Monday, November 12, 2007

Healthy fundraisers equal healthy news coverage

Schools that banish the junk food and embrace healthful fundraising activities often enjoy positive press coverage as a result, as this Chronicle-Telegram story underscores:

"...the Westview Elementary PTA came up with a new way of helping the school that... really got the kids moving.

"During two sessions Friday, every member of the student body laced up their walking shoes for the first Westview Wildcat Walk. The PTA hopes the walkathon-style event will become a yearly event.

"'We were just looking for something different than just selling wrapping paper or candy,' said Susan Mueller, PTA second vice president. 'This is a healthy choice that is more fun for the kids.'"

Use the health & fitness marketing angle whenever you can.

And generate more excitement by rewarding successful young fundraisers with a stunt, as happened in the above event:

" student from each class will be randomly selected to smash a pie in [Principal Paul] Holland’s face.

"'I draw the line at kissing pigs or anything like that. I’m all for motivating my students, but that is not the kind of memory I plan on making. Plus, pie tastes much better,' Holland said."

Well, I guess the fundraiser wasn't very healthy for his diet.

Here's a story about another fundraiser that ended with a good-natured principal performing a stunt--and this guy was willing to kiss a pig.

"At least it was a clean pig," he said. "The kids wanted it to be all sloppy."

As I note in my book on educational stunts, administrators should always stay in their own comfort zone. Some would rather kiss a pig, while some would rather take multiple pies in the face...

The plane truth? Here's a fantastic fundraising idea

Thinking big and getting creative generated fun headlines for California's Apple Valley High--as well as cash for a good cause, the Victorville Daily Press reports:

"The Apple Valley Sun Devils squared off this morning against an unlikely group of opponents: The staff of the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital, which flies around the world curing avoidable blindness.

"Amid hoots, hollers and a lot of trash talking, it took the 47 football players 6.9 seconds to pull the 350,000-pound DC-10 jetliner 12 feet. ...

"The demonstration was intended to be a test run for a fundraising event on the Chinese island of Macau in December, where the plane is headed next."

The Aero-News Network adds that the event raised "money for residents of third world countries that need glasses, or have other eye related ailments, but can't afford them. ...

"This event is a rehearsal for a similar fundraising event planned in Macau in December, where five corporate sponsors will compete, and will pay $10,000 each for the opportunity."

A spectacular menu that should open mouths and wallets

Forget the annual fundraising barbecue or spaghetti feed--the Toledo Blade reports on an Ohio high school is planning a scholarship benefit night with a menu that's the most ambitious I've ever seen:

"...a Loire Valley Salade of asparagus spears, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, and sweet onion cucumber relish with a raspberry vinaigrette. The entree of seared beef tenderloin topped with Alouette cheese and green peppercorn sauce will be served with pomme Lyonnaise potatoes with tornados of yellow squash and zucchini. ...

"A vegetarian option features smoked mozzarella tart, haricot vert, and oven-roasted roma tomato confit.

"For dessert, there will be a variety of petit fours, cream puffs, French pastries, and assorted coffees."

And did I forget to mention the French wine and cheese tasting beforehand?

Sacre bleu! Talk about a fundraiser folks will be talking about into the new year...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Don't wait for complaints to draft a fundraising policy

The FUNdraising book explores the notion of school and district fundraising policies, pegged to a story out of Wisconsin about a band sale of a pre-packaged product that contained filet knives. I was reminded of that this morning by an article in the Albany Democrat-Herald:

"Complaints about a middle-school fundraiser last year have prompted district officials to draft a policy on school fundraisers for the Albany School Board to consider. ....

"The catalyst was a fundraiser last March at Calapooia Middle School. The Parent Teacher Student Association asked students to bring donations for PTSA programs by March 2, with the promise of an afternoon in the library with blankets, pillows and snacks for each child who brought in at least $20. Students who didn’t participate or who brought in less were to read in their classrooms instead.

