While we hope no PTAs will ever find themselves out-of-pocket, we've put together this list of things to look out for and ways to stay safe. Although trouble is unlikely, there's no harm in being prepared!
Many PTAs offer external stallholders pitches at their events. These are a great way to support local businesses, attract more visitors to your fair, add variety and take some of the pressure off your volunteers. Here are some things to consider when booking external stallholders to ensure your profits aren't impacted in the event of a mishap.
- Request payment in advance so stallholders are less likely to drop out and there's less to worry about on the day itself. Then, if they do pull out, your worst concern is the loss of an attraction, not funds.
- Only agree to refund deposits by 50% up to a month before the event if anyone cancels. This way you still have some funds at your disposal, plus time to find another supplier. Keep a list of suppliers who couldn't attend due to space in case you have the opportunity to offer the spot to someone else.
- Consider all risks in contracts and agreements - everything from rain leading to low turnout to the event being snowed off or postponed. It may take time to work out what to do in each of these scenarios, but once you've worked out a contract which covers all bases you can then use this every time you have a third-party stall.
- Consider having a list of easy backup stall ideas for no-shows, or move stalls around to disguise the fact someone is missing - walking in on an empty table won't add to the atmosphere!
- If you think a product may not sell well at your fair, be open and honest with the supplier. Deborah May, Chair of Warberry CofE Academy PTA, Torquay, told us how honesty can lead to success: 'When potential stallholders ask to come and sell something at our events, I always ask what the product is and how much they charge. Some items are too expensive for our audience, so I advise the stallholder that they may not sell much, but they can still have a stall to get their name out there. This honesty means companies come not expecting to make money on the day - so we don't have any issues afterwards - but we've found many stallholders have had several orders throughout the year after the event thanks to attending. We recommend that they bring business cards or flyers.'
- Ensure the supplier is correctly insured - if they're not, can they change their insurance so that it's in line with requirements?
- Take a pitch fee instead of a percentage - many PTAs have reported being short-changed by stallholders who offer to pay a percentage of their profits, and there's no way of proving how much they raised. While this is the minority, charging a pitch fee negates the risk and means you have the money in advance of the day, useful for any outgoings.
Find reputable suppliers in our directory.
Although card readers such as iZettle are growing in popularity among PTAs, cash is still the main method of payment at many schools. Unfortunately school fairs can be targeted with counterfeit banknotes, so it's wise to read up on how you can avoid this before your event. The Bank of England has free advice available on how to check banknotes and avoid fakes. Visit The Bank of England website to find out what to look out for and ensure notes that pass through your PTA are genuine.
Keep cash safe
Ensure money is kept safe at events by reminding volunteers to keep it secure and in sight at all times. Consider investing in bumbags so volunteers can keep PTA cash with them, and have two helpers visiting the stalls at regular intervals to remove excess cash and take it to a safe place.
These are just precautionary measures to avoid uncommon circumstances, but being vigilant ensures that none of your valuable earnings are lost.