Flower Bulb Fundraising
We have been working with garden clubs, school groups, churches, botanic gardens, foundations and private non-profit organizations on flower bulb fundraisers for years and years. We do not offer a 'canned' fundraising program or brochure, since most of our clients are experienced horticulturists who prefer to sell specially selected varieties of flower bulbs geared to their own particular audience. They have found that it's been most successful to sell unique varieties of the finest quality and top size bulbs that are not found in big chain stores, and not simply a generic red Tulip or a yellow Daffodil.
The key to a successful fundraiser is to keep it manageable, fun and profitable. That means enlisting the help of enough volunteer colleagues to help with promotion, selling, packing and distribution. Network through the whole community, develop partnerships with other community organizations, student groups and high traffic local businesses.
Select the Flower Bulb Varieties
Most fundraising groups develop their own special collection of flower bulbs based on horticultural themes, community beautification programs, garden club "picks", heirloom restoration projects, school colors, their own personal favorites, or varieties that support a special theme.
When you are selecting the varieties that you want to sell, keep in mind the Horticultural Zone (HZ) hardiness of flower bulb varieties as well as specific performance characteristics. You may want to consider which flower bulbs are good for warmer climates, shady spots, more moist soil, a munching deer or rodent population, or which flower bulbs are fragrant, or which are good naturalizers.
For example, a day care facility might conduct A Child's Secret Garden fundraiser, while a hospice might hold A Healing Garden flower bulb sale. Breast cancer awareness groups have sold pink Tulips and Narcissi. Other groups have renamed varieties after teachers, local landmarks or historical figures and gotten the whole community involved. Several enthusiastic garden clubs launched massive, community beautification projects and recreated their towns as amazing Narcissus display destinations.
Normally, we have 95% of our collection in-house from the annual Dutch harvest by the third week in September. There are some late-harvested exceptions: Eremurus, Herbaceous Peonies, Lilies, Dutch Amaryllis and Van Engelen Collections. Please keep in mind that we would not be able to ship any of these varieties to you until mid-October.
There are many ways to select flower bulbs for your fundraiser. We would be happy to help you pick them out too. Just phone us at (860) 567-8734 Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. to get started.
How Many Varieties Should You Sell?
Generally, we recommend that the collection of flower bulbs for a fundraiser number no more than ten or 12 varieties to keep it focused and manageable. Larger, more horticulturally-based flower bulb fundraisers with abundant organizational membership and support may want to expand their selection for a broadly representative collection ranging from early Crocus to late Lilies.
Plan Your Fundraiser Step by Step
1. Decide what type of fundraiser you want to have.
A. A one-on-one volunteer sales effort with a sell sheet and order form, followed by a scheduled order pickup or distribution day.
B. A special flower bulb sales event (on its own or in conjunction with an existing, well-attended community event).
2. Put together a simple schedule including:
A. Flower bulb selection and Van Engelen hold order.
B. Volunteer recruitment.
C. Publicity and sales materials.
D. Presale end date.
E. Finalize order for shipment.
F. Flower bulb repackaging party.
G. Flower bulb order pickup/distribution.
H. Optional: Create a Garden Angel Program (see below).
3. Select the varieties to be sold and give us a call at Van Engelen to let us know which varieties you have selected as soon as possible. We will set up an initial "hold" order for you based on your best estimate of how many bulbs will be sold.
4. Recruit a sufficient number of volunteers to make the sell sheet, to help with publicity, to do the actual selling, to repackage the bulbs and to assist with order distribution. By having enough volunteers, the process should be fun for everyone, hugely profitable and quite likely a program that everyone will want to repeat in the future.
5. Create a sell sheet and order form (paper and/or online).
6. Conduct volunteer presales with a cut off date. Keep Van Engelen updated on estimated quantities.
7. Finalize the order with Van Engelen in time for UPS Ground shipment in advance of your bulb repackaging party.
8. Repackage the bulbs.
9. Hold bulb order pickup/distribution.
Place Your Initial Hold Order
As soon as you have selected your varieties, contact us to set up an initial "hold" order based on the best estimate of how many bulbs will be sold. Over the course of the fundraiser, we ask that you give us periodic updates to make sure that we are reserving adequate inventory to cover your sales.
To reserve your initial, tentative hold order, we require an American Express, Visa, Mastercard or Discover credit card. We will not actually charge the card until the order is finalized and prepared for fall shipment, so there is no cost associated with placing the initial hold order. Once you finalize your order with any quantity changes (up or down), you can also mail us an organizational check if you prefer. Once we receive your check, we would delete the credit card from the order and prepare your order for UPS Ground shipment.
Each hold order should include a fundraising cut off date and targeted shipping date in advance of your repackaging party. Keep in mind that flower bulbs should be planted when the soil has cooled down to about 55°F. You need to complete order distribution so that your clients can plant their bulbs at the proper time in your area.