"Parent complaints and letters to the editor prompted school officials to look to district policies for guidance..."

Don't wait for outraged letters to the editor to start rolling in. And PTAs, PTOs and other education groups can adopt best-practice guidelines independent of the schools they serve.

Policies can address the sale of junk food and events involving alcohol (such as wine tastings) or gambling (casino nights, raffles), how money is handled and accounted for, and many other issues. Here are a few more, from the story above:

* "forms for organizers to fill out annually that specify the goal of the fundraiser, the type of activity, the time it will take, how the funds will be collected and the number of students to be involved. ...

* "...this statement: 'Under no circumstances will students or staff be coerced or compelled to participate in fundraising activities. Students may not be barred or otherwise penalized because of a refusal to participate in fundraising activities conducted on behalf of a school or the district.'"

Do you have experiences with fundraising policies? What do you think they should include?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Taking a gamble on a poker fundraiser

Poker has been a hot fad in the past couple of years. Tournaments are featured every day on TV and those clay-chip sets in the shiny metal suitcases have been found under many Christmas trees in recent holiday seasons. Some education groups are taking advantage of poker's popularity by holding fundraising tourneys--such as Nevada's Lake Tahoe School, as the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza reports.

Laws in some states and communities preclude such fundraisers, and even when it's legal some school groups might not find charity gambling palatable. But where it's legal and fits in with the community culture, poker can be a fun deal.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A swashbuckling FUNdraiser idea

Check out this story in the Owings Mills Times about a cool Fence-A-Thon fundraiser in Canada:

"A centuries-old sport, fencing swordplay can involve three different weapons, a foil, an epee or a saber, allowing combatants to strike their opponents at different target areas of the body. Fencing is played in a narrow lane to resemble confined combat in areas like castle hallways. ...

"The Chesapeake Fencing Club stresses that the Fence-A-Thon is not a tournament, but rather a 13-hour- long fencing marathon, but to [participant Bruce] Heidebrecht, a forensic scientist, it's more of a reunion.

"'It's just a big social event,' he said. 'You get to see people maybe you haven't seen in a year; college kids or people with families come out that typically can't make it to regular matches.' ...

"Registration is $25, with participants earning pledge donations per bout. After covering expenses, the remaining proceeds are split between the club and Sisters Academy of Baltimore, a middle school for girls.

"Last year, the event, which drew 60 fencers, raised about $1,000..."

A big social event that brings the community together in support of education? Now that's cutting-edge stuff.

Friday, October 19, 2007

One secret to a good FUNdraiser: Have a backup plan

That's the lesson to take away from this Scranton Times-Tribune (yes, it's a real city not just the setting for "The Office") story about a fundraiser that nearly flopped:

"It seems the 'cow,' really a steer named 'Dingbat,' tried to end the Riverside High School track and field team fundraiser before it even began on Saturday.

"In plain talk, he couldn't hold it in, and instead let loose inside his trailer - twice - even before his owner could get him onto the numbered grid.

"Once he was out on the grid inside the pen behind the school, the 600-pound Hereford spent the better part of two and a half hours munching on grass where 225 numbers had been randomly spray painted on."

An easy fix here would be to have an extra cow around, or at least some backup entertainment.

It's funny--the FUNdraising book actually includes advice from a farmer for how to help make sure the cow goes, but here's a case of one that went too soon...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sell school-logo merchandise online with CafePress

I recently ran across an excellent Squidoo page on how to create a successful CafePress store. CafePress enables anyone who signs up for a free account to upload designs which are then sold on shirts, hats and other items. CafePress shopkeepers set whatever price they wish atop the CafePress minimum and keep the difference.

This is a great fundraising tool for schools that wish to create an online version of their school store and generate sales to parents, alumni, etc.

I decided to see just how simple the process was by setting up my own silly CafePress store. And guess what? It's not only simple to set up a CafePress shop, it's addictive.

