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12 Strategies for Overcoming Fundraising Fatigue
“Fundaising Fatigue” is a term that has emerged in recent years to refer to the feeling that individuals are being asked to make charitable donations to too many organizations too often. This became particularly relevant after the relief effort of the Tsunami in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. So many people contributed to these two emergency needs, which I suppose took the money available from local causes.
It is possible that you may have encountered this disease before in your organization, or you may have even felt symptoms of it yourself. However, as committed members of our schools’ fundraising teams, we must overcome this situation to bring in the money the school needs.
The following is a list of twelve strategies that you can use in your school to combat any case of fundraising fatigue that arises.
1. Check your community calendar. Before committing to a fundraising schedule, do your homework and look for any other fundraisers that target your school families – football, little league baseball, or even a church fundraiser. In larger cities, it can be very difficult to find a completely open time, since there are so many organizations, but it is wise to try to select a window during which you are not in conflict with the events that put your people in a tough financial situation. situation Don’t assume you’ll be every family’s top donation priority.
2. Make a good plan with your school counselor. During your planning process with the school counselor, evaluate what you have done in the past. What worked, what didn’t? Eliminate or avoid events that have little return on your investment of time and money. Brainstorm with your board all the possible obstacles that may arise to throw your plan off course. It is important to really design a strong, confident and well thought out plan in this first phase. As I will discuss later, it is not pleasant to have to return to the table in the middle of the year.
3. Make events fun, not a burden. Remember that people like to have fun and try new things. If you find yourself doing the same old event or sale year after year, think about finding something new. There are dozens of quality fundraising ideas out there. Make sure you don’t fall into a rut, or else your organization might too.
4. Communicate with teaching staff, so they know what’s going on. Since teachers are often the front line in school life, including fundraisers, we need to make sure we have “buy in” from them. An enthusiastic teacher, getting kids in the classroom is one of the best ways to ensure a successful fundraiser. However, if teachers have no idea what event is coming up next or when it is or how long it will last, they won’t be too eager to carve out time in their day to make the basic sales pitch we need. Make them an important part of the process.
5. Communicate with parents and set the entire school year fundraising schedule for them. I have always been a big believer in wide open communication. The more you can share with your community, the better. Like teachers, parents need to understand the “big picture” of the year’s fundraisers. Consider writing a homecoming letter well in advance of the school year. This letter should contain the general financial needs of the school and the specific plans you propose to meet these needs. I find that I get the best response from parents when I give them a map and an itinerary.
6. Consider targeting different groups for different events. It is possible that you have different subgroups in your school community. For example, you may have a strong presence of seniors, whom you can approach for an auction or a dinner event. That would leave your current school families ready for a big produce sale or carnival. Another subgroup would be the relatives of your school families who live outside the city and who might be willing to make a donation, just because of family ties. Of course, you should never exclude a group from participating in any event, but through your marketing efforts, you can establish a clear theme for each specific function.
7. Give companies time to prepare. If you will be looking for financial contributions or donated goods from local businesses, it is wise to send them a letter, letting them know well in advance that you will be coming to ask for support. This will allow them enough time to arrange a check or maybe even set something aside for your visit. This also removes the awkwardness of a cold calling situation.
8. Distribute your volunteers. If your school hosts several fundraisers throughout the year, make sure you don’t go back to the same group of people to manage each event. This type of work can be very taxing, and if you overload them, you risk burning out valuable people and losing future events. You should always be on the lookout for new sources of volunteer help.
9. Be very specific about why the funds are needed and how they will be used. Unfortunately, there have been numerous situations in the news recently of non-profit organizations, including schools, mis-using funds collected by their supporters. There is no faster way to lose the support of donors than not to put the money collected to the use that you have specified before. In addition to the front-loading of this information, I also suggest calling attention publicly to the results of the fundraising, once you have it in place. If you are only collecting money for the general operation of the operation, be open about it, because there are no questions later.
10. Stick to the plan. As I mentioned above, I think it’s wise to set your fundraising plan well in advance. However, many things can happen during the course of the school year, and you may be tempted to deviate from your original plan several months down the road. Unless it is an absolute emergency, I would be careful to change the plan that you have arranged for the parents. Changing course mid-stream, if not done for very serious reasons, can send a message to your community that you are not good planners and could cause resentment, leading to reluctance to participate. That said, if your roof suddenly fails and you need money for a new roof, I think you can explain this.
11. Continue your communication with parents every step of the way. Just because you send that initial letter, I still think it’s important to keep parents updated on your fundraising progress throughout the year. Let them know how close you are to reaching your goals, how the volunteer press looks, and what’s on the next schedule. Use these opportunities to continue selling the vision you initially set out. You can do this in a school newsletter, on the school website, at PTO meetings, and in letters sent home to all families. However you choose to do it, don’t let parents forget about the real-world needs of their children’s school.
12. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Maybe it’s just me, but remembering to thank volunteers is always something I have to be very conscious of doing. Maybe it’s because we all rolled up our sleeves, and we all worked so hard, that when we finished, we just heaved a sigh of relief and started preparing for the next campaign. Don’t fall for it! Make sure your volunteers know how much you appreciate them and how important they are to the overall school. And, don’t wait for the event to be over to say thank you. Use “thank you” as encouragement during the grutzy things – decorating the gym, making phone calls in the evening, or stuffing envelopes full of invitations to the auction. A sincere expression of gratitude can do wonders for morale.
While some “patients” may be too long in the “disease” of fundraising fatigue and none of the above remedies will cure them, I think that if you follow these strategies, you will be well on your way to keep your community fired . for your tuition and keep those dollars coming.
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