5 Steps to Maximize Your Fundraising During the Pandemic and Beyond

Can schools effectively fundraise this school year? Many parent groups are wondering if it’s possible or even appropriate to raise funds considering job losses and the fluctuation between virtual, hybrid and on-campus learning across the country. My own children’s school went through this consideration process as well. 

Beyond being on my children’s school board, and two other non-profit boards, I’m the President of Boosterthon, the nation’s largest elementary school fundraising organization. We’re famous for exceptionally successful, fun fitness event fundraisers. We’re proud to say that’s true even in these challenging times for schools. 

When COVID hit last spring and we strategized how to best help schools fundraise, I thought through a simple five step fundraising framework that would allow any organization to fundraise more strategically now and in the future.

As part of National PTA’s Learning Lab webinar series, I shared this framework in a more detailed video, as well as the bad news and the good news of fundraising. 

The good news: It’s not only possible to fundraise, it’s critical to fundraise this school year—and schools are doing it successfully, even in the current climate.

If the pandemic has made fundraising plans foggy for your school, use this framework to give you and your board clarity, so you can make better decisions moving forward.

So, why do schools/non-profits fundraise in the first place?

In short: their cause is greater than their capital. That is a good thing. I believe the pursuit of a good cause will always outpace your current resources. The desire for better learning, more resources, and an ever-improving educational environment requires resources. So, schools fundraise to make up for the gap between what they want to achieve and what they have. It starts with their cause.

Step 1. Cause

A school’s cause is the compelling purpose of their organization. The pandemic has actually made school causes even more important. Our country is facing the biggest educational crisis in modern history. The pandemic has shown our need for better access to technology, more aid for teachers, more need for mental and physical health support, and it has certainly created greater family needs in the school community. While the cause is greater for schools, the pandemic has made the capital feel father away because of job loss and distance learning.

Best practices during these times:

  • Show complete alignment as one school. Don’t distinguish between PTA initiatives and school initiatives.
  • Look ahead to needs for next school year. Don’t just focus on present needs. With looming budget cuts in the future, raise funds now for when states will hand out smaller budgets due to less taxes due to job loss.
  • Share stories of impact whenever you can.

Especially in virtual learning, schools need a reason to rally and support each other—which brings us to Step 2.

Step 2. Campaign

A school’s campaign is an event or activity that builds urgency and anticipation. Your campaign is your time-sensitive fundraiser. For Booster school partners, it’s their Boosterthon fundraiser—a week-long fundraising program that concludes with a fun Fun Run or Dance Fit event that every student gets to participate in. But a campaign could be a bake sale, a direct give campaign, a gala, or a read-a-thon. Whatever you pick, choose a campaign that people will enjoy and get behind.

Best practices during these times:

  • Link your fundraiser to a tangible school improvement. Stay away from “General PTA Budget.” Get specific.
  • Equip teachers with communication about your campaign to take work off of them and ensure alignment. 
  • Ensure every student can participate. This is especially true for virtual learners. We’re proud that our virtual Boosterthon Dance Fit event allows virtual and hybrid learners to be included in the fun.

Steps 3 & Step 4. Campaigners & Channels

Campaigners are committed and connected individuals who multiply your campaign. These are the people who donate or share about your campaign with others. Identify who these people are. Are they school parents? Local businesses? School families’ extended family and friends? 

Channels are the platforms you use to engage these people. Ensure you have a communication strategy that reaches campaigners consistently on your channels—Facebook, email, Remind, etc. Be creative and varied in your communication. Try written, video, and visual communication to keep people’s attention. We recommend starting your communication several weeks in advance of your fundraiser so you can build anticipation for your event. People need time to learn about your campaign, how to participate, and follow through with giving.

Best practices during these times:

  • Families are 53% more likely to share about your fundraiser than last year. Change your call to action to campaigners from “give to our fundraiser” to “share about our fundraiser with others.”
  • Make it easy and fun for donors to give. People are used to high-performing, nicely designed mobile platforms. Select a fundraising software that makes it fast for people to donate.
  • Make it easy for families to share. It multiplies your fundraising efforts when families can share on social media, text message and email. In fact, families are 80% more likely to ask three or more people to donate than they were last year.

Step 5. Capital

Capital is the financial support for your cause. When you put everything together, from championing your cause, picking a campaign, communicating with your campaigners through various channels, the capital follows. 

