3 Best Practices for Better School Fundraisers in 2021

As a hard-working education professional, you know that education is the key to unlocking a brighter future for children. It takes time, energy, and resources to develop young minds and help kids grow. 

But way too often, schools are left without the proper funding needed to help their students succeed. Budget cuts can leave a mark, and schools are often underfunded in the first place. Luckily, this is where school fundraising can make a difference!

Here at GivingMail, we specialize in helping schools and other fundraising organizations take advantage of untapped fundraising opportunities to maximize their efforts. We know that many annual fundraisers have been altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it doesn’t mean that all fundraising has come to a halt. This year, we suggest that education professionals:

  1. Choose fundraisers with students and parents in mind
  2. Emphasize social distancing and safety guidelines
  3. Spread the word about upcoming fundraisers with direct mail

These tips will help you pivot your fundraising strategy to make the most of the current situation. Don’t worry if your plans don’t look identical to previous years—as you know, the pandemic has changed practically everything about the way schools operate. As long as you stay flexible and try your best, you’ll still make a difference for students. Let’s jump in. 

1. Choose fundraisers with students and parents in mind

Students and parents often do the bulk of school fundraising, so be sure to choose fundraising ideas that make it easy for families to get involved. 

There are different ways to engage students in fundraising versus their parents. After all, kids and their parents belong to entirely different generations and usually have distinct interests. For students, consider these kid-approved fundraising ideas:

  • Dance-a-thon: Dance-a-thons are challenges where participants dance for as long as they can to raise money for a cause. This year, you can host a virtual dance-a-thon for kids to tune in from home, or an outdoor, socially-distanced event. If there’s anything kids love, it’s getting out all their energy by running around and bopping to their favorite songs (like the extraordinarily popular Baby Shark song for younger participants). Plus, students can create a pledge page to collect donations throughout the duration of the event. 
  • Read-a-thon: This event is similar to a dance-a-thon in that it challenges kids to read as many books as they can within a certain time period. Participants can also solicit pledged donations that correlate to how many books (or pages) they read. Kids love being challenged to read their favorite books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or the Harry Potter series, or to pick up a new one they’ve never tried before. 
  • Principal challenge: In this fundraiser, set a donation goal for your students to reach. Once they’ve gathered enough donations, have your school principal complete a funny challenge or activity. This can include hosting a pie-throwing contest where kids have the chance to throw pies in their principal’s face, or, if you have a particularly daring principal, you can challenge them to dye their hair a bright, neon color once the goal is reached. Nothing brings a smile to a child’s face like watching an adult act silly!

For an added fundraising boost, consider supplementing these events with a t-shirt fundraiser. This overview from Bonfire provides more information and ideas for t-shirt fundraisers. You can create a design with your event logo and school colors to sell ahead of time to generate buzz for upcoming events and bring in some extra funding. 

Alternatively, there are a few fundraising ideas that will get parents especially excited to get involved and help out. These parent-engaging fundraisers include: 

  • Discount cards: Discount cards are coupons for local businesses that students and parents can sell to their neighbors, family members, or friends to raise money. Parents usually love this idea because these discount cards offer great value and help shoppers save on purchases at local stores or restaurants. 
  • Face mask sale: Since face masks are now a necessity, a face mask fundraiser is a great way to raise funds for your school. You can design your custom masks with your school logo or colors, too, to generate some school spirit. Parents will appreciate the focus on safety and kids will love sporting their school colors as well. 
  • Shoe drive: In a shoe drive, you collect donations of new or gently used shoes rather than monetary contributions. Your school can partner with a shoe-drive fundraiser coordinator to pick up the shoes and leave a donation for your school in exchange. Parents love this fundraiser because they don’t have to ask anyone for money, but simply encourage friends and family to donate their used shoes. 

For your 2021 fundraising efforts, consider implementing a mix of these types of events to appeal to kids and parents. You want to empower your students to get involved in efforts that benefit their own school, and you also want to make sure you retain parent support. 

