5 Fundraising Mistakes Schools Make that May Surprise You

Overcome 5 key mistakes that sponsors make and establish your path to fundraising success

Let’s go ahead and deal with the elephant in the room first. No one enjoys having to do a school fundraiser. This should motivate you to want to keep the number of sales campaigns to a minimum. Therefore, the last thing you want is for one of your sales to fall short of its financial goal.

How then can you ensure that you can put your best foot forward and make your next fundraiser as success as possible? There are proven methods that work, but there’s no way around it. If you want to achieve maximum results, you have to invest the time to implement these strategies into your fundraising program. On the other hand, it can also prove to be just as beneficial to know what not to do as well.

Since you don’t want to leave money on the table, here are 5 common school fundraising mistakes that you probably didn’t think about:

1. No Promotion Before Your Fundraiser

When it comes to school fundraising, what do we mean by promotion before the sale? Most people will tell you that the most important way to promote their sales campaign is to get their students excited at the fundraiser kickoff meeting. And the fact is, they are probably right. However, why not build additional hype and excitement before your kickoff? You can set the stage for your kickoff by making it “can’t miss” event in the eyes of your students. So here are some things you can do to build it up:

  • Begin announcing your sale each day, about a week before the kickoff.
    • Embellish your prize program as well as your top seller prize.
    • Or, leave your students in suspense by telling them a few juicy details about the incentives but not revealing what they are.
  • Send home an advertisement flyer that promotes your upcoming fundraiser. This is also a great opportunity to sell your parents on why you need to raise money.
  • Announce your sale on your website as well as on your social media platforms.
  • If you're able to have your student kickoff shortly after your back-to-school night, discuss it with your parents that evening.

2. Failure to Establish Your Fundraising Purpose

It won’t matter how good your fundraising product is. If your parents don’t see a “why” that they can buy into, you'll have an uphill battle convincing them to participate. People often think that their purpose will resonate, only to find out that many didn’t see it the same way. If you're well plugged into your school community, finding essential needs will become a lot easier. But you have to do the work and ask the questions. Do you plan to sit down with the principal? How about teachers or other staff members? Will you send a survey home to the parents, or even discuss your ideas at an upcoming parent meeting? And probably most important, hopefully you will be open to other people’s ideas as well.

3. No Established Fundraiser Seller Goal

Think about it. If you don’t establish a good purpose that people can rally around, it will be even harder to set and reinforce your sales goal. And even if you have a good purpose, people need to know what you expect of them. How much money will it take to achieve your purpose? Did you find out how much your plan will cost? Can your objective be accomplished with one fundraiser, or will it require multiple sales? How many sales will each student need to make and is the goal reasonable? Setting a financial goal gives everyone something to shoot for, and possibly exceed.

Set your school fundraising goal

4. Unwilling to Plan a Good Kickoff Meeting

If the fundraiser kickoff is your most important promotional opportunity, why aren’t you willing to put maximum effort into it? Is it because you’ve always done it the same way and don’t plan to change anything? Some schools even kick off their campaign with very little fan fair. Other schools simply pass out their student packets at the end of the day. Worse yet, some just provide them to the parents without any kickoff at all.

If you don’t schedule a time for all of your students to be together to announce the launch of your sale, you're missing out on a golden opportunity to energize them. As you plan your sale, you should be asking some questions. What do you hope to achieve at your kickoff? How will you introduce the fundraiser to your students? Your kickoff should be able to persuade your students to participate. Remember, you only have one opportunity to make a good first impression so make it count.

How to prepare for a successful kickoff

5. Lack of a Promotional Strategy During the Sale

Even though the kickoff is probably your biggest advertising opportunity, don’t think the promotion of your sale is complete just once it’s over. You’d be surprised. Many schools don’t say another word about their sale until it’s time to turn in the order forms and money. By then it’s too late. It’s possible that a lot of people have forgotten to sell. Students have short memories, so the momentum established at the kickoff fades with passing time. Don’t end up in that unfortunate situation. Instead, be proactive and make a point to perform the following throughout your fundraising program to ensure that lots of sales come in at the end:

  • Daily encourage students to make sales. Remind them about what prizes and incentives are at stake. It only takes selling a little bit each day to be successful.
  • Take your selling reminders to another level by using prize coupons. Every time students sell 5 items they get to submit a prize coupon for a chance to win a fun prize. You then select and announce the winners to everyone.
  • Be sure and send home occasional announcements to keep your parents informed. At a minimum, schools should send out a reminder half-way through the sale, as well as just before the end.
  • Announce your sale periodically on your website. Social media also works well to keep people informed.

See 3 Great Ideas to Visually Promote Your School Fundraiser

By preventing these school fundraising mistakes in the beginning, you're helping to ensure your success in the end.

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