Evaluating Fundraising Companies
Five Key Areas to Cover
Choosing a fundraising company is much like choosing a business partner or hiring a new employee. It's important to work with a company that can be trusted - and who can deliver. When interviewing fundraising companies, non-profit groups should prepare a list of key questions. Download a copy of AFRDS Fundraising Checklist for a comprehensive list of questions.
Are the products high in quality and something the organization can be proud to stand behind? How is safety addressed? Does the company discourage unsupervised door-to-door sales? Will adult supervision be stressed? How will these points be communicated to volunteers? What promotional materials and/or incentive programs will the company provide? Are the materials appropriate and good in quality?
How will the company's program meet the fundraising goals of your group? What time and energy saving services (tallying, individual student and/or classroom packing, etc.) does the company offer and how much will these services cost? Rather than focus on percent of profit your group receives, ask what real dollars a group similar to yours in size and scope can expect to raise? Does the retail price of the products represent a fair market value? Will there be a written agreement?
How will the program work? Are products paid for in advance or upon delivery? Will the company provide volunteers with easy-to-understand, comprehensive guidelines for record keeping? Does the company understand and comply with your state's sales tax laws? How are products shipped and when? Who pays the freight? What is the policy on damaged or unsold products? Will out-of-stock items be back-ordered or will substitutions be provided? How quickly will the group be notified if there is a problem and given a plan for how the problem will be resolved?
How long has the company and the individual representative been in the product fundraising business? How quickly will you be able to reach the company or individual representative should the need arise? How good has their program worked for other groups similar in size? Can the company/representative provide references? (Ask references if the company met fundraising goals? Was the representative responsive? Would the group work with this company again? ) Is the company a member of the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors & Suppliers? And does it follow the industry's Code of Ethics and Standards for Professional Practice established by the Association?
Most online fundraising programs are designed as online "store-fronts or shopping malls" offering rebates based on a percentage of the purchase back to non-profit groups designated by the online shopper. When considering an alliance with an online fund-raising company, apply the same rigorous research as you would a traditional fund-raising company. In addition, experts suggest:
- Clarify the percentage of the rebate being offered. If the company offers 70%, does that actually mean 70% of the 5% rebate provided by the retailer? Also, different retailers on a given site often offer different percentages and these percentages may change as traffic increases.
- Ask about residual income. Will your group receive rebates from purchases made by repeat customers?
- How often are payments made? Find out if there is a minimum amount of money that must be reached before the company issues a check. How are returns handled?
- Is the company's web site and technology easy for supporters to navigate and make purchases?
- How much marketing support will the company provide? Some have customer service representatives who can provide help by phone, e-mail or in-person. Many offer printed materials to help promote the fundraiser.