This is low-hanging fruit for any school that already sells shirts, hats and other items featuring their mascots and logos. Different programs can even create custom designs--such as special shirts for band camp students, etc.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The book is out

FUNdraising officially went on sale yesterday, so if you've found the ideas showcased on this blog useful, you can scoop up a Super-Size portion of them by buying the book.

Gerard A. Dery, Zone 1 Director for the National Association of Elementary School Principals called FUNdraising "a wonderful resource. The author covers all aspects of effective fundraising, provides practical advice, and identifies precautions that should be taken to make fundraising successful. This book makes fundraising beneficial for schools and adds a level of enjoyment to the planning, implementation, and positive results."

Thank you, Mr. Dery. I'm officially blushing--and proud if I can help education groups pull off fun, sustainable, successful fundraisers.

I figure one shameless plug is in order to mark the official sale date. But I'll be offering more ideas you can use shortly.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to share your FUNdraising success stories here--and to ask any questions on your mind.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Enlist other community groups to participate in fundraising competitions

Whether you host a quiz night, celebrity spelling bee, karaoke night, bowling tourney or other sports event, try pitting various community groups against each other to encourage good-natured competitions that can bring in big bucks.

Here are two current examples of that idea in action:

"The Baldwin High School women’s softball team will play a marathon game, consisting of five 50-minute games, against various teams from the community," reports. "Examples of possible opponents include teams representing the National Honor Society, the high school faculty and administration, the police and fire department, the parents of current players, and former Baldwin softball players."

Meanwhile, a bowling alley in the San Juan Islands is hosting a Bowling For Scholars week, the San Juan Islander reports. Check out all the nifty fundraising opportunities the event's rules provide.

School FUNdraising headline of the day

Here it is, courtesy of the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

"If Duluth cow poops, someone wins $1,000"

I also love this quote about the cow-bingo fundraiser:

"'We're hoping the cow poops,' said Duluth High School Orchestra co-director Shawn Morton."

In my experience, they all do eventually.

I love how this group doesn't take itself too seriously:

"'One year an orchestra parent refused to participate; they thought the event's premise was too undignified for an orchestra,' said [co-director Peter] Lemonds. 'Other orchestras might go for silent auctions and dessert fund-raisers, but this is too much fun. It really is a festive occasion.'"

That's the spirit!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

If you're going to sell chocolate...

...this might be the best way to do it, as the Toronto Star reports:

"Instead of the usual chocolate bar sales... the Grades 7 and 8 students at [Queen Elizabeth Senior Public School in Mississauga] will be selling only fair trade chocolate...

"QE is working with Oxfam Fair Trade, which sells chocolate under the Equita brand name. ...

"The move to fair trade began last spring when a parent on school council made a presentation about the issues surrounding chocolate production. The industry, as has been well-documented in studies and media reports, relies on a network of plantations in developing countries with questionable records on human rights and child labour. Fair trade ensures a better life for those growing the cocoa beans. ...

"'Those kids have a right to go to school, too, not slave away in cocoa plantations,' says Grade 8 student Lucas Petersen."

Nice educational component there.

And yet, the school's still expecting each student to sell a full case of the stuff...

Cheesy product sales have jumped the shark

If this letter to the editor in the Lawrence Journal World doesn't get across the idea that the backlash against strong-arm school sales drives is gaining momentum, I don't know what will. But note the hopeful part at the end of the letter regarding a FUNdraiser recently cited on this very blog:

"When my kindergartner came home with her Reader’s Digest school fundraiser envelope, I felt a little annoyed. Earlier that day, she had attended a school assembly where she had picked up phrases like 'fabulous prizes' and 'world’s finest chocolate.' I could see that the consumption marketing machine had gotten to her.

"In fact, she was desperate to win the poorly made plastic incentive prizes: light-up pocket flyers, filter optic pens, and hydration station drink pump and plastic light-up cup. She was primed to sell, sell, sell. And I, as I mentioned, was annoyed.

