Robbing Peter to Pay Peter Jr.

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Money-earning projects are all around us. The pages of Scouting magazine feature scads of ads from fundraising companies, district executives tout popcorn as a surefire money-maker, and the troop down the street is already making plans to set up its Christmas tree stand in a vacant lot.

And Scouts aren’t the only ones hustling for a buck. Even as I write these words, school kids are bringing home shiny new textbooks and fundraising forms. And Girl Scout cookie sales kick off in just a few months.

In other words, there are lots of ways to raise funds for Scouting and other worthwhile programs. You can sell products or offer services. You can take pre-orders or have show-and-sell days at the local grocery store. You can host pancake breakfasts or hold auctions. All of those techniques have the potential to be effective.

But there’s one fundraising technique that’s guaranteed to be ineffective–or at least inefficient: selling to your troop families. If troop parents are the ones buying most of the popcorn or chocolate bars or Christmas trees, you’re wasting your time and not making as much money as you would if you simply asked them to pay a little more for troop activities. Fundraising expenses–the cost of products and the profit that goes to the fundraising vendor–are acceptable when you’re raising money from outside the troop. But if you’re robbing Peter to pay Peter Jr., you’re probably going about your fundraising the wrong way.

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