Between many schools shifting to a hybrid format and either canceling or pivoting a good chunk of school events online, this has been a hard year for many elementary school administrators and PTA organizations.
Unfortunately, you can’t just put your fundraising efforts on pause until in-person activities and normal school operations return. Fundraisers bring in precious revenue essential to every elementary school’s programming. If anything, it’s now more important than ever to engage donors, streamline event planning, and attract greater funding.
While these aspirations may sound impossible, the right fundraising strategies can put these goals well within your reach! In this short school fundraising crash course, we’ll go over some of the best methods to completely revitalize your fundraising:
- Leverage Your Online Platforms
- Reach Out to the Local Community
- Pick the Right Fundraising Event
The global pandemic has already changed so much about how we live, work, and play, but your school’s fundraising initiatives don’t necessarily have to suffer from these changes. Instead, when you implement these best practices, you can pull in the funds you need to help your students thrive now and well beyond the pandemic—whether you’re hosting a sports fundraiser for your PE program or raising money for a classroom renovation. Let’s dive in!
1. Leverage Your Online Platforms
Your school website and social media accounts are some of the greatest fundraising tools at your disposal. Especially with social distancing in place and people using the internet as their primary method of communication and engagement, these are two tools that you can’t ignore.
From taking advantage of free advertising to engaging online donors, here are just a few of the major ways you should use your online platforms to take your fundraising to the next level:
Promotion and marketing. Your website is frequently the first place students, parents, and community members will turn to for information on your programming and events. Therefore, you should take the time to promote your fundraising initiatives across the major areas of your website. For example, you might include information about upcoming fundraisers at the beginning of blog posts or put event information at the top of your homepage as a temporary “spotlight” feature. On top of that, your social media channels are an entirely free marketing tool! They allow you to creatively connect with your audience, announce upcoming events with fun graphics or taglines, and diversify your online marketing efforts.
Q&A portals and information resources.** No matter how straightforward a fundraising event may seem, there will always be parents or other community members who will need further clarification or come up with questions you may not have considered. Be sure to include a frequently asked question widget and other resources for each of your events right on your website. Make these tools easy to see and simple to navigate, so that any user can quickly find the answers they seek. Lastly, don’t forget to answer questions both in your website’s Q&A portal and left in the comments of your social media posts.
Engagement and event management. Your online tools aren’t only great for the steps leading up to your fundraising events. They can even be used as tools to help launch and manage the events themselves within their unique engagement capabilities. Not only can recordings of live events be broadcast on your site and social media, but they can even provide a portal where you can host virtual and hybrid event fundraisers! With the right event management software, you can seamlessly integrate your event strategies into your website, allowing you to launch and manage virtual events right from your platform easily.
As the internet becomes incredibly ingrained in our everyday lives and activities, your school fundraising efforts must keep up with the times and use these excellent online tools.
2. Reach Out to Your Local Community
Too many fundraising event planners forget that the local populace is more than just a cash cow to pitch and promote your events. In actuality, your community can help you through every step of the fundraising process and maximize your operations in ways that you might not have imagined.
Consider these community outreach strategies when planning your next fundraiser:
Search for volunteers. Administrators, faculty and staff, and parents usually carry out your elementary school’s fundraising. However, you might be surprised at how many community volunteers would jump at the chance to support their local school systems and provide a leg up at fundraising events. Be sure to send promotional materials to students and parents about these volunteer opportunities, which could count towards prizes or fun projects happening in the classroom. Teachers might even be encouraged to throw mini-celebrations or game days if enough student volunteers get involved. To take things a step further, be mindful of reaching out to local ministries and other volunteer hot spots to maximize your support and bring the community together under your cause.
Partner with local organizations. Gathering funding and increasing the reach of your school event is a big challenge to face alone. That’s why it’s a good idea to partner with other organizations in your community! These partnerships could boost your budget exponentially, increase event attendance, and forge long-lasting relationships between your school and other influential organizations. Scout local businesses and nonprofits in your area that might be a good fit for a joint-fundraising project. And also, look into other schools in your school district or state.
