Take Your Next School Fundraiser Online
- March 3, 2019
Schools are the center of life for many in the community. It is well-proven that kids who get a great education have significantly more opportunity in life. It’s not an exaggeration, then, to say that the well-being of a school is a reliable litmus test for the well-being of the community.
When K-12 students have access to qualified (and reasonably compensated) teachers, ample supplies, special needs programs, educational field trips, extracurricular activities, strong STEM programs, and other resources crucial to a well-rounded curriculum, their education and their future has the chance to thrive. Unfortunately, today’s funding streams simply can’t provide all of this. Research has finally been able to prove what we suspected for so long: that schools receiving more funding produce higher-performing students. As such, many schools rely on annual fundraising to close the gap in resources.
Traditional school fundraisers — such as door-to-door sales of wrapping paper, cookie dough, or candy — are fraught with issues. To start, they’re costly for the school in time, money, and resources. Some fundraisers can eat up between 30 and 50% of the money raised just to cover the cost of goods. Participation is limited from both the seller’s and buyer’s side, and “donor fatigue” is common. Thus, the effectiveness of these fundraisers is declining as well; donors are sick of purchasing magazine subscriptions they don’t really need. Due to the nature of the goods being sold, the success of traditional fundraisers typically comes at the hands of parents more often than the students. Plus, in some low-income neighborhoods — which is typically where schools are hurting most for funding — sending kids door to door to sell goods can be fraught with risk and worry.
With the advancement of technology, students aren’t learning the same way they were 20 years ago. So why are we still fundraising the same way?
So what is a suitable alternative? Teachers, staff, and members of the PTO or PTA are in need of new middle, high, and elementary school fundraising ideas, and online school fundraising is it. Compared to other school fundraisers, an online giving event requires far less overhead costs and requires much less management from parents or volunteers. While it might feel like engagement rates would be lower, the internet is ubiquitous and a donor can give any amount, so schools actually see increased participation rates. As all donations are made digitally, it’s easy to track progress and share the cause via social media, a link in a text, or an email. School kids are empowered with a medium they understand: they can hit up Grandma and Grandpa, aunts, uncles, friends, and family much easier and more personally. Traditional school fundraising methods, on the other hand, tend to be largely left to parents.
What is “Online” School Fundraising?
Though online school fundraising is just now stepping into the spotlight, community online giving events (often referred to as Giving Days or Gives Days) have been gaining popularity for nearly a decade. These online fundraisers allow donors to easily make a contribution through a web-based platform in minutes. Community giving events are typically hosted by a community foundation, with hundreds or thousands of nonprofits participating, and even more donors. The nonprofit organizations and community foundation galvanize their efforts to publicize the event, allowing everyone involved to reach new audiences, increase awareness of the work they’re doing, and bring in donations vital for their operations.
An online school fundraiser operates in a similar way. Instead of a foundation hosting the event on behalf of nonprofit organizations, school giving events are typically run by the PTO (Parent Teacher Organization), PTA (Parent Teacher Association), or a similar school group such as a booster or athletic club.
In a recent middle school fundraising event, Evergreen Middle School pushed their website live on a Friday in October. They had a kick-off party that day and started publicizing like crazy. They took a grassroots approach to marketing their event: parents and kids stood on street corners with signs, the principal’s office sent home reminder emails to parents, and teachers talked to students about the event in the classroom. The fundraiser started in earnest that Friday and continued through the weekend, by which point people were already excited to get involved.
The fundraiser lasted less than a week. For the public, this is the perfect length of time. The school was able to inform people about the event, build up excitement, and collect donations, all before their audience got tired of hearing about the fundraiser.
You can choose to hold your school fundraiser for any length of time: 24 hours, several days, several weeks, or even all year long with multiple big events throughout the year. Whatever you decide, we recommend you start planning one to three months prior to the event date. While online fundraising platforms like CiviCore are happy to make the technology side of your fundraiser easy, the true success of your event will depend on the number of people who hear about it. Getting on the radar of your network will take time and energy, so be sure you’re giving yourself enough of a head start.
Many school fundraising events enable scheduled donations, which allow people to pledge the amount they’ll give prior to the day itself. For example, say Aunt Francine wants to contribute to her nephew Pierre’s high school fundraiser. The fundraising website goes live on Friday, February 1st, but the fundraiser doesn’t technically start until Friday, February 8th. If the school has enabled scheduled donations, Aunt Francine can go on the website on the 1st (or the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.), enter the donation amount, enter her credit card information, and she’s done. Her donation will automatically be processed during the fundraiser on Friday, February 8th. This lets Aunt Francine take care of donating when she’s thinking about it, which greatly reduces the instances of “I wanted to donate but got busy and forgot!” You can also enable recurring donations if you’d like, allowing Aunt Francine to donate money every month or year without having to think about it.
Easy School Fundraisers
In our experience, online fundraising for schools is more cost-effective, raises more money, and brings in more engagement than traditional school fundraising efforts. Evergreen Middle School (EMS) ran their first online school giving day in 2018 and had some amazing results. Compared to the traditional fundraiser they hosted the year prior, the 2018 online school fundraiser saw a nearly 250% increase in donations and a 300% increase in participation. While their 2017 fundraiser brought in about $21,000, in 2018 they raised $52,000 using the online giving platform — over double the funds from the year before. While Evergreen Middle School was pleased with roughly 100 donors at their annual dinner in 2017, they managed to involve over 350 donors when they moved their fundraiser online in 2018 — that’s community engagement!
