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Alter Marching Knights Mulch Sale

Archbishop Alter High School, OH

940 E David Rd, Dayton, OH 45429, USA
Archdiocese of Cincinnati
Director: Todd Tucker
Category: Fundraising Program
Award: Silver, 2020

Project Description

The Alter Marching Knights in Kettering Ohio have two main fundraisers every year to offset the cost of operating the high quality program delivered by the band. The main fundraiser is a mulch sale with the key objective of raising the necessary money to provide opportunities for our band to travel, compete, experience seeing other great music programs and grow as musicians. Our mulch sale sells and delivers on average 11,800 bags of mulch and requires the support of all band members, staff, parents and community. It has been raising funds for the over 30 years growing over the more recent years both in scope and fundraising dollars. Starting as a small 2 day sale, it has become a 6 day, multi-shift effort raising on average $20,000 over the last 5 years. Planning starts six months prior to the sale with the establishment of the committees: Marketing/Communications, Transportation, Yard, Volunteers, Hospitality and Operations/Database Management. Every band member and parent are required to support this sale and the football team and other volunteers help to ensure success.

Parents have a critical role in both the planning and delivery of the mulch. Beyond the committees listed above, parents drive all the flat bed trucks (2-3 per shift) and 2-3 chaser cars per truck to transport the kids. There are volunteers working in the yard to load the flat bed trucks and to clear any trash. It has been learned that providing breakfast and lunch each day of the mulch sale helps to keep timelines so having the parents run the hospitality station ensure that all volunteers are hydrated and fed.

2019 was the best mulch sale to date with over $22,000 raised and all mulch was sold by the end of the sale, the first time in its history. In addition to the Mulch Sale supporting the band, the Alter Lacrosse team’s fundraiser is to spread the mulch delivered.

Highlights of the 2019 sale:

  • 11,886 bags of mulch sold and delivered.
  • Total # of shifts completed by band kids 184
  • Total # of shifts completed by parents 169

Target Audience

Local community members within 15 miles of the high school.
Band alumni and Alumni of the school
80% of the buyers are returning buyers each year

The Kettering community is approximately 55,000.
Alter High School is a Co-ed Catholic High School in Kettering with just over 600 students in grades 9-12.

Overview of planning and execution process for this project

Committee meetings and conversations with school officials are the two most important factors to kick off the year of planning. Because school parking lot space is required for an extended amount of time and because most of the student volunteers are Alter students, the mulch sale dates are an important first step. After those dates are vetted, the planning begins. The timeline below is organized by number of months before the sale.

The timeline for the Mulch sale is as follows:

  • 12 Months to Sale – Chair Identified (Usually a 2 year commitment) and dates picked/coordinated with other school activities
  • 6 Months to Sale – Committees Chairs named, Parents are trained by prior chairs
  • 5 Months to Sale – Mulch quotes received, communication plan, website work identified, hospitality budget identified, transportation plan identified
  • 4 Months to Sale – Mulch chosen and ordered, trucks reserved, volunteers sign ups created, signs ordered if needed – often signs are reused
  • 3 Months to Sale – Website goes live, coincides with Alter High School Fish Fry, phone # goes live
  • 2 Months to Sale – Call night, students call former customers to notify of sale
  • 1 Months to Sale – Social media, church bulletins, communication plan executed
  • 1 week out – Routes are planned based on orders

Mulch Sale & Delivery

  • 1 month post sale — lessons learned review – an opportunity to review items that can be improved on at the next sale.

Sponsors/charities/volunteers/ other groups involved in the project and the benefits to each.

The Mulch Sale requires many hours of volunteers to make the fundraiser a success. The band is the largest benefactor with all dollars raised supporting the band program. The mulch sale has the full support of the football head coach who allows the football players that work shifts to count that as gym work. Our Alter Key club is a volunteer organization that supports the mulch sale and gets volunteers hours in return. The Alter Lacrosse team’s largest fundraiser is directly supported by the mulch sale. The team spreads mulch delivered raising money to support their sport.

Archbishop Alter High School is located in Kettering Ohio a community that supports the Arts in a significant way. The community is always behind the mulch sale as is demonstrated by at least an 80% returning customer rate.

Executing the sale and delivery of the mulch requires support from each parent, band kid and extra volunteers. Below describes the volunteer hours needed for the 2019 mulch sale.

Parents serve roles on site as Hospitality, Volunteer Coordinator and Data Entry. Hospitality provides the breakfast and lunch foods to keep the teams hydrated and fed between shifts. The Volunteer Coordinator ensures that all drivers and mulch carriers understands who is riding in which car and with which flatbed Truck. The Data Entry parent plans all the routes ahead of the shift and then enters all deliveries when the trucks return at the end of the shift. They also handle all onsite sales.

We have 11 shifts of 3 hours each shift with 4 people per shift for a total of 132 hours.

Parents also work the mulch “Yard”. These parents load the flatbed trucks before every shift and clear away all trash from the pallet break downs.
There are 11 shifts at 3 hour shifts for 2 people for a total of 66 hours.

