Fundraising is a beast we are all trying to conquer. Or, maybe a mountain we’re all trying to climb. Or, a puzzle we’re trying to solve? However you want to look at it, fundraising is not a simple task that everyone gets right on his or her first shot. It takes practice, mistakes, successes and loads of advice to perfect the ideal fundraising strategy.
And, even then, there are always variables with changing technology, shifts in the economy and working with a new set of parents & students every time one grade graduates and another begins.
The Get Movin’ Crew has been negotiating the twists and turns of fundraising for over 7 years, working with hundreds of schools and even more fundraising events. We understand that raising money is a necessity, but whether it is a burden or an opportunity all comes down to the way you look at it.
To help our clients, readers and interested people passing through our blog better understand fundraising, we have listed 6 hacks that we bet you didn’t know, but are sure will help you conquer, climb, solve and even appreciate your next fundraiser.
(Note: these tips are written with PTO/PTA groups in mind, but they also apply to any organization looking to better its fundraising strategy.)
1. Promote Before You Begin to Fundraiser
As any big business or politician will tell you, raising funds begins with raising awareness. As a school, we’re going to bet that your audience will know who you are, but a great way to establish yourself as a worthy recipient of funds is to promote what you’ve done (or, are planning to do!).
Promoting before you kick off your fundraiser will raise awareness about your group, get support and create excitement where you want it most: in parents, community members and students.
How to Get a Head Start on Promotion:
- Students: In the weeks preceding your fundraiser, use the morning announcements, bulletin boards or any school publication to get the word out to students about what you hope/plan to do that season. Whether it’s supplying new playground equipment or incorporating a new after-school club, promote your plans to build excitement within the school. Then, when it comes time to fundraise, remind the students about your plans and tell them that raising pledges is the way to reach that goal.
- Community Members: Send out a mailer to local businesses and residences with the expressed intent of keeping them “up-to-date” with what your school has been doing in terms of sports, activities, testing, and any other highlights/accomplishments that shed a good light on students and faculty. This will keep your school fresh in the minds of community members so that when you start promoting your fundraiser, they immediately associate raising that money with supporting a school that is deserving and effective.
- Parents: A great way to get parents involved is to get them invested, and we don’t mean with their money. Host a Parent Night where you provide snacks, coffee, time for questions and an opportunity for them to have a voice. Lay out your top 3 fundraising goals (i.e., new computers, more field trips, better cafeteria food options, etc.) and have them vote for their favorite. Make the top choice your priority when it comes time to fundraise. This way, when you ask for volunteers and parent involvement, they will be more willing to lend a hand because they feel invested in the cause from the very beginning.
2. Aim for 1-2 BIG Fundraisers
Rather than pepper your school year with many small fundraisers, asking for a little help from students, parents and faculty (but asking it often), try for 1-2 big fundraisers over the course of the year (or 1-2 each fall & spring).
Brings in the big money. A larger fundraiser, like an event-based Fun Run, is going to take more effort than a bake sale, but it’s also going to bring in bigger funds. These events garner a lot of hype and involvement from the community, making them appropriate for seeking corporate donations.
Includes everyone. Larger fundraisers are not possible without the involvement of students, teachers, staff, parents, & community members. Rather than just relying on PTO members to volunteer and donate resource, event-based fundraisers are managed by the PTO but put into action by everyone involved with the school.
Gets it done in one. PTO groups spend an unfair amount of time fundraising. It comes with the territory, but we think it’s time to expand our horizons. By having 1-2 big fundraisers a year or season, you can meet your budgetary goal and make more room for doing what you love: interacting with your school and making a difference where it counts!
3. Pay Attention to Timing
When planning the date of your event, consider other events going on within the school. You want your event to be the only fundraiser in that season (you never want two fundraisers going at the same time, parents will only support one!).
Raising the most funds often depends on what season your event is placed. If you’re aiming for a “one and done” fundraiser, then we recommend placing your event in the fall as the only fundraiser. Spring fundraisers tend to raise 20-30% less than a fall event, due to overworked parents and students itching for the end of school.
4. Include Post-Event Incentives
Fact: We typically see 20% of the pledges brought in on the day of the fundraising event and 10% or more after the event. Donators will send in money after your event if you 1) are transparent about how much is still needed to reach your goal, and 2) offer an incentive. For further post-event or year-round fundraising ideas, check out Relay for Life’s guide.
Here are a few ideas for post-event incentives:
- A printed group picture of everyone from the fundraising event
- A free t-shirt from your event (with the title and year on it)
- A reward for next year’s fundraiser (if it is an annual event)
- 100% or 50% matching gift for all donations turned in post-event
5. Start a Blog
This fundraising hack, and the following one, is for those who really want to utilize online resources to promote their fundraising event and engage their audience where they’re at: the internet. A blog that is solely focused on tracking the progress of your fundraiser and giving a voice to those who are “behind the scenes” will create a direct connection between you and your donators.
“The first time I was asked to give was in a total stranger’s living room. It was a small fundraising event and someone delivered an emotional and compelling story about something that had affected her personally. That did it for me. I wrote a check before I left that event.” – Response to the 2014 Burke Donor Survey, “Can you remember the first time you made a charitable gift and, if so, can you tell us the story?”
Creating a felt connection for your donors is one of the most critical components of fundraising. This is often done through storytelling, whether it is the journey of your fundraiser or a tale of someone who will benefit from your cause. A blog is a great platform for connecting through written (or video) stories, plus your posts can easily be shared by readers to family & friends!
6. Make Social Media Work for You (not the other way around)
Social media is the fundraising tool that almost everyone is using, but only a handful are using it correctly or to its full potential. If you choose to use social media for your fundraiser (and we recommend you do) then you should know two things: 1. Social media is an ongoing project, it is not a “one and done” task. 2. Different social media platforms should be used to their appropriate purpose & capabilities:
- Facebook is great for connecting supporters, keeping your audience updated and gathering donations with easy and frequent links to your online donate page or form.
- Twitter is where you want to connect to competitors (got to know what your working with and against!), post content relevant to the larger issues surrounding your fundraiser (i.e., childhood obesity), and do “live-posting” from your event.
- LinkedIn is good for connecting to corporations and local business owners who may want to support your fundraiser through charitable donations.
- Google+ works best for keeping your volunteers and fundraiser coordinators on the same page through tools like Google Hangouts and shared Google Docs.
Make sure that the social media platform(s) you choose are well-suited to the needs of your fundraiser. And, to help keep you from being swept away into 24/7 tweeting, use automation tools like IFTTT (If This Then That) recipes or a free Buffer account. This way, you can utilize social media while freeing up time to manage other tasks.