Imagine this: my FIRST year at my current school: FIRST year there is an afterschool choir: FIRST year they will have choir shirts: FIRST year of recorder sales: FIRST year for the OFFICE MANAGER. Sounds like a recipe for mistakes and confusion, right? Well, we made it through it, everyone got what they ordered, and I only had to provide a few thank you’s and homemade cookies to the office manager. If I can do it, so can you! Here is the complete process.
The only difference between selling choir shirts and recorders was the preapproval process. Choir shirts were mandatory so they fell under REQUIRED SUPPLIES. Recorders weren’t required so they fell under Fundraiser (even though they didn’t earn extra money.) My office manager helped me along the way with both so it really wasn’t a big deal. Just be sure to start the process well in advance of when you want the end product. A month is not too soon. Six weeks gives you peace of mind.
Every school and district is a little different, mine being the most restrictive out of all the places I’ve taught. But that’s a good thing as everything is accounted for.
This is the procedure that I am required to do at my school:
Ask a company/vendor that’s district approved for a quote. For recorders, I did not know how many items were going to be presold so I just put down 50.
Set the price from the quote for the recorder/shirt that may or may not include tax. (Our students have to pay sales tax. I’m still a bit confused on why, something about only having 2 school wide sales that are tax free.)
Set your sale dates. I only hold the recorder sale once a year in October. I give a long time, 3 weeks, for students to bring in money. Next year I am going to say the ending date is a day earlier than it really is. Human nature means that there is ALWAYS someone who brings it the day after! I give choir students 2 weeks. I start the sale the day of practice and end it on the day after the third practice.
After you have the vendor, the price, and the sale dates, go through the proper approval procedures. I have to fill out a request that first goes to the principal and then to the district. Your office manager should be able to help you with this.
Compose a letter to send home to parents. (Once it’s done, you only have to change the date each year.) I have it translated in Spanish for our Hispanic parents. Sample letter link
Make more copies than you have students as there are always a few students who lose theirs or for new students that filter in.
On the first day of the sale, start collecting money from the students. I encourage students to bring the money to me at the beginning of the day (or choir practice) instead of during their music class to avoid wasting class time. But I never turn money away.
Always write a receipt when you receive the money!! Have a receipt book, pen and a money bag ready. I fill out a triple receipt for every student. One goes to the student, one goes with the money to the safe, and one stays in my receipt book. The first year I only wrote names down when they gave me money. But then I had a student tell me he paid and I didn’t remember him giving me money. I went ahead and gave him a recorder because I had no written proof that he didn’t. Now I tell them to be sure they get a receipt from me because if they say they paid and I don’t have record that they did, they need to give me their receipt. (Since I have been handing out receipts, I have never had a problem with students saying they gave me money when they didn’t.)
Follow the school and/or district’s policy when handling money. I turn in the money every day to the office manager who puts it in the school safe. Once a week we meet and count the money and sign all the necessary forms. I end up doing this 3 times because of the 3 week sale. If you want less hassle, make your time frame shorter.
After the sale has ended, I count up all the money received, double (or triple) check it with the students’ receipts (the copies I kept) and figure out how many recorders/shirts were purchased. Then I ask for a second quote from the company with the exact number of recorders/shirts that were presold. (The shirts are a little trickier because you have to double check all the sizes.) Once that quote comes back, I forward it to my office manager who forwards it to the district. The purchase order comes back to me a few days later, and then I forward that to the company. Then they send the recorders or shirts to me.
Let your students know approximately when the recorders/shirts will arrive. I tell them the recorders will come about 2 weeks after the end of the sale. The students who paid on the first day feel like theirs will never come!
Recorders – I only give out the new recorders during their music class when we first start recorders. I don’t want them taking it home and forming bad habits. I hand out the new ones to the students who purchased them as well as sharpies. Students are to write their names on the outside of their bag as well as the very bottom of the recorder. I cross off all the names that received their recorder as sometimes there are absent students.
Celebrate the end of your sale! And be prepared to tell the students that missed it that they can purchase their own recorder at a local music store or online, NOT the dollar store! Or wait until they get to 5th grade for next year’s sale (assuming they are 4th graders.)
Shirts – Have a master list that has the students’ names on it by shirt size. At choir practice I have all the shirts in piles by size with a separate paper on each pile with only those students’ names on it for that particular size. I cross off the names on those papers as they are handed out. I like to have another adult or two as I do this at the end of choir practice and don’t like it to take too much time. Make sure you have enough pens or sharpies for all adults to mark off names. I set aside the extra shirts that didn’t get claimed (absent students) to give out on another day with their names pinned to them.
One last tip. Spread your sales out by a few weeks. The first year I held both sales back to back and the office manager was a little worn out. So I have the recorder sale from the last week of September to the middle of October and the choir shirt sale around the 2nd week of November.
Once you have a sale or two under your belt, it is not intimidating. It does take some time but the end of the sale always ends with smiles from your students when they receive their own shirt or recorder. Well worth it!