"Still I wanted to support my daughter’s school. Moreover, I wanted to support the efforts of our PTA, who work very hard year round. Therefore, I decided to buy an item. I browsed through the fundraiser catalog several times before I gave up. I simply couldn’t get the image of my 5-year-old attending the motivational all-school assembly out of my head. I could clearly see her sitting on the gym floor receiving instruction on the selling points of Reader’s Digest 'World’s Finest Chocolate'; it was disturbing. Needless to say, I opted out of the fundraiser and, in its place, my family gave extra support to the annual school carnival.

"I mention all of this because I was particularly impressed by Schwegler Elementary’s green fundraiser, which was featured in the J-W’s Thursday, Oct. 4 edition. Kudos and super congratulations, Schwegler and Westar Energy! We can all learn from your inspired collaborative green school fundraiser.

"Kelly Jones,


Schools can go from drawing ire to earning praise when they align their fundraising practices with their core values.

Giving up a few $$$ in favor of fundraising sustainability

That's what at least one school is doing, as reports:

"Tired of selling wrapping paper or toasted pecans in holiday tins on behalf of their children’s school, Alexander Doniphan Elementary School’s PTA members are embarking on a new fundraiser.

"Doniphan Elementary will hold an inaugural Spaghetti Dinner, Fundraiser and Family Fun Night in October, an event that might not raise as much as tried-and-true product-based fundraisers but will give families a reprieve from asking friends and relatives to buy products out of obligation.

"'Even though we haven’t liked to do them, those product-based fundraisers do very well,' said Leslie Young, co-chairwoman with Melissa Kuchta of Doniphan PTA’s fundraising committee. 'We did so well last year that we have some carry-over from our budget, so we thought if we were going to try something new, now was the time to try it.'

"The Doniphan PTA usually raises around $10,000 to $12,000 with its product-based fundraisers; it hopes to raise $7,000 with the spaghetti dinner."

Is it worth losing $3,000-$5,000 in order to shift from fundraisers that burn everyone out and turn off the community? I think so. Here's why: Over time, the revolt against those product sales drives might grow so high that diminishing returns set in, leaving the school with less money and a wearying fundraising system.

Just look at this story about a Florida school experiencing exactly that type of problem:

"Palm City Elementary netted about $30,000 from selling gifts and wrapping paper, which was put toward musical programs, assistance to students who couldn't afford field trips and classroom projects.

"A little more than half of the school participated in the fundraiser, said Palm City Elementary Parent Teacher Association President Ed Ciampi. Participation was not mandatory, but children had to have a certain number of sales to attend the annual party to reward participants.

"The party was eliminated this year to appease parent complaints it wasn't fair to exclude children who didn't sell products. Participants this year get to choose a prize based on their sales.

"And sales are down, Ciampi said. With no special incentive, some parents might have decided just to buy their child a special prize and skip the fundraising this year."

See that? Sales are down. The incentive generated bad will among parents and students. The ones still willing to sell are peddling the same overpriced junk that no one really wants or needs.

On the other hand, moving toward event fundraisers generates good will for a school. It engages the community. And it paves the way for other fun initiatives that can close any funding gap.

The smartest thing the first school, Doniphan Elementary, did was build up a cushion from last year's product sales drive so that it would be easier to wean themselves off of the system.

So maybe you don't end your sales drive this year. But you might be able to pull it off with that kind of savvy two-year plan...

A star-studded addition to a golf fundraiser

Next time you host a golf outing, why not raise additional money--and amp up the excitement level--by auctioning off the opportunity to have local club pros and celebrities round out donor foursomes, just like this school does?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Cap off your FUNdraiser with an educational stunt

Before FUNdraising, my last book for Corwin Press focused on silly and educational stunts teachers and school administrators can perform to inspire student achievement. But in addition to tying the performance of these stunts to learning, many educators link them to fundraising goals as well.

