Mag Drive- The Beginning of the End?


It’s the time of year Pres girls know all too well.  It’s when homeroom teachers crank up their school spirit and the clacking noise of a giant wheel fills the hallway. Both dreaded and anticipated, Mag Drive is Presentation’s most lucrative fundraiser.  We’ve come to a point where selling magazines is almost synonymous with those first couple of months back at school.  The question is: How much longer can this tradition go on?


It’s no secret that as society grows more tech savvy, the number of people getting their news from online sources rises.  And as those numbers rise, it seems that fewer people are buying magazines. According to the International Business Times, magazine sales fell 9 percent during the last quarter of 2014 and, since then, have fallen an additional 8.3 percent.


Tim Case, Presentation’s Vice Principal of Student Activities, doesn’t seem too concerned though.  “In terms of the long-term viability of selling magazines, the industry itself has obviously been hit pretty hard, so I think that’s a challenge and a threat in terms of being able to continue to do it.  But Pres girls seem to be able to master the market.”


He’s not kidding.  Over the past five years alone, Mag Drive sales have increased by more than $18,000.  “That’s reflective in some ways of the growth of the school, but the numbers are pretty steady across the board,” Case said.  Indeed, the fundraiser saw a steady increase between 2011 and 2013, bringing in $242,159, $243,395, and $246,047, respectively.  The only blip on this upward slope came this year when Mag Drive sales fell from 2014’s record breaking $266,067 to $260,260.  


“Still,” Case said, “the numbers are pretty consistent and relatively high.  The average per girl since 2006, and even years prior to that, is somewhere between $320 and $340.”  This is good news, no doubt about it, but it doesn’t change the fact that magazine sales are declining on a much larger level.  Case, a proponent of Mag Drive, acknowledges this.  “There’s no question that the print industry has taken a significant hit.  It’s not just that there’s less production, it’s also that there are fewer reporters to create stories for production.  It’s all part of a cycle.”


It seems only prudent to keep other fundraising possibilities in the back of our minds.  The Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers, or AFRDS, reports that popular items sold include candy, chocolate and cookie dough, candles, and gift wrap.  All of these appear to be reasonable options for the future–at least until their sales numbers are examined.


The figure put forth by AFRDS as of 2014 is $3,100.  Yes, you read that number correctly and no, this doesn’t refer to average sales per student, or even average funds raised per homeroom.  This $3,100 is around what the average fundraiser grossed –per school.  Let’s put it this way: It would take over 80 of these fundraisers to add up to Pres’ Mag Drive sales.  From five years ago.


This is not to say that we should discount candles and chocolate and other novelty items entirely.  As any high seller in Pres history could tell you, $3,000 is nothing to turn your nose up at.  What is clear, though, is that  there would need to be some pretty drastic increases in the sales numbers if one of these products were to replace magazines completely.  And right now, that just doesn’t seem to be in the cards.


“If there were another fundraising opportunity where we could raise over $140,000 for the school in less than two weeks, it’s certainly something that we would look into,” said Case, “but given the fact that that really doesn’t exist, we’re pretty happy with how successful we are with the [magazine] drive.”  But is it realistic to believe that Pres can remain immune to the decreasing popularity of magazines across the industry?


“In terms of keeping the fundraiser, one of the things we’re happy about and that the company has become committed to is increasing the number of digital subscriptions that are offered.  And doing online sales helps with that,” said Case.  


All said, it doesn’t look like Mag Drive is going away any time soon.  Even if print issues of magazines become a lot less prevalent, it’s not as if media itself is going anywhere.  So even if they become obsolete altogether, there’s still the very real possibility of basing the fundraiser on online sales and subscriptions. And perhaps this is where the future of Mag Drive lies.


Maybe the fact that this more tech friendly option actually exists will be Mag Drive’s saving grace.  Decades from now, it’s highly doubtful that the fundraiser will look exactly the same. But, as Pres is already the top selling school for online sales, it seems possible that the tradition will stay afloat for quite some time.


It has, after all, managed to be successful for this long, something that can largely be attributed to the continual enthusiasm of the sales girls, year after year.  And Presentation’s Case agrees.  “I think that has to do with the traditions and the connections and the hype.  I highly doubt that you would find another school anywhere else that puts on a magazine drive like we do.”