The Power of Incentives

As a child I vividly remember being forced to sell “chocolate turtles”, “popcorn bags” and “chocolate nut” bars for a local school fundraiser. I remember receiving the order forms, the brochures and the items and simply thinking to myself “Ugh I don’t want to sell this”. I loathed fundraising time, and I hated the items we were forced to sell. Since I had no real affinity for the product, or motivation to sell the product I wouldn’t try. Usually my mom would take the items, or the order form and toss it to my dad, who would simply try to sell as much as he can at work.

The only times I can seriously think of when I actually tried to sell the fundraising items is due to some contest or some prize of some sort that I wanted. For instance in Second grade, whichever class SOLD the most boxes of chocolate nuts had a pizza party and an hour of recess. This motivated me, and my peers to sell. It also created a competition amongst the classrooms. Other times I remember really cool prizes–from cameras, to watches, to giftcards, etc. That motivated me as well. Though I never won a prize, I did try to–and I suspect that a majority of my classmates did as well. Kids love prizes, and they love competition.

This is why I’m a heavy proponent for offering “incentives” and “rewards” during fundraising season. A lot of individuals feel that hosting contests or prizes only makes the students that don’t win feel like “losers” or that creating a reward system sends the wrong message(your raising the money not to help the school but to help yourself). I disagree. Everyone, from students-to workers, needs some type of incentive to want to get something done. Workers work to make money–that is the incentive for putting in 60 hour weeks. Students go to school to graduate, and to attain that degree in the field that they enjoy. And students ace a test to get that “pat on the back” or that sticker on the term paper. Most things in life result in some type of incentive–and of course the incentive will vary, as will the motivation to attain that incentive, but the fact remains that most people need incentives to feel the “need” to do something. This doesn’t differ with fundraisers. The end goal of most fundraisers is to raise money, but along the way, students want some type of incentive, some type of recognition for helping the school or the team meet the “needed” goal.

Yes there will be students left out, but lets face it–in life we won’t always win, we will lose, but failure does make us stronger and in a lot cases makes us work that much harder. The students who may not win the prize in one fundraiser, may win a prize in another fundraiser. The top-seller in one fundraiser, may end up in third place in the next fundraiser. The good thing about school fundraisers, is that they happen quite often throughout the school year, so there are multiple opportunities for the students to be winners. Incentives fuel hard work, create a sense of urgency, and create competition. These are all important components to learn, especially for younger students. In addition there are many ways to create incentives where there are “many” winners. For instance, classroom incentives(the class that sells the most) benefits 30 students.

One of the great things about PFG is that we believe in creating more than once incentive at a time. We hosts contests where there are 2 top sellers that win prizes, we host contests where classrooms can win prizes, and we hosts contest where an entire team can win a pizza party. We try to make sure that each student, or team member has some type of motivation to sell–even if it’s to win an I-pod or a Flat Iron.

Do you believe in creating incentives in a fundraising environment? Why or why not? In what ways do you believe that incentives boost productivity and results in a fundraiser?

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