Fundraising for Small Groups Newsletter

A free newsletter with fundraising ideas, tips, and secrets for the small nonprofit fundraiser

November 21, 2018

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Article Archive

Promotional Products and School Branding by Chris Ellis

When making purchasing decisions for the school year, pretty much anything a school will buy could also bear the school's mascot, but frequently won't. The unfortunate fact is that there are a number of schools that do not factor in branding when they are planning their annual budgets, when they really should. Those schools might simply not realize that the industry has more than your typical pompoms and jerseys that they can imprint a school mascot on. Not to mention some schools might not even see the benefit of maintaining their brand.

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Are School Bans on Food Fundraisers Appropriate? by Jennifer Lawton

One of the hot topics in schools for the past few years has been nutrition and the foods that are available at school. Parents want to know that their kids have nutritious foods available in the cafeteria.

Even when there are healthy foods there for lunch, will the students eat that or the junk from snack machines? That led to restrictions on soft drinks and snack machines in many schools.

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Creating and Using Fundraising Flyers by Deane Brengle

It doesn't matter if you're selling candy bars as a fundraiser or holding a fundraising auction. Most nonprofit groups will find that using a flyer as a promotional tool for your fundraiser will significantly boost your bottom line. The use of fundraising flyers can play an important roll in reaching your fundraiser's goal.

A fundraising flyer will increase your community's awareness about your fundraiser and help pre-sell it. It's advertising pure and simple. And everyone knows, "If you don't advertise a terrible thing happens - Nothing!"

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Foundations Don't Fund General Operating Costs - Or Do They? by Pamela Grow

Do you still believe that tired old legend about how difficult it is to find foundations that support general operating expenses?

It's one of the grant writing myths that even I bought into. Why not? The foundation that I worked for for a number of years generally dissuaded grant seekers from applying for general operating expenses, preferring to fund specific programs and capital. Foundation trends did, for a number of years, steer away from funding organization general operating expenses.

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Successful Fundraisers - Money isn't Everything by Kristina Ewing

What makes for a great and successful fundraiser? Raising a lot of money, right?

Money is just the tip of the fundraising iceberg.

Raising money is obviously a goal when fundraising, it is the very definition of it. But you also need to look at the bigger picture. The majority of things that we fundraise for - whether it be a good cause, a charity, or a school - fundraise yearly or more often depending on their need or type of fundraisers being used. If you are planning to have more than a one time fundraiser, then you are essentially joining the fundraising business.

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The Three Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Planned Giving & Endowment Program by Lorri Greif

Naturally, we want to avoid all mistakes when planning something as important as a Planned Giving or an Endowment program, not just the three biggest. However, no one is perfect and it's understood that mistakes can and do happen. But, while not every mistake guarantees failure ... these three do.

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Fundraising - Sponsorship vs Partnership by Kisha Mays

Everyone is so focused on fundraising with "Sponsorships" these days. In the past sponsorship has been generally about sponsoring special events and fundraisers. It was quite possible for an organization to ask corporate sponsors for money several times during a one year period, therefore lowering their chances of getting the funds they needed.

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Prevent Fundraising Fatigue by the AFRDS

As a school principal or PTA/PTO president, you are probably familiar with the phrase "fundraising fatigue." You may have even felt it yourself. Everybody seems to be fundraising these days and as a result, some families are tuning out and no longer supporting all of these programs. As a fundraising decision maker you have an opportunity to turn back this trend of apathy and pump new energy into your school's fundraising efforts.

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The Most Powerful Marketing Copy in the World – Testimonials by Nancy Schwartz

You've seen testimonials for every type of product and service imaginable. A testimonial is a brief quote from a member of your audience – donor, volunteer, client, member or community stakeholder – summarizing how your organization has benefited him or her.

Nothing you can say or write has as much impact as comments from your audience, to your audience. Yet, I continue to be surprised at how many nonprofits don't put testimonials to work.

Take a look at these examples, drawn from nonprofit websites and brochure:

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Add Signature Files To Your 501c3 Emails For More Donations by Ian Robert Anderson

I'm sure you've seen them before. When a friend or business contact sends you an email, there's a line of text at the bottom that offers an address, slogan, phone number, or website address. Some even include your friend's business title or department. These tidbits of text are called "signatures" and they're controlled by signature files in your email program. You can easily set up a signature file which will give your official correspondences a professional feel (all while advertising your company or service!).

