10 Business Lessons Learned From Collecting Money for Teachers’ Gifts
When my 3 children were younger I often volunteered (or was volunteered!) to collect money for holiday or end-of-year teachers’ gifts.
What initially sounded like a pretty straightforward task ended up being an eye-opening and life learning experience.
Many lessons that can be directly applied to business were learned from the relatively small task of collecting money from parents.
Here is a summary of the lessons I learned:
- Lesson 1: You have to chase people!
- Lesson 2: Price matters!
- Lesson 3: Offer what people want!
- Lesson 4: No answer does not mean “NO”
- Lesson 5: “Tomorrow” does not always mean the day following today!
- Lesson 6: Spreadsheets are awesome!
- Lesson 7: You can’t please everyone.
- Lesson 8: Clear instructions may still be misinterpreted or ignored.
- Lesson 9: Your priorities are not other peoples’ priorities.
- Lesson 10: You don’t have the money until you have the money!
: You have to chase people!
There are always a very “limited” number of people who are responsive and go out of their way to comply with what you ask-making your life as easy as possible. This includes those who respond immediately even if it means to tell you they are not interested. Those who respond immediately (or at all!) are the exception not the norm. I’ve discovered through experience that for the most part you have to chase people-and chase-and chase!
: Price matters!
I remember one occasion where another parent had offered to do the collection. He contacted me after getting very few responses and could not understand why. I immediately told him to send out another email and change the amount of the money he was asking for. The suggested amount was too high and he was scaring people off! When he lowered the amount most people were “in”! You have to do your homework to know what people are willing to pay for something. If it’s too high the number of “takers” will be low.
: Offer what people want!
In the case of the class gift collection it was fairly easy to sell. Most parents were eager to contribute knowing that it would save them time, money, and the teacher would end up with a nicer gift from a group than they could offer as an individual. People need to see a benefit in what you’re offering them.
: No answer does not mean “NO”
It’s very easy to assume that if someone doesn’t reply to your email or respond to your text or voice message that they are not interested. I’ve discovered through experience that this is “generally” not the case. Nowadays people are inundated with information (emails, texts, voice mails, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.). One email is very easy to “miss”-and could also easily end up in a Spam folder. Even if your email is read the recipient could plan to respond later and forget. If I don’t get a “NO” response I’ve learned to follow up-and follow up-and follow up! “No answer” means “Maybe”!
: “Tomorrow” does not always mean the day following today!
How many times have I heard “I’ll have it for you tomorrow”! The reality is people forget sometimes and some people forget a lot! I learned the importance of imposing a deadline. I would decide on a date and indicate that I need the money by that day.
: Spreadsheets are awesome!
An Excel spreadsheet was the perfect tool for keeping track of data related to collecting money for a gift. I could set up fields I needed and see at a glance who gave me money, who agreed to contribute, and who hadn’t responded. Also by setting up columns with the amounts expected and collected I could see exactly how much money I had. I continue to use spreadsheets on a daily basis to keep track of all sorts of information and the great thing is that spreadsheets transfer easily to and from my website databases.
: You can’t please everyone.
When you get a group of people together there will be different ideas. There are times when you are looking for feedback but sometimes you have to make an “executive” decision. In the case of the class gift it was necessary to decide on a contribution amount, the gift, and when and how it would be presented. When running a business there are decisions to be made on a daily basis and not everyone will be happy with every decision.
: Clear instructions may still be misinterpreted or ignored.
When formulating emails I would always do my best to present information clearly. I would try to indicate exactly what I was looking for. Quite often, what I assumed to be clear and straightforward was not that way to everyone. Instructions can be misinterpreted or ignored completely. Be prepared to explain things in different ways.
: Your priorities are not other peoples’ priorities.
When you are trying to accomplish a specific task like collecting money, selling a product or looking for a job or client, that becomes your number 1 priority. The reality is that it’s not other peoples’ priority. Other people are busy with their own priorities. They may be interested in what you have to offer but it may not have the same level of importance.
: You don’t have the money until you have the money!
Many parents would commit to participating in a class gift-either verbally or in writing (text message or email) but until I had the money in my hand I learned not to include it in the total-otherwise it became my out-of-pocket-instead of theirs!
If you ever have an opportunity to collect money for a teacher’s gift, “take it!” You’ll be surprised at what you learn!