Wednesday, October 10, 2007

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...

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