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December 16, 2018

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Fundraising Balancing Act

by the AFRDS

Funding requests are up, income is down & running an effective fundraiser is more important than ever

The U.S. economy is in a recession, forcing parent group leaders across the country to walk a tightrope. Like everyone else these days, PTO leaders must keep a close eye on all types of spending. At the same time, school budgets continue to shrink, and parent groups are being asked to fund more projects and programs than ever before. Today, PTOs are as likely to provide additional funding for teacher salaries as field trips. Most parent groups are eager to help if possible, but it’s a delicate balancing act.

To continue fulfilling their missions, parent groups everywhere are cutting back - except when it comes to fundraising. Six out of 10 parent groups are planning to make a change this year because of economic concerns, according to a recent survey by PTO Today. Respondents say one of the most likely changes is to add at least one more fundraiser to the calendar.

It seems like an obvious solution. When money is tight, plan a few more fundraisers to refill the coffers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way in most situations, according to fundraising experts. Too many fundraisers leads to burnout. Parents and other supporters are already being tapped by the local little league, football teams, and Girl Scouts - not to mention fundraising requests coming from schools. The last thing your group wants to do is create more noise in the fundraising traffic jam.

“The more fundraisers you do, the less participation you get in every one,” said Ryan Cady, a fundraising professional in Florida. “Schools and communities would be better off if parent groups ran fewer fundraisers with better participation.” Cady recommends parent groups focus on the fundraisers that earn the most money, while limiting time-commitment from volunteers.

Larry Grau, PTO president at an Indianapolis middle school agrees with that philosophy. “We have fewer volunteers than ever before, so we have to get the most bang for our buck by ‘streamlining’ our fundraising efforts,” he said. Grau’s group conducts a product sale in the fall and a walk-a-thon event in the spring.

Fortunately, Americans continue to be strong supporters of school fundraising programs despite the weak economy. Eight out of 10 Americans support at least one school fundraiser each year by purchasing foods, gifts, gift wrap, magazine subscriptions and other products, according to the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers (AFRDS).

Raising money is always a challenge. It’s even tougher during an economic recession. Parent group leaders must resist the temptation to plan more fundraisers, and instead focus on those programs that yield the best results. For more tips on planning next year’s fundraising schedule visit

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About the Author:

This article is from the Spring 2009 issue of the Fundraising Edge, an online publication of the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers and is reprinted with permission. Visit their web site at for more information and a look at the complete issues of the Fundraising Edge.

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