Fund Raising Techniques: Chapbooks

Fund raising techniques guaranteed to turn a profit.

Historically, chapbooks were small, unpretentious books of poetry, short stories, recipes, or information pertinent to a specific religious or political tract. An early form of popular publishing, they were sold inexpensively on the streets during 17th and 18th century England and America. Their peddlers were called "chapmen".

The publishing of chapbooks continues today as a truly popular form of publishing, as well as a wonderful means to raise funds for not-for-profit organizations such as schools, clubs, and church groups. Chapbooks may be ordered in almost any quantity. Most chapbook publishers make them affordable by offering discounts to these not-for-profit organizations. They can often be published for as little as $4 a copy. When sold as a fundraiser for $6 or $7, depending on the size and content of the chapbook, the profit is obvious and immediate. As the books are paid for up front, the funds are in hand upon sale of the book.

What Kinds of Chapbooks Sell?

Traditionally, churches and schools have had the best sales statistics when creating collections of recipes. Often opening the submission process to parents, teachers, or students themselves""church members and staff, the chairperson of the fundraising committee then decides how large a chapbook to print, and edits the material to fit this criteria. If the school or church's children have recently participated in an interesting trip or worthwhile project, short stories and poetry depicting these events also will be a hit with those purchasing the chapbooks.

Bear in mind, that most often the people purchasing these chapbooks are either directly or indirectly connected with the seller. For example school children tend to sell to parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and neighbors. Church members sell to their extended families and friends and family that may live farther away from the church. Community members also tend to buy these books at fundraising events, as they are interested in news, whether imminent or historical, about community organizations.

Who Publishes Chapbooks?

The best, and usually most economical bet is to contact local printers, and ask if they have chapbook publishing capabilities on location. If not, do they send chapbooks out to be published? If you strike out on both counts, it is quite likely that your local printer can direct you to another printer with this information.

There are also online resources for those wishing to publish a chapbook. explains in simple detail the process from start to finish. Their site even allows the prospective chapbook publisher to design a "test" chapbook online. Although their books are a little more expensive, if time is an issue, this may be the best bet for your fundraiser.

How Many Should We Order?

This is best defined by creating a simple survey prior to ordering the chapbooks. For example, a PTO might issue a simple two-question paper to those attending meetings. It might contain the following information:

The Pine Street School Needs to Raise Funds for a New Playground!

Would You Support This Effort by Purchasing

A Pine Street School Cookbook?

Approximate Cost: $7


How many additional copies would you be willing to sell? _____

This method is quite effective. Generally people commit to selling a dozen copies, and the committee chair then orders based on that number, plus several extras.

The chapbook method of fundraising is a tried and true effort. Most chapbook publishers turn out books printed with exceptionally good quality paper and ink. Always ask to see a sample, however!

Start collecting ideas, recipes, historical anecdotes, and poems. Choose your theme, and then begin exploring the publishing world for yourself. It is only a matter of time before the funds will start rolling in!

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