Here are two new examples of educators ending fundraisers with joyously silly stunts. The first one comes out of southwest Florida, courtesy of The News-Press, which ran a nine-photo online package about a principal, assistant principal and guidance counselor who got their heads shaved in front of the student body to cap off a fundraiser.

How many other education stories get nine photos on the local newspaper site? Stunts usually provide great visuals and an offbeat way to tell a fairly standard story about a school's academic and/or fundraising successes. They're often catnip to photo editors and local TV news operations.

That's nine photos, folks, with the best one likely running as a section centerpiece in print, too. More people will look at such a photo and soak in the feel-good story related in the caption than will ever wade through the in-depth profile of the school's latest academic innovations. You want both types of stories out there, of course, but fun, flashy stunts are an excellent way to get the good word out about your school's achievements.

Here's a second story, this one from the Indianapolis Star:

"Forest Hill Elementary Principal Jack Lawrence challenged the school's more than 400 students to raise $15,000 through their PTO fundraiser, and he told them if they met that challenge he would spend homecoming day on the roof of the school.

"Students beat the goal by $800, and Lawrence set up his office -- with desk, phone, laptop computer and sunscreen -- and worked from the rooftop on Friday."

The kids will remember that day fondly for the rest of their lives. Stunts like this show students the human side of teachers and administrators and build a sense of cameraderie.

They can make any fundraiser feel special.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Healthy fundraisers can generate healthy returns

"Last year students were selling candy bars, this year they're taking a hike." So says the reporter in this NBC affiliate video story (there's a brief text version, too) on a nature walk FUNdraiser.

Here's what the North Carolina school accomplished with this event besides raising money for interactive white boards:

* Showed students and the community they take the obesity crisis seriously.
* Added a strong education component to the hike.
* Got students excited about nature and fitness.
* Earned stellar media coverage.

Meanwhile, a Kansas School got a glowing report from the Lawrence Journal-World by rebranding its sales fundraisers from junk-food junkets to earth-saving missions:

"Schwegler School students won’t be going door-to-door selling the traditional cookie dough and wrapping paper this year.

"Instead, for the 50th anniversary at the school, 2201 Ousdahl Road, a major fundraising effort consists of selling energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs and compost bags for leaf collection.

"'We also want kids to think about what do they need to do to help the community live for the next 50 years and tying in that environmental theme,' said Lars Leon, PTA president. ...

"Westar Energy is... working with a supplier to give the school a deal on the bulbs.

"Gina Penzig, a Westar Energy spokeswoman, said Schwegler is the first school to approach the company with this type of fundraising idea."

Isn't it amazing what positive things can happen when you align fundraising events with your school's core values?

Should you put all your fundraising eggs in one basket?

A couple of recent stories detail schools that host only one fundraiser each year. Here's the lowdown on Hawaii's 'Aina Haina Elementary, for instance:

"At a fun run held last month, the Parent Teacher Association raised $60,180.31 from a student body of fewer than 500 students, assisted by some corporate donations from parents and businesses in the 'Aina Haina area.

"The Jaguar Jog was a new fundraiser for the school, said PTA president Liz Hamasu. And now it will be the school's only fundraiser for the year. ...

"For this fundraiser, each parent was asked to pony up $100 in pledges for the Jaguar Jog, a course set up on campus for students in each grade level to complete..."

Potential pros of this approach:

One PTA official cites two, noting, "We didn't want to nickel and dime everyone with a series of smaller fundraisers. People are so busy now. It's not that parents don't want to help, but their plates are full and there are just not enough hours in the day to do everything that they want to do."

Potential cons:

* A single event might get people out of the habit of participating in and supporting fundraisers--and if you're hosting creative FUNdraisers, that habit can be a very positive one to cultivate.

* If the event flops, you'll find yourself in deep yogurt with an empty bank account.

Any readers have thoughts on or experiences with the once-a-year fundraising approach?

