As a general trend over the past several years, public schools have seen repeated budget cuts at the federal, state and local levels. Nonetheless, school needs are as great as ever. Budget shortfalls often lead to fewer extracurricular opportunities, outdated educational materials, and teachers providing their own supplies out of pocket. To help prevent these issues, many schools and PTA groups have placed an increased focus on raising revenue through school-wide fundraisers.
Many schools decide to focus on running peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, in which the students (along with the help of parents and guardians) take on the responsibilities of raising money for their school. A few popular examples include the classic walk-a-thon and magazine sales.
However, many parents dread the fundraising season at their children’s schools. It may be too time-consuming, continuously drowned out by other priorities and ultimately not worth the hassle. These parents want their children to experience field trips, sports teams, student organizations, and more, but they may have a hard time getting involved in the fundraising process that makes such events possible.
If you are a teacher, parent, school official or volunteer dedicated to supporting students’ educational experiences, this can be a very frustrating challenge. So how can you boost parental involvement in your elementary and middle school fundraisers?
Here are our top 5 tips:
- Get the students excited.
- Offer a variety of parent roles.
- Host unique campaigns.
- Ensure family-friendliness.
- Show your appreciation.
Ready to get started? Let’s jump in.
1. Get the students excited.
First and foremost, it is crucial to get your students pumped about your fundraisers. While parental involvement is necessary as well, it all starts with the students.
Kids’ excitement will drive the parents to get involved. Especially given the bad rap that school fundraising often has, if a student is not interested, then the parent will think they’re off the hook — and there goes your fundraising revenue.
This means it’s vital to market your fundraising efforts to the students in your school. Kids are motivated differently than adults. Instead of focusing on the mission behind the fundraisers, children tend to care more about the benefits they’ll receive for earning money. Offering incentives for money raised by students is an effective way to increase involvement and, as a result, donations.
A few examples of incentives that work well with elementary and middle schoolers include:
- Bounce houses
- Limousine rides
- Pizza parties
Consider establishing fundraising levels with varying prizes. The more money a student raises, the greater the incentive they receive. This often encourages friendly competition among classmates — and they’ll be begging their parents for fundraising help in no time.
2. Offer a variety of parent roles.
Not every parent in your school will fit into the traditional fundraising role. By recruiting parental assistance in a variety of roles across the fundraising process and catering to busy, working parents, you increase the percentage of families that are able to help out.
For example, parents and family members can assist in these three main ways:
- Organizing: Some parents are better-suited for behind-the-scenes work that goes into planning a successful fundraiser. Different campaigns will involve varying levels of planning. For instance, organizing a walk-a-thon involves deciding on logistics, pledge collection and boosting excitement throughout your community. Dividing up the workload among eager parents is a great way to prepare an excellent event while fostering a school-wide community between families and other supporters.
- Volunteering: Other parents may choose to assist in the main event. Whether it is a fun run, read-a-thon, or another event, recruiting volunteers can make the day go by smoothly. Parents can attend to support their children, cheering them on in any competitions or races, and garnering excitement among participants and other supporters.
- Promoting: Parents that may not get involved in other ways can quickly and easily boost their child’s fundraiser through the power of social media. Parental involvement with social media practices is a key strategy for growing your donor network. Aunts, uncles, and grandparents from all over the world can help fund your projects because of the involvement of a family member.
Make sure your fundraiser is inclusive of non-traditional families by inviting grandparents and other guardians to help out as well. This will ensure that all students are encouraged to participate and to engage their families.
3. Host unique campaigns.
A great way to engage both parents and students is by exploring new and exciting peer-to-peer fundraising ideas. Many schools (and other organizations) often get stuck in a rut and end up reusing the same bland fundraising ideas each year. Not only will students and parents both tire of repetitive campaigns, so will their friends and family members who are pledging their support.
Taking advantage of unique campaign ideas is an effective way to boost your fundraising revenue and levels of parental involvement.
Consider any of these tried-and-true school fundraisers:
- Shoe drive
- Art auction
- Talent show
- Parent’s night out
- Bake sale or cook-off
Regardless of which campaign you choose, it is vital to create a strong foundation to build on. According to re:Charity, the success of any school fundraiser is based largely on the abilities of its teachers, students, parents, and supporters to work together and communicate well. Check out these fundraising ideas specifically targeting Parent/Teacher organizations!
4. Ensure family-friendliness.
The most successful school fundraisers are those that are family-oriented because they are a great way to involve parents, students and other children as well! Parents are busy people, so you can’t expect them to be able to drop everything and help fundraise. This is why getting the whole family involved is a great idea.
For example, you may choose to host a family fun day full of games, snacks, music, etc. This can be an exciting event that your whole community can rally around. You can fundraise by charging admission, selling snacks and drinks and/or accepting donations.
On the other hand, you can choose to throw a parent’s night out. For this event, parents drop their kids off at school for an evening of games and movies, while they head off to a much-needed date night. Teachers, staff and volunteers can stay in to entertain the kids, while parents get affordable childcare, an opportunity to do something special, and an easy way to support their child’s school.
For other ways to get started, check out 99Pledges’ top family-friendly fundraising ideas for schools. Remember to get the whole family involved for the best results.
5. Show your appreciation.
It’s important in any fundraiser to understand your donors — who they are and why they give. For a school fundraiser, this tends to be fairly self-explanatory. Parents and family members give to support their children and their education. Community members give to raise up the next generation within their neighborhoods.
Because parents are busy, they like to know that their time, effort and hard-earned money are being appreciated by the organizations they give to. It can be as simple as a handwritten thank-you note, a personal phone call or even a follow-up email.
Thanking your families for getting involved will leave parents with a better impression of your school, and will encourage repeat donations or volunteering.
Here are a few key tips for showing appreciation to your supporters:
- Thank your students. Make sure to thank the kids who bring your campaigns to life with their enthusiasm and knack for competition. Although their parents may have done most of the hard work, it’s nice to appreciate the students who take on the role of a fundraiser for their school.
- Thank their parents. Thanking the parents for their involvement in your campaign is an effective way to build relationships with some of your school’s most important supporters. Offering a genuine thank-you to these vital constituents is key to establishing repeat donors and getting the funding you need.
- Thank their donors. If students bring in pledges from their family members, friends, neighbors, parents’ coworkers, etc. it is nice to take an extra step and thank those donors for their support. For a more personal touch, you can have the students create their own thank you cards for their supporters.
- Thank your volunteers. This includes anyone who helps plan, organize, set-up, run, and/or clean up your fundraiser. Even if your volunteers do not make monetary contributions to the school, it is crucial that they know they are valued by your school.
Make sure that everyone who has contributed to your fundraiser’s success has been thoroughly appreciated. Just as valuing your constituents leads to increased engagement, a lack of appreciation can lead to a loss of donors, volunteers and supporters of your school.
When you run a school fundraiser and implement these 5 key strategies, you should start to notice an increase in parental involvement. Whether you see growth climbing gradually or welcome a sudden spike in engagement, it is vital that you continue to take part in effective donor relationship practices to retain these crucial supporters. Best of luck!