There are better and worse ways to raise money. When trying to raise money for a charitable cause, or when running charitable it is a good idea to be efficient. We don’t always have to be the most efficient, but when we see ourselves doing something drastically inefficient maybe we have to rethink things. Top of the list of inefficient ways to raise money is the:
These kids are very talented, it’s all heart warming and all, but it is extremely inefficient and the returns can become very uncertain. When you are spending more on marketing and fundraising than you bring in, you’ve got a serious problem. Even if the all the staff at Mediacorp had decided to waive all fees, it would still be very inefficient in principle. It would be a lot of effort for what was strictly a charity show for which viewership has been decreasing*.
Next on the list is:
2) Climb for Change
So, you want to raise money for a cause and you want to source for donations. What do you do? Climb Everest! What? How’s that going to raise money? Well, various corporate donors or other random people on the internet are apparently willing to match every 10m you climb with some money. Wait, if they are interested in giving to the charity why don’t they just donate a whole lump sum to the charity? Why condition it on your performance of some arduous task? Because they’re sadists! That’s why! Maybe next they’ll ask you to drink the fat. They’ll donate a dollar for every ounce you drink!
And then we have:
3) Charity Performances
Unlike the above, this can actually be good. People come to watch a performance and they leave a big cheque for the charity at the door.** Your initial costs still run a bit high, but your ROI is still fairly good. Money spent on trips and costumes came up to about $9000 and total donations actually totalled more than $33000. People continued to send in cheques even after the performance. It is not necessarily the most efficient, but efficiency is not everything and its okay to have other goals as well, like refining your talents. And if you are going to put up a performance, dedicating it to a charitable cause kills two birds with one stone yes?
4) Flag Day (aka barely ethical child labour)
So you’re a charity in need of quick cash, what do you do? Rope in thousands of students to spend one weekend afternoon standing around in the sun with tins in their hands collecting spare change from passers by and giving out flags or stickers. Is it really voluntary? Not really when it is part of mandatory hours for community involvement.*** From the perspective of the charity, you spend very little, you don’t have to pay your “volunteers” and you get a 6 figure sum at the end of the day. Of course you can’t hold flag days too often as that just irritates people. Often each charity just does it once a year. But with the sheer number of charities, there are no shortage of weekends with students at train stations listlessly holding out their cans.
5) Professional Fundraisers
What if your charitable organisation needs way more than $500 000 a year to maintain operations? Let’s turn capitalist. Let the professionals do the job. While they are more pricey than student pseudo-slaves, professional third party fund-raisers can go out there everyday at event booths, from door to door or even on the street asking you for a long term donation ranging from $1-2 per day. The donations are made on an ongoing monthly, half yearly or annual basis and are made through the donors’ credit cards. To see how effective professionals can be, each fundraiser will average 1 long term donation a day. Each donation commits the donor to an average of $500 a year and on average****, each donor sticks around for 3 years. Not only do they collect donations, they also end up raising awareness about the charity as well. How much do they end up costing the charity? For every $1500 donated, I estimate that Appco gets about $100 – $150, which is distributed between the marketing executive, the marketing office and the main office (corporate profit). i.e. there is a total 7-10% commission. 1 person can therefore maybe raise an additional $500 000 a year (on average). This makes that 1 person 6000 times more effective than a student pseudo-slave. And this can be done every day. (or at least every working day). If there are just 30 people working for a charity, that nets that charity $15 million a year. And that just kicks ass!!
So, how should you raise money, it all depends on your needs and aims. Just don’t do a telethon or climb Everest for charity
*Mostly due to the increased availability of cable. All or almost all homes in Singapore are cable ready and most homes have cable. Viewership would have been higher in the bad old days when Channel 5 was the only english language channel in town.
**Yeah that is my sister and damn right I’m proud of her!!
***Students could do other things, but nothing burns up hours like spending an afternoon with a can in your hands.
****I used to work for Appco after my undergrad and before I started grad school. The numbers are calculated from what I knew that I got and what the marketing office got. The head office itself didn’t really need that large a margin as they could operate almost entirely on economies of scale.