In 2014 the King and Queen of the East asked me to handle fundraising for the Royal Travel Fund in the East Kingdom. This fundraiser was the result. People from other kingdoms have asked me about how it was run. The following covers the questions I can remember them asking me. If you’re thinking of doing this and I missed a question you have, feel free to contact me.
Why Did You Decide To Sell Calendars and Note Cards?
At the time, I was concerned about donor fatigue. The normal way of raising funds has been to hold many small fundraisers. If you run many fundraisers, you run the risk of people tuning them out or feeling that they’re being asked for money too often. If we could run one large fundraiser, it might be the only one the reign would need and eliminate donor fatigue.
Calendars and note cards had the potential to raise a large amount of money and was also designed to be a marketing/outreach vehicle for the SCA. (This choice was both financial and to assist with recruitment.) These were the reasons I felt the fundraiser could succeed.
- Paper calendars and note cards are things people still buy. (We did an informal survey to check this was true in the SCA.)
- People might spend more to purchase an item than they would give for a straight donation.
- The number of people who could participate was unlimited unlike with an auction.
- The amount of labor and cost of materials per item would be lower than for fundraisers using donated handmade items because the items were being reproduced.
- The calendar was given a theme that would show off the SCA to people who knew nothing about it. This meant they could be given as presents to relatives or friends who wanted to know more about the SCA, thus expanding the market.
Staff And Timeline
I’ve been asked how long it took us to put together this project, and my answer is only 4+ months from inception to delivery—but that is because I had amazing help. I don’t recommend anyone try to do it in that short a time frame unless they have experienced help.
Baroness Aneleda Falconbridge is a graphic designer; she did the graphic work and built the website; she is a professional graphic designer. Lady Lucie Lovegood of Ramsgate and I have both worked in fundraising and special events. Between the two of us, we handled the artists, sponsorships, and marketing. Lucie also handled the sales and distribution logistics. In addition, the East has a large and deep pool of scribes so could find twelve in this period of time.
Artwork and Poetry
The theme we picked was “The Labours of the East”. The theme for each month was adapted from period documents with similar themes. The idea to put a poem with each month came from a specific document by Thomas Fella. The poems brought the project together thematically.
The poems were written by an SCA poet who thankfully could produce the work quickly and has a humorous voice. As I mentioned before, we were tight on time.
The artists were given their theme, the poem and the dimensions the piece needed to be. We included a few guidelines like the fact that gold leaf doesn’t reproduce well so not to use it. Other than that, the design and execution was up to them.
A few things we learned along the way were that it might have been more useful to give the artists an actual sheet of paper depicting the dimensions we need filled. We originally just asked for scans or photos of the work. In the end we collected them all because some materials made reproducing them challenging. It was helpful to have the originals either to try different methods of getting the image or to compare the proof to the original to see how true it was.
How The Money Was Raised
Income for the project came from the following sources:
- calendar sales
- note cards sales
- sponsorship of each month of the calendar
We sold the calendars and note cards at a couple of events and online. If we’d had more time, we would have sold them at more events. Most of the sales came through the website, and we got sales from outside the East. The website contained a description of the project, photos of the artwork, credits for the artwork and a Paypal order form. The Paypal order form was custom built for us so people could just put in the number of items they wanted and click through. We also gave a contact email for people who wanted to pay by check.
One of the reasons this was so successful was the cost of the printing. I’ve been asked if we considered using a print on demand service like CafePress; the return was too low and we never did. The choice was between a printer with an online website or a local printer. The local printer came in at the lowest price. We also liked the fact that Baroness Aneleda could see a physical proof, and we didn’t have to pay shipping.
We had to have a cut-off date for order because we didn’t use a print on demand service. However, I don’t think that last us many orders and may have gained some. We had a huge rush in orders just before the deadline. It was an incentive for people to place their orders.
Marketing was done via social media, email and the East Kingdom Gazette.
- Social Media – We put out some general notices at the beginning. During the last two weeks, I posted a photo of one month each day with the name of the artist and that month’s sponsor plus a link to our website. That way we had fresh content each day that wasn’t annoying, promoted the product, thanked the people who made it possible, and also reminded people how long they had to order.
- Email – The East Kingdom’s email list is largely inactive. Instead I asked specific people to post notes to their local group’s email lists and Facebook pages.
- East Kingdom Gazette – The Gazette in an unofficial news blog for the East. We put in articles about the project along with pictures at the beginning and end of the sales period.
Sales And Distribution
All the information required for sales and distribution was gathered by Lucie onto a spreadsheet. We used this to determine how many to have printed. Lucie also used this to set up the shipping.
A packing group was recruited to stuff all the envelopes. Lucy had the envelopes labeled and sheets for each order prepared before we started. People paired up the items, order and envelope. Other people checked them and then they were sealed.
The items were shipped in large manila envelopes with file folders inserted as protection. It was the cheapest packaging available. They were sent via the US postal service. Please note that if you have a large number of packages that weigh the same, it is faster to group them that way when you get to the post office.
Extras of the calendars and note cards were made in case packages didn’t reach their destination. We only needed one replacement item, although we did need one.
Was It A Success?
Yes. We had a goal both for number sold and money raised. We are delighted to say we exceeded both.