Archive for the 'Donor Development' Category

Increase Your School Giving One Person at a Time

Yesterday, I heard a report on NPR about a new book called The Science of Giving: Experimental Approaches to the Study of Charity, written by Daniel M. Oppenheimer and Christopher Y. Olivola.

The goal of this book is to scientifically explain some of the reasons why and how much people give to charities.

As a person who has working in the non-profit industry for many years, this topic was very interesting to me.

I had not heard of this book before, and when I heard the report I was driving, so I couldn’t jot down a lot of notes, but a few things jumped out at me right away, and I wanted to share them with you. I will be searching this book out in the near future, however, as it sounds fascinating.

The first thing that caught my attention is that the author reported that people are more likely to give to a single person or small group of people as opposed to a larger group with many members. This makes sense to me. It seems that donors feel like they are more able to impact one person’s life in a positive manner, as opposed to an entire population.

What does that mean in relation to the school fundraising world?

Well, it tells me that it might be smarter for a school to frame their fundraiser in a way that highlights the impact on individual children, as opposed to the benefits the whole school may experience.

So, if I were running a school carnival, for instance, (or any other important school fundraiser) I would write my promotional material in a way that showed parents how their individual child would suffer and/or benefit depending on how much money the carnival was able to raise. I’d actually list out specific items that would impact each student.

Of course, the impact would be felt by the entire student body, but by bringing it down to a student-by-student basis, you’re speaking more directly to parents. It’s just how you deliver the message.

Think about it. If you were the parent who was being asked to donate time or money, wouldn’t you be more motivated if you knew exactly what was at stake for your own son or daughter?

Go ahead, give this strategy a try.

Photo by: Rennett Stowe

School Fundraising Tips from Tim Sullivan, PTO Today President

One of my favorite websites in the educational world is PTO Today. There are so many fantastic ideas and conversations going on every day.

You’ll find resources to help you navigate every aspect of school life- from planning fundraisers to how to run PTO meetings, to being able to vent about your frustrations in a friendly forum. PTO Today is a site that everyone involved in school fundraising should be checking out on a regular basis.

The president of PTO Today is Tim Sullivan. Tim has spent his entire career in the education world. He has worked as a teacher and administrator at a NYC high school, then as a senior manager for a New England-based fundraising concern; and now as the founder and leader of PTO Today. He has spoken at hundreds of parent group meetings and to tens of thousands of parent group leaders all across the country. He also maintains a role as a senior writer for PTO Today magazine and is a leading voice on best practices in connecting with parent group leaders.

I spoke to Tim once about the topic of fundraising fatigue. Since he deals with hundreds of schools, he has a verey good perspective on how to ask parents for money without over-burdening him. Here are a few of the things Tim had to say on this topic:

“If you’re feeling the negative effects of fundraising fatigue—perhaps your latest sale didn’t go as well as last year’s or you’re having trouble finding volunteers to help out with the counting—then the problem is likely with your group’s fundraising habits. Nine times out of 10, fundraising struggles are self-inflicted.”

To combat the symptoms of fundraising fatigue, Tim suggests two strategies.

“First, we have to run fewer fundraisers, but run those few more effectively. (Dump a couple—you’ll live!) Two weeks of really hard work and focused fundraising attention is often way better than 12 weeks where some combination of smaller fundraisers are taking place.

“Second, we need to keep in mind the very reason we are engaged in fundraising efforts at all. “The reality is that fundraising provides essential funds for the extras that turn schools from piles of bricks with teachers inside into magical places of discovery and learning and community. Playgrounds. Field trips. A child’s first exposure to the theater or music. The family event that cements friendships that last a lifetime. These are the essentials of fundraising.”

Here is a short video Tim recently posted on PTO Today that covers this topic above, as well as how to grow parent involvement at your school. Thanks to Tim and his staff for doing so much great work that helps us raise money at our schools!

A Genius Idea to Get Parents to Sign up for Stuff!

One of things that schools struggle with is convincing parents to get involved with their children’s education by volunteering or donating to important school-related causes.

Since I have four school age children myself, I know who tough this can be. We juggle several balls at once, just like everybody else. So, even though it’s sad to admit, if something isn’t mandatory, there is a lot less pressure for me to show up at something. It’s just the way it is.

There are a couple of elementary schools in San Diego, California, that have recognized this situation, and they have taken a very bold step against it.

According to a report in The La Jolla Light,

The La Jolla Elementary School PTO and the Bird Rock Foundation have announced the dates for their Back to School sign-up days for the many programs and required forms for the forthcoming school year.

