A School Fundraiser’s Guide to Engaging Your Community
As a school fundraising professional, organizing an engaging campaign for your local community is not just a goal but a priority. After all, in order to raise as much money and awareness as possible for your school’s campaigns, you need to find a way to get the eyes and ears of community members directed towards your fundraiser.
Of course, that’s easier said than done, and there are many moving parts to consider in order to host an engaging, lucrative fundraiser that resonates with your community. That’s precisely why we’ll be walking through powerful fundraising ideas, tips, and best practices to help your fundraising team host the perfect campaign. In this short guide, we’ll cover:
From online school fundraising tips to marketing essentials, these insights will help you to host more engaging, impactful, and successful school fundraising campaigns to catch the attention of your community.
3 Engaging School Fundraising Ideas
Before we dive into tips and tricks for managing your campaign, let’s take a look at three engaging school fundraising ideas that can give your fundraising team an immediate advantage.
1. Read-a-thon Fundraisers
Read-a-thons are one of the world’s fastest-growing school fundraisers, and for good reason. While many schools tend to fall back on familiar product fundraisers, which call on students and their families to sell items on behalf of their schools, read-a-thon fundraisers offer a far easier, richer, and more educational fundraising experience.
Read-a-thons are a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign where students read, log their hours, and collect donations from friends, family, and community members in support of their progress. That’s all! Read-a-thons are not only incredibly easy to participate in, but they nurture student literacy and give your community a valuable, educational campaign to rally behind.
For best results, we recommend investing in a dedicated read-a-thon fundraising platform. This enables teachers to set up their campaigns quickly, students to log their hours and ask for donations easily, and community members and other supporters to submit their gifts in a few simple clicks.
2. Crowdfunding Campaigns
If you’re looking for a simple, virtual fundraising campaign that your community can easily participate in, then crowdfunding may just be your best bet.
Crowdfunding is a type of campaign where your fundraising team organizes an online donation page and collects many small donations from a large audience. This allows people around your local community and beyond to easily chip in any amount that they’re able to, all from the comfort of their own homes and even from their mobile devices.
The key to hosting a successful crowdfunding campaign and maximizing engagement is to keep building momentum for your fundraiser through consistent communication and marketing. For example, by sharing regular campaign updates and using social media to promote your fundraiser, you can ensure that as many community members as possible contribute to your campaign and share it with friends and family.
3. Community Fairs
Community celebrations are a great way to bring people together to have fun, socialize, and raise money for your school. While hosting an event can be a bit of an investment upfront, it will pay back dividends when it comes to raising money and brand awareness for your cause in your local community.
A few popular community fair ideas to consider include:
- Fall festival
- Winter holiday party
- Summer carnival
- Music festival
You can sell tickets for attendees to enter the event, or you might have attendees purchase tickets to enjoy specific booths, games, or experiences within the event. Additionally, you can boost your fair’s fundraising potential by selling concessions and branded merchandise.
Top Tips to Host More Engaging School Fundraisers
Now that you have a few ideas to experiment with and add to your school’s fundraising calendar, let’s examine some key tips and tools to better engage your local community!
Use multichannel marketing
Multichannel marketing is an essential marketing strategy for schools, nonprofits, and other fundraising teams. This is the practice of using multiple communication channels to promote your organization and its initiatives. In particular, pay attention to these marketing channels:
- Your website
- Social media
- Email marketing
- Text and SMS
- Print media
This creates multiple touchpoints for you to entertain, inspire, and otherwise engage community members, drawing them into your campaign on their preferred channels. Additionally, be sure to use these channels before, during, and after your campaigns to share content and maintain your supporters’ attention from the beginning to the end of your fundraiser.
Offer fundraising prizes
Fundraising prizes are a great way to engage more supporters and incentivize participation, especially when you’re dealing with young children and teens who may not understand your campaign’s importance.
For instance, Read-a-thon’s article on school fundraiser prizes offers these ideas:
- Toys and puzzles
- End-of-campaign parties
- Group experience tickets
- Gift cards
Be sure to offer a variety of different fundraising prizes that range in value from small rewards for participation to high-value incentives that will motivate community members to really pitch into your campaign.
