There are many different ways to fundraise and there is no absolute perfect way. In order to begin, ask yourself what you can offer the contributor. In most cases, we have found that corporations would like to get some public recognition, while individuals want to feel that they are helping a worthwhile project.

Adopt A Solar Cell
Many schools have an "Adopt-A-Cell" program in which they ask for contributions in increments of solar cell costs. For instance, if your solar cells are going to cost $6.50 each, you may want to assign an approximate cost of $8 to a cell to cover taxes, shipping, installation materials, etc. So, your Adopt-A-Cell program offers that people can contribute $8 per cell to help your team buy the 750 or 850 cells you need. In return, the contributors know that you have recorded their name and the number of cells they have contributed.

Residential door to door fundraising with Adopt-A-Cell forms works if you have a large number of team members that don't mind spending they day on the street. We suggest door to door only on weekends as too many people aren't home during the week. Remember that people can adopt as many cells as they wish!

Small Business Sponsorships
Business door to door also works well, but the initial focus should be on significant contributions ($25, $50, $100, $1000?). You should take an information packet that includes a current list of sponsors, an introduction to the team and the Winston Solar Challenge, the budget, etc. If the business person you are talking with declines any general contribution, we have found that many of these people will still adopt one or more cells. Your information packet should include any interesting information about the team, how it was started, your goals, etc. The cover of the information packet can have a picture of the car or a drawing of what it may look like when completed.

Corporate Sponsorships
Remember that it is easier to get smaller donations than large ones. It is not unusual for small businesses to give in the $30 area, but you will have to make your best guess as to waht to ask for with large companies. Be prepared to be asked "How much do you need?" or "What is your budgeted cost and how much have you been given so far?" Set a minimum contribution amount for those companies that will be listed in your packet as contributors. Let them know that the contributors list will be seen by many other business people. Explain why the project is educational. Always ask to speak to the owner and don't give your prepared speech to just anyone. We found success in companies related to automotive and construction as we believe they can more easily relate to the project efforts.

The larger the company, the more professional the presentation should be. A Powerpoint slide show does nicely if you explain it well. To approach a large company, call their corporate office and ask to speak to the person responsible for sponsorships. If they like what you say over the phone, then you will probably be asked to make a presentation to a group of people at their location. Let them know the set price to get their name on your car (we suggest a minimum of $500). It may take several phone calls to get to the point where you can make a presentation, but it will be worth the time.

Public Presentations
Community service organizations are one of the very best places to get funding. The local Lion's or Rotary type organizations are concerned for the benefit of their communities -- of which you are a part. Be prepared to make presentations to these organizations.

Large gatherings of people are a good place to fundraise. For example, fairs and city farmers' markets are usually pretty successful. In order to get into city functions, call city hall and ask about an event. They are usually very helpful. At large functions, get a booth or site and set up a table with photos of your progress so far. Have team members there ready to answer questions. The car is the best thing to attract attention, even if it is only partially complete. People like to see what they are contributing for and like to help. You may even develop contacts with companies that can do welding, machining, or furnish wiring, etc. as a result of having your car on display. Make sure you have permission to fundraise at an event.

You may get some companies to contribute things (bicycles, TV's, etc.) that can be raffled off at events. Remember that it is sometimes easier for a company to contribute a product or service that to give cash. Be sure that if you hold a raffle, that you get a hold of the winner! Also, the winner should be drawn at the event so that there is no suspicion regarding how the drawing was performed.

Either before or after the Winston competition, it is a good idea to have some kind of get-together where all of the supportive people (parents, sponsors, etc.) can see the car and be thanked for their support. You can probably get your school to allow the use of a gym or cafeteria. be sure to show off your car. The sponsors who see this may decide that yours is a worthwhile project and donate twice as much next year.

Fundraising is a year long task. Don't wait until late in the year to start. Get organized and divide up work so that it doesn't become overwhelming. Expect to get more people saying no than yes. Think of it as treasure hunting. You will get contributions and some will be significant!

Please direct comments and questions to:
William Shih, Northview Solar Racing Team
Last modified: September 2, 1998