By Mary-Lou Montgrain

When our local city council cancelled the community grant that had helped us in the past, our need to fundraise assumed a more important role in our budgeting plans.

Why Rain barrels?

As chief fundraising co-ordinator for the choir, I have organized sales of chocolates, frozen products, cheese, wine, and rain barrels. The day I announced to the choir that we would sell rain barrels, one member asked, “What’s a rain barrel?” Then another said, “I live in a condo and have no use for a rain barrel.” Surprisingly, selling rain barrels has been one of our best ways to fundraise. Even better, the selling doesn’t require much effort. Because of COVID, all orders must be made online and prepaid. No longer do I have to store the huge barrels in my garage for customers who, at the last minute, change their minds (!!#%).

Under the Gazebo

Before the pandemic, our annual rain barrel fundraiser was a lively social event for choir members, who enjoyed nibbling on treats and pizza under our portable gazebo, replete with a card table and lawn chairs. Even reluctant participants who said, “I can’t lift a rain barrel because of my bad back!” were won over to the idea when they were assigned to checking customers’ names off a list and collecting invoices. So, everyone had a place on the team. And the team sometimes attracted new singers. I hope the sale will become a lively annual event again, one day soon.

The Nuts and Bolts of Barrels

During the promotion period of the sale, we circulate a digital flyer, distribute hard copies, and display lawn signs. We also register our group with the company, indicating the price we want to charge for each rain barrel, the date of distribution, and the contact information. Then the company sets up a website with photos of the various types of barrel. This is where our customers go to choose the kind they want and pay. After the posted deadline, the 20-pound barrels and accessories arrive at the chosen venue (my driveway for the last two years) . I’m sure my neighbours wonder what I do with them! Each barrel sells for, $40 to $60, depending on size and style, whereas local stores sell a similar product–if somewhat fancier–for almost three times that price. We make a percentage of the sale price on each item.

Besides rain barrels, we have successfully raised money with wine, chocolates, and cheese, which have also doubled as raffle gifts at our performance receptions. As you can see, we’re always looking for ways to enhance our budget. We’ve found fundraising a fun way to raise money and build our team. We recommend that you try fundraising and see for yourself!