FarmRaiser connects fundraising groups with local products
It’s Little League baseball season, and one summer Saturday two adorable shortstops ask if I’d like to buy a candy bar to help pay for new uniforms. Of course! I not only buy one candy bar, I knock it out of the park and buy five.
On the drive home, I dial in the Cubs game and gnaw through one of the bars. I feel a bit hypocritical, though. In this era of enlightenment about the benefits of a healthy diet, can’t we think of something to sell besides sugar-laden, empty-calorie candy to raise money?
And wouldn’t it be great if whatever we were buying came from a producer nearby, keeping consumer dollars closer to home?
FarmRaiser has stepped up to the plate to do just that.
Founded in 2013 by Michigan native Mark Abbott, FarmRaiser is on a mission to connect local farmers and food artisans with schools, athletic teams, marching bands and other causes.
The FarmRaiser model helps teach children where food comes from and fosters awareness of foods in their region.
Each FarmRaiser campaign is coordinated by a staff member called a cultivator, who works with groups to determine fundraising goals and suggest local products. FarmRaiser matches local providers with the fundraising group. Partners include fruit farms, coffee roasters, vegetable growers, artisan hot sauce makers, beekeepers and more.
Vendors must meet certain standards to ensure the products and people producing them are in line with FarmRaiser’s mission. FarmRaiser prefers farms that are committed to sustainable practices, as well as artisan products that do not list sugar as the first ingredient. If a product has more than five or six ingredients, and if any of them are ones your grandma wouldn’t recognize, it doesn’t make the cut.
Campaigns get their own webpage on FarmRaiser.com. Sellers, called champs, direct customers to the website to purchase products. Orders are coordinated by FarmRaiser and delivered to the fundraising group for distribution.
FarmRaiser estimates that 85% of every dollar stays in the community, and the average profit margin is 53% for groups raising funds. FarmRaiser retains about 10% for administrative costs, while the rest goes to participating farmers and producers.
“As we’ve grown, we’ve been able to partner with a number of fantastic regional distributors, which are able to provide our organizers a wider array of locally and regionally grown or made products,” says Lauren Smith, chief cultivator for FarmRaiser.
Groups can also choose to sell a mix of products from multiple regions.
“For instance, you could do a fundraiser with maple products from Vermont, peanuts from Virginia, cherries from Michigan and salsa from Texas,” Smith says.
Since 2013, FarmRaiser has organized successful fundraising campaigns for more than 250 schools and organizations in 42 states, raising more than $500,000.
This sounds like a home run for a healthy and profitable fundraising campaign. Kids can proudly sell items produced in their home state or region, and we all get to support the farmers and artisans who produce them.
I’m looking forward to the first time a miniature salesman asks me, “Would you like to purchase some apples or Michigan cherry jam or kale chips to support our baseball team?” I will reach for my wallet and smile as the umpire shouts, “Play ball!”