Fundraising lessons learned from the four councils who did it best in 2016

We know fundraising fuels Scouting adventures.

That means Scouts must be enjoying some epic adventures in and around Bartlesville, Okla.; Spokane, Wash.; Hagerstown, Md.; and Zanesville, Ohio.

Councils based in those four cities earned the top spots as Camp Masters 2016 Fundraisers of the Year. The awards recognize the four top councils based on 2016 overall sales growth.

The winners:

  • Cherokee Area Council — Bartlesville, Okla.
  • Inland Northwest Council — Spokane, Wash.
  • Mason-Dixon Council — Hagerstown, Md.
  • Muskingum Valley Council — Zanesville, Ohio

What did these councils do so well?

Doug Dent, director of marketing for Camp Masters, got the scoop from the four winning councils to learn their secrets. Find the four biggest takeaways below.

1. Learn from successful units

When you’re planning a Scout outing to a new place, you don’t just show up. You (and your Scouts) read the guidebooks, consult the maps, and talk to other packs, troops and crews who have been there.

The same is true in fundraising. Ask your council to identify those units that are regular top performers in your council.

See what they do to sell more than anyone else around, and do that.

But what if you’re the one in a top-selling unit? Don’t worry about losing your competitive edge; this isn’t football where you need to guard your playbook from the other team.

Sharing “trade secrets” benefits Scouting in your local community and helps your council serve more Scouts. Everybody wins.

2. Empower volunteers

You may have heard about a job called “Popcorn Kernel.” It’s more than just a clever pun.

Volunteers hold this position at the unit, district and council level. Kernels set sales goals, launch the sale, promote popcorn at other Scouting events, serve as a resource for Scouts and Scouters, send regular progress reports throughout popcorn season, and prepare a summary once the sale ends.

Professionals at each of the four winning councils agreed on one big thing: they wouldn’t have won without the help of a Popcorn Kernel.

What makes a good Popcorn Kernel? Two things: a year-round plan and the ability to delegate.

Viewing fundraising season as a 12-month journey yields more sales, and delegating tasks to one or more Assistant Popcorn Kernels yields less stress.

3. Host (and attend) a popcorn kickoff event

This one’s not just for council-level volunteers and professionals; there’s a unit-level message here, too.

Each of the four successful councils above hosts an annual sales kickoff event.

This should be a fun, friendly atmosphere — with plenty of product to sample. Everyone, including Popcorn Kernels, Scouts and families should be welcome.

But units can hold their own popcorn kickoff event, too. Those that do will sell more popcorn. Camp Masters even offers a contest for the best unit-level kickoff event.

4. Accept credit cards

There’s a quick way to eliminate a common excuse given by a potential customer: “I don’t have any cash.”

Units who set up outside a local supermarket or hardware store must have a way to accept credit cards.

Your council might have some suggestions on recommended card readers.

Camp Masters has partnered with PayAnywhere, which offers a free app and card reader. The reader plugs into a smartphone or tablet to let customers swipe their credit card with ease. Be Prepared to pay a small fee to the card reader company — something true of any card reader.

More tips for fundraising success

Want some recipes for fundraising success? Camp Masters has tons of great resources for leaders here.

For even more, see my conversation with Doug about fundraising: