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Elementary School Fundraisers – What Makes Them Successful

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Why are elementary school fundraisers more important than ever?

It’s well known that over the past decade US schools have faced drastic budget cuts, which has lead to less per-pupil funding at the K-12 level. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities  reports that most states have cut school funding which has forced school districts to scale back educational services, and raise more revenue to cover the gap. At the same time, rising operating costs and enrollment booms have left many schools increasingly dependent on fundraising.

More and more schools have turned to their own fundraising activities and events to ensure that students have what they need in order to be successful both in and outside the classroom. According to a nationwide survey by the National Association of Elementary School Principals, 94% of Principals said they rely on fundraisers to supplement monies received from district, state, and federal sources. The majority of schools in the US (76%) conduct one to five fundraisers each year. Fundraising revenue is used to pay for classroom equipment and supplies, field trips, new technologies, art and music programs, and playground equipment, among other items.

“Supplemental revenue provided by fundraisers is critical for schools and youth programs, especially during tough economic times,” according to Jon Krueger, executive director of the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers (AFRDS). Despite the sluggish economy, support for school fundraising is strong. In the US, eight out of ten parents of school-age children support school fundraising programs, according to AFRDS.

It’s more important than ever to identify and implement engaging elementary school fundraisers.

What factors make elementary school fundraisers successful?

Often the biggest obstacle to success in anything is getting started. What type of fundraiser should you do? Who should be involved? How do you spread the word? What can you do to avoid fundraising fatigue and engage your entire school community?

Clear Goals: Establish a clear financial goal before evaluating products and programs. Knowing how much money you need to raise will help make these decisions easier. Highlight your goals throughout your fundraiser to keep everyone motivated and focused.

Fundraising Type: Choose the fundraiser that makes most sense for your school community. From carnivals and car washes to auctions and fun runs, there seems to be no limit to the different ways schools attempt to raise money. Collecting box tops, retail store affiliations, and sale from school stores are popular year-found fundraising methods. Product sales are popular as parents get the duel benefit of contributing to their child’s school while often receiving a reasonably priced, practical item.  Online Fundraising Programs are growing in popularity as many schools adopt virtual learning formats. Companies like SilverGraphics Art Fundraising offer hybrid and online-only options. With the click of a mouse, family and friends can easily support your fundraising drive.

Planning:  Select your primary fundraising program early to assure ample time for planning. Determine the timeframe for running your fundraiser. Be sure to consult your school calendar to avoid conflicting with vacations, school-wide activities, or other fundraising events. Too many fundraisers can lead to “fundraising fatigue” and actually decrease participation. Create a planning calendar and include all your school’s fundraising events.  Putting a greater effort into a fewer number of fundraisers with very specific goals may lead to higher participation and prevent burnout of parents, teachers, and volunteers.

Leadership Team:  Assemble a team of people including teachers, school staff, parent association member(s), and members of your school community. School fundraising activities can take from 2 (e.g. box tops) to 20 (e.g. school carnival) volunteers to implement successfully. Of course, it’s not always easy to recruit volunteers. Create a task list and ask people to fill specific roles that match well with their availability and skill set. Consider dividing work by task, date, even location (e.g. within vs outside of school).

Communication: Communicate with parents, teachers, and your volunteer team before, during and after the event. Remind them of your fundraising goals and deadlines. Keep the energy high with frequent status reports and updates. Find ways to communicate with those who miss the program’s kick-off. Use all available channels including word-of-mouth, school publications, email and text formats, and social media. Be sure to thank supporters and tell them how proceeds will be used.

Focus on outcomes.

Fundraising supporters want to know how their contributions will be used. According to AFRDS, 31% of parents will purchase more than originally planned when they are told how their money will be spent. Be sure to let supporters know how proceeds will be used.

Ultimately, school fundraising is not about making money. It’s about how proceeds will be used to enrich educational opportunities, or fund a new technology, or support a school improvement project. Elementary school fundraisers help fulfill the goal of providing all students with the very best educational experiences!

Rosy Bishop
SIlverGraphics blogger