The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) studied the scope of school fundraising across the United States. Nearly 94% of schools use fundraisers to supplement the cost of necessary expenses, and the largest proportion of fundraisers generated either more than $75,000 or less than $5,000 annually.
With those kinds of goals, we can expect that volunteer-driven school fundraisers won’t have the kind of overhead larger nonprofits have to advertise and invest in closing their gaps. In fact, the data shows us that school fundraisers will likely have to be among the most resourceful in cutting costs and maximizing their return on investment.
If you’re going to be involved in a local school product or brochure fundraiser this year, consider these tips to save your team time, money and resources.
School Fundraising Pages on Social Media
When it comes to raising money for your school, social media has changed the game with the Facebook “Pages” module. A page allows any Facebook user to set up a digital identity on Facebook for a third-party business, cause or idea. Pages can have multiple contributing users, meaning that your Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) or Parent Teacher Association (PTA) committee members can all contribute and use this tool to help promote your fundraiser within their networks.
Setting up a Page is extremely simple, and it is the first step in opening the door to connected, engaged and media rich communication. Simply log in to Facebook as a user, click the down arrow in the top-right corner, and select “Create a Page.” Facebook will then guide you step-by-step in a quick set-up process that will help categorize your page. (You can check out Facebook’s official guide to creating Pages, and associated questions here.) You’ll also be able to assign other users as administrators or editors, so you won’t be alone in managing this digital property.
For a bonus, try running a “boosted post” to get your fundraiser viewed by more people in your community.
Use Free Databases to Find Your Target Audience
Start with data by zip code using the U.S. Census tool. Here, you get can an idea of the mean and median age and income of the areas your school will be selling to. This can help you make informed decisions about the products or brochures you choose for your fundraiser. This won’t cost you a dime (unless we’re counting taxes).
It’s tempting to assume an area around an elementary school is full of young families, but it may well be that there are other zip codes skewed much older or much younger in your school’s zone. And, despite what they say, age is more than just a number. Age data gives you a sense of what might be useful or appealing to a given audience, which can quickly help you pick the right product to put in the hands of eager student sellers.
To get a better sense of your market, use the free personas on Nielsen’s Prizm Segmentation System. This tool provides a limited look at high-level information about the personas that comprise a zip code. The quirky, creative and surprisingly insightful profiles can help you form an idea about the “type of person” to which your student body might be marketing their fundraising solutions.
The Nielsen profiles are by no means meant to glaze over the diversity of a given area, but they do help distil a lot of data into pre-packaged interpretations for which marketers used to pay hefty fees. Dive in and see if you school fundraiser needs ideas for “Bedrock America” or “Bright Lights, Li’l City” neighborhoods.
Retain Donors Year After Year
Much of your overhead in a school fundraiser will be invested in cultivating that new customer who doesn’t know your or isn’t interested in a school fundraiser. You can reduce investing in new donors by retaining the same ones year after year.
Consider making the following practices part of your school fundraising program:
- Have a clear, compelling mission statement for students and parents.
- Communicate impact throughout the year to donors who give.
- Consistently express gratitude and reinforce the impact of their purchase or contribution.
- Communicate in a way that is meaningful to your audience. While nearly all audiences will appreciate a handwritten letter or note, consider your capabilities for public recognition, and thank major supporters in a more public way. This adds value to their purchase or contribution.
These strategies are just scratching the surface of ways to cut costs when implementing a school fundraising idea. Your unique knowledge of your community, as well as your personal network and ingenuity, are just as valuable, so trust your instincts and give these tips a try!