Think of "sig" files as free nonprofit advertising and your charity business cards rolled into one. Do you keep tabs on your nonprofits dealings through email? Do you stay in touch with donors and vendors, or notify people of charitable events and fundraising drives? If you do any regular emailing (even if it's just to your nonprofit contacts and family members), adding a sig line will give you instant advertising and identity branding. Every time someone receives an email from you, they'll know exactly who you are, where you're from, and what your 501c3's name is.

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Product Fundraising in the Workplace vs. Office Etiquette by Deane Brengle

A recent phone call from a Los Angeles Times reporter for some back ground information (yeah, I was kind of amazed too) got me thinking on this subject. But given the time of year it's relevant to think about and go over some of the issues involved.

Product fundraising always takes a hit in the media at this time of year. I don't know why but I always seem to hear Michelle Singletary's yearly rant about school fundraising.

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The Fundraising Letter PS: 25 Powerful Things To Say There by Alan Sharpe

Donors read postscripts. This is a sad but important reality in fundraising. Sad because the PS is stupid and belongs in another millennium. In this age of word processors, no one needs to add a PS anymore. But important because a donor reading a PS is a donor looking for information. And that’s your opportunity.

According to direct mail consultant Allyn Kramer, there are five “hot spots” in your direct mail packages where readers look first. Here they are, in order:

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Keeping Your Constituents Attention by Deane Brengle

Sometimes my best ideas aren't even mine. I just discover them and tell you about them.

My wife and I are invited to a Halloween costume party. Being the frugal consumers we are we were shopping for the pieces and parts of our costumes at our local Goodwill retail store. You know the place - they take all their donated items, spruce them up a bit, and offer them for sale to fund their career training and employment programs. As usual we found some very good bargains.

The "discovered idea" part came at the check-out counter. The clerk slipped something in the bag just before she handed it to us.

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The 5 Biggest Fundraising Mistakes by Jayson Krause

Trust me, there are dozens of little mistakes people make when they are fundraising - and each one of them takes away from the overall amount of money raised. Since we are in the business of raising as much money as possible for a cause or goal, then we need to make sure that we limit the mistakes (no matter how hard we try, they are going to happen) so we can maximize our fundraising.

Here are the 5 biggest mistakes I think fundraisers make:

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Who Should Ask for the Money? by Tony Poderis

Solicitor to Prospect Matches

Not just anyone should ask just any donor for money. Ideally, prospective donors should be asked to give by someone likely to have a high degree of influence over them. The key here is to choose a solicitor whom the prospect respects. Qualities to look for are:

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Your Nonprofit Website "About Us" Page - Why It's Important by Ian Robert Anderson

All nonprofits know - reputation and presence is everything! An "About Us" page on your charity website builds much needed presence and establishes your organizations identity, with a minimal amount of effort on your part. "About Us" pages show your potential donors who you are, why you exist, and how you plan to achieve your nonprofit mission, and they're a positive step toward building a trustworthy charity brand.

People like contributing to nonprofit organizations they know. This is the same whether they're donating locally or on a national level. They feel comfortable knowing ...

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Four Keys to Better Nonprofit Fundraising Results by Kimberly Reynolds

Non-profit fundraising is all about multiple streams of income, so how do you make more money for your organization?

Simple. When you put together your annual plan, you need to include as many ways to raise money as possible.

So, you're probably thinking: "That's easy for you to say, but how exactly do I go about it?" Easy! You just have to ....

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Choose a Theme for Your Next Fundraiser by Vicki Blaze

Put together a comprehensive fundraising event plan and entertain your guests by choosing a theme for your next fundraiser. Give your fundraiser direction and life all at the same time.

A theme is a unifying subject or idea. It will provide a basis to plan all of your event details under one umbrella ...

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Almost Famous - How a "Celebrity" Can Help Your Charitable Cause by Jennifer Lawton

Seems like these days every celebrity is promoting a charitable cause. Celebrities are even partnering together on projects like the ONE Campaign and American Idol Gives Back.

While celebrities promoting charities might look like a new trend, it’s really something that many groups have done for years. From large to small groups, many causes can benefit from having a well known person as a champion for the cause.

Now when you hear the word “celebrity” you might think of movie stars or singers…

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Tap Into Your Network For Fundraising by Jayson Krause

The one thing I always tell people looking for fundraising advice is: look to your own network before you start looking beyond it. It is probably one of the most valuable lessons I learned as I built a fundraising strategy that netted me $50,000 every year - and with a skeleton crew at that!

