School fundraising is a delicate art. Just one silly mistake can cause you to miss out on a significant amount of donations.
And just one new approach, like sending thank-you emails to each donor, can yield dramatic improvements.
In this article, we’ll help you hit your school fundraising goals by doing the right things and avoiding the wrong ones. Read on for a masterclass in school fundraising.
When it comes to school fundraising, there are certain best practices you should follow if you want to raise the maximum amount of money while giving everyone involved a fantastic experience.
Assembling a Fundraising Team
It’s critical that you form an all-star fundraising team of people you can trust to execute the tasks you assign them up to the highest standard.
These people will also be essential for brainstorming, organizing, and running the school fundraising events that you hold throughout the year.
Some will even take management roles in accounting, logistics, marketing, etc.
A fundraising team can consist of older students, parents, school faculty, your staff, volunteers, and anyone else from the community who wants to help out.
You probably already know some people from the community who would be great additions to the team.
Start with them and ask if they know of anyone else who would want to join. It’s likely they’ll have ideas.
Keep in mind that it’s best to recruit people with different skill sets so that you have all your bases covered.
For example, an older student might be excellent at promoting the event on social media.
And a parent who works as a wedding planner will be ideal for communicating with vendors and getting the right materials for the event.
Here are some of the most important fundraising team roles to fill:
|Accountant||They set budgets, track donations, and oversee the financial side of fundraising.|
|Manager||The manager plans the meetings, assigns work, and acts as the lead conductor of the project.|
|Marketing Specialist||A marketer will help you create your messaging, design your website, and use marketing channels to promote the fundraiser.|
|Volunteer Manager||This person will recruit and manage the volunteers who will help put on the fundraiser.|
|Logistics Professional||An operations expert will order goods and services, coordinate with vendors, and ensure that the event runs smoothly.|
Be deliberate with your recruiting. Hire for what you need.
If you know that you need someone who’s great at networking with local businesses, find someone with sales skills or deep roots in the community.
Defining Clear Fundraising Goals
Defining the school’s fundraising goals at the outset will give the fundraising team a tangible outcome to work toward.
Not only does a concrete outcome goal like “raise $10,000 to build a new library” inspire and direct your team, but it also gives potential donors a convincing reason to make contributions.
That’s because the average person will be more likely to donate when they know where the money’s going.
They’re less likely to believe you’ll squander the money on something useless—a common criticism peoples of all nations have against their governments.
By being specific, you’ll also improve the likelihood of attracting superdonors, those few people who are madly passionate about your cause.
If, for example, your goal is to “build a state of the art language lab”, and there’s a polyglot in your town who views language learning as an essential part of education, it’s likely they’ll donate considerable funds to the cause.
While defining the outcome goal is important, it’s not the only thing you should consider. You should also determine how it serves your school’s mission.
In the example above, explain to people why creating a learning lab, for instance, is so important for the lifelong success of your students.
This will convince other potential donors who don’t yet understand the purpose of your outcome goal.
Further, you should be able to elaborate exactly how you’ll use the raised funds to accomplish your goal.
It’s important that you be able to walk any skeptical donor through the plan to efficiently create that new library, fix that old gymnasium, or accomplish whatever else you’re using the money to do.
Setting up a Page for Online Donations
Set up a page on your school’s website where people can easily make donations through an online web form.
Having a web page like the one above will make it easier for you to accept donations throughout the year as well as during fundraising events, and for your donors to give them.
Instead of holding a booth where people donate, you could make signs that instruct attendees to donate through a specific URL, which they can visit on their own time and without waiting in any lines. You could even print out QR codes that your donors could scan, in order to be directed to the URL and make the donation quickly and effortlessly.
And instead of manning a collections booth, your team can focus on running the event and delighting attendees instead of on collecting money and taking down the donor’s information.
Many schools use donation management software to create these online forms and track donor information.
Regpack, for example, allows you to build custom online donation forms that you can then embed directly onto your school’s website.
Donors can choose from several popular payment methods and securely make the donation from any device, as the forms are mobile-adaptive.
The software offers some other helpful features as well:
When you set up a donation page on your website you remove some of the friction from the process—friction that might’ve caused some potential donors to never contribute.
Thanking Donors for Their Contribution
Giving people sincere words of appreciation for what they’ve done is often the best way to get them to do it again.
When you thank your roommate for doing the dishes, they’ll take note of it, feel good, and next time, when the sink is filled to the brim, feel a stronger urge to clean it up.
The same motivating effect happens to donors when you thank them wholeheartedly for their contribution.
Mass appreciation works well—doing things like posting a thank you message on social media or the school sign.
But 1:1 appreciation works even better. Thank each donor individually over email. Write and send a personalized message that proves your gratitude.
For example, here’s an email that exudes gratitude:
Source: Silent Partners Software
You can personalize the email by including their name and the exact amount they donated.
Also, consider telling them how much you raised and keeping them in the loop about how the project is progressing.
You can do this by emailing them project updates. This will serve to further develop your relationship with them and prove that your school uses its raised funds wisely.
