The past few weeks I've spent quite a bit of time on various projects intended to raise money for South Arbor Charter Academy, where my children attend. The goal is to raise $50,000 this year, which in restrospect might have been setting the bar a bit high. But, you know, shoot for the stars and you might just clear the trees, right?
I know a lot of schools are facing similar funding cuts, and I thought I'd share some of our experiences to date, recognizing that some ideas will work better for some schools than for others. However, a few principles would seem to apply across the board.
* Recognize that in every school, the lion's share of the fundraising tends to fall on a small group of parents. You will always have families who will take as much as they can get without a thought of giving back. It will be easier and more effective for you in the long run if you concentrate on a few events and do them well, rather than go back to the well repeatedly, so to speak.
* Look for ways to build community and recognize existing opportunities. So far this year we've had three notable successes: Our "Boosters Plus" program, which enables parents to make a one-time donation to our 501(c)3 organization for a charitable tax receipt; we started this in response to parents who said they didn't want to do any more selling. The second success has been our scrip program, in which parents buy gift cards from a variety of stores at face value, and the school gets a cut (Boosters runs a weekly store, where parents can come to pick up gift cards and shop for treats and merchandise). The third success was a "MAPS Week Beanie Treat" event, where parents could send their child a beanie baby to congratulate them for their hard work. We sold out of beanies in a couple of days.
* Be visible and keep your ears open to match abilities with needs. When we created our recipe book, we invited parents who had home-based businesses to place a small ad in the book, thereby recouping our production costs. One parent with a full-time job offered to donate a Saturday to help us create the books; another working parent gave up a day to make and decorate 50 gingerbread girls.
* Beware projects that are labor intensive -- unless you can "partner" them with another event that provides a high return. Our Booster Store is a regular time commitment, and although we don't make a lot of money each week from snacks, it does accomplish a couple of other important goals: provide a regular opportunity for parents to connect with Boosters, and to shop for scrip.
* Set prices carefully. Perceived value is very important. Selling $6 gingerbread cookies for teachers gifts got a fair number of takers -- but selling gingerbread house raffle tickets for $2 did not. Next year, raffle tickets will be fifty cents ... and I'm hoping we'll get many more takers! Our recipe books are not moving as quickly as I'd hoped ... the $10-12 price point was probably too high. May offer a "super sale" fo $7 books next week!
Do you have any experience with fundraising? What have been some of your memorable successes?