It’s not an unusual sight to see a table set up in front of a local grocery store or department store, where Girl Scouts have set up shop to sell cookies. Similarly, many other organizations take this approach to fundraising as well, taking advantage of the flow of traffic that goes in and out of the host store.
Storefront fundraising has many advantages; for one, your sales volunteers are in a very public place with lots of foot traffic, so sales will naturally be at a high level. Also, there’s the advantage of safety.
Door-to-door sales are often discouraged these days because of the safety risk involved, especially if there are children doing the soliciting. Storefronts are also usually well-lit, and sometimes patrolled by security personnel.
However, permission must be secured ahead of time, and not all storefronts will allow it. Furthermore, some communities may even have local regulations against it, so check in with your city office ahead of time to see if it is allowed, and if it is, whether or not any special permits or licenses may be required.
You may well need to have a permit, although this is usually a simple matter. So long as your organization is a legitimate one, you can get a permit usually for a small fee and a simple application form. The store will also probably require you to sign a release of some sort, which will mean that your group takes full responsibility for any accidents or anything that may happen to your volunteers.
Always have your storefront table well organized and orderly, and remember that you’re not only representing your own organization, but your store host as well. Be polite to their customers, keep your fundraising site neat and clean, and avoid getting too much of a crowd of volunteers at your table.
When one of your volunteers wants to take a lunch break, make sure they do so away from the fundraising table; nobody wants to see people having their lunch outside of a store.
If you do get permission from a store’s manager to set up your fundraising in front, ask about their rules. If the store has allowed this in the past, they will probably have established a set of rules for you to follow. There will be a specific place for you to set up; you’re not likely to be allowed to just set up shop wherever you want.
The store will want you to be out of the way, so foot traffic can flow as usual. At the same time, you want to have as much visibility as possible, so try to work within their restrictions to get the best spot you can. Near the front door but off to the side is perfect.
You will probably have to set up your own display, with your own table and chairs. You may also wish to create signs and banners, but also, the store will have rules governing that, so before you create that twenty-foot-tall poster, make sure they will allow you to display it.
Usually, there is lead time involved. The store may require you to ask up to 60 days ahead of time, and you will have to work according to their schedule.
Also, if you’re planning anything out of the ordinary–such as music, performers, live animals, or anything like that, discuss these plans in detail with the store manager.
If the store manager walks in and unexpectedly sees a half dozen jugglers in front of his store, you’re likely to be asked to leave right away. Some stores welcome performances of this type, because it attracts attention, but just make sure they know all the details ahead of time.
Lastly, aggressive fundraising is always discouraged. Loud hawking, shouting, or following customers will not be allowed, and you may lose your space as a result. Remember, the store’s primary mission is to sell their own products, not yours–and if you have rude or aggressive people out front trying to solicit donations, the store is likely to lose some customers.
Be sure to take time to personally thank the store manager, and even any store employees and clerks that may have helped you out along the way. Besides just being polite, leaving a good impression on everybody involved will make it a lot easier for you to gain permission to do the same thing again next year.