As a kid, I went door to door in my hometown selling Girl Guide cookies to help fund programs that provided an opportunity to earn coveted life-skills badges, meticulously sewn on sleeves. Since then, I’ve bought many a raffle and 50-50 ticket, along with goods ranging from garbage bags to chocolate bars, to support school groups and community organizations. To be sure, fundraising is varied, or perhaps you might say multi-hued — not least of all when you’re selling flowers, or indeed flower power. Veseys Seeds, based in York, Prince Edward Island, is now in its 40th season of running a fundraising program where groups sell from a menu of mostly bulbs, perennials and seeds, keeping 50% of the retail price.
“Each spring and fall, we are shipping millions of bulbs and perennials, the primary component of the program, across Canada,” says John Barrett, Veseys director of sales, marketing and development. “Thousands of groups have raised millions of dollars as a result.”
Fundraising as a business
Located a mere 10-minute drive from Charlottetown, the 40-acre Veseys property has strong roots in the rural PEI mindset, where neighbours help neighbours. The company has long supported the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown — “a personal interest of our owner, and one of the largest things we do locally,” Barrett says.
However, Veseys’ fundraising program is first and foremost a business. “We do derive a great deal of satisfaction from helping groups and are proud of that, but it’s a good piece of business, too.”
Now 20 years old, the program was one of several new initiatives undertaken to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Veseys in the fall of 1999. It’s used mostly by schools — probably 75% to 80%, Barrett says. The remaining groups tend to range from Boy Scouts and churches to SPCAs and navy cadets; group sizes range from two to 600 members, averaging about 87.
In Forrest, Manitoba, Forrest Elementary School Parent Advisory Council president Teresa Hrominchuk says, on average, her group raises about $1,800 each year through Veseys. “These funds are very important to our school—they help with costs outside of the standard curriculum budget, such as field trip transportation and one of our grade’s annual camping trips,” she says.
In Almonte, Ontario, the Hub Hospice recently raised raised $4,000. “The flowers are beautiful, hardy and they appeal to a wide variety of home gardeners,” says Toni Surko, fundraising chair.
Closer to home, the Charlottetown Bluephins Aquatic Club has raised funds largely to offset swim registration costs, says vice-president Ellen Campbell.
“There are 45 products in our spring program,” Barrett says. “We’ll sell 3,000 to 8,000 of some of these products, and we’ll sell 500 or 600 of others. We don’t keep trying to tear it down to only the top sellers, because then you’re limiting people’s choices. We like to have the range of products as broad as possible so there’s something for everybody’s taste.”
Natural fit as a mail-order company
“Because our volume of bulb purchasing in Europe is so big, our pricing is very good,” Barrett says. “It just fits with us given we are a mail-order company. We know how to ship products, we know how to market to people through the mail.”
An attractive aspect of the program is that groups have immediate access to the funds they earn. For example, a group could complete $5,000 in sales in one month, and have $2,500 right away to spend on what what‘s needed. Plus, there are no upfront or hidden costs; Veseys covers all shipping costs.
“Our guarantee is an important component of the fundraising program,” Barrett says. “We guarantee that upon receipt of the order if there’s anything you’re not satisfied with we will replace it, no questions asked, totally free of charge. We have that guarantee with everything we sell. I think that’s why we’re 80 years old.”
More about Veseys
- Go to Veseys fundraising website or call 1-800-363-7333
- Read about Veseys celebrating 80th year
- Read about visiting the Veseys Trial Garden in PEI
This article was made possible thanks to sponsorship by Veseys.