This last month, my older son had two fundraisers of sorts. Double my pleasure, because I’m not a fan of buying expensive stuff (but I usually* participate anyway) and I’m even less devoted to peddling the overpriced wares to people I’d like to keep as friends.
The first fundraising project was “Read to Feed” and it ran the entire month of March. The goal was for each third grade child to raise $45 dollars in reading pledges.
I read the literature and it seemed like a worthy cause, so I was happy to pledge. (And even happier that I didn’t have to contend with a stale box of peanut brittle or 3 rolls of Christmas wrapping paper that might’ve tasted better than the peanut brittle.) Of course, his grandparents pledged too, which meant that he exceeded the per student goal.
* Now might be a good time to admit that I blew off the last school fundraiser in October. I don’t even remember what junk products they were selling. The order form suffocated under the stack of partially-sorted mail until several days after the orders were due. My son was upset because he was the “only one” who didn’t earn the rubber duck selling prize. A rubber duck? Why? I still don’t know…
That last fundraising failure flashed through my mind the week before last, when my son handed me a flyer and order form for the newest cash-raising plan. The expensive jar candles would turn a nice profit for the school to beef up the library. (Did they really have to play the book card?) Call me a sucker, but we bought four candles. We may be eating rice and Easy Mac for the next few weeks, but it’s for a good cause, right?
The bigger problem arose when he came home all jazzed about the “top seller” prizes. I couldn’t send him to sell door-to-door because then we might meet our neighbors. Only kidding; I know our nearest neighbors, but I didn’t want them to feel obligated to buy. Since we couldn’t afford to purchase fifteen cases of candles, the remaining option was hitting up friends and co-workers.
That’s where fundraisers lose me. I’m not good at selling. I have trouble marketing myself as a writer to agents, so how am I supposed to
pressure beg ask people to buy seemingly overpriced products of unknown quality? I’d feel like a sell out if I persuaded friends to buy a product that I couldn’t vouch for just so my son would have a shot at the top prize – especially if the quality didn’t meet expectations set by the price.
I got the same “do I hafta?” feeling when I waitressed and was forced to upsell, upsell, upsell. (Secret shoppers noted upsells – or lack of them – on their written reports, which then prompted witch hunts by management to identify, publicly humiliate, and then brow-beat persuade the offender into compliance with the upsell rules.)
Upsell. Yes, that word makes my skin crawl as much as “fundraiser,” as both illuminate my self-diagnosed DMADD (Degenerative Marketing Aptitude Deficiency Disorder.) The customer orders a soft drink – suggest a more expensive smoothie, or better yet, a mixed drink from the bar; they order an appetizer – let them know the combo platter is “only” $3 more. Then, after the customers are stuffed, suggest desert. My managers expected upsells to go something like this:
Waitress: picking up the nearly-empty dinner plates “Are you ready for a slice of fudge cake?”
Customer: “No thanks. We can’t have chocolate.”
Waitress: “Oh, the strawberry cheesecake is wonderful.”
Customer: “No, my wife is lactose intolerant.”
Waitress: “The apple pie a la mode is superb.”
Customer: “Actually, we’re full. Can we just get the check?”
Waitress: “I’d be happy to box a slice up for you.”
Customer: “That’s okay. My wife is still lactose intolerant. Besides, the ice cream would melt by the time we got it home anyway.”
Waitress: “I can put the ice cream in a separate Styrofoam container.”
Customer: exhaling a defeated sigh “Fine. Do the apple pie thing. Just bring me my check.”
Needless to say, I was a disappointment to every manager. My only success was consistently failing at upselling challenges.
Despite my difficulties living with DMADD, I can recall one time in my life when I was a selling star. I was seven years old, wearing brown pants, a white shirt with brown strips and a sash across my chest with patches and pins signifying my accomplishments, which included successfully coloring and baking Shrinky Dinks in the oven.
Yep, all I had to do was wear the hideous brown polyester Brownie uniform and the cookies practically sold themselves. The only two words I had to say were: “thin” and “mints.”
Now that’s how fundraising should be. If only pitching a novel to an agent went so smoothly, as well. (Hey, a girl can dream, right?)
Are you a great self-marketer? How do you do it?