2. Emphasize social distancing and safety guidelines

Provide ways for your donors to give from a safe distance with social distancing-friendly fundraising ideas like virtual fundraising events and direct mail appeals. This way, you can maintain your school fundraising efforts during a difficult time while ensuring everyone involved stays safe and healthy. Here are a few ideas for socially-distanced fundraisers:

Matching gift drive

Corporate matching gifts are a largely untapped source of school fundraising revenue. In these programs, corporations match gifts made by their employees to eligible organizations. 

In a matching gift drive, encourage parents and others in the community to check if they’re eligible for matching gifts. Investing in a search tool, such as a matching gift database like 360MatchPro, allows your supporters to quickly check their status. Then, they can maximize the impact of their donations to your school by getting their gifts doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled by their companies.

This tool can take your matching gift drive to new heights, and since this fundraising drive is entirely virtual, participants can donate (and get their gifts matched) from the safety of their homes. 

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

With peer-to-peer fundraising, you can empower your school community to reach out to their family and friends and fundraise on your behalf in a campaign that takes place entirely online. You can create a fundraising campaign with a platform like 99Pledges, and each participant will receive access to their own donation page. Encourage your fundraisers to share their donation pages frequently on their social media. 

This is a great no-contact fundraising opportunity because plenty of people are spending most of their day connected to the internet anyway. Also, your fundraising page will be optimized for any device, allowing everyone to give, from parents using their smartphones to grandparents on their desktop computers. 

Amazon Wishlist

If your school needs particular classroom materials or new equipment, an Amazon Wishlist campaign can get these items directly into your hands! Create a wishlist of everything your school needs—books, school supplies, laptops, recess equipment, etc.—and send it out to your school community so folks can purchase and send items right away. 

An Amazon campaign will also allow donors to stay safe—the new supplies can be sent directly to the school, so supporters don’t have to worry about bringing anything in themselves. 

Incorporating socially-distanced fundraising efforts this year can give your school the funding boost it needs while keeping the community safe. Plus, gaining experience with these types of fundraisers now can help even after the pandemic ends because virtual fundraising is undoubtedly here to stay. 

3. Spread the word about upcoming fundraisers with direct mail

To take your fundraising efforts to the next level this year, direct mail can be used to solicit donations directly or to encourage supporters to take part in upcoming fundraising opportunities. With a dedicated platform for direct mail appeals, you can standardize the process for sending fundraising letters and other communications to supporters to get them the critical information they need to participate. There are a couple of different routes you can take with direct mail appeals:

Direct fundraising

You can use your direct mail appeals to request donations from community members. In your fundraising appeals, be sure to include a specific, compelling story about how community donations enable your school to better serve students. For example, you can describe how the success of last year’s annual giving campaign enabled your school to purchase fifty laptop computers for students. Explain your goals for this year’s campaign and what the funds will be used for. Be sure to include a call-to-action such as “Give now to help us reach our goal in time!” to create a sense of urgency. 

In these direct fundraising appeals, provide clear steps for supporters to take to give. For example, you can provide a return envelope for supporters to send cash or check donations, or provide a URL or QR code that leads to your online donation page. 

Notifications for upcoming events

Additionally, your direct mail appeals can be used to spread information about upcoming fundraising events. Whether you’ve decided to host a read-a-thon, shoe drive, or any other type of fundraiser, you’ll need to generate awareness and interest in your event before the kickoff to make sure you have donor support. Provide details on the purpose of the event, when it will take place, and how people can contribute. 

While you might be conducting online marketing as well, it’s easy for information to get lost in the shuffle of social media and overcrowded email inboxes. With direct mail, you can capture supporters’ attention outside of the busy virtual realm. 

By choosing fundraisers that interest both parents and students, adhering to social-distancing precautions, and implementing a direct mail campaign, you can give your school a better chance for success with your 2021 fundraising efforts. Be sure to track your overall fundraising performance this year to have a stash of data to reference in the future. You’ll be better equipped to adjust your strategy next year to move forward with the most effective fundraising campaign ideas. Good luck!