Collecting Donations May be Bad for Your Popcorn Sales

Penny JarUnits often place a bucket out to collect cash donations at their Show and Sell locations.  I am often told Units want to give a person the option of giving money especially if they do not what to actually purchase popcorn for health or medical reasons.

However, collecting these donations may be affecting the overall success of your Popcorn Sale.  Here are a few reasons why:

1.  Collecting Cash Donations for your Unit is against BSA Policy – The Unit Money Earning Application states the following:

“Youth members shall not be permitted to serve as solicitors of money for their chartered organizations, for the local council, or in support of other organizations. Adult and youth members shall not be permitted to serve as solicitors of money in support of personal or unit participation in local, national, or international events.”

 Units cannot collect cash and put it into their Unit or Scout Accounts.  There must be a product of service offered in exchange for their contribution.  So you may be saying, ‘What about Military Donations?’ Unfortunately, the term ‘Military Donation’ is improperly used.  The term should be Military Order.  Units should place a Military Order for all cash donations collected.

2.  Consumers are most likely to contribute at the lowest level offered – If a Unit has popcorn priced at $10, but then give the customer the option to give an amount lower than $10, the consumer is more likely to contribute at the lower amount.  Remember, consumers are buying Scouting and the youth in front of them, not the product.  They are just as likely to ‘feel good’ about giving $1 or $2 as they are about ‘buying’ a $10 item.  A Scout would have to speak to three times as many people giving $1 as opposed to just getting the profit from selling one $10 item.

3.  Donations may not be worth the Scouts time to collect – Scouts will spend more time talking to more customers to raise the same amount of money.  Let’s look at one of the largest cash donation solicitors in the United States, the Salvation Army.  In 2012, the Salvation Army collected $147.6M nationwide.  That is a lot of money.  However, Red Kettles are out for typically 30 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas at over 25,000 locations nationwide. If you figure people are ‘ringing’ for 8 hours a day, the average kettle collects less than $25 an hour.  As a matter of fact, the Red Kettles account for only 19% of cash contributions and less than 6% of the overall income to The Salvation Army. While the Salvation Army does considerable good worldwide, this fundraising method may not be the best for the Boy Scouts.

So how do you improve the collection and conversion of cash to Popcorn Sales?  Units should only offer people the ability to buy a particular value of product to send to the Military.  For example, rather than asking for a “donation to support the Military” ask if they would like to purchase a product to be sent to Military Units.  Ask the person to contribute to purchase a $10, $15, $20 or higher to have sent to Military.  My son’s Unit used this method.  Last year they had over $13,000 in “Contributions to Purchase Popcorn for the Military”.  This was 35% of the overall $37,000 Popcorn Sale.  At the end of the sale we split the “Contributions” between the Scouts evenly and place “Military Donations” in the system.


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