This marks the first year that Bird Rock Elementary School will host a sign up event.

The sign-up days are mandatory for all new and returning families, and will include information and/or registration for the following activities and events:

    • Completing mandatory district and school requirements
    • Purchasing products like yearbooks and logo wear
    • Signing up for volunteer opportunities and after school programs
    • Donating to the Annual Giving Campaign.
    • Joining the PTO/Parent Foundation

“We want to provide parents with a convenient, one-stop approach to organize their child’s coming school year,” said Julie MacDonald, La Jolla Elementary PTO President. “By offering forms and information for everything needed to begin and progress through the school year, we free both parents and school staff to focus solely on the start of classes when September 6th arrives.”

Wow! What a novel idea! Make the parents attend by making the sign up event mandatory.

Does your school do this? If so, how has it gone over? Does every family show up? Do the families who do sign up actually follow through on what they commit to? Is there visible resentment from some parents at being forced to attend a school function?

I ask these questions, because this approach is new to me.  I’m fascinated to learn how common this very smart approach is.

In the near future, I will attempt to contact these two elementary schools and see how things have gone for them and what advice they have for other schools considering such a move.

Photo by: Libelul

Have You Been Nurturing Your School’s Business Sponsors?

Here’s another item you should be thinking about before the school year starts. There is probably little doubt that at some point, you (and your fundraising team) will be asking local businesses to buy an ad or purchase a banner or make some kind of financial contribution to your school.

There is also very little doubt that every other school in your town, plus every other non-profit agency, will be asking those same businesses for a donation.

Unless you live in a massive metropolis, that means many of your local businesses will be inundated with fundraising requests. It is unlikely that they will be able to give as much as they would like to, so some schools and non-profits will be turned down.

So, how can you position your school to receive those highly sought after business donations? Here are a few tips:

1. Make sure that you are an active shopper at the businesses you solicit for donations. If you don’t spend money on them, they will NOT spend money on you.

2. Make sure you make personal contact with the owner or senior manager at the store, so they know your school is actively supporting their business. When you finally ask for the donation, go straight to your contact.

3. Make sure that your school families know to shop at the businesses who support the school. Your “consumer base” (school families) are your greatest asset in the eyes of potential sponsors. Use them wisely.

4. Don’t hesitate to put out fliers or brochures of your corporate sponsors in your school office or on bulletin boards.

5. Send thank you notes, newsletters, and photos to your sponsors in a timely manner. Very few organizations follow up with donors, so they are often left in the dark about how the school made out in their fundraiser. This will make you stand out.

6. Don’t go to the same sponsor more than once per year, unless you specifically know they are open to that. Most businesses want to spread their donations around as much as possible, so don’t be greedy. Target certain business for certain fundraisers and stick to that list.

Photo by: jenny downing

Brilliant Fundraising Strategy at the School Play

Last night, I attended the opening performance of 101 Dalmatians, put on by my local school district’s four elementary schools. My son actually had a part in this play. He was “Dog Catcher 2”. It’s not a big role, but he does get to put a net over Cruella deVille’s head and drag her off stage, so that was pretty cool.

While we were standing in line, waiting to get into the auditorium, two women from our local Humane Society arrived and began to set up a table right beside the entrance doors. Everybody walking into the auditorium had to walk past it.

The table was complete with brochures, a stand up display board with attractive photos, and a laptop computer that showed a continuous Power Point presentation. There was a stack of humane society coloring books to hand out to the kids. Pictures of stray dogs being hugged by new owners, that sort of thing. They even thought to bring with them a very handsome and well-mannered black mutt to show off as a living, breathing example of the kind of love families could find at the shelter.

As I watched these ladies unpack their display items and set them up, I thought to myself, what an excellent idea! Here we are, waiting to see the play 101 Dalmatians, and we’re all thinking about adorable black and white spotted puppies. We’re here to support our children, and we’re in a good mood- why not make a donation to the Humane Society?

It was so natural.

This is the stuff non-profits have to do to survive these days. They need to find partnerships, even temporary ones, that are a good fit, like the Humane Society teaming up with the 101 Dalmatians play.

By bringing the dog with them, the folks from the Humane Society were able to “break the ice” with the people in line, who might not have otherwise stopped by the table or even made eye contact. But, put a little doggy with sad eyes in front of them, almost nobody can resist. And then the conversation can begin. Brilliant.

If you are a school or a non-profit, take a few minutes to think about how you could replicate this kind of interactive fundraising approach. What assets do you have and what creative ways could they be used to promote your organization?

Ideas? I’d love to hear them in our comment section. Thanks!


Photo by: DougieBoss