What's a network, you ask? It's all of those people who you are in contact with on a regular or semi-regular basis. This can be friends, family, colleagues, business acquaintances, and even casual acquaintances, too - like friends of friends. If you draw lines to connect each of these people - you all of a sudden have a massive network that you can tap into for fundraising support. I think this is the first place you should start.

So, what are the reasons the people in your sphere of influence are the most important for fundraising?

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Fundraising and Today's Busy Teacher by Doug Nash

The demands on today’s teachers are greater than they have ever been. Not only do they have to teach but they are also expected to do more reporting and support extra curricula activities. By the time they do all they have to as teachers and individuals they don’t have a much time leftover for other demands on their time and so fundraising is not high on their list of priorities. More and more the amount of personal funds that teachers spend in their classrooms so they can meet the needs of their students is significant. This seems to be an accepted fact of life by a lot of teachers and this adds to their frustration.

All of us have to deal with a lack of time and money at different times and teachers are no different. This is where a well organized fundraising effort can have a huge impact on the learning experience of our children and help teachers do their job better. The key is getting to the teachers early in the process, keeping their time investment to a minimum and making sure they see a tangible and personally relevant reward.

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Want to get your organization noticed? Create Your Own Holiday! by Heidi Richards

Planning special events can be a cornerstone of your marketing program. Small business owners should and can be excellent hosts of special events. Typically events are created to showcase the product and services a business offers. Designed to attract attention, educate potential attendees, and supporters and the media, special events generally focus on a specific purpose with specific outcomes.

A special event can include a one-time event such as the launch of a new product/service or a grand opening; they can include ongoing events such as party or fundraising partnership or to announce a special occasion such as an open house or holiday, which is the focus of this article.

When marketing a holiday you can capitalize on ones that already exist or you can "invent" your own the way the founders of the WECAI Network™ did when Virtual Woman's Day™ was created. Like many other holidays on the calendar, Virtual Woman's Day™ was born from an idea to honor an existing holiday - Women's History Month - and making it unique to the organization. The founders of the organization wanted to encourage women to learn more about Women's history and also connect with women around the globe which was the impetus to create Virtual Woman's Day™.

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Training Tomorrow’s Leaders Today by the AFRDS

As an outgoing PTA or PTO president, it’s important to get your successor up to speed. Smooth leadership transitions are critical to the continued success of your group. Unfortunately, not every group properly prepares its future leaders. Celeste Tienken, who helped with fundraising at her children’s middle school, remembers taking over a position once when her predecessor, who was moving, met her at a nursery to hand off the materials.

“That’s all I had,” Tienken said. “It’s more ideal to work with someone for a year before taking over.”

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Wish List Fundraiser by Deane Brengle

"Wish list fundraiser" could be considered to be a misnomer. When you create a wish list for your nonprofit group and receive a contribution from it, have you created a new fundraising source or saved yourself from spending your hard earned fundraising dollars? Actually ... you've done both!

Wish lists are not unheard of within the fundraising community. They are, however, an under utilized resource available to all nonprofit organizations no matter what the size.

A wish list establishes the various needs of your organization. Depending on your group's needs it could consist of anything from pens and paper to office space to auction items to professional services. Your wish list is only limited by your imagination!

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Low Impact Fundraising by Deane Brengle

So, just what is low impact fundraising?

A little story first which will meander its way to answering the question above.

I'm reaching the age where I'm becoming more aware of the impact of everything I do. For instance, I've taken up a new sport called geocaching. I won't go into all the techno babble of how it works but instead tell you it gets me outdoors and into nature quite a bit which is just what I need.

But I've also noticed that while I benefit from tromping around out in the wilds, Mother Nature takes a hit when I do. Tender plants get trampled, new trails get created, and sand dunes get eroded.

Now don't worry, I'm not going all tree hugger on you! But I am becoming more careful in how I impact nature when I pursue my new sport.

Just as I am becoming more careful when I think about recommending that you add more fundraisers to your existing fundraising plan. I'm worried about the impact those new fundraisers will have on you and your membership.

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General Selling Tips for Fundraising by Chip and Ralfie Blasius

These fundamental, time-tested tips will help you and your group sell your fundraisers more effectively. They are designed to help the first-time salesperson get up to speed as well as serve as refreshers for the lifetime adult professional. Read and think about each point before you go out to sell.

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Fundraising Run Smoothly by Heidi Richards

Want your next fundraiser to run more smoothly? Here are ten tips to help you create a successful marketing plan.