If you like, we can ship you our Horticultural Tips brochures that you may include with each of your customers' orders. Just give us a ballpark quantity of anticipated orders. (You may also prepare your own horticultural tips based on our information if you prefer to not disclose us as your supplier.)
Set the Prices for Your Fundraiser
Fundraisers order their bulbs through Van Engelen, our wholesale company. Your group is responsible for determining the prices that are to be charged, usually at least double or triple the shipped cost. Tulips are normally priced at $1 per bulb depending on the variety, in bags of ten, with volume discounts for the number of bags of ten purchased. Narcissi are usually priced at $1.50 per bulb in bags of five or ten, depending on the variety, with volume discounts for the number of bags sold.
Crocus, Muscari, Scilla and other Miscellaneous Bulbs are available in a wide range of price points from Van Engelen, and should be repriced accordingly.
Create a Sell Sheet and Order Form, or Point of Sale Materials
A sell sheet and an order form can be made easily by a computer-savvy volunteer colleague. Once your initial hold order is placed, we can email you high resolution photos to use on your materials. (In our agreements with photographers, we are required to provide advance permission for photo use.) You may also copy any of our online flower bulb descriptions or horticultural information. For bulb sale events, our photos may be used for point-of-sale cappers displayed over each variety. We suggest formating a 5" x 7" photo over an enthusiastic description of each variety.
Sell Like Crazy!
As you and your volunteer colleagues are selling flower bulbs like crazy, we ask that you give us periodic updates to make sure that we are reserving adequate inventory to cover your sales. If you or anyone has questions about anything, just call us.
Finalize Your Order for Shipment
Once you have finalized your order, we will ship it out via UPS Ground. We start shipping orders the third week in September, and ship through the end of October. We can slate your order to ship the week of your choice. You may provide us with your email address so that UPS can send you notification of your order shipment and anticipated delivery. You may also track the progress of your order shipment on our home page by clicking on the UPS shipment tracking icon. All you have to do to track your order from our door to yours, is to log in your order number and the destination zip code.
In the event of a crop failure of a particular variety, we will contact you ASAP with ideas on alternate varieties with similar growing characteristics. We never make automatic substitutions. Please don't worry about this: it rarely happens, but we do have to mention it since they are perishable entities.
Inspect Your Order
Prior to repackaging, open all exterior and interior boxes and check your order against the packing slip, and inspect the bulbs. Be sure to open each and every interior box. Sometimes, to reduce bulb bouncing in transit, a small bag of Crocus, for example, might be fitted into a box labeled Tulips. Discard any that are not firm. Store the bulbs in a cool, dry spot (50°F to 70°F) with good air circulation and low humidity, away from heat, frost and strong sunlight. (Poor storage conditions could cause bulbs to dry out, or to become moldy.)
Each flower bulb variety produces its own annual top size bulb. Each variety description includes the centimeter circumference of that bulb. A measurement of circumference is taken by measuring around the widest girth of the bulb, as if one were measuring one's waist: not a straight line measurement from left to right. In any one bag of bulbs, you might find some different sizes. Rest assured that the smallest of them is at least the size specified for that variety: the others are larger, kind of like a bulb bonus.
Individual varieties of flower bulbs have different bulb shapes too. The papery sheaths surrounding some bulbs, like Tulips or Narcissi, may or may not be intact: it has no bearing on its vitality or performance. Some varieties may have a blue-green transportation mold on them~a natural phenomenon that occurs when some types are out of the soil and exposed to oxygen after being harvested. As long as the bulb is firm, it is nothing to worry about. (If you want to, you may gently remove the mold with a paper towel, or let them air out in the sun for an afternoon.) But if you have any questions about any of your bulbs, just give us a call.
Repackage the Flower Bulbs
Your volunteers are responsible for repackaging the bulbs into smaller units for your customers. Use simple paper lunch bags with air holes punched in them. Preprint the correct number of bag labels for each variety to make sure that the bulbs are being repackaged correctly. A computer-savvy volunteer colleague can prepare your bag labels: include variety name, number of bulbs, height and color. Some groups have had a local business donate the paper bags and a local company produce the computer-generated bag labels. Some groups associated with children have used their drawings and handwriting as scanned "artwork" for the labels.
Repack one variety at a time to avoid mixing up the bulbs.(Individual Tulip and Narcissus varieties are difficult to tell apart once mixed up.) Do not put flower bulbs in plastic bags~the bulbs cannot breathe. Your volunteers should wear latex or neoprene gloves while touching Hyacinths: some people have an itchy reaction to them. After the bulbs are repackaged, store them in a cool, dry spot (50°F to 70°F) with good air circulation and low humidity, away from heat, frost and strong sunlight again.
Pick the Orders
The next step in the process is to "pick" each individual order. Make sure that the exterior bag or box is clearly marked with the customer's name and address (or pickup site) and the contents. Again, until distribution, store them in a cool, dry spot (50°F to 70°F) with good air circulation and low humidity, away from heat, frost and strong sunlight.
