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Pashmina Math- How to do a successful third-party fundraiser

Every Development Director has had a new, enthusiastic fundraiser come knocking on their door saying the following:

"I have a restaurant owner who wants to give us 5% of sales for a whole day. All we have to do is get all our supporter to go to their location, buy a pizza, say they came because they love our mission, and show a flyer."

You say OK--- and then make a whopping $3.23.

We have all said OK to these types of campaigns, but usually only once.

While it was probably good marketing for the restaurant owner, it was not good for your nonprofit.


Well, the obvious reason is you did not make any money, but you also used staff time that could have been spent reaching out to other potential donors.

So, unless you're a school PTA that can easily generate attendance at a local restaurant, this might not be the best way to engage your database.

The best third-party program I ever did was with one of the most truly kind-hearted person I ever met.

Back in our Red Cross days, Amy and I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Adrianne. She and her husband owned an eight-location chain of women’s clothing stores based in our area. We had a meeting with her in her warehouse, where there was a wall of cardigan sweaters (ask Amy—this was truly a “Sharon Wonderland”).

She described how she liked to work with nonprofits she believed in, and was not one of those companies that partnered just to get their name out there without raising real money for the nonprofit’s mission.

Her signature program at that time was giving 100% of the proceeds for an ENTIRE month from the sale of a particular color pashmina at all locations (a soft wrap for chilly evenings or over-air-conditioned locations) to a charity.

So let me map this out:

Her cost for the pashmina: $3

She sells the pashmina for $28

For every single person who buys the pashmina at all 8 locations (not just those with flyers) in the color that represents your charity (let’s say RED for the RED CROSS) for an entire month, you get $25.

All you need to do is post on social media, maybe put up an in-store sign, and send an email blast.

For so little staff time, we made thousands of dollars!

I did it again when I worked at Gift of Life, and we opened it up to online orders all over the country and made even more. These people are the real deal, wanting to make a difference in a simple to execute and simple to understand way.

On another note, knowing that they wanted to make a difference to the community and support our mission at the Red Cross, we were inspired to come up with a sponsorship that would truly benefit them and have them really be partners as opposed to just sponsor of an event.

So, Amy and I worked with this amazing couple on a customized concept for the Red Cross Show House. The Show House is where prestigious interior design firms redo an older home, and patrons pay to visit the newly beautified home.

Our friends sponsored the closet of the master bedroom…Yes, the closet!

They filled it with lovely outfits and shoes, giving the home an upscale, lived-in look. They had a location down the road that saw increased traffic and sales. Oh yes, their sponsorship was generous and appreciated and truly a partnership where EVERYONE was winner. DOES IT GET ANY BETTER??

The moral of this story is: please say yes to the RIGHT third-party partnerships. The ones that work for BOTH partners. The ones where the staff time spent is appropriate for the money you raise.

If you have any questions, reach out to Team Kat & Mouse. We are consultants for nonprofits who can teach you how to get a closet sponsored and so much more! Visit our website today

NOTE: One of my favorite parts of the RED CROSS was the amazing volunteers. They would go out on fire calls in the middle of the night-----run shelters during Hurricanes when most were hiding under their beds and visit me in my office with stories from their past.

Some still are around-some have passed away.

A Toast to them all, especially Steve and Chet--- my favorites.


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