You probably get asked to help with fundraisers on a regular basis from a number of sources, with most popular being schools, college student organizations, civic organizations, churches and other non-profit groups.
Kids are always asking you to buy an ad in the yearbook or to contribute pizza for this event or that event. You don’t want to say no to anyone, but how do you help your company profit from helping others? I decided to take a look at the different ways you can make helping others increase your business. We’ll look at how using fundraiser cards and certificates as well as fundraising programs can boost your image and profits.

Fundraiser Cards and Certificates

Fundraiser cards come in all shapes and sizes, but all have the same concept. You either give or sell the cards to the organization that is trying to raise money. They then sell the card to people who are interested in supporting their cause. The cards have an offer or multiple offers on the back. Many of the cards have peel-off coupons with BOGO (Buy one, Get one) offers, free breadsticks with the purchase of a large pizza or a free two-liter with any pizza purchase.

Todd Nelson, owner of a Domino’s franchise in Cohutta, Georgia, participates in several fundraising programs but calls his fundraiser card program better than their last, which was a coupon book program. “We go to a group, give them a sample card and let them know that 100 percent of the proceeds go back to their cause,” Todd says. “Most of the offers are BOGO, a couple free bread side offers and the selling point is a medium one-topping pizza free with every card, carryout only. The patron recoups the $10 cost of the card with the free pizza.”

Todd says that not only do they not charge the groups for the card, but they also pay for the printing, so the organization gets 100 percent of the money from the sale of the cards. “The cards are equivalent to buying $100 worth of coupons for $10. It’s hard to measure, but customer loyalty is what we’re looking for. I live in this community, and I firmly believe in giving back.”

Some operators choose to charge a small fee for each card sold. Steve Fosenburg, owner of Aladino’s Pizza, an eight-store franchise in California, sells the cards on consignment to the groups. They ask for a certain number of cards, depending on the group’s size, Steve says. They sell the cards for $10 and pay him $1 for each card sold at the end of their fundraiser. They have offers that peel off on the back including a free medium pizza, $5 off an extra-large pizza, etc. It adds up to be $120 in savings for the people buying the card.

“Another pizza company called Mountain Mike’s Pizza, approached me about buying the cards from me,” Steve says. “The guy said that these cards were kicking their butts. I ended up telling him about the company where I get them.”

Old Chicago Pizza & Brewery has a program similar to these other operators’ fundraising projects, but with a little different setup. According to Jessica Newman, executive director of the Rock Bottom Foundation (Rock Bottom is Old Chicago’s parent company), their program, known as Pizza Palz, gives groups a chance to raise money for themselves as well as raise money for the homeless and hungry. The certificates are sold to the groups for $6 each. The groups sell them for $11. The Pizza Palz offer is for a free large pizza valued at $22. “For each certificate sold, $1 goes to the Rock Bottom Foundation,” Jessica says. “The Foundation allocates the money received from the Pizza Palz fundraiser certificates to charities in the local communities where our restaurants are located.” Last year, Old Chicago sold 44,500 cards and brought in $267,000 in profits from the certificates. The groups selling the certificates raised $222,500 for their causes. Through the sale of the certificates, $44,500 was raised for the Foundation. The program is so popular that some stores have a waiting list for groups to participate, Jessica says.

Wayne Rempel, owner of Just Pizza in Lacombe, Alberta (Canada), has come up with his own version of the fundraiser card. He is helping the football team to raise $4,000. The four-by-five-inch card has an offer for a large two-topping pizza and a two-liter soda for $20. “The kids sell them and pay me $10, Wayne says. “They keep $10 for their team. I have done this for three years with lots of different groups, and it works great for both of us. If someone came in and ordered the offer, the retail value with tax and bottle deposit would be $19.82 so they are getting their money’s worth. It makes it very easy to sell when the value is the same as the price of the product.”

It’s a good idea to make up some ground rules when offering fundraiser cards to groups. You need to be clear about where they can sell the cards. A good rule of thumb is that the cards can’t be sold within 1,000 feet of your pizzeria so they don’t ambush your regular customers. If you go exclusive with one group, make sure you don’t do it for an extended period. By giving exclusivity, your groups don’t have to compete for customers, but by setting a time limit it allows you to give other groups a shot at some fundraising.

Fundraising Programs

John Pontrelli, owner of Pit Stop Pizza and Pasta in Escondido, California, dedicates a night to groups looking to raise funds. For instance, they helped their local water polo team go to Hawaii for a competition. “We dedicated a night to it, and the team passed out fliers for that night,” he says. “We split the gross sales with the team for all the dine in customers that showed up for it.”

Another fundraiser they did was for a sixth grade class needing money for a summer camp. They held the event in the school gym, and the kids pre-sold tickets to the event. Again, they split the profits. Last year, the class got $1,200 and so did John. “The best thing about it is you will get new customers from the exposure,” John says. “Next time you get a call from a school wanting you to put a small ad in the football program, tell them you’ll do a fundraiser for them instead. That’s an easy way to get it started.”

Steve says he’s built his restaurant on sponsoring youth sports. “We try to support anything to do with kids, whether it’s giving them a cash donation to help with uniforms and equipment to a free meal,” he says. Anytime a team comes to his stores, the kids get a free meal and drink even if their parents aren’t there.

Rock Bottom and Old Chicago also have a holiday gift card program that raises money for the needy. They donate 10 percent of all gift card sales to charities selected by the local restaurants. The proceeds go to the Rock Bottom Foundation, which again allocates the money to the local charities. Through the sale of gift cards, they make instant money and are able to help the community out at the same time.

Have groups go out and drum up business. Let students or the Sunday school group go out and put doorhangers and fliers out announcing their fundraising day at your shop. Give them a cut of the total profits or give them the increased profit difference over sales from the same day a year before.

Another good idea is to have a group come in and work for you to make tips for their cause. People will tip more and make big donations to see kids working for a goal. Something else you can do is host a pizza-eating contest at a local high school or festival. Provide the pizzas and let the group participating go out and collect pledges for each slice they consume.

Many times you will have groups come in and ask for donations of food or money to a particular cause. Often times, they are looking for gift certificates. You can make these very valuable. For auctions, give a certificate offering free pizza for a year. Make sure you put on the certificate that the offer is good for say one pizza per month. You’ll do good for the community and gain a loyal customer. More often than not, people with families are going to buy these certificates and order more than the prize.

Make these events a free advertising opportunity. Bring your menus, fliers and magnets along. Chat up the parents and grandparents in line about your restaurant. Send out a press release complete with pictures to the local paper. You’re sure to be in the school newsletter for helping the students meet their monetary goals. The payoff is priceless. You get named as a business willing to support the community, and build your brand even further. Start fundraising.