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  • Michelle Gilmore

The Lemonade Stand Theory

According to Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. in her article, "Theory Definition in Science," a theory must do all of the following:


1. It must be well-supported by many independent pieces of evidence.

2. It must be falsifiable. In other words, it must be possible to test a theory at some point.

3. It must be consistent with existing experimental results and able to predict outcomes at least as accurately as any existing theories.


I am confident that my Lemonade Stand Theory, and the supporting outcomes aligned with the theory, pass this test.


If all fundraisers approached their events like a Lemonade Stand, we would be able to raise all the funds needed to solve the world’s problems!

Here is why:


#1. The most successful lemonade stands I have seen ask for “any donation amount” leaving the donation level up to the donor.


#2. The cost/revenue ratio in terms of supplies, materials and staff is a “dream” case scenario.


#3. Location Location Location - lemonade stands are often in a “high traffic” spot with great signage and visibility.


#4. Nothing says, hometown happiness like a lemonade stand. The immediate smile that comes to your face when you see a lemonade stand is irreplaceable.


Now - let’s break these down a bit, to see how they would apply to our fundraising?


#1. Creating giving levels (with various perks at each) can be a terrific way to draw donors in at the level in which they are most comfortable. It also allows you the opportunity to “upsell” them to the next level after stewarding and cultivating the donor relationship. Would you like two chocolate chip cookies for only one dollar extra?


#2. Build an event budget that allows for 20-35% in expense-to-revenue ratio. Spend (the most) money on the things that make (the most) money. Those lemons, sugar, pitcher and ice are essential to the operation, as is the friendly freckled faced staff. The hand-made signage, the card table, plastic pitcher and old wagon are adequate and provide the functionality needed for success.


#3. Location! Event venue and Marketing visibility are BIG game changers in the event space. Large signage for 10K/5K walk/run with a huge arch for the finish line. Event logo and brand is bold and simple, eye-catching, fabulous on social media as well as print material, posters and/invitation. Convenient location (access, parking, valet, directions) all make for a terrific user-experience.


#4.The FEELS of the lemonade stand. If we could bottle up the feeling of pulling over and handing the super smiley kiddo $1.00 and watching them run over to their friend, who pours the lemonade, and carefully puts the dollar in the jar, fighting over who will deliver it to you until it makes it to our hand, we could make a fortune! When we make people feel good about giving, better yet, great; making a difference, causing change, seeing the results of THEIR donation, we automatically invite them to continue and increase their support. It is our #1 job to give them the “FEELS” of their gift!


ENJOY the Lemonade! (Side note—they make TERRIFIC silent Auction items)

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