“Golden Regiment Fireworks Super Store”
Blue Springs High School Golden Regiment Marching Band
Blue Springs, MO
Our annual fireworks sale raises ~$30k, or 30% of the year’s general account fundraising target. This event allows us to reach outside of family networks that are often burdened with constant fundraising projects requests. It has allowed us to solidify partnerships with local businesses like the grocery store where we set-up our shop and the local music store that provides critical equipment resources. And it provides community outreach and exposure with alumni and fans of the program as well as those that get to experience the what their financial contribution allows students to do.
The first objective is to raise a large sum of money in a short period of time. The annual fireworks tent is operated for just four days from June 30th through July 4th in which we bring in over $60k in revenue and $30k in profit. The second objective is to operate the event efficiently with minimal parent and student volunteer staffing. Given that the fireworks tent is operated around the summer holiday, the target is to operate the tent with only 12 volunteers during any given shift. Because many parents volunteer for multiple shifts, we only utilize a combination of about 40 students and volunteers to staff the store. The third objective is to fundraise outside of the Golden Regiment’s family network. Many parents and family members are constantly hit with the burden of school fundraisers asking to buy something. We try to find opportunities like selling fireworks where sales come from customers predominantly outside this network. And the final objective is to create an experience with customers that showcases the pride and excellence of our band program. The primary signage identifying our tent as belonging to the Golden Regiment is our band trailer being parked outside the tent. The outside of the tent is adorned with purple GR flags for cars passing by. Once inside the tent a television is displayed showcasing a loop of past marching shows. Pricing and display signage in the tent all adorns the GR logo along with a special thanks for supporting the program. For fans and alumni, we even set-up a display to sell team store merchandise alongside fireworks. Team members are asked to where their purple and gold team gear. This all showcases the pride we have for our students and the band program.
While we do have customers that are part of the network of Golden Regiment students and family members, our main focus is on those that are not familiar with the band program and all of the work that is put in by our students. These customers learn that they’re not just purchasing a product, but that they’re helping our program be successful. Customers are asked for additional donations above the price of their purchase and most are gracious to do so.
We work with a partner company that makes this fundraiser as close to turn-key as possible. We are required to file for permits with the city and state starting in May. Given this is an annual tradition, the paperwork process is minimal and easy to navigate. Our fireworks partner then prepares an order for us based on what we sold in the previous year. We make changes as we feel appropriate and they allow us an opportunity to visit their warehouse to view new products. The vendor provides the tent and all of the necessary safety equipment on a rental. On the day before the first day of operations, we set-up tables (loaned from our school) and all of the product. Typically during the first two days of operation, the goal is to bring in enough revenue to cover the costs of all of the fireworks purchased. On the final two days, everything sold becomes profit. Discounting and “wheeling and dealing” becomes important to try to make sure as much money can go into the register and that we’re not left with any inventory at the end of the event. Any inventory that is left over at the end is taken back by the fireworks company to be stored for the next year. Our fireworks vendor does not require us to pay for the fireworks sold until July 6th so there is no up-front cash paid to operate. They also provide liability insurance coverage to protect from any losses due to weather. The tent is operated in the parking lot of a local grocery store so there is no expense for leasing space. The only other additional expenses associated are the payment of overnight security officers to help watch over the tent when we don’t have volunteers present.
Overview of Planning and Execution
We utilize committee heads for all of our fundraising activities. The committee head is responsible for organizing meetings for key staff members, preparing the permit applications, planning for the layout and organization of the products, and in coordinating overnight security. This committee head also commits to a significant amount of time during the hours of operation being the point person when problems arise. This person puts in approximately 30 hours of work (over the course of six months) prior to the operational time for the tent.
Tools and Resources
This year, the Golden Regiment improved upon the customer experience by implementing bar code scanners and computers to speed up the transaction time. Previously products were priced individually and a calculator was used to total the purchase. The use of bar code scanners significantly reduced the amount of time for parent volunteers in the set-up of the tent. And, it made our check-out faster and more accurate.
Marketing and Promotion
The event’s success is mostly reliant on a prime location. At the intersection of two major highways, and located in the parking lot of one of the busiest grocery stores in town, our tent was positioned with high visibility of the marching band trailer and tent. The tent was also promoted with flyers being posted throughout all of the schools in the district and with local businesses through the chamber of commerce. Additionally, social media posts through our closed fan Facebook group, community pages, and personal pages helped drive additional traffic. On our final day of operation, we actually had other competitive tent owners showing up at our tent to see how quickly we would be selling out of our inventory so that they could plan for an increase in traffic at their tents.
The largest expense is the purchase of the inventory. However, this is all paid after the event is complete. So, there is no capital outlay for that large cost. The cost of this inventory is ~ $27k which yields $60k in revenue. Other expenses include tent and equipment rentals for ~ $2k and overnight security for ~ $1k for four days. Additionally, our tent has the ability to accept credit card transactions through Square which charges processing fees. In total those fees were ~ $1,500.
The permitting process is the most difficult part of this fundraising project. We are fortunate that a past parent that helped start our partnership on this tent was an employee of the Agency of Tobacco and Firearms and had a strong background in working through these permit processes. He has been able to pass on his knowledge to current parents to ensure that the difficulty of completing this paperwork is easily overcome. Once the permits are in place and the product is ordered, it is just a matter of having the volunteer staffing in place. However, by minimizing the number of workers required for this, we’re able to lower that time commitment.
It has been very effective in driving strong profitability and being one of our most important and highest revenue generators. We are in the 10th year of operation and we have consistently sold through inventory into profit, while increasing our share of the market from year-to-year. We have many customers that say they started coming to our tent two or three years ago and had such a good experience they keep coming back. We’ve had freshman parents that have volunteered to work this event that have said it was their immediate connection to other parents in the program. The growth in revenue from year-to-year is our biggest indicator that the continual refinement and improvement in our operations is helping drive better results.
Without the general fund, our students would be required to pay higher fees for participation. Many students would not be a part of the band program if the costs were to continue rising. By continuing to grow the money we raise each year, we are able to more fully fund the program’s needs. Additional funds raised above the needs for our general fund are used to support scholarships through the Golden Circle for students that need additional financial assistances on their own fees.
Advice for others?
Know the laws in your area. The permitting paperwork is critical to operating the tent. And the mix of products ordered must be in accordance with local ordinances. Know the level of competition in the area and what locations might be important to your success.