The Good, The Bad, and The Smelly (or how to put the FUN in your fundraising)

By Karen Grouten

If I haven’t said it before, I will say it again. I have a really hard time coming out and asking people for money.

Fundraising-A-Form-of-Minsitry.jpgSo, as I said in my first blogpost I try to invite them to become part of the team by donating. It just works better for me, suits my personality more. I would much rather say, “won’t you join me in supporting the HOP?” rather than, “Oh, by the way, do you want to donate?” Although, over the last few years I have gotten better at just asking, I guess it takes practice!

That being said, I have stumbled upon a couple of fun ways to raise some cash. Some of them take a little bit of work, others, not so much. Keep in mind, these are in my opinion only, some that really won’t work for me, may be a goldmine for you!

Let’s start with The Bad (IMO):

Most restaurants do this, at least in my area. You agree to a date and time (usually a weeknight, when they aren’t so busy). You encourage your friends to join you at a certain restaurant chain, order a dinner and a percentage, typically 10% goes to the fundraising. Often, your friends have to present a coupon in order for you to get the donation, and the catch is, you can’t stand in front of the restaurant and hand out the coupons. You have to print them out and give them to your friends to take in. So the point of this is for you to bring as many people into the restaurant as possible.

I have not tried any of these fundraisers firsthand, but I did attend a couple. I spent 50 bucks on a dinner for myself, husband and son, and my friend got $5 towards her fundraising. I would have much rather cooked at home and just given her the 50 bucks. I think depending on your group of friends, and the number of people you can get out on a weeknight, these just work better for some than for others. It didn’t work that well for my friend, she was at the restaurant for quite a while and only netted about $85.

A Little Better:

Flatbread ( in Canton CT, does a benefit every Tuesday night (probably their least busy night of the week). They have an extensive process you go through, but it can work out well. You need to make a poster or banner, which they display to advertise your event. You need to get the word out. You can set up a table with items for auction, or have a ‘drawing’ to bring in a little extra cash.

blog-gbu1.jpgI did this a couple of years ago. A friend painted a pretty nifty poster of me riding my bike (which for some reason now hangs in the Men’s Bathroom – I do not know why!)

The GOOD part of the Flatbread fundraiser is that you get $3.50 for each large flatbread sold between 5 and 9 PM, and $1.75 for each small, and that is eat in or carry out. I had my fundraiser in January (2011). It snowed, so attendance was not what I had hoped. I raised about $350.00 on the flatbreads, and another $300.00 on auction items (massages, hockey tickets, shrimp platter).

A word of caution. Be careful in how you word things. If you call something a raffle I think you have to get a license or something, calling it a drawing is okay. I used the term ‘auction’, and that was okay. I had fishbowls set up in front of each item or a tent card explaining the item and sold the little paper tickets, people put their name and phone number on the tickets, and put their ticket in the fishbowl in front of the item they wanted. It was fun and netting $300 for the items I had was fantastic! If you can get your hands on more coveted items it is even better!

Even Better:

I have had friends that were able to get restaurants to grant them the space, and then they send out invites and charge friends $20.00 to attend. The $20 usually covers a glass of wine and happy hour type foods. This does involve cash outlay, which doesn’t work for me, but may work for some!

Selling stuff:

Yankee Candle, Pampered Chef etc have fundraisers. You can research these, some are better than others. I can’t sell stuff at work unless it benefits the hospital or a hospital program, so they don’t fit into my plans. But, if your employer doesn’t have an issue with this, then I have heard that some of them work out well.

We did a “Boo Bar” sale at work to raise money to provide gifts for families at Christmas time (hospital supported program). The chocolate bars came from Munson’s and were a hit! We raised $500

The SMELLY!!!!!

Believe it or not, last year (and even still), I am collecting old shoes. The program I am using is run by a fellow in Holyoke, MA. It is called Rerun Shoes ( And, if you are a pay it forward kind of person this fundraiser is a win-win-win for everyone involved. You collect gently worn shoes that fit the criteria they lay out on their website. The shoes are boxed up (work), and then either you take them up to Holyoke, if you have time and a truck, or a husband willing to help, or you ship them to Holyoke. I found driving them up there was easier because there are some restrictions on the size and weight of the boxes needed for shipment. Delivering the shoes netted me $0.50/lb for old shoes.

Rerun shoes provides jobs for disabled folks in Holyoke, who sort and pack the shoes. The shoes are then shipped to Africa, where they become part of a microbusiness, providing income for a family, and shoes (at a very, very low cost) for the community, AND if you are recycling minded this keeps a bunch of old rubber out of landfills. It worked very well for me, so much so that I am still collecting. If you can enlist the help of a high school, or church group of kids that need to do some community service even better! Keep the Lysol handy!

The Best/Easiest one I have done so far:

blog-gbu2.jpgWe have all seen the ads for this up and coming business called Paintbars! They go by various names, but they all offer pretty much the same thing. You get a canvas and paint, sit together with friends and paint a pre-determined picture with the help of an artist, all the while sipping wine and having snacks.

These establishments also offer private parties, and fundraisers. I used the Muse Paintbar ( in Blue Back Square in West Hartford. The cost of a class for a fundraiser is $45.00 per person and 40% of that goes to your charity. You have to provide them with the Tax ID, but that you can get from HITW. This by far was the most fun fundraiser I have done, with the least work involved on my part. I made a flyer to hand to friends at work, created the event on facebook. People sign up through the link provided by Muse. You do not have to handle money, or any of that! Muse offers a smaller room for the fundraiser and I believe it is capped at 22 people. You have to get at least 15 people to sign up and then if you want, they will open it to the public. I did have 3 ladies that signed up just because they saw it on the schedule and thought it was a great cause (and they liked the painting I chose!) I give this one a 4-Star rating as far as little work and easy to work with company. You are also able to bring items for auction if you want (I did not). My event did sell out, but then at the last minute some folks could not attend. I netted $378, and everyone had a great time!!!!

One last idea:

New Britain Rockcats (Fundraisers | New Britain Rock Cats Community )! They offer a fundraising package, you would have to see their website for details, but I have done 3 of them previously and they worked out very, very well. They have changed their policy recently, so it might not be the same as when I had fundraisers there, but it was a fun night of entertainment, and netted me about $200.00.

One thing to remember is that every dollar counts. So even the small additions to your fundraising can add up quickly. Enjoy the journey!