Don't forget to have a couple of volunteers in charge of refreshments to help keep the bulb packing aspect of the fundraiser fun. Happy volunteers tend to want to come back for the next year's fundraising effort too!
Distribute the Orders to Your Customers
Distribute your customers' flower bulb orders through your volunteer network or announce a place and time where your customers may pick them up. Some groups order extra bulbs for on-the-spot sales at their scheduled pickup event. Other groups have piggybacked their fundraiser pickup with extra sales at existing community events like at school book fairs, football games, car washes, church fairs or local farmer's markets. Don't forget the possibility of selling Amaryllis and Paperwhite bulbs later for the holidays!
Establish a Garden Angel Program
Many groups have had success with what has been called The Garden Angel Program. If someone does not want to buy flower bulbs for their own garden, your volunteer can ask if they would like to be a "Garden Angel". This means that they would purchase bulbs for a special community garden that your group has selected to sponsor.
By doing so, "Garden Angels" can support your fundraising project as well as donate flower bulbs to your group's special garden at a town green, hospice, day care program or senior citizen center. The Garden Angel program makes everyone happy. Local newspapers typically carry news of it~publicity helps promote future flower bulb sales and community involvement.
Paperwhites and Amaryllis
Christmas Flowering Amaryllis are available for shipment in late September as are Paperwhite bulbs. Dutch Amaryllis are not available for shipment until mid-October. Amaryllis and Paperwhites may be sold at a late fall event, when outdoor bulb orders are distributed, or at community holiday events. Some groups have packaged them into little net bundles tied with raffia. Others have decorated and planted special holiday pots of Paperwhite or Amaryllis bulbs to sell.
Please note that while we may ship Amaryllis and Paperwhite bulbs through February, all shipments of these perishable bulbs are dependant on night time temperatures remaining above freezing.
Most Importantly...Call Us
We are here to help you. We can mail you our Van Engelen Wholesale Price List and our John Scheepers Beauty from Bulbs catalog and a Horticultural Tips brochure. If there is any information you need, please do not hesitate to call. We would be happy to help you and your colleagues in any way we can.
The Most Popular Tulips
Emperor Tulip Orange Emperor
Emperor Tulip White Emperor
Emperor Tulip Yellow Purissima
Giant Darwin Hybrid Tulip Apricot Impression
Giant Darwin Hybrid Tulip Banja Luka
Giant Darwin Hybrid Tulip Golden Parade
Giant Darwin Hybrid Tulip Parade
Giant Darwin Hybrid Tulip Pink Impression
Giant Darwin Hybrid Tulip Red Impression
Giant Darwin Hybrid Tulip Salmon Impression
Single Early Tulip Flair
Single Late Tulip Dordogne
Single Late Tulip Queen of Night
Triumph Tulip Bastogne
Triumph Tulip Don Quichotte
Triumph Tulip Negrita
Triumph Tulip Synaeda Amour
The Princely Tulip Mixture
The Triumph Tulip Mixture
The Giant Darwin Hybrid Tulip Mixture
The Single Late Majestic Tulip Mixture
The Single Late Pastel Tulip Mixture
The Most Popular Narcissi
Cyclamineus Narcissus Tête à Tête
Double Narcissus Cheerfulness
Double Narcissus Yellow Cheerfulness
Jonquilla Narcissus Sweet Love
Large Cupped Narcissus Delibes
Large Cupped Narcissus Flower Record
Large Cupped Narcissus Fortune
Large Cupped Narcissus Ice Follies
Pink Large Cupped Narcissus Pink Charm
Pink Large Cupped Narcissus Salome
Poeticus Narcissus Actaea
Poeticus Narcissus Pheasants' Eye
Tazetta Narcissus Falconet
Triandrus Narcissus Thalia
Trumpet Daffodil King Alfred DNII
Trumpet Daffodil Rijnveld's Early Sensation
The Narcissus Grand Mixture
The Southland Grand Narcissus Mixture
The Ravishing All-Pink Narcissus Mixture
The Fragrant Narcissus Mixture
The Most Popular Miscellaneous Bulbs
Allium aflatunense Purple Sensation
Anemone blanda Blue Shades
The Species Crocus Mixture
The Large Flowering Crocus Mixture
Hyacinth Blue Jacket
Hyacinth Pink Pearl
Hyacinth White Pearl
Hyacinthoides hispanica Excelsior
The Dutch Iris Rainbow Mixture
The Rock Garden Iris Mixture
Scilla siberica Spring Beauty
The Most Popular Christmas Flowering Amaryllis
Christmas Flowering Single Amaryllis Amalfi
Christmas Flowering Single Amaryllis Blushing Bride
Christmas Flowering Single Amaryllis Merry Christmas
Christmas Flowering Double Amaryllis Alfresco