Fundraising is an important job for all Psi Chi chapters. After all, induction ceremonies, chapter projects, and the national service project all cost money. Where will the money come from? Some chapters have had success by utilizing alumni --to solicit donations or to help raise money from other Psi Chi alumni members. Other chapters have used direct fundraising. The Saint Vincent Chapter of Psi Chi has had tremendous success for the past three years with a "Freshman basket sale," selling over 130 baskets this year. At a profit of approximately $5 per basket, our sale brought in over $600 in chapter funds! In this article I describe our sale and the reasons for our success.
The idea for the freshman basket sale grew out of sales of "finals survival baskets"--baskets of food sold and delivered during final exams as offered by some colleges. Most finals survival baskets are produced and sold by corporations that mass produce the baskets. However, the Saint Vincent baskets are prepared by Psi Chi members, so we are able to put more food and supplies into our baskets.
Table 1 is a summary of the timeline we use during our freshman basket sale. We time our basket sale around our midterm break for two reasons. First, we can use the last day of break to shop for supplies. Our shopping trip typically requires anywhere from 3-5 hours to purchase supplies, transport them, and get the supplies stored for later basket assembly. Using the last afternoon of midterm break ensures that students' night classes are not disrupted. Second, we time our sale around midterm break because it occurs about two weeks before Halloween, allowing us to purchase Halloween novelties like pencils and trick-or-treat bags for the baskets. The Halloween novelties help to make our baskets unique.
Note that Saint Vincent Psi Chi sells baskets only to parents of freshman students. Selling baskets only to freshman students has two advantages. First, we have found that freshman parents are more likely to buy the baskets compared to parents of sophomore, junior, and senior students. Second, selling baskets only to freshman students keeps the number of baskets we have to assemble at a reasonable level.
Figure 1 shows a copy of the letter sent this year to freshman parents. We include a response card in the letter so that parents can write to their student a personal message, which parents return with their check. The response card (see Figure 2) was produced on a desktop computer using desktop publishing software (Personal Press 2.0 for the Mac), and we obtained the "ghoulish" fonts from the Internet for a nominal shareware fee. Although we used commercially prepared graphics, you can find some graphics on the Internet. We also scanned, then reduced, the Psi Chi logo for the back of the response card.* And if your chapter doesn't have access to desktop publishing software, most word processing packages will easily accommodate graphics.
Table 2 is a list of the basket contents for our most recent basket sale. As you can see, we include a large number of food items, school supplies, and novelties, all of which are purchased for an average cost of about $9.50 per basket. Buying in bulk really does help keep our costs down, and we can include a large number of items in each basket. We purchase the food items and school supplies at a discount store (Sam's Club) and the novelties from the Oriental Trading Company. The Oriental Trading Company has a wide range of novelties for all seasons and holidays at very reasonable prices.
Assembling 100 or more baskets can be quite a task, but we try to make the job fun. We have pizza, cookies, soft drinks, and chips, as well as a movie or music to make basket assembly a fun job. Depending on the number of Psi Chi members who are available, we can set up, assemble the baskets, and clean up in about two hours on a Saturday afternoon. If your chapter decides to try a basket sale, don't forget about the cleanup! There will be boxes, bags, plastic wrap, and pizza boxes that have to be taken somewhere. You may even find that cleanup takes more time than assembly.
A perk for Psi Chi members who help assemble the baskets is the leftover supplies. You will find that some items are packaged in sets of 12, 18, 20, or 24. It's rare that the total number of items you need is evenly divisible by the number of items in a set. The "rule" in the Saint Vincent Psi Chi Chapter is that whatever supplies are left after all the baskets are assembled can be claimed by the Psi Chi members. The competition for Rice Krispie bars can get pretty fierce!
The Saint Vincent Freshman Basket Sale is successful for three reasons. First, Saint Vincent has a large resident population. Approximately 80% of the students live on campus and parents are more likely to buy baskets for their students when they live on campus. Second, the sale is successful because we have no competition. Other baskets are sold on campus, but only during finals. The Psi Chi basket sale is the only sale at midterms. Last, the sale is successful because it is low risk. The chapter does not have to expend any money in advance to purchase basket supplies; we wait until the money for the baskets arrives. And because we do not assemble baskets in advance, we do not have to worry about whether or not we will sell all the baskets.
The most important thing we have learned from past sales is to use first-class mail to send the letters to parents. Last year we tried to limit costs and used third-class mail. It was a disaster. Parents were getting our letters a week or more after we had delivered the baskets! If your chapter decides to send letters--whether it be to parents, current members, or alumni--use first-class mail. The extra postage cost will save you a huge headache later. Good luck!