Friday, October 5, 2007

Tap into your school's unique strengths

Are you the oldest school in the community? Turn that into a fundraising strength by publishing a calendar featuring compelling pictures from throughout the school's history and selling it into the big local alumni base. Make it available at reunions, send a copy to the local education reporter, advertise it on the school Web site.

Here's a Dallas Morning News story about a school that's selling just such a calendar:

"Sophomores at Woodrow Wilson High School are getting an early start on graduation and drawing on the past for help.

"To raise money for graduation activities, the Class of 2010 is producing a calendar featuring the high school's past and a splash of today.

"'We were looking for something different,' said Michelle Hopson, one of the sophomores' five parent sponsors. 'Everyone does T-shirts, pajama bottoms, boxers and bumper stickers.' ...

"'Woodrow is big on tradition, and we wanted to put that to work in our favor,' she said. 'My dad, Marvin Marek, graduated in 1950 and I talked to him and his friends and they were all excited about it. I think we might have hit on something really good.'

"Such calendars haven't been a common fundraising mechanism for schools, according to Rick Casner of Gizmo Group in Lakewood, the company designing the project.

"'Not a lot of schools have the history that Woodrow Wilson does,' he said. 'They are expensive to produce, but you're not just buying the calendar, but rather what's inside.' ...

"Selecting and scanning the photographs took a fair amount of time, Mrs. Hopson said.

"'We have some as old as the 1940s,' she said. 'We pored over old yearbooks. We started comparing new cheerleaders and old, new team photos and old. I think it will be really clever.'"

Is there a treasure trove of great old school photos you can capitalize on for a memorable fundraiser?

Enhance your school "brand" by seeking highbrow fundraising partners

Much has been written about the backlash against school candy sales, magazine subscription drives and the like. But one thing not often mentioned is that most of the vendors who push those sales on school groups are schlocky. Associating with them actually cheapens the school's "brand" in the community.

Contrast that with what the Hudson Elementary School PTA is doing in Tempe, Arizona, per

"...the PTA Board has moved to partner with the Symphony of the Southwest, formerly Mesa Symphony Orchestra to create a unique, creative and educational fundraiser. The Hudson PTA now sells individual tickets to the Symphony of the Southwest concerts in order to collect more than 35% of the sales price as a fundraiser.

"Furthermore, in order to render the offer more interesting to the public tickets are offered to the public at a price reduced by up to 20%. ...

"'We really think this fundraiser will be an efficient one. It differs from the classic cookie dough and catalog sales that we do every year and it is very educational and beneficial for the participants,' says Mark Kennedy, Treasurer and past-president of the PTA Board.

"'Music is a very important art at Hudson and we are glad our children will be able to get involved with the Symphony of the Southwest,' added Andy Gutierrez, president of the PTA."

And kids and parents who sell at least five tickets get a free pass to a symphony event.

What's cool about this fundraiser, separating it from other sales efforts:

* It brings together two respected nonprofit groups.
* It dovetails with the school's educational mission.
* It gives students a chance to broaden their arts education.
* It provides a good value to anyone who buys a ticket by giving them discounts off the regular ticket price.

For any symphony fan, what's not to like? Even people who don't want tickets will look at this fundraiser as a positive event promoting the cultural life of the community instead of the latest schlocky attempt to twist people's arms to subscribe to magazines they'll never read and purchase candy they don't need.

Add fundraising fizz with a soda tasting

This Providence Journal story mentioning a school foundation's "wine, soda, and cheese reception" gave me an idea:

Why not host a fun twist on wine-tasting fundraisers by popping the top on an exotic soda tasting?

The city where I live has a store that sells hard-to-find and boutique soda pop. Even if you don't have a fun emporium like that near you, regional and specialty sodas are regularly sold online. Just run some Google searches and you'll find lots of Web soda retailers. Check out the Jones Soda Co. for some truly goofy flavors.

Another way to go: Round up every strange variation on Dr. Pepper you can find. Every store brand seems to feature a Pepper knockoff with a funny name. And they're cheap!

