May 27, 2009 / Advertising / Marketing / Spring 2009

Tactics and timelines for funding the yearbook

Written by Stephanie Emerson

A disciplined approach to funding your yearbook program with ad and book sales

It is true – the best way to fund your yearbook is to sell ads and yearbooks. However, organizing such sales is time-consuming, and you must compete with other groups in your school, and sometimes other schools, for those dollars. If your yearbook program is self-sustaining like mine is – the district gives us no money – the task of funding a great yearbook every year seems daunting.

The sales plan I devised and have used for years is successful for many reasons. It works on a timetable to avoid competition as much as possible – I believe timing is everything. We have record-keeping methods that simplify the billing, payment, ad design and yearbook distribution functions.

Another important element is that I have a student business manager on staff. This person oversees our sales, is trustworthy and can handle large amounts of money. Our business would crash without this person at the helm – with my oversight, of course.

Our ad and book sales are a year-long process, but we do not spend a year on them. Specific tasks are done at specific times of the year. The business manager executes the following plan, although we could not reach our sales goals without everyone on staff pulling their weight.

Our sales calendar


Our yearbook delivers in the spring, at the end of April. I consider that the beginning of our sales year. We start with business ads.

We mail thank-you letters to every business that purchased an ad. Then, during our fourth-hour yearbook class, the students go to the businesses with a yearbook, show the owner or manager their ad, and ask them to buy for next year.


On the first Tuesday after the last day of school, our new staff spends the entire day selling business ads. We meet in the yearbook room at school about 8 a.m. for training. Students are to be in business dress. They receive quick coaching on how to introduce themselves, ask for the decision-maker, explaining our ads and filling out the contract. They are given sales kits that include contracts, rate cards and manila envelopes for signed contracts and payment.

The students are paired up, two to a car, with an experienced staff member going with a new one. Pairings also reflect students who will work and not go out for coffee and donuts. They are made to understand that this activity is part of their grade.

The city is divided into quadrants, and each pair is given their assigned sales area. The students make sales calls until about 11:30 a.m., when they return with their envelopes and eat lunch. They go back out until 2 p.m., when they return with their envelopes and for treats, and then go back out until 5 p.m. and return to turn in their money envelopes.

An envelope for each sales call must be returned. The envelope must contain the signed contract, ad specifications, business cards, artwork and payment or a request for billing, or the form signed by the merchant stating the student tried to sell an ad. On the outside of the envelope, students need to write the name of the business, ad size, paid or billed, amount and their name. This speeds the sorting and tallying process.

We accept cash and checks, or we will bill them. We send invoices three times, with self-addressed, stamped return envelopes. If they have not paid by the third time, we do not run their ad.


If business owners or managers were unavailable that sales day in June, students are sent back to those businesses to sell on the first day of school.

This enables us to complete our business ad sales by Labor Day, and those ads are our first deadline.

Now, we start senior ad sales.

We mail a letter to parents of seniors, explaining what can be included in senior ads (copy and images), the sizes and costs. The letter also contains a disclaimer about valuable baby photos, noting the possibility that we may damage or lose them. Parents must turn in materials and payment for senior ads by the third Friday in September. If it is late, a $25 late fee is assessed, and parents are informed that their ad may not run. Money is refunded if an ad does not run.

So, by the end of September, all ad money is in. Then, because we know what we can afford, we determine our budget.

Grades and other incentives
To give them the incentive to sell, the staff must understand that ad sales are part of their grade. The students have a monetary goal. The amount varies by year, determined by the number of students on staff and how much money the staff thinks will be needed. It does not matter how the total is reached. For example, if the goal is $700 per student in sales, one student might sell two full-page ads for $350 each, and another student sell seven quarter-page ads for $100 each. Students unable to sell an ad must ask the merchant to sign a form stating that the student tried. Six of these forms equal an A.

As an added sales incentive, each staff member can have half of their yearbook paid for by selling a specific monetary amount of ads, or have it entirely paid for by selling a larger, specific monetary amount of ads.


We sell yearbooks for one week during the first week in November. We publicize during the three weeks prior to the sale, using:

Free public service announcements on local radio stations.
The local newspaper.
* The school newspaper.
* The school district’s automated phone system.
* The school-to-home online communication tool, such as Edline or Parent Connect.
* School announcements over the P.A. system, or have the broadcast class create an ad to show.

We chose the first week in November to sell books because most of the sales from other groups are over but it is slightly too early to be considered the holidays. It is also the end of and the beginning of the month, when people get paid.

We set up a table in the cafeteria and sell during lunch. Four students man the sale table – one to handle the money and three to write receipts. We sell the book for three prices during this week – full price, full price plus $5 for namestamping, and below full price, with the remainder to be collected at distribution. For example, one year books were sold for $40, $45 and $30, with one student writing receipts for $40, another writing $45 receipts and the third writing $30 receipts. The receipts are color-coded, which makes for easier distribution.

Now you know how many books to order. Do not order extra. If you have overruns, make sure all of your orders are filled, then sell overruns for at least $10 over the original cost. Make sure students understand during the week-long sale that there may not be books to purchase at distribution and if there are, they will cost more.

You might also consider taking yearbook orders at fall events that parents attend, such as a Meet the Teachers night. No matter how hard you try, sometimes parents do not get the word of the sale. When parents attend a school function, you would be surprised how many who were not going to buy a book for their child suddenly will.

Sell to faculty by putting an order form in their mailbox; allow them to fill it out and put the form and their payment in your mailbox. Consider giving faculty a discount.

Sell yearbooks to your community. Businesses that buy ads may be interested in purchasing a yearbook, along with doctors’ offices, dentists’ offices, beauty salons, barbers and other offices with waiting rooms. Try selling to the police department and other agencies that may need to identify high school students. Realtors are good prospects because people moving into your area are wanting to know about the schools.

It’s April again

We use the concession stand in the gym to hand out yearbooks. Two people at a time handle the distribution, which is done over two days. On the first day, students and faculty with gold receipts (people who paid full price) and blue receipts (people who paid full price with namestamping) get their books. On the second day, people with pink receipts, which means they owe money, pay up and pick up their book. Students can check that day to see if any extra books are available to buy.

Now the cycle begins again.

One Response to “Tactics and timelines for funding the yearbook”

September 11, 2009 at 10:05 pm, Beth Ann Thornhill said:

Wynne, Ark!!!!!

I have always wanted to go there because my maiden name is Wynne! 🙂
Your article was great! I have been an Advisor for 2 years and want to really make the whole experience bigger and better. You have a great system and I really appreciate you taking the time to write your articles, as it REALLY helps! Thank you so much!!!

Beth Ann (Wynne) Thornhill 🙂


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Stephanie Emerson