In towns across America, PTA volunteers are working tirelessly to support their community’s students, faculty and families. National PTA’s Kris Carey Prevatte shares this story of how one small, but mighty PTA in North Dakota—with a highly transient military population—has cracked the code on managing an online fundraiser so their PTA gets the resources they need to do great things.
Nany Tschetter, Traci Barker and Jen Schultz could be mistaken for sisters. They look alike, they have the same cheerful “let’s do this!” demeanor, and they often finish each other’s sentences. Together, they run the Erik Ramstad Middle School PTA.
Though their PTA has more than 100 paid members, a combination of factors have contributed to a common reality facing local PTA leaders—a few must do the work of many.
Still, Ramstad PTA has a reputation for providing excellent and consistent support through its work in serving meals for the entire faculty, running open houses, hosting an annual 8th grade dance, funding grants to teachers, sponsoring after school clubs and Junior Achievement, an annual PTA Founder’s Day luncheon and more.
Like many PTAs, Ramstad has prioritized helping those in need. The PTA officers and the school administration have worked out a discreet way to eliminate barriers.
“If a kid wants to play soccer but can’t afford cleats, we quietly can fill that need,” says Nancy. “We have the blessing of our membership to do this within a certain threshold, and [the members] know that they won’t ever get details on who got what.”
It takes a lot of funds to provide these programs, which means fundraising is critical to help where help is needed. During a recent interview by phone, I asked Nancy, Traci and Jen about their PTA’s fundraising committee and if they could connect me with their fundraising chair. For a moment, there was silence on the line; then gales of laughter.
Nancy caught her breath first and said, “We don’t have committees. We are the committee!” They explained that the three of them meet monthly and stay connected through group texts.
“When something for the PTA comes up, we text each other and figure out which of us can handle it,” said Traci. “With the bigger projects, we try to evenly divide the work.
To keep things simple, the trio is extremely selective about the fundraisers they launch. For the past several years, their top performing fundraiser has been through Schwan’s Cares.
“The first year we did the online fundraiser with Schwan’s, my daughter happened to be president of the student council,” said Nancy. She rallied the other kids to get their parents involved and also got a social media campaign going among her classmates promoting the fundraiser. Having a student-to-student promotional element gave it extra oomph.”
Traci noted, “We have a lot of military families and this kind of online campaign works well because we frequently see kids coming and going within a single school year. So families were comfortable ordering the products knowing they could have them delivered wherever they were going to be. Also, their extended family members and friends spread out across the country could order from Schwan’s and all be contributing to Ramstad’s fundraiser.”
Jen added, “Another thing that’s awesome about the [Schwan’s] fundraiser is that you don’t need to go door to door. You can pull up the fundraising order page from your phone and order easily from anywhere. We love it.”
After doing the same fundraiser for a few years, the group has some tips for running a Schwan’s Cares online fundraiser:
- Timing matters. “Don’t start this campaign during back to school time!” cautioned Jen. “Between school clothes, supplies and writing all those checks for this fee and that fee, parents are out of money—and they’re emotionally spent, too.” The group favors a pre-holiday November start. “People can load up on great foods to have in the freezer for the holiday hosting season,” added Traci.
- Incentives can improve results. The first year, the PTA dangled fancy incentives, such as gift cards and speakers as a motivator for families to hit big fundraising goals. The PTA sent home printed information about the fundraiser and the incentives, after piggybacking off a school event to get people excited about how the funds raised would be used in the school. The second year, the PTA didn’t offer incentives and their revenue dropped.
- School support makes a world of difference. “Our principal Ione Sautner and our librarian Carla Luehe are amazing!” Nancy said. “Carla, for example, carved out time with the students at the start of our campaign to show them the fundraising page on the website and how to navigate the site. We believe it made a huge difference in the participation rate because the students could show their parents at home.” Ione has empowered the PTA to do a few “robo calls” during the school year, and the PTA always does a call to all parents (not just PTA members) at the start of their Schwan’s Cares campaign.”
- The annuity period is crucial. With this fundraiser, there is an active campaign and then an annuity period where you still earn a percent of all the sales from customers related to your campaign. “If your initial campaign isn’t as successful as you wanted, don’t be too alarmed,” said Nancy. “We raised just as much money during the annuity period and that has been huge for us. Repeat business is what made this fundraiser so successful.”
- Consider using one main campaign page. “We have done it where each student’s family had their individual fundraising pages,” said Nancy. “It was easier on everyone to do the one main page. The individual ask is done in a call or email and then you have the link, so you can personalize the ask.”
For more info about fundraising opportunities and discounts available to schools and PTA members through Schwan’s Home Service, visit PTA.org/Benefits.
Kris Carey Prevatte is the associate director of corporate alliances for National PTA and a former local PTA president in Maryland.
About Schwan’s Cares, an official National PTA Member Benefit Provider
Schwan’s Cares is a financial sponsor of National PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.
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