The school landscape is in a constant state of evolution, and right now, we’re seeing everything from profound changes in curriculum and testing to elevated concerns for student safety, mental health and emotional well being. Here we address some of the most predominant trends in school fundraising and provide a few actionable steps you can take to capitalize on these trends to elevate your fundraising program.
Today, most schools are engaged in a fundraising campaign—whether they’re contemplating, planning, executing or concluding one. Gone are the days of students selling candy and having the proverbial ‘bake sale’. Schools should be partnering and networking with not only parents, but major CBOs and big corporations too. Students face many challenges and barriers to academic success and neighborhood schools aren’t all created equal. Greater access to technology and increased resources are sorely needed in many of our public schools to support student learning success and create a multi-functional community hub.
In short, school buildings must employ culturally competent personnel to dedicate their time developing relationships with outside agencies, providers and organizations. Schools will need to perform outreach to businesses to support its mission. Schools need to address and meet student and family needs to maximize successful outcomes. School districts, federal and state funding streams haven’t been sufficient. Schools are realizing that they must do it for themselves. Today’s trends for public and private schools reflect new changes in fundraising such as:
•A great demand for talented directors, major and planned giving expertise, and consultants to help identify and guide the implementation of fundraising strategies.
• Schools have recognized the return on investment (ROI) in hiring competent
fundraisers, and as a result, salaries are much higher.
• There is high turnover in development staff as the demand rises. Many schools are
willing to seek out talented leaders in the field and have a lower tolerance for underperforming development staff.
• More principals and heads of schools are spending at least 30% of their time on fundraising and as much as 50% of their time during a campaign.
• School Boards are recognizing the need to add members with increased wealth capacity as well as expertise.
• And the list goes on…
Traditionally, the principal played a much more significant role in academics, partnering and leaving the fundraising to teaching staff, PTA and/or the development team, whose efforts primarily involved students. Today, the most robust development programs are supported by heads of school who are more focused on philanthropic relationship building with alumni and parents and articulating the big-picture vision. Visions extend beyond the immediate environments, and solicit individuals and business organizations with longer reaches, bigger pockets and a reputation for giving. Schools and staff now actively the giving nature, appeal to the heart of businesses and certainly highlight the tax benefits to encourage decision-makers to give and give back.
Highlight your goals by illustrating your story, tell about your students, families, community’s reality. Not all students will ‘fall through the cracks’ in education. Examine how that is possible, and identify at least one area in which students in your school will benefit from whatever it is that they need and your school can possibly provide. Raising funds is not the only vehicle to increasing resources that facilitate potentially successful outcomes.
The school may benefit from new updated learning materials, teaching supplies. Notebooks, couches for the parent room, a 3D printer for the school or classroom, pencils, calculators, PCs, an all-inclusive 2-day family vacation[So many families and students have never been outside of their local community and expanding their horizons and vision is motivating. Many parents are unable to afford a vacation, have never experienced the freedoms that we may take for granted. Link it to learning! It is incentive for engagement.] Washers/dryers, magazines, online subscriptions, etc…. They are often just as valuable as money.
It has been said that when we ask for something, the worst answer we can receive is ‘no’. Fortunately, some people don’t accept that answer, when the request is reasonable and well thought out. When determined and committed to the ‘dream’, persist. Anything is possible. An hour per week at a neighborhood Y, bicycles, sports equipment, an instructor of martial arts once per week, etc…. Prom time? A bridal shop, formal wear store, coats from Burlington Coat Factory[preferably within a stated quota of giving which affords all students at least one item throughout the school year. It is possible.]. Textbooks, please! All reasons for fundraising, partnering and asking.
Distinguish short-term donations versus longer term investments. There is a culture shift taking place in both the nonprofit and private sector, and it is impacting schools as much as any other type of organization. Younger generations are giving less out of obligation and expressing less interest in donating to charity. Instead, they seek to invest in something meaningful and impactful—giving not only their money but their emotions as well. This trend has even had an effect on older generations who used to give out of obligation but are now increasingly interested in how their time and money have impacted the school or organization and furthered its mission.
When gifts are received, return the favor. Provide updates, special recognition and show your appreciation! Your students, their families, staff and the entire school community are worth it! Schools are doing it for themselves! Fundraising.