Finance Your SLC Experience With These Expert Fundraising Ideas

IMA’s Student Leadership Conference offers an invaluable opportunity for students to learn, make new friends, and potentially land an interview that leads to a first job. Yes, the experience is incredible, but it also can be expensive. That’s why defraying the costs through successful fundraising can be a real win-win for students and faculty alike.

Sadly, raising funds to finance an experience like this has become even more necessary recently. Says Marcia Vinci, associate professor at Johnson & Wales University (JWU) in Charlotte, N.C., “Many schools are cutting back on monetary support for ‘extra’ programs, so that’s why it’s critical for students to find ways to finance the cost of this amazing conference through creative, and even fun, ideas."

At JWU, Marcia has worked with students on some innovative—and highly profitable—fundraising efforts. Last semester, the students made beaded bracelets (you know, the kind you see on everyone’s wrists these days). The students created bracelets in a variety of engaging designs and colors, selling them at competitive prices ($8 each or two for $15) during both a flash sale (a table set up) and by taking orders.

Two women from JWU seated at a fundraising table“It was a great bonding experience for the students and the bracelets sold really well,” says Marcia. She plans to repeat this fundraiser next year, incorporating some best practices the students learned this time around.

As president of the Charlotte North Rotary, Marcia also has plenty of other great ideas, like selling boxes of Krispy Creme donuts and/or frozen pizzas. The trick with these types of sales, she says, is to make sure you have a presale, so you know how much to order.

Marcia’s students have also successfully sold CityPass books (which feature discount coupons for local entertainment, tourist attractions, and dining). And it’s a no-lose situation for the students: The group is only responsible for the books sold; those that aren’t sold are simply returned. Profits can run upwards of half the price of each CityPass book.

Another popular idea: partnering with local food establishments to donate a percentage of their daily sales. Marcia’s group did this with Chipotle and as an added bonus, the students delivered the orders.

Marcia also suggests that students reach out to their local IMA chapter and council to ask about their financial support as well. And careful planning is a must: “We always try to be one year ahead. This year, I’m raising money for next year, because there are always things that will come up.”

The students at JWU are lucky: Through these fundraising efforts, the school for the past several years has paid for the entire cost of conference registration, airline travel, and hotel (last year, they sent five students plus two staff members to Pittsburgh). It’s a big financial outlay, and Marcia likes to make sure the students have some skin in the game. She asks for $25 upfront from those who are interested, which she then returns to the students on the day of the trip, at the airport, so that they have a little extra “pin money” during the conference.

This year, Marcia already has about 10 students who are already interested in coming to Detroit. “You need an advocate, someone who’s going to step up and in for you,” she explains. Marcia’s glad to play this role at JWU, and her dedication is paying off.

Save the date for this year’s IMA Student Leadership Conference: November 9-11 in Detroit!