Parents drive personal pick up trucks for small deliveries
There are 8, 3 hour shifts = 24 hours
Students ride along to unload the mulch.
There are 8 shifts at 3 hour shifts = 24 hours

Flatbed Drivers are required to drive all the large flat bed trucks for the majority of the deliveries.
There are 11 shifts at 3 hours per shift and 3 trucks per shift for a total of 66 hours.

Parents drive chasers cars to carry students to do the unload at each destination
There are 11 shifts with 6 parents per shift = 66 hours

And the heavy lifters of the crew are the kids, football players and other volunteers who deliver the mulch off the flatbed trucks to the homes and businesses that ordered it.

For each flat bed truck we need approximately 10 students (band, football and others) per truck per shift.

Community Impact

The mulch sale keeps band fees reasonably priced but also allows our students to be able to experience the best bands in the country by attending and competing nationally. The last few large funded trips include attending Super Regionals and Regional Bands of America competitions in San Antonio, TX, St. Louis, MO. and Newark, DE. We are also able to travel to local competitions and make it a point to participate in Grand Nationals every year. The sale also helps our little band gain notoriety in the community which also helps our school attract and retain students who may not have known about our program otherwise. As we make the mulch sales calls and when we deliver the mulch our students are able to meet community members and talk to them about our school and program.

Overall budget


Specific Budget Breakdown

The Alter Music Association establishes a budget of $30,000 primarily to purchase the mulch and transportation. The 2019 expenditures are shown in the attached file.

New or recurring project?


How did you update/change this project from its previous occurrence?

Some changes made:
We ordered a smaller bag size to make the mulch bags easier to carry. In order for this to be most effective, we adjusted the price and we added a calculator to the order site to ensure customers with previous orders could still order the correct number of bags. We always carefully analyze the ROI of the project to ensure we continue to be profitable.

We measure the overall success of the program by the amount of money raised and if we are able to sell all bags of mulch within a reasonable amount of time. This year we sold ALL bags by the end of the sale.

Challenges/obstacles that were encountered

There have been three major challenges that the mulch sale has overcome since its inception: Technology, Volunteers and the coordination with the school.

In the beginning of the mulch sale all planning and coordination was done manually using physical maps and hand written plans. As the sale grew it became clear that the effort was far greater than could be accomplished by a single parent. A group of parents with computer skills created a new tool using both Access and Map. The Access database has all the data over the last 10 years of customers, contact information, addresses, order history, etc so that we can track trends in purchasing. This database is also used to create the call night sheets that are given to the band students on call night. Each student is required to call a set of former customers to remind them of the sale. Because of the database, call night has been a huge success in getting former customers to order again. In addition to the database, we use a mapping routine developed by the same parents that enable us to easily route the flatbed trucks. Because each shift is 3 hours it important to create a route that maximizes deliveries while maintaining load size and route time. Having this mapping application enables the team to quickly route multiple trucks over multiple shifts effectively. Volunteers are always tricky especially when more and more commitment is required. The Alter Music Association has created a mandatory requirement for all band kids and parents in order to make a successful sale. Making this a mandatory event has reduced the issues in getting volunteers. We have also been very fortunate to have the support of the head football coach who provides incentives for the football players to help out as well. We added a volunteer coordinator that makes sure all parts of the volunteers is managed. Although the work is hard, many of the students and parents enjoy working the sale and several come back to support even after their kids graduate.
Finally our last challenge is simply working around all the major activities and other fundraisers happening in the school. The school publishes the next year calendar prior to the end of the school year. The mulch committee works with the school to schedule the sale and to reserve the rooms needed. Many times there is a conflict of some sort (Prom, Senior Trip etc.) but the volunteer coordinator will advertise this when the sign up links are posted giving kids and parents ample opportunity to work around schedules. The mulch sale dates are announced a year in advance to also help with planning.

Measurement of the success/effectiveness of this project?

As was mentioned above, we upgraded the technology of the program to simplify the way we track and route the orders placed. This has provided a rich source of data so that we can show year over year trends and growth opportunities. In addition, we worked with the school to go from a cash/check only sale to allowing for credit card purchasing. By adding credit cards to the mix not only did purchases increase but tracking down payments at the end of the sale greatly reduced. This benefited the cash flow for the organization significantly. Another huge impact to our sale was the introduction of social medial. Parents are provided a script that they can post on all of their media that spreads the word around the community very quickly. We have seen an increase in orders since utilizing these platforms.

Advice for someone looking to replicate this project in their own community?

  • Set a small or manageable goal for sales when you start.
  • Make sure there are no other mulch sales in your area.
  • This project requires a substantial volunteer base who will be able dedicate time and sweat to the project.
  • Gain the support of the school administrators and make sure you can select dates that are not at odds with your needs for storage of the mulch.
  • Talk to other teams in advance to see if they would be willing to volunteer to assist in delivery.
  • If you plan to deliver the mulch be sure you have room for trucks to load and unload. We use forklifts and large flatbeds.
  • Treat your volunteers to water and additional hospitality if you are able! Lifting 20 pound mulch bags is hard work.

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