Best practices during these times:

  • Corporate matching is up 10% this year. Find a fundraiser that offers corporate matching so that you can take advantage of generous programs from large organizations.
  • Add local business sponsorships. Do not be afraid to ask for support from your community partners. Find out ways you can help them as well. A true partnership is mutually beneficial.

If anything, use this five step framework as a fundraising diagnostic with your PTA Board and assess how you are doing in each of these areas to ultimately raise enough capital for your cause. Plus, you can use this downloadable fundraising checklist to help you plan for and determine the right fundraiser for your school.

Booster has made significant adjustments in each of these areas over the last school year to make our school partners as successful as possible. It’s why our school partners will end up profiting more than $41 million for education even during these difficult times.

If your board is interested in learning more about hosting a fun, flexible and successful Boosterthon fundraiser, we’d love to chat!

Tips for How to Fundraise in These Times

For most people, it’s hard to even begin to process how different the school experience is for children today, let alone administrators, teachers and staff. It’s simply complicated beyond compare.

And then, as a parent leader, try figuring out how you can still raise those critically needed funds with all of the changes at your school. Can it even be done?

The answer is an encouraging “yes!”

Schools and parent associations still have big financial needs even with remote learning, A/B schedules, and masks making things a bit more challenging. “We’ve lost tens of thousands of dollars from our budget this year,” Catey Nossi, Principal of Wanda Hirsch Elementary in California said. “We needed these funds to support remote learning. Booster is probably the easiest way to raise funds in a short amount of time. This will be our only fundraiser this year.”

The team at Booster has taken their 18 years of school fundraising expertise and coupled that with the learnings from hosting their first 100 fundraisers this Fall (read about how one fall school raised over $40,000 while complete virtual here). Below are their best tips to help you ensure a successful fundraiser is hosted at your school this year, no matter if your students are learning in-person or virtually:

Top Tips for Successful Fundraising in These Times

  1. Clearly State Your Goals
    Even before COVID, people tend to give less when they can’t picture in their mind exactly what they’re giving toward. So, name your goal clearly. Be very specific. If people can easily see what it is they are giving to they are far more likely to show their support.
  2. Fundraise Beyond School Parents
    Part of the reason schools leaders may be unsure about raising funds this Fall is the economic uncertainty they feel for their school community. That’s because most fundraises require parents to give 100% of the funds, but they don’t have to with some fundraising partners.For example, during a Boosterthon fundraiser parents are asked to SHARE about their school’s fundraiser before giving themselves. And, this Fall our Boosterthon fundraisers have seen that on average 70% of donations are from NON-PARENT donors, like friends and extended families! That means less financial burden on school families and more profit overall for schools.
  3. Significantly Pump Up Your Communication
    Effectively communicating your fundraising has always been important, but this school year calls for leveling up your promotion big time. Schools that are the most successful use all their channels early, often, and consistently. From teacher and room parent emails, social media posts, text messaging, video messages from the administration, and more – when parents hear from schools frequently, the message sticks and people act. We recommend you develop a communications timeline for your fundraiser that would begin 2 weeks in advance. This will allow you to ramp-up your communications in advance of the kick-off. Then, keep the momentum going throughout your fundraiser with regular updates on where you are to the goal.  At the end, be sure to say a big thank you and showcase to the school community what it was your purchased when the funds or how you used them at a later date so they can feel that they helped make an impact, too!
  4. Find Opportunities for Corporate Matching
    With schools needing to raise more, but not wanting to put the pressure on their parents, finding ways to profit more through corporate matching is a big win. Ask your fundraising company if they offer a corporate matching program. Schools who partner with fundraisers that have corporate matching capabilities profit more because large organizations across the country are matching donations. Learn more about corporate matching here!
  5. Make Fun and School Pride Center Stage
    If you’re not having fun and building school pride during your fundraiser, you’re missing out on an opportunity to strengthen your school community. With many schools navigating A/B and virtual learning, families can feel less connected with their school. Ramp up the fun and the pride by hosting the right type of fundraiser that can raise funds, spirits, and school pride. Use these three questions to determine if the fundraising you’re selecting is the right one to raise money while having fun and generating increased school pride:
  • Does my fundraiser engage the faculty and staff in the fun?
  • Can all students and school families participate?
  • Will the students think it’s fun?

 

So, despite an unconventional start to the school year, not only is successful fundraising possible, but it can lift school spirit by providing energy, fun, and positivity. Choose the right fundraiser and implement these proven tips to make this year a great one!

Need help choosing the right fundraiser for your school? Download this Fundraiser Selection Checklist to help you make the best decision.