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Pink Flamingo

Tuesdays are the day that I highlight a particular fundraising event, sale, or process. Today, I am thrilled to bring you “Flamingo Flocking”! I have to admit, this is a variety of fundraiser that I was completely unaware of just a couple of days ago.

But, in my pursuit to bring you creative options, I was struck by the audacity and simplicity of this idea and had to share.

We are all familiar with the pink flamingo yard ornament. One of the prime examples of American cultural kitsch, this plastic bird with metal legs has for years marked its owners as well… interesting. I think there are probably two types of people in the world: those who take the flamingos seriously as quality yard art and those who wouldn’t be caught dead with even one adorning their lawn.

For the purposes of this fundraiser, we are banking on the hopes that there are more of those in the latter category.

The fundraiser begins with the formation of a team of people who love to have a good time and make a little harmless mischief. These folks all need to be available to convene and operate under the cover of darkness.

There is an initial cash outlay for this charity event. I’ve snooped around the Internet for prices on a set of pink flamingos, and the best I could come up with is right around $100 for 20 birds. (I even checked eBay, and of this printing, there was a very limited supply of the types of ornaments we’re talking about.) You could spend less and get fewer birds, but I’m kind of thinking the more birds you use in your flock, the greater the shock value and the greater the potential donation.

The premise is simple, yet ingenious. The group picks its first victim. Then one night, they sneak over to this house and place the flock prominently in the front yard. Around the neck of one of the flamingos, they place a “ransom” note that demands a donation for the removal of the birds. (Details of the ransom collection are left to the group.)

Some groups choose to set an amount, say $20, for removal. Others leave it open and let the family decide how much to pay. One group that chose to leave the amount open received a $200 donation, so this may be a good option for your school to think about.

Once the fee is paid, the “victim” family gets the opportunity to pick the next family who gets “flocked”. This process is repeated every night for a specified amount of time until the fundraiser is concluded. In order to keep the fundraiser moving, the flock shouldn’t stay in anyone’s yard for more than 24 hours, even if the family chooses not to pay the ransom. (Spoil sports…)

If your school thinks that your base is large enough, you can decide to purchase enough flamingos to operate two or more flocks at one time. Of course this will require more management, but it does potentially double your income (or more…).

At the fundraiser’s kick-off event or announcement, some organizations have elected to offer “flock insurance”. This certificate can be purchased for the amount you choose (roughly $10 to $20) and ensures that any of these families will not get flocked.

Please remember that you can add flare to any one of these steps by creating cute ransom notes, making up official looking flock insurance certificates, etc. One group actually made small wreaths to place around the flamingos’ necks, since their event coincided with Christmas. The more creative you get with this, the more fun your group will have.

While a flamingo flocking fundraiser is a lot of fun, its potential to raise a large sum of money is limited. If your group managed one flock for thirty straight nights and received an average donation of $20 per night, you’d gross $600. If you spent $100 for the birds, your net is $500. If your school managed two flocks, you’re looking at $1,000. And so on.

Of course, you may receive the occasional larger donation and that could improve your results. You will also have the potential income from your “flock insurance” sales to add in. However, I would only recommend this kind of a fundraiser for specific projects with exact needs- a piece of gym equipment or a subsidy for a school trip, for instance. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea for bailing your school out of a financial crisis, unless of course, your community is really, really has something against flamingos….

Beside the revenue, the other by-product of this kind of fundraiser is fun. It’s a great way to get people involved who are new to fundraising. Sure, it’s a little daring, sneaking over to someone’s house to fill their lawn with tacky yard art, but it is much easier than cold calling a business and asking for donations. Or writing a grant proposal. However, once people build confidence in themselves at an event like the flamingos, it might be easier to graduate them to a more advanced process. Remember, as a leader in your school’s fundraising team, you should always be looking to develop talent.

So, if you have the right situation at your school and you want to have a load of fun, get ready to, as one website put it, “Meet the Flockers!”

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