You could add a buffet of old-fashioned, hard-to-find candy to the mix for a real walk down memory lane.

I'm not a big fan of food-themed fundraisers because of the health issues they raise, but it might be worth making an exception for this one.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Two on a match

If you're ever lucky (or good) enough to get a big donor on the hook for your school or education group, why not get more bang for your buck by turning any offered gift into a matching grant?

Just look at what happened recently at North Carolina's East Mecklenburg High, as reported by the Charlotte Observer:

"Two years ago, Bob Silver of Montclair, N.J., a 1973 East Meck grad, told administrators he'd donate $500,000 for a program to help teachers, if the school matched it.

"Last month, it did -- raising $505,000. That means more than $1 million for the All Star Teacher Initiative, a program unique in North Carolina funded largely by alumni and parents of current students.

"Friday, on East Meck's homecoming, the school has invited thousands of graduates to a red-carpet celebration for a program that has already begun to make a difference. ...

"The fundraising officially kicked off last February at a luncheon of parents and graduates. Organizers expected a crowd of 200. More than 500 showed. 'That's when I knew we'd hit a nerve,' said Silver, who did well on Wall Street, realized the impact East Meck teachers had on his career and wanted to give back. 'The outpouring blew me away. I knew then they'd meet the challenge.'"

Wow. Now there's a story to share with your wealthy alums with fond memories of the old alma mater...

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Everything you need to know about quiz nights

I happened across a Squidoo lens on hosting a Quiz Night that might inspire a nice series of school FUNdraisers. One smart tip:

"A nice format which keeps the crowd interested and involved is to get teams to swap their papers and mark each others. It keeps the laughter and discussion going and gets the teams chatting with each other too!"

Sounds like a recipe for good times.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Super-size the school fair

In Montana, the Education Foundation of Billings Public Schools sponsors an annual Saturday Live carnival that has become a very popular communitywide event, the Billings Gazette reports. Where one school hosting a fair on campus might draw a few hundred visitors, Saturday Live had about 9,000 attendees this year--and raised more than $63,000 for school groups.

There's strength in numbers.

What other schools and community groups can you partner with to put on bigger, more entertaining--and thus more profitable--events?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Seth Godin makes me feel good about starting this blog

I'm already excited about sharing school fundraising success stories via this blog spun off from my new FUNdraising book, but today's post by one of my favorite bloggers underscores why the concept makes sense for both me as a writer and you as a reader:

"The most effective marketing use of blogs seems to be when the... marketer uses the blog as an opportunity not to sell a product, but to attract people who are in the right mindset. ... the very same people who need his product... Attract people in trouble-->Help solve their problems-->Build your reputation-->Sales happen."

In other words, you come here because you need solutions to your school fundraising needs. If the blog helps meet those needs, you might just go ahead and buy the book for more in-depth assistance.

Makes sense (and potentially cents) to me. Better yet, it provides me with a strong incentive to give you the kind of useful content that turns this site into a trusted source of information for you.

I also took Seth's advice and created a SquidWho lens complete with a school FUNdraising poll.

Student declares war on unwanted sales drives

The Dallas Morning News publishes an op-ed piece by a high school student who taps into the frustration so many people in the school community feel about old-style fundraisers where kids become a cog in a corporate sales machine in exchange for a chance at prizes like limo rides:

"Between selling magazines, books and candles, I have seen it all. Or, should I say, sold it all? I am one of the many manipulators haunting our streets today. I use tactics such as sweetness, vulnerability and the perfect smile to get just what I want – your cash. In the blink of an eye, I have your money and have ordered the 25 magazines that you never really knew you wanted.

"The companies behind these fundraisers tinker with the minds of their sales force. No longer is this child little Bobby from down the street. He has been programmed.

"We have all been programmed. The only thing running through your sweet child's mind is that prized limo trip, which is only obtainable by selling those 40 candles."

Her solution: Come up with creative, community-based fundraisers that deliver fun times and needed services.

