Friday, February 1, 2013

RS: Finance and Social Action: Lessons in Fundraising

Sophomores raise money at the Frisch Africa Green-a-thon

Sophomore Benny weighs in on what he learned from conducting a fundraiser for Innovation: Africa, an organization that uses sustainable Israeli technologies to improve life in Africa:

I spent countless hours working on the Green-a-Thon. The Green-a-Thon, a fundraiser and an awareness promoter, occurred at The Frisch School for a week during December.  While the event only lasted for one week, the preparations for the event were endless. The idea of the Green-a-Thon was to spread awareness about the over-consumption of energy, while at the same time, raise money for an organization that gives energy to energy-deprived villages in Africa. In order to blend these two ideas, we came up with the idea to make a coffee stand. We provided eco-friendly cups and sold African coffee beans. We also decided to hold a raffle. While there were many different great characteristics I was able to develop throughout this experience, one of the more important ones was the financial knowledge I obtained through leading this event.
            Leading a fundraiser takes many qualities. The qualities include strong leadership qualities, time-management skills, and most importantly, financial abilities to reach your fundraising goals. Coming into this event, I would have to say I possessed little to none of these traits. But coming out of it, I am able to say that I grew in all these areas. Most importantly, I obtained many financial skills.
             What I learnt was simple yet essential. The most important part of a fundraiser is raising funds. It is important to set a monetary goal for yourself, yet it is dangerous to set it too high or too low. We set our goal for this fundraiser at a very high 5,000 dollars. For one week, for a committee of high-school students, this is a very high number. In fact, all we really needed to raise was $2,500 dollars to obtain our goal. By making it 5,000 dollars, we were very disappointed at the end of the week when we counted our 2,700 dollars. When we realized we passed the true amount of what we needed to raise, I learned my first lesson in finances, not to set the bar too low, and possibly more important, not to set it too high.
            Another important lesson I learnt is pricing. This is a very important lesson for businessmen and storeowners. At the beginning of our week, we set our prices very high. Since I assumed that the demand for good-quality coffee was very high among the students, so I made its price very high. This was a mistake. I noticed after a day that many people turned away when they saw our prices, so we decided to lower them, and after a day, we nearly doubled our profits. This pricing lesson is invaluable to many businessmen who may be tempted to be too greedy. I was greedy when I set my original price for coffee, but after I learnt my lesson, my profit increased.
            One last important financial lesson I learnt through this experience was that too much variety is just as bad as too little variety. In all businesses, there has to be equilibrium of variety. I learnt this lesson too late for my raffle. A couple of committee members and I spent many nights looking around for raffle prizes, and thanks to the generosity of local restaurants in Teaneck, we got many prizes. We were ecstatic and thought with all this variety, we would surely make a lot of money. Sadly, this was not true. Giving people ultimatums on choice of products is important. People would come to our raffle and be turned away at the overwhelming thought of reading through all of our prizes. It is, however, important to give people a little variety. It is not a good business model to force people into buying something. We learnt this early in selling coffee. Originally, we had only asked our provider for three different kinds of coffee. And this did make money; however, after one day we realized people may want more. So we asked our provider for lattes, hot chocolate, etc. and again, our profits increased. So the important lesson I learnt from this was not too give too little choice, but at the same time, to be careful not to give too much choice. 
            The lessons I learned during this experience are invaluable. The business ethics and financial skills I obtained through this event will be very useful in life. Horace, a Roman poet, once said, “Life grants nothing to us without hard work.” This quote culminates all of the lessons I learned. To be successful in anything in life, especially finances, takes hard work and perseverance. It requires doing something, failing, and than trying it again. And this lesson is what I derived most from the Green-a-thon. All high schools teach arithmetic and mathematics, but what few teach are skills that are absolutely essential to be successful in life. And these are the lessons that I truly received through the Green-a-thon. 

For more information about The Frisch Africa Encounter, click on the following link:

The Frisch Africa Encounter