimated ticket sales were between 500 and 1,000. Most of the sales took place during the second half of the campaign.

The Final Stretch

During the last six weeks of the campaign, we advertised heavily in local newspapers and looked for every opportunity for events to exhibit the car. During the month of September alone, Kansas Groups participated in 12 exhibits. We participated in a total of 38 exhibits during the four months of the campaign.

The Drawing

On September 28, the drawing took place at the Women’s Expo in the town of the donating car dealership. Surprisingly, the winner of the car wasn’t an individual but a community foundation. The ticket was anonymously purchased at one of our ticket outlets with the name of the Golden Belt Community Foundation listed on the ticket. The GBCF was excited to learn that they were the winner of the car. They plan to take the monetary value of the car and place it in an endowment fund to be used for grants.

The gross amount raised from the PT Cruiser fundraiser was $32,190 (US). Our biggest expense was the $5,000 (US) paid for the car. Another large expense was printing the posters, flyers, and tickets. Our net income from this fundraiser, including ticket sales and money donated by business supporters and after deducting expenses, was $25,189.74 (US).

In hindsight, there are some things I would do differently. As you can see, there is no one "ticket" to a successful fundraiser. Many factors must be considered in order to accomplish the goals set forth by those working on the event or campaign.

Robin Rziha, accredited in 1998, is an LLL Leader with the Great Bend, Kansas, USA Group. She serves La Leche League of Kansas as both CLA and AAPL. Robin assisted the LLLUSA WBW Celebration’s Committee through helping to coordinate the fundraising ideas that are listed on the LLLUSA website. She and her husband, Scott, live in Hosington, Kansas, USA, with their three children: Abigayle (8), Alex (6), and Paul (3). Robin enjoys creative fundraising ideas that will benefit breastfeeding mothers and babies. She would be happy to share more details with Leaders thinking of this type of fundraiser. Contact her at scottr at hoisington dot com (email).

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