DENNIS SEID: Fundraising is industry of its own

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

Mitt Romney last month raised $111 million in his campaign to unseat Barack Obama, who, by the way, raised $114 million. Since April of last year, Obama has raised $689 million, compared to $613 million for Romney.
That’s a lot of money floating around.
Political campaigns from small-town races to the presidency of the U.S. rely on donors large and small, as well as various “committees” to get them into office.
Politics is big business.
But this isn’t a column about politics. It is, however, about fundraising.
It, too, is big business.
School started less than two months ago. Can you count how many times you’ve been hit up by family, friends, co-workers and perfect strangers hoping you’ll support their cause? If you have a child or children in school, you’ve been asked to be part of the various “campaigns” as well.
Who cannot be tempted to help a child who wants to earn a trip to Washington, D.C., or go to summer camp?
Those $15 tubs of cookie dough, $15 Smart Cards, $20 popcorn tins and $20 wrapping paper tubes are oh-so-hard to resist. Well, sometimes.
If you think about it, somebody is making money while your kids are trying to make money.
According to the nonprofit Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers, “nearly $1.4 billion worth of field trips, athletic team uniforms, computer labs, playground equipment and other youth products, programs and services are made possible each year through product fundraising programs.”
Jon Krueger, executive director of AFRDS, said, “Fundraising continues to provide a significant financial contribution to schools and youth groups, helping them improve the educational experience for millions of young people.”
Of course, the group has a stake in the fundraising industry. Its members include more than 500 companies that manufacture, supply and distribute fundraising products resold by nonprofit groups.
According to an AFRDS survey released last month, nearly 87 percent of fundraising sales are made by schools and school-related groups.
Other survey findings:
• Seventy-three percent of school fundraising sales are made by elementary school parents, students and volunteers.
• Popular items sold include candy, chocolate, cookie dough, candles, gift wrap, ornaments and other novelties.
• The average product fundraiser generates more than $3,100 for schools and nonprofits.
In an April 2011 study, AFRDS found 62 percent of Americans and 77 percent of parents of school-age children bought products to support school and other youth group fundraisers.
Also, 76 percent of those surveyed said they were comfortable spending up to $20 per fundraising occasion. The other 24 percent were comfortable spending more than $20 per occasion.
I’ve been part of the fundraising scene, having sold my share of cookie dough, popcorn and discount cards, all for worthy causes.
As buyers and sellers, we’re often tempted – and do – write a check to the school or organization just to avoid having to buy or sell something.
And clearly, nonprofit fundraising is a business model that works, because the money keeps rolling in.
Contact Business Editor Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@journalinc.com.