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Engaging the Community: 3 Strategies for School Fundraising

Engaging the Community: 3 Strategies for School Fundraising




October 31, 2023

Last modified: 

October 31, 2023

As a school administrator or fundraising coordinator, you know the importance of carefully planning and executing school fundraisers. After all, the supplementary revenue from these campaigns allows you to enrich students’ educational experiences in various ways, from upgrading the school’s technology to purchasing new sports equipment for physical education classes.

The key to effective school fundraising is getting your whole community involved in campaigns they’ll enjoy participating in. Chances are there are more people than you’d think who are invested in your students’ academic success—you just need to provide them with appealing opportunities to support your school.

In this guide, we’ll walk through three strategies for engaging your community in your school fundraisers, including how to:

  1. Understand Your Audiences
  2. Diversify Your Fundraising Methods
  3. Promote Your Fundraisers Through Multiple Channels

As you apply these tips to your school’s campaigns, make sure that your offline and online fundraising efforts align. Each type has different advantages—for instance, digital campaigns are often more convenient to participate in, while traditional fundraisers can make it easier to form individual connections with supporters. Keep this in mind when building out your fundraising calendar to maximize the benefits to your school. Let’s dive in!

1. Understand Your Audiences

The first step in planning a school fundraiser that will excite your community is to know who your target audiences are. That’s right, audiences—there are several different groups of people you’ll need to engage in your campaigns, including:

  • Faculty and staff, to ensure that their needs and desires are taken into account as you plan fundraising initiatives and allocate the revenue generated from them.
  • Parents and other family members, since this group is likely to be the most interested in improving their children’s education.
  • Your school's alumni, who have likely reflected on their time as students and may want to help enhance the experience for those who come after them.
  • Current students, as they’re the ones who will benefit most directly from your fundraising efforts.

Each group’s involvement in your fundraisers will vary depending on your students’ education level. For example, parents will often take a more active role in elementary school fundraisers, while alumni are more likely to participate in higher education campaigns. However, you should still consider all of these groups because together they constitute the bulk of your school’s community.

2. Diversify Your Fundraising Methods

Many schools rely on the same few fundraisers year after year. While having some tried-and-true ideas in your toolbox can be useful for planning purposes, diversifying your fundraising methods can spark new interest in your campaigns. Plus, having multiple revenue streams is more financially sustainable—your school will be in a better position to fund its initiatives even if some costs are higher than expected or a revenue source falls through.

Some new campaigns to consider adding to your school’s fundraising strategy include:

  • Online shopping fundraisers - This type of campaign allows community members to contribute to your school simply by making everyday purchases at participating online retailers. You may have heard of AmazonSmile before its 2023 discontinuation, and there are alternative fundraising platforms your school can still use that function similarly to the Smile program but provide even more flexibility and higher commission rates.
  • Gift card fundraising - This method involves supporters buying gift cards to their favorite businesses where a portion of the proceeds go back to your school. ShopRaise’s gift card fundraising guide recommends partnering with a platform that offers a variety of digital gift cards, as this provides supporters with a wide range of options and makes the gift cards easy to distribute via email.
  • Crowdfunding - Crowdfunding campaigns are great for funding specific projects that can benefit from many small donations, and their social sharing ability encourages donors to get their friends and family involved. Make sure your fundraiser has a defined goal and time frame to create a sense of urgency around contributing.
  • Events - Whether they’re held in-person or virtually, fundraising events bring your school’s community together around a common cause. There are also many types of events that work well for schools, from auctions to walk-a-thons to family movie nights, so choose one that resonates with your supporter base.

No matter what fundraising methods you try at your school, collect participation data and ask for supporters’ feedback on each one. Then, use this information to determine which fundraisers are most popular among your community so you can focus on those methods going forward.

3. Promote Your Fundraisers Through Multiple Channels

Use a multi-channel marketing strategy to spread the word about all of your school fundraisers. Leveraging several communication methods creates multiple opportunities for community members to learn about your fundraiser, which in turn can lead to increased involvement.

Here are some popular marketing channels that you could use to promote your school’s fundraisers:

  • Your website - When community members want in-depth information about your school’s activities, they’ll likely turn to your website. Create a dedicated fundraising page that includes a calendar of all of the campaigns you’re planning for the current academic year and descriptions of each of your fundraisers. Also, include links to signup forms, landing pages, or other materials necessary to participate.
  • Email marketing - If your school sends out a weekly or monthly newsletter, add a “Fundraising” section to each issue. Additionally, send out individualized email blasts to each of your major mailing lists: parents and guardians, alumni, faculty, and staff.
  • Social media - Your school’s social media accounts are a great way to keep the community up to date on current fundraising initiatives. Make sure to tailor your content to each platform for maximum engagement. For example, you might turn a text-based Facebook post into a series of infographics for Instagram and a short explainer video for TikTok.
  • Flyers - Consider supplementing your digital communications with print marketing materials like fundraising flyers to increase awareness of your campaigns. Hang flyers around the school building in places where students and parents are likely to see them, such as the front lobby and the cafeteria, and send a copy home with each student. To connect your online and offline efforts, include a QR code to your signup form or landing page.

Similarly to your campaigns themselves, collect and analyze data on each of your marketing methods to see which ones are most effective at reaching your community. That way, you can put more time and resources into the channels that convert more supporters.

Keep in mind that every school is unique, so the fundraising and marketing methods that best engage your community might be different from other schools in your area. But with the right tools and a strong understanding of your school’s target audiences, you can develop a fundraising strategy that generates both excitement and reliable revenue.

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