AMS Local Chapters have demonstrated a great amount of ingenuity in handling money and becoming financially self sufficient. Some of the activities that they have used to raise money are described below. You can also download a more extended version of the guide as a PDF.
Please note that these suggestions are for general guidance only and have been sourced from Local Chapters. The National AMS does not advocate or vouch for any of these activities in particular.
The National AMS does not provide assistance with fundraising for local chapters. This is due to the loose legal relationship between local chapters and the national AMS. Local chapters are autonomous organizations that direct their own legal structure and programming. The tax exempt/nonprofit status of AMS as a professional organization does not extend to local chapters. It is up to each chapter to decide whether they want to handle money and how best to do it.
The structure of local chapters ranges from loosely organized to rigorously scheduled. Some chapters raise a lot of money, others don’t see the need to raise any. Deciding what fits best for you and your members is important. If you are interested in something as formal as a 501(c)(3), then it is worthwhile contacting your local Small Business Development Center or equivalent. These centers are usually run on government grants and provide many free services to help individuals start small businesses or organizations. They can help connect you to the legal, accounting, and other advice you’ll need for starting a 501(c)(3).
Chapter Fundraising Activities
Some chapters charge dues and some do not. If local chapter members do pay dues, these are separate from membership in the national AMS.
Dues at the local chapter level normally range from $5-$25 dollars. This is a very traditional way to earn money for a chapter and can be enough for basic needs.
Selling T Shirts, Stickers, Mugs, etc.
Selling T-shirts, stickers, etc. is a great way to improve the comradery of your chapter as well as make some money.
- Ask for ideas from your group and then vote for the top designs to offer
- Estimate prices based on anticipated sales and subsequent discounts for such quantities
- Order a few extras, which can be sold to members who did not order or offered as prizes at future meetings
- Make sure to plan plenty of lead time for production and shipping before distribution
- For student chapters, get in touch with alumni to offer merchandise in order to increase sales
Many chapters sell weather calendars as a fundraiser. This can be run as part of a photography contest that is open to the whole community or can be done with photographs of weather phenomena taken by chapter members.
Calendars usually range from $15.00 to $20.00, and all proceeds go to the chapter. Each month features one of the winning photos, and a brief caption of the photo. In addition, holidays and other special events are included.
Printing can be done by working with a local company or looking online for different printing options.
Many chapters host bake sales where members donate time and supplies to bake cookies, brownies, muffins, etc. This can be combined with a tabling or outreach event, or with another fundraiser like a movie night or cornhole tournament where the baked goods can serve as concessions.
Local restaurants or some chain restaurants will sometimes partner with chapters for a fundraiser. The local chapter makes flyers which members hand out to their friends and colleagues to promote this fundraiser. People present the flyer at the restaurant during their meal, and the chapter will receive a percentage of their total bill, not including alcoholic beverages.
Most of the time the flyer must be given to the waiter-waitress in order for the chapter to receive the percentage, and the flyers cannot be handed out directly outside of the restaurant.
Food Delivery Service
Create your organization’s version of UberEats — get people to order food and then deliver it to them, either for breakfast or for another special occasion.
Decide whether you’re going to be preparing the food yourself or partnering with a local restaurant to deliver their food. Either way, you’ll need a lot of volunteers to help you deliver and/or prepare it (or get restaurants to help you deliver and share profits).
We can all use more fresh air! Take your community members on a hike or nature walk outside your town for a small fee or donation as you introduce them to the weather phenomena and atmospheric science around them.
Hold the walk when it’s warm outside (but not too hot!) especially if you live in an area that might have snow long into spring.
Coordinate with the Sierra Club or a geology club to attract more members and hikers and offer even more information about the landscape to attendees.
Several chapters host bingo nights for chapter members and non-chapter members. You can sell bingo cards to participants, charge for entry, and/or sell refreshments. Make sure you have a space to hold the event, dry erase boards, markers, and a bingo cage for the big night. Partnering with schools or churches or gyms are good ways to get what you need. You can ask local businesses to donate small prizes like candy, stuffed animals, gift cards, etc.
Host a talent show and charge an entrance fee for the audience. You’ll need to secure a space to hold the show and decide if you want people to audition or not. Consider reaching out to local elementary and high schools, arts programs, dance studios, singing groups, etc. You’ll also need to find volunteer judges and ask local businesses to sponsor prizes or food.
You can decide whether to make it science themed or not, but this is a great way to reach out to a wide audience and raise awareness of your chapter.
Predict the Precipitation Contest
Most chapters hold an annual contest of some sort. The “Predict the Precipitation Level” is one of the most popular. Choose a span of time (some do an annual guess, others designate a few months) and a location where the precipitation will be measured (designate an airport or other place where regular measurements happen). Then charge a nominal fee for guesses. Winners take some of the entry money or a donated prize.
Another variant is guess the first snowfall, the first tornado, etc. Tailor it to your local weather season and don’t forget to update your social media channels with results.
Weather Pet Photo Contest
Invite the photographers in your networks to submit photos of their pets enjoying all types of weather. If you’re displaying the photos in a physical location, then ask attendees to pay an entrance fee and vote on their favorite piece. For a more low-impact version, hold it online and get users to submit using a hashtag!
Promote the contest well in advance so you get a lot of entries, and get permission from top entries to use them in your marketing materials.
Farmer's Market Booth
Reach out to local farmers’ markets for the opportunity to host a booth at one of their events. As diverse crowds come to get their spring and summer produce, this could increase your exposure and give you a chance to engage with your community face to face. Promote upcoming events, distribute materials, and collect donations as you educate shoppers on your programs.
Pumpkin Carving Contest
Invite people to pay a small fee to come carve a pumpkin and enter it into the competition. You could give them a limited time to challenge their skills, or take entries all day to encourage as many people as possible to take part. Set a selection of categories or awards for people to win, from Best Pumpkin Carved by a Child, to Scariest Pumpkin, or Most Original Design.
Make sure you have enough pumpkins, and that children have adequate supervision.