In 2014, Foxcroft School received a planned gift of $40 million from an alumna – A generous gift that is usually only received by big colleges or universities (not to a 157 all-girl prep school).
While it definitely spells a stroke of good fortune for them, it also clearly shows that their development staff did several things right. What steps did they take to bear this donation? How can it be useful for development teams at other schools?
Charity is all about building and nurturing relationships with donors. And Foxcroft’s development team focused mainly on that. They maintained close ties with donors. Wrote personal notes, made phone calls, scheduled a few visits in a year, and always thanked donors for their generosity.
Now you might say “Foxcroft is a well-established school and has a great development team in place. But what should I do if my school is new and growing?”
Well in such cases, school fundraising is pretty straightforward. You need to tap into the pool of donors that includes parents of former and current students, alumni, and board members.
Don’t worry if all this sounds overwhelming! In this article, I’ll tell you exactly what kind of donors you should target, how to involve them in your fundraising efforts, and what tools you can use to simplify the process.
Come on let’s take a look at how it’s done.
Have a focused group to kick-start school fundraising
You’re very well aware of how important fundraising is for your school. It helps you offer scholarships and new programs, maintain academic excellence, and complete capital projects.
That means that your fundraising efforts deserve a dedicated team who will focus only on raising funds. Having a development team will ensure that:
- You work, keeping the bigger picture in mind. That is, all your efforts are focused on outlining a donor funnel, finding new prospects, cultivating them, making asks, initiating stewardship, and upgrading your current donors towards an ultimate objective – raise funds for mission A.
- Your entire team (administrative staff, teachers, board members) is on board with your fundraising goals.
- Deadlines are set for the completion of goals. Also, make a detailed plan highlighting each person’s responsibilities –– who is going to accomplish each step, meet deadlines, and identify areas that need more assistance.
If you’re a small school who cannot afford a development team, you can still follow the best practices, with a key volunteer or vice-principal taking up the role.
Who can be involved in school fundraising?
Well, because fundraising is so important, it needs to be made clear that it’s everyone’s responsibility. This entails your teachers, administrative staff, board members, parents, students, and alumni.
Let’s look at how to get them involved:
Involve Teachers And Administrative Staff In School Fundraising
Teachers and administrative staff is the face of your school. They are the ones closely associated with students and their need. They shape their thinking. When donors hear straight from the people who actually provide the services they are asked to fund, they are more inclined to make the donation.
Get your teacher and staff to help out with fundraising events at school, go on tours, and sit for roundtables. Encourage them to look out for fundraising opportunities in the course of their daily responsibilities.
Involve Board Members In School Fundraising
Your board is the decision-making body of the school and are structured to meet the primary needs of the organization. They play an important role as they provide leadership, financial support, and connection to donors and potential donors.
Encouraged them to act as fundraising ambassadors for your school. Meaning they will help you make connections with people that you don’t know already. After which you can walk them down the path of becoming a donor. They can also help in making personal asks and selling tickets to events. Also, get them going along on fundraising meetings, making thank you calls to donors and attending events to meet other donors.
Involve Parents In School Fundraising
Parents have a lot of demand on their time. So, if you want them to volunteer despite their busy schedule, they have to truly understand why your event is so important. Explain to them what exactly it means for your school.
Get your message across different mediums. Not everyone reads their email. In such cases, a text message can work wonders! Tell them clearly, what you want from them. It could mean a cash donation, or attending a fundraiser or simply volunteering their time for an event.
Remember not to overwhelm parents. Let them know that you’re asking is only for a few hours of their time and you won’t ask for more—and don’t push!
Involve Students In School Fundraising
Students are the future citizens of the country. They are the way forward. School fundraisers provide them with the materials that they require to grow up to be model citizens. Students gain leadership skills and confidence through selling fundraiser products. They lean what it teams to be a team player. They’ll understand why communities are important and how it works.
The best way to get your students on board with school fundraising is to plan events that are fun for them. Making the event exciting will motivate them to bring their social circles. If you don’t know what excites them, then talk to a student mentor or form a student focus group. Next, plan and announce incentives. Again, make use of focus groups to brainstorm the incentives (it doesn’t have to be expensive, something as small as a pass to skip the next pop quiz will do).
Involve Alumni In School Fundraising
Ruth T. Bedford pledged her estate to Foxcroft School because she benefited from the well-rounded curriculum and had an enduring relationship with the school. And if you want to receive similar gifts you need to start cultivating long-lasting relationships with your alumni.
Each and every alumnus has their own personal connection to your school. Find out what it is and then reach out to them. Grow the relationship by connecting with them via social media, sending them updated newsletters, sending text messages with tips pertaining to the industry they work in, wishing them on birthdays and on reaching milestones and inviting them to alumni events to help expand social circles.
What tool should I use for school fundraising?
Tech-savvy is the new black. Emails are so passe! Yes, they are the go-to medium to connect with Baby Boomers. But your school has a much younger populace. They are the Gen X and the Millennials. So, look for alternative mediums such as text messages, social media, phone calls or direct mail through which you can reach them.
But if you’re a small school with limited resources, text alerts do a great job of getting your ask in front of the right people.
So, you can send out a text like this. “Hi Jen, please help us raise $5,000 for new equipment for the science lab by donating $10. Reply with Yes if you’re willing to donate.” Set an automated response to the keyword (yes) to guide the ones who respond through the donation process.
Do you think it will work?
It completely depends upon the kind of relationship Jen has with the school and its officials. In case Jen has been regularly volunteering her time at events, then you can word it as a personal request.
Something like this. “Hey Jen, was great manning the cookie stall with you. That evening, we raised almost $5000. But we are still $500 short. Can you help us out by donating just $25?”
People are more likely to engage with you and donate when the ask comes as part of a personal one to one conversation. Which is why phone calls play a crucial role in your fundraising efforts.
But hey, not all schools have the kind of manpower to make one-on-one personalized calls. That is where tools like peer to peer texting come in handy. They are more practical as they let a single person engage thousands of people over personalized, one-on-one text conversations.
Your school fundraising needs the right mix of all these tools – emails, phone calls, text alerts and peer to peer text messages.
Building and maintaining a good relationship with donors is the key to keeping them invested in your school for the long haul. Your school fundraisers must focus on that. These events are not just a way for you to strengthen that relationship but also a path to meet new donors. Follow these tips while hosting your next fundraiser and see the magic happen.
If you need any help with setting up your own peer-to-peer texting solution don’t hesitate to hit us up at [email protected] and we’ll be happy to assist you.