By Jim Cole, President of Race for Education
Undoubtedly, you are familiar with “fundraising fatigue.” Perhaps you are experiencing it yourself right now. School families are, and they are turning off and turning away. There just are too many fundraisers that demand too much effort from parents, too much time from teachers, and too much work from students.
And yet, the need to expand the variety and quality of education requires more money from somewhere. So, how do you turn fundraising apathy into efficient, profitable fun-raising?
Based on my more than 30 years of helping schools pump energy into their money-raising efforts, here are my 10 tips to achieve your financial goal without exhaustion.
1. Limit the number
Do only a few fundraisers (or maybe just one!), and do them well. Members of the “Fundraiser of the Month Club” – parents, teachers, PTA/PTO volunteers, students — burn out quickly.
2. Limit the time
Focus on fundraisers that make the most money with the least time commitment from volunteers. Parents have full-time-plus jobs inside and outside the home. Finding another five to ten hours a week is challenging.
3. Avoid taxing teachers
Some fundraisers, even profitable ones, require that teachers keep tallies of students’ involvement, hand out products and prizes in class, and spend time explaining and cheerleading for the fundraiser. Taking teachers away from teaching defeats your purpose.
4. Make your monetary goal specific
Tell parents and prospective donors exactly what the goal is. People like to know that, and a specific number incentivizes them to participate. Also, be sure to keep parents aware of your progress towards the financial goal.
5. Tell everyone why you are raising funds
Communicate clearly to parents how specifically the funds will be used: for example, for Chromebooks for the classrooms, playground equipment, field trips, assemblies.. Excite parents about the purpose of the fundraiser and you will also motivate them to get involved.
6. Promise parents
Tell them at the onset. if the fundraiser reaches its monetary goal, you will eliminate or at least limit other fundraising activities during the school year.
7. Purchase your own prizes
And make sure they are low cost yet appealing to students and parents: for instance, a homework pass, a dress-down-day card, extra recess, and/or a free snack. You don’t have to spend a lot to raise a lot of funds. Avoid fundraising companies that require you to purchase your prizes from them. Many of these companies inflate the cost of prizes to make even more money from the school.
8. Focus most of your time publicizing your fundraiser not managing it
Use your school or PTA/PTO website, for example, to promote your fundraiser. And remember, even though you want to go green mostly, don’t ignore making printed materials available to parents and students, especially if the fundraising company provides these materials for free. Having something in hand can be more effective sometimes than emails from school that might be missed or ignored.
9. Avoid hidden costs that eat your profits
Many companies, to get your business, will advertise a low commission percentage. However, once you have signed the contract, the company will start to add costs such as set-up charges, printed material fees, consulting fees, and more. You may have to make up for hidden costs by organizing more fundraisers.
10. Choose a 24/7 fundraising company
You will have many questions and will need occasional hand-holding, and you will want experienced advice and suggestions for your program. That means you don’t need just the company; you need one or two professionals who have the know-how and the empathy to guide you to success – and you will need them when you have time not when they have time, like at night and on weekends.
One more critical tip …
Have fun! Fundraising should be enjoyable for students and profitable for the school. Choose fundraisers that inspire students and their parents, develop a spirit of community, and leave your school family with a good feeling about their fundraising experience.
Race for Education equips schools to raise considerable funds from sponsors for educational needs through an annual event involving students jogging or walking for just one hour.