The ultimate guide to school fundraising success
We get a good gauge early on when first-time sponsors contact us about school fundraisers. It's easier to get a sense when we're on the phone with them. But we can also pick things up through online form submissions.
One small daycare sponsor recently submitted a request for a super party incentive. It was obvious she didn't spend much time learning about this event. It's designed for large schools that must meet certain requirements to get it for free.
Another sign is when submissions don’t include prize programs or bonus incentives. Our basic incentives don’t cost any money so why are they not selected? Schools provide the extra prizes, but there are ways to offer them without spending money.
We also pick things up when speaking with inexperienced sponsors on the phone. A few begin by asking which product offers the highest profit. This is a sign they haven’t done their homework. They may only be looking for something easy. They want that 'magic bullet'. A product will do the heavy lifting for them and sell itself.
Here’s an example. We’re currently working with a virtual fundraising school in California. The sponsor recently decided that she didn't want her students to have to register. This step is important so they can invite friends and family to the school's online store. All she wanted to do was send the link out to her group and get them to shop online.
When asked why, she replied that she didn't want them to have to do any work. She didn't care about tracking her sales. All that was important to her was receiving a profit check at the end.
To be clear, we're not throwing anyone under the bus. Everyone who contacts us has a need. We want all groups to succeed. Our goal is to get every sponsor to understand why they should use our tools. They're there for a reason. Schools need to take a comprehensive approach towards their campaign.
Fundraising is not easy and requires preparation and hard work. There's a certain strategy that's required if you expect to succeed.
Yet successful sponsors have high standards and expectations. They ask introspective questions and need the best possible solutions. Their questions are more advanced. They've taken the time to read and study the information on our website. Every sales tool must be at their disposal to ensure their students success.
They already know how much money they need and have set sales goals for their students. They're experienced and understand what’s worked and what hasn’t. And they also have an idea about how they want to motivate their group to sell.
So here's a question. Are you willing to do what it takes to achieve your goals? If we interviewed successful school fundraising sponsors, here are 7 recommendations they'd make.
1. Have a Clear-cut Fundraising Goal
With a well thought out purpose, you’ll establish a foundation for a strong outcome. But, it's amazing how many groups only fundraise for some future “yet to be defined” need. They know they’re going to need money at some point during the school year. So they decide to have a fundraiser.
No one seems to ask, “Why are we raising money?” Instead everyone seems to shift into zombie mode. These schools are easy to recognize. Their purpose in their parent letter, almost always reads, "For the general fund".
People need to know more. If you want them to make an effort to help, they deserve to know why. How hard could it be to define your purpose? Most schools don’t have to search far to find a financial need. Is there a fear that people won’t support it? Or worse, oppose it? Many sponsors don't want to commit to a specific purpose. What happens if they don’t reach their goal?
Effective sponsors understand one thing. Committing to a well thought out purpose and money goal is a must. They've sold their purpose up front and are confident they'll have the support.
2. School Fundraisers Need Attainable Goals
Fundraising is a voluntary endeavor. So why is it not in your best interest to only ask your students to go out and do their best? It’s because most won’t if they had something else they could do with their time. If you take this approach, they may not treat your mission with the urgency you know it needs.
It’s amazing how many sponsors expect their sale to just happen. Handing out your fundraiser materials and then hoping for results is inadequate. These types of sponsors are grateful for whatever money comes in.
They assume that if they reach last year’s goal, they'll have another good year. But if they fall short, there’s nothing they could have done to affect it. And if they happen to do well, they don’t know why. This mindset is the norm for far too many groups.
Effective sponsors know how much money they need and how much each group member needs to sell. Then they inspire them to reach their targets. Sales goals have been predetermined and are attainable.
One school that we work with wasn’t satisfied with raising $30,000 every year. They knew that far too many students weren’t participating in their fundraiser. As a result, they made a few changes and now bring in over 3 times that amount with every fundraiser.
3. Track Your Fundraising Progress
Successful sponsors raise more money because they track their student's progress. The majority of schools don’t know how their fundraiser will turn out until the end. Once it's over you can't affect sales.
Tracking your progress allows you to make in-sale adjustments. This means influencing sales performance before it’s too late. Here are 3 tracking tools we recommend building into your fundraiser:
4. Don't Settle for the Basic Prize Plan
Most companies offer a free prize program with their fundraiser. Inexperienced sponsors assume this is all that's needed. Yet good sponsors know they have to do more.
To maximize their outcome, they offer their students additional fundraising incentives. This helps get more students involved. Plus, on top of improving participation, the average sales made per student goes up as well.
New sponsors may think adding prizes will cost them money. But there are ways to improve fundraiser sales without using money.
5. Motivate Students to Sell More
Great sponsors understand they have to be effective leaders. They know how to motivate students to succeed. They incorporate the perfect blend of accountability with optimism. This not only impacts students. Their fundraising team, teachers and staff, as well as parents are beneficiaries too.
6. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Good sponsors don’t go it alone, so they make it a high priority to recruit others to help them run their sale. They understand the need to get teachers and the parents on board as well.
And understanding people's strengths means plugging them into the right spots. They do a great job of recruiting and delegating.
7. Strive for Fundraising Credibility
Reputation is everything. If you're credible, everyone takes you at your word. But when you’re not, the opposite can happen. There’s nothing worse than making promises without following through.
Here's an actual example of what not to do. A while back we worked with a sponsor who promised a limo ride for every student who sold 15 or more items. When we followed up to find out how their students enjoyed the limo, they said that they didn’t do the limo after all. It was only used as a decoy to attempt to bring in more sales.
How do you think the parents and students felt? Word definitely spread fast. Many found out that the limo ride never happened. Unfortunately, they weren’t concerned about how this would affect future sales.
The best school fundraisers always come through, no matter the hurdles. Their students and parents trust them to follow through. As a result good sales results usually follow.