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How to Become a Fundraising Distributor

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There’s a sign-up sheet for Girl Scout cookies hanging from the break-room bulletin board. Jerry’s daughter is pushing gift wrap for a D.C. field trip. No pressure, of course, but if you buy a tin of popcorn to help the science club buy worms, you will be helping tomorrow's scientists. Laughs aside, fundraisers have become such a huge part of American life, that being hit up for some good cause is now routine. If this fact isn’t lost on you and you’re looking to launch a business, read this article to see if being a fundraising distributor doesn’t make good sense.

Understand the psychology of fundraising. Human dynamics, a need for cash and guilt all contribute to successful fundraising drives, so if you’re planning to get into this field, you’ll need to understand how to approach organizations and help “salespeople” to do their jobs.

Affiliate only with companies offering strong, well-established marketing assistance so you don’t have to learn the ropes on your own. Well-organized firms offer distributors everything they need to hit the ground running for a modest investment. Some include training on how to approach clubs, schools and groups. Others give kits to distributors, assign a sales rep or offer 24/7 email or phone help.

Choose products with the best potential to sell to groups you recruit. For example, if you represent a company that makes religious goods, your ability to offer churches, choirs and auxiliaries a personalized Christmas angel as an annual fundraising idea will endear you to your organizations. Matching fundraising products with institutions is a talent that doesn’t take long to learn.

Remember that timing is everything. Pitch your fundraising ideas early in the calender year—even if the product you’re representing is Christmas wreaths. Budgets are set at various times throughout the year, but expenditures don’t start until after January 1st, so approaching schools, clubs and organizations early can get you discretionary funds before they dissipate.

Expect to earn a flat commission—usually 10 percent of sales made during each fundraising effort. As an independent contractor, you’ll be required to set up your own company, fund it until you start making money, keep accurate records and stay continually alert for new manufacturers looking to get their goods and services into schools and organizations.

Think outside the candy bar. For example, find the link at the end of this article for Go Green Fundraising, a company looking for distributors whose clients prefer ecologically sensible products for their drives. Alternately, cutting-edge concepts are beginning to proliferate. One energy company took advantage of deregulation by offering fundraising distributors gas and electric energy products. This may be a bit further than you were prepared to go as a distributor, but it just goes to show that the sky’s the limit when it comes to innovation.


Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.