Scholastic Matchmakers: The Easiest Fund Raiser Of All Time

Part 3

The Old Adage: It Takes Money to Make Money

"What the hell," we said. We decided to take a risk.

During our sophomore year of college, we made a serious financial investment in the company, which finally let us put together a real brochure. Not a cheap-looking paper thing like the ones that we'd mailed in previous years, but a professional-looking glossy three-fold printed by a real printing company. It even had a perforated postage-paid-by-addressee Business Reply Mail card that people could tear off and drop in the mail. Wow -- it was almost like we were a real business!

We also massively increased the scale of our mailings. Instead of stuffing a few dozen envelopes ourselves, we hired a company that specializes in mass mailings to stuff thousands for us. Instead of copying mailing addresses out of the local phone book, we got our hands on an electronic database of every public secondary school in the United States and its territories.

Even with all this effort, it took a couple of years to get things rolling. One of the major difficulties with Scholastic Matchmakers is that it's a seasonal business. Schools only do one dating fundraiser a year, usually around Valentine's Day. By the time we had our first glossy brochures ready to go, we'd missed out on most of the 1993-94 school year because Valentines Day 1994 had already passed. We mailed 3,000 brochures out to schools anyway.

Most schools ignored us, but we did get responses from about 20 of them. 20 was not a big number, but it was still very encouraging, because it was not 0. We processed the 20 schools that replied to us, but spent most of our time that year redesigning all of our software and procedures to work with our new, fancy, and very expensive 28 page-per-minute laser printer, and our even fancier and very expensive ScanTron Machine.

By the time Fall of 1994 arrived, we were ready -- right at the beginning of the school year. Our procedures were tuned and in place. Our glossy brochures were hot off the presses. Our mailing list was even more massive than the year before. We had money to spend from the previous year's modest sales. So, in October of 1994, Scholastic Matchmakers launched its full frontal assault: we mailed brochures to the 6,000 largest high schools in the continental United States. Plus 9 schools in Alaska.

A few months later, we discovered that we weren't nearly as ready as we thought we were.

Next: Victims of our Own Success

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Last updated: 3 May 1999