Also, in each email consider giving them contact information and telling them that they can reach out anytime.
This small act signals to the donor that you consider them a valuable member of the school’s community.
There are some serious no-nos when it comes to school fundraising that can seriously hamper your efforts, including planning too many fundraisers or organizing them at the wrong time.
Read on to learn how to avoid some common fundraiser mistakes and what to do instead.
Planning Too Many Fundraisers
Planning more than four fundraisers throughout the year is likely to cause donor burnout, which means that potential donors will be less likely to donate to the school.
Many will start to wonder “Didn’t I just give that school money?” or tell themselves “It feels like yesterday that I attended their fundraising event. How much do they need?!”
Donor burnout is exacerbated if your school’s fundraising events are more or less the same every year.
The event ideas, no matter how exciting to begin with, just stop being as appealing if you overuse them.
Of course, some traditions based around holidays might never get old, like a best costume contest or a haunted house fundraiser in the school gymnasium every Halloween, for example.
But the random bake sale that your school holds every April is bound to start to feel stale after its fifth year unless you switch it up.
With all this in mind, schools should plan 2-3 big fundraisers every year. Focus on making these events as impactful as possible.
This will also prevent your team from spreading itself too thin across various events.
And, instead of taking the path of least resistance and recycling last year’s ideas, you should choose fundraising ideas based on how much excitement they’ll create and how well they’ll satisfy your fundraising needs.
Organizing Fundraisers at the Wrong Time
There are some times in the year when people are going to be less likely to donate money to your school.
For example, if you live in a town where most people celebrate Christmas, a January 4th fundraiser is probably not the best idea, seeing as parents will have already spent a lot of money on gifts, food, and travel during the holiday season.
It’s therefore important to take timing into account when planning your fundraisers. Strategically choose dates when people will be most likely to donate.
Continuing with the previous example, that might be weeks before Christmas, or right before winter break, when people are feeling the charitable holiday spirit but haven’t yet put their money into eggnog for their guests or toys for their kids.
A few other great times to host your fundraiser include the Spring semester (fewer expensive holidays or travel plans) and the start of the school year, when excitement is high.
A parent who is ecstatic about a break from supervising their children 24/7 is likely willing to donate to the very organization that’s taking the job off their hands.
As a final word on timing, don’t wait until the last minute to plan your fundraiser. You want to have enough time to get the word out through marketing and ensure it’s optimized for profit.
Being Reluctant to Ask for Donations
Asking people for money can feel awkward, so some people avoid it altogether, but obviously, that doesn’t help you work toward your goals.
Instead, you can overcome this reluctance by approaching the task with a defined strategy that has a high chance of success and no chance of making the person uncomfortable or angry.
When you know that there are principles underlying your approach, you will feel more confident, and the task will seem less frightening.
Sales cold callers know this quite well. They’re all about the process. Doing it haphazardly would have too high a risk of offending the recipient or failing miserably.
They’d be nervous and worried about the outcome.
Therefore, you should define a process, or sequence of reusable phrases, for asking for money across the different marketing channels.
Here’s a solid formula for asking for donations:
|Open With a Story||Define what you hope to achieve for your students. What is your outcome goal? How much money do you need to raise and why?|
|Explain Why You Chose Them||Explain why you reached out to this person specifically for a donation. What about them made you think that this issue would matter to them?|
|Make Your Call to Action||Ask them politely for a donation and tell them how to do so. If it’s online, give them the website URL and say how easy it is to contribute.|
|Give Them an Out||Remind them it’s okay to say no. Tell them that whether they donate or not, you still appreciate the time they took to hear you out. This sentence takes some of the pressure off.|
Since you’ll be using multiple marketing channels, you should tweak this formula a bit to fit each channel’s demands and allowances.
For example, the in-person donation request message can be slightly longer than an email ask because people pay more attention to you when you’re face to face.
You can even get away with a wordier message in a physical letter, because those tend to be longer by convention.
Reading a long email, on the other hand, is a rarity.
For more on asking people to donate for your fundraiser, check out this article on writing fundraising letters.
Not Putting Enough Effort Into Advertising
When schools neglect to advertise, they end up raising less money because fewer people know about the fundraiser.
To avoid this unfortunate outcome, you should take advantage of both digital and traditional marketing channels to promote the fundraiser to potential donors, from creating posts on social media to placing a physical banner on the road outside of your school:
Source: Half Price Banners
Some other great techniques to add to your marketing mix are fundraising email campaigns, (which we mentioned in the previous section), cold calling, text message campaigns, and content marketing through the school’s website.
By marketing your fundraiser across multiple channels, you’ll widen the campaign’s reach and make more people aware of the fundraiser and your cause.
To succeed in fundraising, schools should assemble a strong team, define clear goals, set up a donation web page, and always be mindful to thank donors for their donations.
Some things that should be avoided, on the other hand, include hosting too many fundraisers, scheduling them at inopportune times, not asking for enough donations, and failing to advertise.
If you want to learn more about raising money for your school, check out our guide on how to run a successful school fundraiser.