By Megan Walsh
I am a fundraising rookie – my first born darling daughter just started Kindergarden 2 weeks ago so what do I know about fundraising, aside from the general anxiety the mere word evokes?
Hello, crowdsourcing! Through my work at Schoola I am exposed to over 16,000 schools nationwide who all have their own fundraising challenges and success stories.
While there is no one-size fits all fundraising solution, we have heard over and over from our partner schools that the key for planning the right mix of events is marrying 3 critical components
Citizenship – There are so many companies out there claiming to be the best way to raise money – the sheer number of options is one of the things that makes a rookie like me sweat. The truth is that it will likely take a mix of 2-3 things to satisfy your school’s need for financial support. So how to decide? Using your schools creed or values as a barometer for selection is the best way to decide which fundraisers are best for your school.
- If your school is distinguished for achievement in reading, hold a book fair!
- If your school is proud to offer the only arts program in the district, put your kids work on display at an art auction!
- Does your school have a commitment to improve student nutrition? Produce and sell a cookbook!
School pride around your specific culture is a great way to motivate kids and parents alike to help reach a goal. It is likely that these special and distinguished programs already have their own staff of people invested in continuing their future – hello, ready made event committee! In addition, there are parents who probably chose your school based on these special characteristics and are therefore more likely to get involved to keep them alive. For that reason, you should always be specific in your request for parent involvement and provide a visible tracking system that shows how far away you are from your goal – IE: We need to sell 450 cookbooks to fund this years chef program – thats 2 per student – lets do this!
Community – the most successful fundraisers will allow for reach outside of just your parent community. Casting your net wider than just the busy parents on your PTA roster will lessen the burden on crazed parents, and allow you to tap into the spending power of doting grandparents and friends.
- Raffles are a great way to extend participation because many can be hosted online, and therefore open up your possible audience to friends and families of schools, not just people who attend a live event. Your community can also be a great source of raffle prizes – businesses in the area will likely want to generate new business by offering gift certificates to your community. You can even support the businesses of families in your school by offering them advertising in exchange for raffle prices. In addition, many larger organizations offer FREE raffle prizes for public schools that are non-profits: for instance Disneyland donates 4 tickets to any nonprofit every year!
- My favorite recent trend in fundraising involves hilarious challenges showcasing School Superstars like Principals, Sports Coaches and beloved Teachers. Nothing Ive seen gets kids more motivated to reach a fundraising goal than the chance to see the somebody get dunked, shaved, or put to the test. Yes, you can even bring in a professional basketball team to play against your teachers and watch hilarity and school spirit erupt on your home turf! Im all for things that bring families together to giggle and have a great time at school.
Convenience – Provide easy, everyday ways for parents to support the school. Big events such as fun runs and raffles require a lot of manpower, and they only happen a few times a year, and not every family can attend due to vacations, work, etc.
- Allow for easy donations to a general fund. Friends and family who have gone Paleo or are practicing Kon-Mari may not want to buy wrapping paper or cookie dough, but are happy to provide the $10 they would have spent on that well-meaning clutter directly to the schools bank account. Make it easy for every well-meaning supporter to give at their convenience! Many employers offer matching, which often makes this the most impactful way to give. Paypal offers tools for accepting donations and dealing with matching so its more seamless than it seems.
- Provide non-monetary ways to give. One reason I love Schoolas approach to fundraising is that it turns household items into cash for schools, and therefore provides ways for families to participate without opening their wallets! Another benefit Schoolas clothing drives provide for my school is a teachable moment about reusing and recycling – its better for the planet and fits into our core curriculum around creative problem solving.
I hope that by now you have deduced that the 3Cs are just shorthand for focusing on the things that strengthen your school experience – I wish each and every reader a successful fundraising year and want to thank you for reading articles like these to try to find the most efficient way to support our kids. Onward!
About Megan: Megan’s favorite school memory is discovering a Peer Counseling program that helped her become a leader in her toughest year of grade-school – when she grew 11 inches in 12 months, and moved / changed schools as a fifth-grader. Now she is a mom of two bay area babes, and spends the work week helping more parents find and leverage schoolas to fund their school programs.