Epic Failure: Our $10 Fundraiser

Makerspaces are built for fundraising. I go to my fair share of farmer’s markets and Christmas Craft fairs, and I’m confident most of the DIY goods sold at such markets or fairs can be made in a makerspace. Thus, one of the goals of Rebels Makerspace is to make objects for the purpose of one day fundraising for charity. Unfortunately, this is not a story about raising a whole bunch of money with a $10 investment. It’s actually a story of failure, of how Rebels Makerspace use valuable time and resource and raise $10. Period.


In the beginning…

Let ‘s go back to the start. It’s January and Valentine’s day is just around the corner. Traditionally, students at our high school buy singing telegrams for each other. Rebels Makerspace feel we can produce something special that all students would want. We put our heads together and decide to redesign the Valentine’s day card. We choose to redesign cards because people still give cards to each other. And, cards are quite inexpensive to buy and make. It’s a good balance of novel and cheap.


We do some more brainstorming and decide to make and sell Cheesy valentine’s cards. Our cards will feature a cut out stencil of a teacher’s face and a Cheesy Valentine’s day slogan. We create stencils of 20 popular teachers in the school and use our Cricut to cut some one-of-a-kind, awesome (I do think so myself) cards. One card features a math teacher with the slogan “if you were a triangle, you’d be acute one.”  Another card features a French teacher with the slogan “your love is like an omelette, one egg is un oeuf.” Another card features a chemistry teacher with the slogan “you must be made of copper and tellurium because you’re CuTe.”


The campaign is set in motion

We show some students and ask if they’d buy one for $2 for their Valentine. They say they would. We print flyers and some sample cards and we plaster the school with advertisement (3 weeks before Valentine’s day). We set up to take preorders immediately, and we let the students preorders will be taken in the library for the next 3 weeks (or while supplies last). All told, this whole process takes roughly 60 hours of work to do. It will all be worth it, we think.


Here comes the bad news

Unfortunately, no one places any preorders in the first week. In the second week, we get our first order. Hooray! However, the student does not want any of our cheesy cards. Instead, the students wants us to make two Valentine’s cards that feature 2 of her friends. It’s not that much more work so I make the cards. Then, we get a second order – this time from a staff member. The staff member also wants a Valentine’s card that features a custom design – a cut-out photo of his two kids. This card takes more time to make, but I make it anyways. In the last week, we get 2 more orders – both from teachers who want to buy Valentine’s cards that features their own faces. We fulfill 5 orders and – at $2 per card – we make $10 in revenue. To add insult to injury, if we subtract the cost of producing the cards, then we net roughly $6. A truly sad fundraising performance considering we put in roughly 80 hours of work.


So what went wrong?

This was the first time custom cards were offered to students. Since we did not build a community or following around the product – and since we didn’t have any student volunteers that helped to produce or promote the cards – students may have been skeptical, confused, misinformed, or unaware as to what the cards were.

We also failed to understand what students would actually buy. Yes, we had some students tell us that they thought our cards were fun and that they would buy one, but that did not translate into actual sales. Instead, we realized that what customers really wanted was a custom card that featured their face or their own design.


Silver lining

I recently heard that it takes 7 “points of contact”, “touches”, or “impressions” to make a sale. This was the first time custom cards have been offered to students, and although we did not raise much money, I still believe students will buy our cards given enough time and exposure. Given enough time and a constant message to the public, students will eventually buy into our fun cards. Also, we have a better idea as to what students want and where we went wrong.


Although this was an epic fundraising failure (no one wants to admit raising just $10), I’m excited to do it again. And isn’t this the spirit of a makerspace – to build, test, and learn from our ideas? My hope is that students will not only buy our cards, but learn to design and produce their own, and, who knows, help me with a fundraiser or start their own. And it would be nice if this epic failure was just a lump I had to take before really taking off. That would be a story to tell.

Posted on April 18, 2017 in Insight

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About the Author

Kent is one of the creators of the Rebels Makerspace, a design and science educator, and Science Department head at Burnaby South Secondary.
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