Have You Used MLM’s In Your Fundraising?

mlm-pyramidHave you used MLM’s in your fundraising campaigns at school?  For those of you that don’t know what an MLM is, it’s short for Multi Level Marketing.  Some people call it network marketing and others call it a pyramid scheme.  I’m not judging when I say that — it’s just words that people use to describe it.  There are some very reputable companies that market their products this way.  You know them.  I don’t need to mention them.  They range from household products, to make up and skin care to jewelry.

I ask the question for a very specific reason.

I mention this form of fundraising in my book, but I haven’t seen a lot of it in the real world.  Here’s why:  If a mom sells jewelry, for example, through one of these companies, and offers to give part of her commission back to the school, she is profiting and making money off the other parents at the school.  Also, what’s to stop her from NOT giving the money to the school or other parents getting mad because they also sell the product.  Sure, you could say, “the school wins, so why can’t she win too?” My answer for me:  Credibility!

I usually see it coming.  I’ll get a call from a company that wants to “partner” with me or have me talk about their product and how amazing it is and why people should use it.  They offer to pay me for my endorsement (even if I don’t believe in the product).  I graciously decline, because that isn’t how I choose to do business.  However, this week I was approached by a very smart woman who put a different spin on it.  She wanted me to be on her advisory board for her non profit and have me partner with her on an MLM and get it out to the schools I work with.  I was wary, but took the meeting.  She talked about empowering women and supporting women in business.  She said it was a multi-million dollar business and why shouldn’t schools see some of that money.  She made it seem like I’d be a fool not to get involved with her.  I loved her ideas and what she was doing to help kids in low income communities and help them learn how to fundraise and go to college.

Do you know what I didn’t love?

The fact that she said I would need to sign up to sell XYZ and then I could go out to all of you and suggest YOU do the same!  I could make money from YOU selling the product.  She said I didn’t have to sell it myself.  Just have the number so I could sign others up under me.  I thought about the language she used.  How she was so encouraging and excited to share this with me.  She made it seem like it would be easy.

But the truth was I saw my own mom get sucked into thinking this was how she could make a lot of money after retirement.  It didn’t work for her and doesn’t work for me.  It doesn’t pass the “sniff test,” and it isn’t something I am willing to bet my credibility or brand on.

If I share ideas or programs with you, it’s because I truly believe in them and think it will help you make your fundraising better and easier.  THAT’S why I wrote the book in the first place, and why I do what I do.

So tell me what you think.  Have you used MLM’s in your fundraising?  Does it work for you?  Tell me in the comments below.  Also, have you signed up for my blog? You can do it above!  I promise, no spam!

To Your Success,



Sarah has been fundraising for schools since 2008.  She is the author of A Mom’s Guide to School Fundraising and has consulted for several schools and clubs.  She has been featured on RetailMeNot.com, Scholastic: Parent & Child and The New York Times. She thinks all kids should be able to have a well-rounded education, team uniforms, instruments and support.  Don’t you?

Image courtesy of mlm-cult.com

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