Perform prospect research. Prospect screening is the process of running a kind of wealth background check that allows you to identify the giving potential of your donors. Performing wealth screenings on parents, guardians, and key community stakeholders will allow you to make more informed projections for how your fundraising efforts might perform. It’ll also rank to whom you should most heavily promote these events and provide other essential factors in your fundraising strategies. For recommendations on prospect research technologies you might like to invest in, check out this Double the Donation buyer’s guide to 12 top prospect research tools.
While your fundraisers may often depend on collecting revenue from donations, there are so many other ways that they can help you to achieve your goals. You just have to open yourself up to all of the different possibilities.
3. Pick the Right Fundraising Event
Even with the most engaging marketing campaign and a whole fleet of excited volunteers, your fundraiser could flop if you fail to choose the right event. And to add even more pressure, there are several essential considerations that you’ll have to juggle when considering the best initiatives to roll out.
For one thing, you have to create an event that is both simple and easy for your young students to participate, yet engaging enough for adults and older participants to enjoy. Fun is a must. And because the pandemic has created a hybrid participation landscape, your event should also be virtual-friendly.
These can be a lot of moving parts for any administrator or PTA parent to handle, so we’ve compiled a few unique fundraising ideas to get you started in your brainstorming efforts:
Shoe drive fundraisers. Our favorite unique fundraising idea is to plan a shoe drive fundraiser. It’s a particularly easy and cost-effective way to engage donors and gather funds for your annual programming. Take advantage of the Spring-cleaning frenzy created by the pandemic by encouraging locals to put up their gently worn, new and used shoes to your collection drive. Participants will not only be glad to be rid of their unwanted possessions but pleased to learn that they don’t need to spend a cent to support your organization. They just need to drop off their items at a designated collection point, and your fundraising coordinator handles the rest. The check goes right to your school, easy as that!
Auctions and raffles. Auctions are considered one of the most lucrative fundraising methods, with a high earning potential if the right amount of time and resources are put into choosing the right auction items. For this event, we heavily recommend that you segment, study, and even poll your school and local area for products that attendees might like. You might even put together gift baskets with a mix of items for parents and children to engage both audiences. Once items get donated by your sponsors or community partners, these events become fairly easy to carry out. You can host both in-person and online auctions very quickly with the right auction software.
Walk-a-thons. While 5Ks may be an extremely popular fundraising initiative for high schools and company programs, they might not be as well-suited for elementary school students and the parents who will be keeping track of them. A great 5K alternative is a school walk-a-thon. These fundraisers can happen at any time of year, with dozens of different themes and possible locations to choose from, and participants will feel encouraged to participate as much as possible to maximize the pledges they’ve received for each lap or mile they complete. These events are also a great source of additional revenue and promotion through t-shirt and merchandise sales. They can even be carried out digitally as walkers record and submit their progress.
For even more great fundraising ideas, their cost, and their earning potential, Funds2Orgs list of 100+ school fundraising ideas is a great point of reference for your event programming strategies for this year and beyond.
The pressure to provide worthwhile, engaging school programming can be a hypersensitive concern for parents, teachers, and administrators, especially where young children are involved. Without the proper funding, school systems can’t provide the rich, fun, and valuable opportunities and services parents want for their children. It’s what makes the prospect of failed fundraising so frightening, and it is also why the pandemic has rattled so many school fundraising organizations.
However, there’s no need to struggle anymore. With these techniques, we hope that you’re able to navigate the challenges of this year smoothly and come out to the other end with a stronger and more successful fundraising strategy than ever before.
Special thanks to Wayne Elsey for sharing his expert advice. Wayne is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises (EE) and a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Funds2Orgs, which is a social enterprise that helps schools, churches, nonprofits, individuals and other organizations raise funds while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations.