Membership Programs, Small Grants & Fund Raising Events: Financial Stability for your Campaign

Courtney Lang March 5, 2012
In February Fair Trade Towns USA put together a conference call for organizers so that they could discover how other campaigns are sustainably raising money. We heard from Nancy Jones in Chicago about Membership Programs, Maya Sharp in Pasadena about Fund Raising events and Courtney Lang of Fair Trade Towns USA about the Small Grants Program. Check out the summaries of each below which include tips and ideas.

Membership Programs: Sustaining Life After Declaration

Nancy jumped right in with the question: How do you sustain the life of your campaign after declaration or a rocky event? The notion of having people buy into real ownership of an organization through membership is one way.  Here are some tips and answers that Nancy provided on the call:

How is Fair Trade Chicago’s Membership Program structured?  There are 5 member categories – Non-Profit, Faith-Based, Educational Institution, Businesses, and Individuals. Organizations are screened and businesses are defined as allies or Fair Trade businesses. A Fair Trade Business is 50% or more Fair Trade and anything below is an Allied Member.

In the first year we identified potential members and started with 24; now we have 70. You have to figure out what it is that you are offering your members. For businesses its exposure on web site and promotion at events. For congregations, they host holiday events and we give them the contact information of our business members who can be utilized as resources. We play match maker. The easiest groups to attract are business and faith organizations, but we also started with two universities. Non-profits are a catch all because they do some degree of sales and events. Our events are exclusive to members; it’s a gate keeper and encourages businesses to join.

Fair Trade Chicago had Jackie Decarlo share her experience visiting a fair trade apparel factories in India at their February meeting held at the Hull House Museum Residents Dining Hall

How do you sustain membership? We sponsor member meetings and build a community of energy for organizations past the declaration to help people understand that there is so much more to figure out in the world of Fair Trade. Beyond declaration what do we want our city to look like and what is our vision?   Try to get membership to imagine what our goals are.

Do you have forms for membership? Click the “Join” tab on web site and you can download them.

What do you charge business/organizational members? In the beginning it was $100 for everyone and now there is a scale $100 – $300. You have to outline how you are going to help them at different levels.

How do you use the membership money? You have to figure it out, do a little survey that asks: What are ways you think we could help promote you?  In the beginning it was printing, lots of tabling to find people that wanted to know more about Fair Trade and have them sign up for our email list.  We printed quarter-paged membership flyers on card stock with our mission and list of members. A lot of it was promotion eventually it was newsletter, then our web site.

A few more tips on organizing a membership program:

  • Have your members define by-laws of membership and design it so that even those with remote interest would join.
  • At first, set the entry fee low enough so that everyone can be included.
  • As you are making categories think about what your offering; congregations join because of the mission, they are committed to that idea and that is what you are trying to sell people on.  Etc.
  • Other Fair Trade Towns Membership Programs to check out are: Fair Trade San Diego

Event Fund Raising – Using Partnerships

The team in Pasadena, CA organized a Silent Auction and Dance Performance Benefit in October, successfully raising over $2,400! Maya Sharp, a volunteer with Fair Trade Pasadena, shed some knowledge about organizing fund raisers. Here are some ideas to think about when organizing your next event:

How did you find an organization to collaborate with for this event?Fair Trade Pasadena worked with a local

Fair Trade Pasadena tabled at Lineage Dance Company during Pasadena's monthly ArtNight to help foster a collaborative relatioship that led to a successful fundraising event.

organization, Lineage Dance Company, whose main goal is to support non-profits. They choreograph performances in areas where you wouldn’t normally see modern dance. The event program was named “Farmer. Artisan. World.” Each dance focused on one of the titles and there were pictures and quotes that went along in the background. We met up with them at an art night and they were very supportive of our mission so we decided to collaborate with them on an event.

How did you draw on them for support? They had done this before so they were able to provide a lot of support. They had a web site to buy tickets and they knew times that worked well. We organized the silent auction and worked with Whole Foods to provide food & wine.

How did you raise money? The event started off with the silent auction and at least 40 individuals and businesses donated items. There were lots of Fair Trade items but also restaurant gift certificates, paintings and gym memberships. We mainly contacted businesses that we knew had connections with Pasadena’s campaign and Fair Trade Los Angeles. We had Event Sponsorship and there were three levels: Gold – $200; Silver – $100, and Bronze – $50. We also sold tickets and about 50 people attended.

Fair Trade Towns Small Grants Program:  Empower your town to achieve financial stability

What kind of investment is Fair Trade Towns USA looking for in the grant program?

  • get new campaigns off the ground
  • expand representation of campaign
  • assist with large scale events
  • provide a starting point for long-term financial sustainability

Who’s Eligible? All campaigns are welcome to apply.  You do not need to be a 501(c)3, however you do need a fiscal sponsor. Be clear on the organizations policy for excepting grants before the financial  pass through, they may charge a percentage.  Choose a local, small organization to avoid this and be clear on your terms of agreement.

What amounts are the grants available in?

  • $500 – New campaigns & campaigns working to build capacity through print materials, product demonstrations, and fundraising activities
  • $1000 – Capacity expansion through paid internship focus on building deeper connections, event hosting/sponsorship, web site and campaign development, and fundraising events
  • $5000 – Established campaigns to build significant internal capacity through paid staff or internships, establishing campaign as legal entity, city-wide or regional fund raising events, research & grant applications.

What do I have to do to apply?


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Courtney Lang, National Organizer | Fair Trade Campaigns

Courtney Lang brings over 5 years of community organizing to Fair Trade Towns USA, building both the Local Food and Fair Trade networks in Vermont. As Local Food Coordinator with City Market/Onion River Cooperative, Courtney worked with local producers, institutions and consumers to grow the local food system and organize a strategic model for community engagement through farm tours, workshops, and local food challenges. Like many in the Fair Trade industry, Courtney was inspired to take action in Fair Trade when she witnessed child-labor first hand in Costa Rica. As a founding member of Fair Trade Burlington, she has worked with economic development organizations, businesses, and consumers to build awareness of Fair Trade among Vermonters. She also worked with a Fair Trade USA licensee, Vermont Coffee Company, as Friend Ambassador where she united the story of Fair Trade to every purchase of coffee.