It's Not Tricky To Fundraise On Halloween

Attention small/new nonprofits: Does your organization need cash? Soon?

Picture this: Teams of high school students descend on neighborhoods throughout your town, trick-or-treating for donations for your PTA or other nonprofit. (Of course, they carry with them written information about your group, and are prepared to briefly explain how donations will be used.) Could your nonprofit increase its cash flow by recruiting local high school students to trick-or-treat for donations?  Or will you wind up with a lot of those orange circus peanuts that no one ever eats?

Let's look at a hypothetical situation. Assume your local high school's student volunteer organization has 32 members and assigns four students (safety in numbers) to each team of trick-or-treaters, resulting in 8 teams. Assume also that each team visits about 50 houses, collecting an average of $1.50 per house.

Now the question is: Are you having flashbacks of math class story problems that ask things like, "If Pilar travels 50 miles to Maxwell's birthday party, Richard travels 6 miles, Nanette 18 miles, and each travels at 50 miles per hour, what is their aggregate weight when they get there?" Well put those thoughts aside.

Okay. According to our scenario, we have: 8 teams x 50 houses/team  x  $1.50/house = $600. If your organization can round up two more groups to also participate (e.g. church youth group, YWCA teen group), you raise $1800. And so on.

This fundraiser can be a good way to increase your cash flow without requiring a lot of your time. 

To gauge if your organization can achieve similar results, ask yourself:
  • Is your community physically conducive to this fundraising activity? If houses are a mile apart from each other, or if your community consists of mostly apartment buildings, this fundraiser may not work for your group.
  • Safety: Will students feel that it's safe to participate, or will they stay home? How can you structure the activity in order to make it as safe as possible?
  • Can you prepare trick-or-treaters to explain to people they visit what your organization does and how donations will be used?
  • How much is the average donation per house likely to be?
  • How many houses will each team visit?
  • How many teams can you recruit?
  • Will people still trick-or-treat if it rains?

How much of your organization's time will be required? Here's a list of things you can expect to do:
  • Identify local student volunteer club(s) that might be interested in organizing a trick-or-treat for donations.
  • Send a written request to the club(s); include information about your group and how you will use any money raised.
  • Make sure student trick-or-treaters have the necessary information to talk with people whose houses they visit about your group and how you will use donations raised; equip them with fact sheets also.
  • Collect the collected donations. Send a thank you notes to the student club.
  • Stay in touch with the club, which may be willing to work with you this time next year.
If you do recruit students to trick-or-treat for your organization, make sure to note, on paper, who is doing what. If your group can limit its work to the above steps (more or less), this fundraiser can be a winner.

You can make this fundraiser even more valuable by collecting the names and contact information of the people who donate to your trick-or-treaters:
  • Trick-or-treaters can invite people whose houses they visit to enter a drawing (you'll need a prize) by submitting their names and contact information on a drawing ticket. (Petitions, membership registrations, and raffles* can yield the same information.)
  • Enter collected names and contact information into your database.
  • Use your new contact information! Again and again and again. Invite your new friends to subscribe to your group's blog; send thank you notes, newsletters, and announcements. Some of them are likely to donate again. And again. And maybe also volunteer.  

**Check with your Secretary of State about legal restrictions on nonprofit raffles.