Last year, I got involved with my son’s elementary school by writing teacher bios for the parent-teacher association, attending family night fundraisers, and chaperoning field trips. This year, my son is at a different elementary school, and I decided to take on a bigger challenge. I volunteered to coordinate one of the first fundraisers of the school year: the Foodland Give Aloha campaign.
It’s my first experience with fundraising, and I was inspired by a public school that achieved amazing results last year. I adapted their planning ideas and set a modest goal for the campaign.
We got off to a late start, but the PCNC (parent-community networking center) coordinator worked hard to get the word out in parent emails and the Student Council worked hard to generate student buzz.
After weeks of preparation, a month of worry and anticipation, and weeks of satisfaction, here’s what I learned about school fundraising:
1. Choose a fundraiser that is easy. The fundraiser collected all the money for us and even matched a percentage of our donations, so our money would stretch farther. They offered to put a banner for us in their store (though we missed the application deadline). And they promised to deliver a check within one month of the fundraiser’s end.
2. Consider the timing. Our fundraiser was only during the month of September, creating a sense of urgency and giving us a limited time to focus our energy. It was early enough in the school year that parents weren’t worn out from fundraising.
3. Wow them at the first meeting. People were only vaguely familiar with the fundraiser, but I went to the first meeting with two things to “wow” them: a large poster of the school mascot to measure our success in reaching our goal, and an amazing fundraising result from another school. It’s not just parents that you have to convince; wow the parent-teacher association too, instead of assuming that they will support your fundraiser because it’s a good one.
4. Get kids excited. Nothing compares with a child’s enthusiasm – and nagging. We motivated students with an ice cream party for the class with the highest contributions. We coordinated with the Student Council to get the word out, and they came up with classroom announcements, flyers, and a poster that measured the amount of class donations in ice cream scoops.
5. Communicate early and often. We told parents and the community why we’re raising the money and how much we wanted to raise, spelling out how to make a donation and offering small prizes (like a $25 gift card or a school t-shirt). We sent out email updates and mentioned the fundraiser in the school newsletter. We followed up with a “last week to donate” reminder. At the end of the fundraiser, we thanked everyone who helped with the fundraiser, told parents how much we raised, and shared the names of the prize winners.
The results: From $0 raised last year, we exceeded our $3,000 fundraising goal. We had about 15% parent participation, and received 21% matching funds from Foodland and the Western Union Foundation.
What are your most effective fundraising tips? What is the most innovative fundraiser that has inspired you to contribute?