Four Tips for Superior School Fundraising

On top of educating our youth, schools have a secondary responsibility: fundraising.

Their ability to teach students and provide a stimulating intellectual environment largely relies on how effective they are at gathering donations throughout the year.

If you are looking for ways to raise money for a K-12 school, you’re in the right place. Just like any nonprofit, schools need to account for donor acquisition, retention, stewardship, and many more aspects of fundraising.

Raise your fundraising GPA with these four tips for school fundraising:

  1. Outline your strategy.
  2. Research new prospects.
  3. Broaden your network.
  4. Host a silent auction.

The tips below should help get you well on your way to fundraising success.

1. Outline your strategy.

Think back to your days of dodgeball and paper mache volcanoes.

Do you remember your teachers emphasizing the importance of planning ahead? You know, outlining papers before you write them, doing your reading in chunks instead of one sitting, and so on and so forth.

Well, those were valuable lessons, and they can certainly be applied to how you approach fundraising for your school as well.

To start making a plan, you’ll want to answer the following series of questions:

  1. What is your fundraising goal?
  2. When do you hope to reach that goal?
  3. Who are your fundraising prospects?
  4. How are you going to ask for donations?
  5. What fundraising events do you have planned?
  6. What assistance will your team need?

Once you’ve answered the above questions, you’re in good shape to dive right into your fundraising efforts!

2. Research new prospects.

When your plan is established (and also likely during planning), you’ll need to evaluate your donor and prospect pool to figure out how to proceed with cultivation and solicitation.

K-12 schools—and for that matter, educational institutions on the whole—all have an added advantage when it comes to donor acquisition.

Why, you ask?

Because of the organic turnover that schools experience (i.e. students enrolling and graduating) there are always donors coming and going. Of course, it is the job of the school to cultivate donations from the new influx of students and their parents and steward the relationships with alumni families.

With a prospect and donor pool in a constant state of flux, it is imperative that you continually research your giving candidates.

Your research should be focusing on two main factors: giving capacity (i.e. how much a donor is able to give) and giving affinity (i.e. how likely someone is to give to your organization). You’ll likely need the help of a prospect research and wealth screening service.

By analyzing these two factors, you can pinpoint which of your prospects you might be able to cultivate into major donors.

Break up your research to make the process more manageable.

We recommend four research periods throughout the year:

  • Round 1: New parents are screened at the end of the summer.
  • Round 2: Those who enrolled during the fall are screened over winter break.
  • Round 3: Expected students for the following year are screened during spring break.
  • Round 4: Graduates and alumni are screened as the school year ends.

This time table helps spread out your efforts and ensures that you cover all your bases.

3. Broaden your network.

K-12 school fundraising is just one category in a much larger world of nonprofits and fundraising organizations.

Take advantage of the expansiveness of the community to learn from and share ideas with those in similar positions and fields.

You have plenty of options when it comes to joining in the on the fun of the fundraising world, including:

  • Signing up for email distribution lists on related topics.
  • Joining groups for professionals in your field.
  • Attending conferences focused on development in educational institutions.

The scope of your network will continue to expand over time, and your fundraising methods and strategies will only benefit.

4. Host a silent auction.

If you really want to amp up your fundraising, your school should consider hosting events.

While really any type of fundraising event will do, running a silent auction can work particularly well for school fundraisers.

Not only are auctions highly incentivizing (there’s the promise of walking home with amazing items!), but the community-oriented nature of schools makes these events more cost-effective than they otherwise would be.

Think about it. Your school likely has:

  1. A built-in venue. School cafeterias, gyms, and auditoriums are the perfect silent auction settings! With so much open space, you can skip renting out a venue and save your funds for more important projects instead.
  2. Talented parents and students. You likely have a bunch of talented students and parents in your midst who can provide in-kind donations (such as food and tables) and create some amazing auction items for you (think: custom artwork, homemade baked goods, etc.). Because schools are so community-oriented, you can easily procure some appealing and affordable items. The sentimental value is sure to drive bids!

For schools, silent auctions really provide the best of both worlds: the potential to raise plenty of funds at a low cost.

Hosting an event will also help you get to know parents, students, and alumni a little better.

Who knows? The insights you gain from talking to your constituents in person could help you inform future fundraising efforts to raise even more for your school down the line!

Once you are in the swing of things, it’s important to continue to evolve and progress. Make sure you’re frequently calculating some key fundraising metrics so that your school fundraising only keeps getting better and better.

Just like any good teacher will tell you, practice makes perfect. Successful fundraising is in reach.

Rachel Clark is an expert on using technology to fuel fundraising. She is Vice President of Product & Technology at BidPal, the leading mobile fundraising software company that helps nonprofits engage more donors and raise more money. Since 2008, BidPal has helped nearly 2,800 organizations raise more than $1 billion and connect with over one million unique donors.

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