One of the primary reasons EMS chose an online fundraiser was to negate the noticeable donor fatigue among their network. After so many years of purchasing wrapping paper, cookie dough, and magazine subscriptions, donors had lost interest. When they learned that EMS’ 2018 fundraiser was being held online, was easy to use, and wouldn’t saddle them with unwanted stuff after donating, they were happy to contribute.
Evergreen Middle School also saw a significant 35% reduction in cost. During previous years, they’d had to invest 30-40% of donations into the event itself to cover food, entertainment, marketing, and space rental — or canvass heavily in the community to solicit donations for these items. With online fundraising, that amount is typically closer to 5-8%(though the exact percentage varies depending on school fundraising companies). That means more of the money raised during an online school giving event actually gets invested back into the school. Lucky for EMS, the fees for their 2018 event were completely covered by an anonymous donor.
One of the most onerous aspects of traditional fundraisers is that parents often end up with the bulk of the responsibility. Most children aren’t adept salespeople, which means parents assume the burden and lean on their friends and relatives to purchase whatever goods are being sold. Online fundraisers flip this inherent pitfall by relying on technology, something that favors the young. And who can say no to their niece, nephew, or grandchild when they’re taking an active role in fundraising for their school?
With an online school giving event, the tech-savvy student body can spread the word on social media, over email, and in personalized messages. Fifty-six percent of kids between the ages of 8 and 12 have a cell phone, and 88% of kids ages 13 to 17 have one. Phone in hand, kids can send a text, email, or message on social media in seconds. While the majority of donations will likely still come from adults, it’s more realistic to have students contribute to marketing an online event that doesn’t require them to drive around the neighborhood or knock on doors.
Fundraising Competition Ideas
To encourage students to take on the responsibility of marketing your online fundraiser, implement some friendly competition. During school giving or community giving events, each participant involved can have a separate branded fundraising page. In the case of a community gives day, donors can search the giving website by name or type of nonprofit, enabling donors to give to organizations doing work and supporting a mission that is important to them.
You can do something similar with a school giving event by creating a separate page for each club, team, or other school group. For example, the marching band, girl’s soccer team, and student council could all create pages on the school giving website. The individual students involved in each of those activities can then share their group’s page with their network, allowing donors to contribute directly to those activities.
Remember Aunt Francine? Well, her nephew Pierre is in French Club. Aunt Francine wants to support his school, and Pierre has told her that the French Club can no longer afford to take a museum field trip to see French impressionist paintings. When she makes her donation, she can contribute on the French club’s page, ensuring that the money she gives goes directly towards Pierre’s extracurricular activity. That sort of personalization is powerful in an era where many donors are suspect of exactly where their donation is going.
You can encourage competition amongst a school’s groups by offering prizes. You aren’t limited to rewarding the group that raises the most money overall. Get creative! You could give a prize to the group that has the highest average donation, the most individual donors, the most donations by 10am on kick off day, the highest average donation per team member, the most donations in a given hour, or any number of other options.
As for the prizes, you can use this as an opportunity to engage local businesses or sponsors. A local restaurant could sponsor lunch to a winning club, giving the students something valuable to compete for and the business exposure to a group of students.
No matter which group wins, everyone wins: all donations go towards the school!
Use Peer to Peer Fundraising to Engage Passionate Donors
CiviCore offers capabilities for peer to peer fundraising to promote engagement by encouraging individuals in your community to create their own fundraiser pages and share their story with their personal network of potential new donors. The screen grab below is an example of a peer to peer fundraising page created for Colorado Gives Day.
Wendy created a fundraising page to honor a former Denver Kids mentee named Amber. She set a goal of raising $20,000 from her network to go towards Denver Kids Inc. By sharing this page with her network (via social media, email, etc.), she’s raised nearly $12,000 so far! Her campaign will remain active for a year, so she still has plenty of time to bring in the remainder of her donations.
Individual parents, teachers, coaches, or other individual donors can set up their own peer to peer fundraising pages in support of your school. The benefit is free grassroots marketing: the passionate donors who create their own fundraising pages are essentially marketing for you. By sharing the fundraiser with their networks, your event reaches more eyes and more people eager to support your cause.
Plus, when donors actively participate in your fundraiser, they feel more engaged with your organization. They get to participate in your success, and you build a relationship with them along the way. Later, when you need to call on your community for non-monetary asks such as volunteer time, your group of peer to peer fundraisers is a great place to start.
Interested in hosting your own online school fundraiser? Gauge interest at your next parent teacher conference! You can learn more about online school fundraising on our website, and we’re always available for questions if you’d like to talk to an expert.
Once you’ve decided to host an online school fundraiser, our blog is full of resources for planning, marketing, and growing your giving event:
- Use Fun Competitions to Increase Gives Day Donations
- Top 10 Tips for a Successful Gives Day
- 5 Ways to Use Social Media for Gives Days
- How to Leverage Local Media for Giving Events
- How to Plan Your Gives Day Marketing
- 7 Ways to Rally Your Community for Gives Day Success
We look forward to supporting your school!