It's only a matter of time before the FUNdraising approach sweeps the nation.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Gearing up for an educational fundraiser

Business students at Addison Trail High in Addison, Illinois, learn while they earn money for their schools with an annual auto show, GateHouse News Service reports:

“'As part of the program, students will write a paper on their experience of organizing the car show, and the entries are then tuned into the DECA state conference next March,' [teacher Joe] Mahoney said. 'A student who has the best paper then moves on to the national tournament.' ...

"Open to junior and senior students, DECA members and officers gain valuable experience by coordinating the arrangements of and developing marketing plans for fundraising events such as the car show, school officials said."

What kind of educational components do you build into your school fundraisers?

Friday, September 28, 2007

One key to breaking through fundraising fatigue

A recent piece in the Star-Gazette amplifies one of the points in the FUNdraising manifesto posted below. How do you break through fundraising fatigue on the part of donors?

"'Tell parents why you're raising money,' says [Tim] Sullivan [president of PTO Today]. 'It's not about $2,000 or $10,000. It's about the new playground, field trips, children's first exposure to the theater or musical events. Be accountable. Show what you did with last year's money. Include pictures of smiling kids taking last year's field trip on your fundraising poster.'

"The reality is that fundraising often provides essential funds for the extras that turn schools from piles of bricks into magical places of discovery and learning and community, says Sullivan: 'When you fail to make that connection, you've got a recipe for parents getting really tired of fundraising.'"

Are you making that connection as well as you could?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A school FUNdraising manifesto

Your event just might be a FUNdraiser if it does one or more of the following things:
  • Offers an experience so compelling people would show up even if it wasn’t in support of a good cause.
  • Enhances the cultural life of the overall community.
  • Provides a service that’s both needed and desired.
  • Improves the school experience of student participants.
  • Leaves attendees with a smile and a good memory.
  • Puts a creative twist on a classic fundraising idea.
  • Showcases the school community’s unique talents.
  • Clearly explains to donors where their money will go.
  • Generates enthusiastic local media coverage.
  • Becomes a popular (and lucrative) annual happening.
  • Helps school families spend more enjoyable time together instead of burdening them with dreaded sales chores.
  • Raises the school’s positive profile among people not directly tied to the institution, thus expanding its base of support.
  • Taps into the increasing number of Web funding sources for pain-free program support.

Put the FUN back in school fundraising!

This blog is an outgrowth of my new book, FUNdraising: 50 Proven Strategies for Successful School Fundraisers. My goal with both the book and blog is to help schools and their supporters inject more fun into educational fundraising efforts.

Because here's the thing...

If you treat school fundraising as drudgery, the community will agree with you. But if you get excited about FUNdraising and maximize each event’s potential for education, outreach, and plain old good times, the buzz likely will prove infectious—while participation levels and receipts soar to new heights.

We’ve seen a backlash in recent years against the old-fashioned product sales that force parents to twist arms at the office until colleagues buy items they don’t want or need in hopes that others will return the favor when their children’s fundraisers roll around. Of course, some school sales drives remain welcome traditions in their communities—and more power to those exceptional exceptions, I say.

But where that backlash exists, it isn’t against schools, or even fundraisers. Some communities, shell-shocked by a never-ending stream of sales, have adopted an annual cash-contribution model instead. This shows that participating school families are still willing to support education; they just don’t want to be harassed in the process.

Wouldn’t it be better, though, if schools entertained and delighted those communities with their fundraisers instead of trading annoying sales for obligatory pledges?

There’s a lot of goodwill out there for schools, and they still have an important cultural-enrichment role to play in their communities. My book, and this blog, will pass along fundraising ideas everyone can get excited about.

In addition to reading along and trying out some of these ideas, you have another role here: Sharing your own school fundraising success stories, and lessons learned. Please add them into the comments section so that others in the educational community can benefit from your experiences.

Learn more about FUNdraising.

Book me as a speaker at your school or educational group.