How to turn your letter into an easy-to-follow guide that prevents phone calls
As a school fundraising volunteer or administrator, you know that the success of your fundraising campaigns depends on your ability to get your students’ parents on board. Parents need to understand what’s expected of them and how they can best help your fundraiser succeed.
That’s why it’s crucial to send a detailed letter home to parents explaining the basics of your fundraiser and explain how their children can participate. Without these letters, you’ll probably be inundated with phone calls.
Instead, to make your life easier and to proactively address concerned parents, you’ll want to ensure that everyone understands and follows the same procedure. Your parent letter should be an easy-to-follow guide that will answer frequently asked questions about how your fundraising process works.
With that in mind, here are 10 questions you should answer in your parent fundraising letters.
1. What type of fundraiser is it?
First, you’ll want to make sure parents know what students will be selling. There are many different kinds of fundraisers, and your parents will want to know how they will be collecting donations.
Product fundraisers are just what they sound like — fundraisers that involve selling a product. Some product fundraisers are known as large shopping campaigns, usually featuring booklets or catalogs showing multiple products for sale. Other types of product fundraisers ask participants to only sell a single item and send out brochures that give more information about that product.
Fundraisers don’t always sell a product. Fun runs and read-a-thons, for example, fundraise through entry fees, pledges, or donations rather than product sales. Each of these fundraisers, product versus donation-based, require different efforts from parents, and letting them know how the fundraiser works ensures they are as prepared as possible.
2. What are we raising money for?
Your parents will want to know what the money raised will be used for and how the funds will benefit their children’s education.
Let’s say the basketball team’s booster club is fundraising for an out of state game. Parents within children on the basketball team are the most likely to contribute heavily to the fundraising efforts. However, if they don’t know what the campaign is raising money for, they may ignore it altogether.
To cut down on confusion, highlight the purpose of the fundraiser at the top of the letter. Pointing out the goals for your fundraiser in the parent letter clarifies your intentions for parents and students.
3. How much are students being asked to raise?
Your parents will need to know what your goals are for the fundraiser so they know how much they need to sell. Settle on a specific number that you’d like the fundraising campaign to reach. Then, approximate how much each student will need to raise to reach that goal.
Informing parents and students about the scale of the fundraiser will put everyone on the same page in terms of how much fundraising should be done. Once parents are aware of the fundraiser’s goals and deadlines, they can better plan a fundraising strategy. Letting them know a specific number to reach increases the likelihood that your fundraiser will be a success.
To further motivate your fundraising participants, you may offer prizes for top fundraisers or tiered prizes for any participant who raises over certain amounts.
4. What forms do we need to fill out?
While order forms are usually the first ones that come to mind when we think of fundraising paperwork, your parents may also need to fill out forms and official documentation for their children to participate in the fundraiser itself. In the parent letter, clearly explain which forms are needed so parents don’t miss any in the process of fundraising.
Some of the most common fundraisers that require additional forms are activity-based fundraisers like field days and fun runs. Physical activities like these often require waivers to ensure participants understand and accept liability for any risks associated with participating.
Some fundraisers involve in-school field trips and activities that require additional permissions. For example, something like a walk-a-thon that takes place during school hours at a different location warrants parental permission. For these campaigns, additional forms like permission slips might be required to get written permission from parents for students to participate.
5. How do we use the order form?
Let’s say you’re hosting a popcorn fundraiser at your school. Since popcorn is a product that comes in many different flavors and varieties, it requires an order form. Order forms can be confusing, especially when there are a lot of different product offerings.
In your parent letter, offer detailed instructions on how to properly fill out order forms. Try to address any potential snags or questions in the letter so parents and students don’t encounter any order form roadblocks.
To ensure orders are processed correctly, ask students and parents to fill out all student information on the form and ensure all orders are readable. This way, students can earn credit for their fundraising efforts. There will also be fewer mistakes, meaning recipients will be more satisfied with their products.
6. How do we use the online fundraising tools?
There are a variety of online fundraising platforms, and sometimes parents need direction on how to use them. 99Pledges’ guide to fundraising platforms lists and explains the benefits of the many types of these online fundraising tools, ranging from social media platforms and programs designed to help teachers gather supplies. Understanding the options will allow you to choose the platform best for your school. Then, let parents know how to use the one you need for your fundraiser ahead of time so that once their child has the fundraising materials, they are ready to get started!
Online fundraising pages are much easier to keep track of — and harder to lose — than a sheet of paper. With many fundraisers, time is of the essence so getting fundraising materials set up as soon as possible is important. Fundraisers like walk-a-thons or fun runs require students to gather pledges ahead of time, so make sure to let your parents know how to record those pledges using the online system.
In your parent letter, you might offer a walk-through explanation of the technology along with pictures, making it as easy as possible for parents to get set up with the online forms.
7. Who do we make checks out to?
Even if you have an online fundraising option, many parents and donors may still prefer writing a check to give to the school. And the last thing you or your parents want to deal with is checks made out to the wrong entity. Parents need to know exactly who checks should be made out to so they can relay that information to donors. In your parent letter, tell parents clearly the exact name that should be inscribed on the check to ensure the fundraiser goes smoothly.
As you discuss how to handle checks in the mail, let parents know how to handle any other methods of money collection. Make a list of accepted donation methods as well as procedures for collecting these donations so funds stay organized.
8. How can we best support our students?
Sometimes, parents may feel a little lost about the best way to assist their student’s fundraising efforts. Give them a nudge in the right direction by giving them a few ideas on how to support their child in the parent letter.
Support can come from a few different sources, and parents may want to do more than simply make a purchase or pledge. To start, parents can simply participate in the fundraiser themselves to contribute to the revenue their child earns. To make a bigger impact, parents can share the fundraiser with other people in their network such as family members, coworkers, neighbors, and other acquaintances.
9. When will the fundraiser end?
Informing parents of the deadline for the fundraiser means they can plan out a schedule for their fundraising efforts. Instruct parents to turn in completed order forms and money collection envelopes by a designated date to avoid late entries that slow down the fundraiser’s momentum.
In addition to letting parents know when the fundraiser will end, you may want to set a date to pick up sale items in the letter. This way you can avoid an influx of calls and emails about when items will arrive after parents place their orders. They can also answer questions about when products will be delivered as other purchasers ask during the fundraising campaign.
10. What are the prizes and incentives?
Last, let parents know about any incentives that might encourage their students to help with fundraising.
Many schools offer fun prizes to the students or classes that raise the most during the fundraising campaign. Prizes for students may be something like a lunch pizza party at school or a gift card for the local arcade. These prizes keep students excited and motivated to raise money.
To encourage parents to help out with their student’s fundraiser, some schools offer incentives for the parents who go above and beyond. If your campaign offers incentives that benefit the parents, make sure to highlight this in the parent letter. A gift card to the best local restaurant in your area pushes parents to put more effort into fundraising, further helping you reach your campaign goals.
Sending out detailed, thoughtful parent letters about your fundraiser will catch most of the common questions parents have. Informing parents about expectations, timelines, and incentives can help you and your students reach their fundraising goals. After your campaign, be sure to send a follow-up thank-you letter to parents and donors to show your appreciation for their support and hard work.
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Guest Author Bio
Brad Dowhaniuk is the co-founder of 99Pledges, which provides schools and teams with an easy-to-use, web-based fundraising solution to manage and drive success in Fun Runs, jog-a-thons, baseball hit-a-thons, and much more.