So, tokens. We have used tokens for two summer fairs now with differing success. The fairs were both run afterschool on a Friday (3.30–7pm first year/3.30–5.30pm this year).
What’s it all about?
Instead of using cash for the various stalls at the event, visitors buy tokens and spend them around the fair. Pre-printed tokens can be bought online or they can be designed, printed and cut out by your PTA team. Other versions could be similar to plastic poker chips or if you’re interested in a long term investment, then it is possible to get plastic or wooden tokens printed with your PTA logo … essentially, a PTA currency.
Both years we made one token worth 50p
We made sure that all emails, facebook posts, posters, newsletters, texts stated that we were going to operate a ‘cashless’ fair – though obviously the vast majority of parents didn’t have a clue!!
We ran a pre-order offer both years as an incentive to try to encourage parents to buy before the fair to reduce the queues … one extra token for every £5.00 bought (11 for the price of 10).
Tokens could be bought via PTA events and also in person at drop off and pick up for the week of the fair. This year we invested in SumUp machine so parents could pay by card in person.
At the fair we had a token stall set up towards the entrance of the fair where visitors could buy their tokens.
Last year was a record fair for us (kerching!!) – we made £4000 profit. The weather was AMAZING which we were grateful for and we believe encouraged families to come along and stay for longer into the evening.
We were on an austerity drive making sure we didn’t overspend, this definitely helped the profit levels but we found that parents probably over bought their tokens meaning that the total received was artificially inflated and families had loads left at the end of the fair.
We didn't allow them to be used at the bar, BBQ, cafe and raffle (we can’t remember why not but I think it was because we didn’t want to discourage spending on refreshments) but this caused complaints as parents bought more tokens expecting to be able to spend them across the whole fair.
We ran out of tokens which meant that committee members had to run around to all the stalls to collect up those which had already been spent for them to be re-sold ... not very professional and meant that the token stall had a huge queue for longer than we had anticipated. This also meant we couldn't count up the tokens for each stall to see which were the most popular.
Due to parents not being aware or understanding the idea of tokens before the fair we had a huge queue at the start which felt like it would never end.
This year we learned from our mistakes, we ordered three times as many tokens but unfortunately, they didn't arrive in time so we had to print and cut out our own!!
Pre sales were down on last year ... in fact, token sales overall were down - obviously parents had gotten wise and didn’t buy so many in one go. This could also have been down to the weather as the week leading up to the fair was so wet and rainy so parents obviously didn’t want to buy tokens if the fair was going to be cancelled.
We opened a token stall on the playground for the parents to buy while they waited for the fair to open – we could have gone even further and had committee members walking around like cinema ushers selling tokens!!!
Each stall/game had their own pot to put tokens in, sadly, many weren't labelled when handed in so we still couldn't count all the tokens for all the stalls.
This year, the café, bar, BBQ and raffle all took both cash and tokens which visitors really appreciated.
Profit was £2200 which was a little disappointing but given the schools reduced our opening time by an hour and the weather in the week of the fair was so terrible we are not too despondent.
These two fairs were the first to be held on a Friday afternoon, prior to 2018 the summer fair was held on a Saturday. This means we haven’t had a Friday fair with cash so potentially next year we might go back to cash and see how it affects entrance donations and overall takings … who knows we could be back to tokens for 2021!!
- Less change / floats to arrange, keep track of and, most importantly, COUNT!! (keeps your treasurer happy)
- Less need to run around stalls removing notes and topping up change.
- Younger children find it easier to spend vouchers.
- Older children can run stalls by themselves.
- Volunteers running the stalls just need to take a token and put it in a pot … no worrying about giving change.
- Token stall ends up with A LOT of cash in one place which makes it vulnerable.
- Hard to see which stalls were the most popular if the tokens from each were not handed back properly.
- Some parents may see it as a unnecessary step and have a grumble
- It’s easier for parents to limit the amount their children spend … ‘once your tokens are gone, they’re gone’.
- Prices on stalls which take both cash and tokens have to be in multiples of the token value. For example, our tokens were worth 50p so for a Cadburys Fudge bar is labelled at 25p – we had to give 25p cash change. We usually sell Pringles for 80p but we had to make them £1 or two tokens.
- If you rely on entrance donations or charging for entrances then this is impacted if visitors have already bought their vouchers
Written by Vicki White, Chair of Kempshott Schools Association
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