first thoughts on fund-raising for Ubi Kuching Project

After some planning we have agreed on some ideas for fund-raising here at Ubi Kuching Project.

Fund-raising, marketing and business are not strangers to me; if you only know me through this blog, I actually have a rather very mish-mash collection of professional experiences ranging from sales, marketing, enterpreneurship, art and NGO work. Good for a time like this, I reckon.

There are various forms of fund-raising, and to narrow them down I have categorised 4 routes. This is a very skeletal framework categorising fund-raising avenues, and if you run an animal welfare group or similar, this might come in useful for you to start with. The four categories are:

  • Donations: using different mediums, gain attention to your cause and invite people to participate with their wallets.
  • Sponsorships: this is the corporate route, where companies and institutions fund your cause, to give them mileage in marketing through corporate social responsibility
  • Brand merchandise: the creation of a collection of merchandise bearing your group’s brand. Think SPCA tee-shirts.
  • Yard sale: a very traditional form of fund-raising used by schools, churches and the like, where pre-loved items are collected and sold.

Here are the pros and cons of each.

Donations: asking people for money in Singapore is like asking someone to donate their liver. They think it will kill them. It is also illegal to set up ‘tins’ to collect spare change, without a flag day license from NCSS which has to be applied one year in advance, subject to approval. You will need to be a registered IPC that conforms to legislation stating how much is your operating costs and how much goes to your charity’s beneficiaries – 30/70 rule. The up-side is if you have a strong community where neighbours are always willing to chip in, and the amount you are raising is small, 20 neighbours giving $20 each will already give you $400. All you will need is some marketing paraphernalia that outlines your cause so that people know what they are contributing to. A leaflet is cheap. And you don’t need no tins. This is a good route for small donations that are needed for specific reasons.

Sponsorships: Thinking in the mindset of a corporation, you will only gain sponsorship – thus permanent, long-term financial backing – if your cause is a high-profile one that will gain the corporation a lot of show-time through various mediums. This means that if I were a big pet food brand, I would rather sponsor an animal rescue group that firstly, goes long, far and wide with their work, secondly, a group that everyone knows about or will know about. If your animal welfare group is one that will stay around for a long time, institutionalised, and has long-term work in place (think World Vision helping villages for five-year stretches versus a group that will go there once a year to repaint a school), then corporate sponsorships will be a great idea, win-win for both your animal group and the corporate sponsor. You see this happening often, like with Pet Lovers Centre and Action for Singapore Dogs. Co-branding and adoption of charities is a very effective marketing tool that corporations seek out nowadays. Think along this route should your group be registered charity with history and long-term strategies.

Merchandise: This is one where you need to invest money to make money. Creating merchandise such as tee-shirts, stationery and the like is like advertising too. You can also create non-branded merchandise that is aligned with your cause. For example, goods made by cottage industries sold in first world countries like ours, raise funds to promote education and employment in third-world countries. You may not buy a hand-weave shawl with their brand name splashed over it but you contribute to the cause. For us as an animal welfare group, our merchandise could be ‘branded’ – such as tee-shirts and coffee-table books, or non-branded like handmade pet accessories. Whichever way, you will need capital first. In order for this to work, you need to invest in creating merchandise that has low cost and a large profit margin, otherwise an Ubi Kuching Project tee-shirt is just another tee-shirt to wear around the house while you are doing chores. The low-cost high-profit-margin concept is key to merchandise fund-raising.

Yard-sale: This is likely the most logistically-intensive mode of fund-raising. Firstly, to collect pre-loved items, you will need to advertise or network for them. Then you will need to collect them and clean them. Then you will need space to store and sell them. It is somewhat like the Boys’ Brigade’s Christmas events, where they collect items, categorise them and then deliver them – a very logistical affair. But, the cost of this is almost free. If you have lots of manpower and space, this is a good way to go about to raise funds.

Given the circumstances and skills Aswat, Andy and I have, the best route for us is through merchandise. Firstly, I have some rudimentary knowledge in marketing communications and printing and can do some budgeting on how much it would cost and earn us to print tee-shirts, postcards and the like. Aswat is very good with handicrafts and for him to make dog and cat accessories is no problem – he actually hand-crochets beautiful hairpins for his dogs! I am only good at making pillows and toys. Our group will provide no mileage for a corporate sponsor yet and neither will getting sustainable sponsorships be easy unless another kind cat patron like Auntie Can appears out of nowhere (in her case, Macpherson. One visit to Ubi had her falling in love with the then-unfed stray cats and she has been driving to Ubi every night to feed them ever since, sponsoring all their neutering).

We are hoping to create and sell:

  • Ubi Kuching Project cat grass
  • Ubi Kuching Project handmade toys
  • Ubi Kuching Project pet beddings
  • Ubi Kuching Project collar jewellery
  • Ubi Kuching Project collectibles – teeshirts, calendars, books, stickers

All this will come in time; we have more or less settled the funding for this coming early November’s neutering; after that is over, we should be starting on the logistics and planning for Ubi Kuching Merchandise. That will be fun indeed!

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