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Derby Made Easy!

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Chapter 4. Publicity and Fundraising

Communication is the key to a every successful event. Not only do the members of the pack need to know what is going on, but so does the community. Successful events involve many different people and getting different people all working together requires successful communication. In general, there are four different areas that need to be addressed, publicity, pack promotion, sponsors and benefactors, and judges. All of this falls under the Publicity and Fundraising chair’s area of responsibility. Lets look at these four areas one at a time.

Publicity is one of the first orders of business. We must garner as much public attention as soon as we can. If the general public knows the event is coming, this will make it easier to obtain “celebrity” judges, award sponsors, and can even bring in more boys and leaders! I suggest starting publicity as early as 4 months before the event.

If you haven’t already developed a relationship with your local newspaper, now is the time to start! A press release about the “New” derby being planned for the pack would be appropriate at this time. Cover the fact that there is a design contest with experts in design judging and sponsors for awards. Once this is published you can mine some sponsors and judges from it. Who doesn’t want to be considered an expert in their field? Follow this up with a news release announcing the final panel of judges and a different release proudly announcing the sponsors for this years race. As soon as the kits are distributed, announce the number of participants and when and where the race will be held. After the event is over, a final article thanking everyone and announcing the winners will finish off a successful publicity campaign.

Second comes pack promotion. This also needs to be started early. About 3 meetings before the derby, send home an announcement about the derby. This announcement should include the goals of the pinewood derby, when and where the car kits will be distributed, that rules and tips will be distributed with the car kits, and solicit any questions anyone may have. Follow up at the next meeting with a reminder when the cars will be distributed. Inform the pack when sponsors and judges have been secured. The single most important part of a successful stress free derby is fully and repeatedly getting the goals and rules across to the boys and their parents.

Sponsors have a different set of information requirements. Here we contact them early with an approximate cost for sponsorship and the benefits that they can accrue from being a part of this event. I suggest a 1 page information sheet listing the total number of boys, the number of families and the amount of publicity to be generated. Also list what additional benefits available for the sponsors. Benefits might be that they can be a judge, bring products to show at the event, put up their corporate banner, or whatever. Picture this event--the race area is covered with sponsor banners so that it looks just like the Indy 500. Outside, a local car dealer who has sponsored has brought several cars to show while the races are going on. The concession stand is fully paid for by the local bottling company who also has their mascot at the event. The entire race, from awards to kits, is being paid for by the sponsors. This is totally possible and will further enhance the experience for the boys. Imagine how they feel as they walk to the sign in table past the brand new Ford Mustang the dealer has brought in for the Derby!

Judges are the fourth area of communications requirements. Here it is a two step program - recruiting and confirming. Begin with a simple 1 page flyer describing when, where, and why about the judging. Stress that training will be provided, and that the pack is seeking high profile judges to set an example for the boys. Use this flyer as a recruiting tool to gather your judges.

Remember that in addition to the main judges for who wins the race and who wins the design contests, that you will need a starter, registrar, and 3-4 people at the beginning to inspect and qualify all the cars.

There are many ways to accomplish this but I have found, over and over, that people NOT directly involved in the pack make the best choice. Use prominent figures for guest judges for the design contest and judging the finish line and invite senior members of your local Boy Scout troop to do the weigh in, measuring, and visual inspection before the race. The Troop’s SPL makes an excellent starter and the scouts who were officials at the beginning can be put to work moving cars from the finish line to the staging area.

Sponsors and judges often require personal visits to secure the participation your pack would like. This is as much salesmanship as anything else and is beyond the scope of this book. I consider fundraising to be a vital part of a truly successful derby and can move it from just another pack meeting to an amazing event of epic proportions! When you recruit for your committee, look for someone who has contact and experience with a variety of business people.

In our small town, every car dealer sponsors events at costs from $500 to $1000 where the total attendance might be under 100 people. I think that car dealers and others in the automotive industry (like auto parts, repair shops, and even the local race track) should definitely be approached for this event. Its a natural tie in and they will have exposure to families who will always need a new car or work done. It is a perfect fit and can really make your event successful.

Another fundraising opportunity occurs on the day of the event. I have talked to several packs who operate concessions during the race. In one case, they had decided to let the local High School band operate the concession stand and split the profits because they were generating “way more money than they needed!” I was surprised at how many packs sold hot dogs and chips and paid for all the awards for the derby with that money.

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