Utilize corporate sponsorships
Corporate sponsorships are a powerful tool to spread the word about your fundraising efforts, organize more impactful events and campaigns, and effectively engage your community. According to Double the Donation’s guide to corporate sponsorships, these initiatives are the steps that businesses take to help charitable causes fund an event or specific project, such as:
- Financial sponsorships—the monetary donations to sponsor an event or program
- In-kind sponsorships—the donation of goods, services, or experiences to a specific campaign or project
- Media sponsorships—the covering of the costs for event marketing, such as radio promotions or TV ads
Reach out to local businesses in your community to petition for their support. Be sure to argue that lending a hand in your fundraising campaign can increase brand awareness and improve public opinion for the business. Emphasize how their customers will appreciate the company’s efforts to give back to the community.
Collect feedback from community members
If you’re searching for more effective ways to engage your community members, then why not go right to the source and reach out to the community members themselves? For example, you might:
- Conduct a survey before your campaign to gauge opinions on what kind of events or campaigns people would be interested in.
- Track donor data during your fundraising campaigns to understand how community members are engaging with you, what channels they’re using, and your fundraiser’s performance.
- Send out post-event or post-campaign surveys to get feedback on what your supporters liked, what they didn’t like, and how you can improve for your next fundraiser.
Getting a better understanding of your supporters’ tastes, opinions, and how they are engaging with your campaigns can help you create fundraisers that are better equipped to engage them.
Your school’s main fundraising goals are simple: to generate revenue for your programs and projects and to engage your supporters effectively. Yet the challenges to meet these goals are anything but easy, and it will take careful planning, dutiful management, and great fundraising ideas to overcome them.
However, with these insights, you should be in a far better spot to raise more, engage your community, and carry out more successful campaigns on behalf of your school!
About the Author: Howard Gottlieb, Founder and CEO, Read-a-thon Fundraising Company
Howard Gottlieb has been a serial entrepreneur for more than 35 years. His latest venture, Read-a-thon, is a novel school fundraising concept that truly shifts the paradigm when it matters most. Read-a-thon replaces in-person bake sales, magazine drives and the like with a contactless method of raising much needed cash, one that can be used both in real classrooms and virtual learning spaces. The real bonus? It promotes literacy and gets kids excited about picking up a book.
Gottlieb has made Read-a-thon the fastest growing school fundraising platform in the country. It provides a no-upfront-cost way for schools to monetize a two-week reading push. To date, schools have collectively raised more than $100 million dollars, and kids, who get to choose their own reading material, have logged two billion reading minutes and counting through the program.
Prior to establishing Read-a-thon, Gottlieb was President and Founder of Easy Fundraising Ideas, which he established in 2002 during the early years of the web. During his time there, he developed strong skillsets in search engine and conversion optimization, and EFI became the busiest product fundraising site in the U.S. In addition, Gottlieb was always searching for innovative ways to impact the fundraising industry. He acquired the Read-a-thon domain and spent two years developing the idea before launching it six seasons ago. The concept got so much traction that he decided to sell Easy Fundraising and devote all his energy to Read-a-thon.
Before his deep dive into the fundraising industry, Gottlieb started, grew and/or revived a number of companies. He took Athletic Attic from three stores to fifteen, making it the largest independent athletic footwear retailer in Texas. He also turned around Adair Manufacturing, a virtually bankrupt fabricator of restaurant and kitchen equipment, bringing in Chili’s and Applebee’s as new customers. Under Gottlieb, the Spacer Company became the largest manufacturer of close tolerance spacers and bushings.
Gottlieb is a native of New York City who grew up in New Jersey and attended Stockton State College near Atlantic City. There, he also worked as a copy boy and sports reporter for the Atlantic City Press. He later moved to Arlington, TX and completed his degree at Stockton State College. His first job in business was as an assistant corporate sales manager with Classic Chemical.
Gottlieb now resides in Arlington, Texas where he founded BAGS ministry, a charitable organization that distributes essential items such as toiletries and healthy snacks to the area’s homeless population. He also serves as deacon at Christ Chapel Bible Church.
Gottlieb plays competitive racquetball and walks four to six miles to work everyday. Most of all, he enjoys spending time with his wife, adopted daughter, two grown sons and six grandchildren.