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School Fundraising by Kimberly Reynolds

"Do I repeat last year's fundraiser or try something new?"

That, in a nutshell, is the question we all face. It can be a tough choice between sticking with an easier repeat or taking a chance on a new fundraiser that might end up being more work and could quite possibly produce less profit.

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But I Don't Know Ayone Who Has Money by Andy Robinson

Almost a decade ago, after several positions with a variety of grassroots groups, I left a steady job to start a consulting practice.

Financially speaking, I leapt into the void. My wife was working at the time, finishing up a long career as a Montessori preschool teacher - another highly paid profession. The two of us, working full-time, had a combined income of about $35,000, which I guess landed us somewhere in the middle class.

We gave away money: $25 to one group, $50 to another, sometimes as much as $100. At the end of the year I added up our donations and discovered we had contributed a total of $2,500. That startled me. I added the numbers twice, because I didn't believe it.

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10 Ways to Put Fun in Your Fundraiser by Kimberly Reynolds

1. Make it fun every step of the way

Fun is part of fundraising. Don't make it drudgery to be a volunteer or a participant. Remember that they're giving up their free time to help. Plan fun things to do during each stage of the process that reward everyone.

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Hitting the Wall by Patrick Mc Erlean

More than 90% of all community fundraisers today are experiencing significant levels of frustration. Maybe you're one of them? Most would cite the apparent apathy of the local community as the root cause of their problems.

Community organizations are a subset of nonprofits, which are geographically confined to a particular local community. Organizations such as, sports teams, school groups, church groups, youth groups and community support groups are all examples of community organizations. The most common comments from community fundraisers are: "No-one comes forward to volunteer for our organization anymore" and "Our community is very slow to support our fundraising efforts; many just don't bother".

It may come as a surprise to you to learn that the source of the apathy is rarely the community. In most cases the source of the apathy is the community fundraiser! That may seem like a controversial statement, but nonetheless it's true. Understanding why, it is the key to your fundraising success.

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Fundraising Fundamentals by Kimberly Reynolds

Two things you have to do with every fundraiser:

  1. Increase community awareness of your need
  2. Increase community awareness of your offering

Everybody reading this instantly thinks, "Yeah, we've got that covered. Everybody in our group knows what we're doing."

Let's take a closer look and see, shall we?

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Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmatic: Lessons Found in Fundraising by the AFRDS

When fourth and fifth graders from a Florida elementary school wanted to raise money for a Christmas charity project, their teacher saw it as an opportunity to illustrate real life lessons in citizenship and business management.

Armed with cardboard boxes carrying ornaments, gifts and baked goods, Bill Snydor's 22 students went to each classroom in the school to sell their homemade wares, making change, keeping track of inventory and recording their progress daily on a chart of expenses, sales and profits. In two weeks, the Broward County students sold 1,700 items earning $1,200 for the Kids in Distress program.

On the other side of the country, California teachers Bonnie McKenna and Sue DeHart shared a dream for a living science lab. So, with the support of their principal, they teamed up to create a student-run business on campus selling giant cookies one day a week after lunch.

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Why Nonprofits Don't Raise More Funds by Rex Rogers

"Cash is King," they say. Sooner or later, nonprofit organizations need to raise funds because funds are the lifeblood of their existence and ability to fulfill their missions. On this much we probably agree.

And we have been blessed. How can we complain when in 2007 Americans gave a record $311 billion to nonprofit causes? Charitable giving in 2008 will likely be higher. It's a wonderful record of generosity unequaled by any other country in the world.

But still, we all know too many nonprofit organizations struggling along on shoe-string finances. So the question is, in a nation so wealthy and so demonstrably caring why don't nonprofits raise more funds?

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A Fundraising Success Story: Lessons Learned by Robert Zimmerman and Ann Lehman

There is so much gloom-and-doom news every day about fundraising that ZimNotes decided to tell a success story about a preschool. There are lessons here for everyone.

When we started working with a wonderful preschool in Berkeley, California, called Step One School, we asked them about their fundraising methods (other than tuition) and discovered that the school's main activity was a dinner with an auction. This event required countless staff and volunteer hours (the school had no development director; the co-directors did all of the staff fundraising work), and netted a pittance. Occasionally a board member would send a friendly holiday letter that would garner a few donations. No follow-up, no tracking of donors, and an event that grew more burdensome each year, burning out many folks along the way.

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Marketing the Charity Auction Fundraiser by Seth Godin

How much would you pay for a twenty dollar bill?

In tough times, many schools and non-profits rely on charity fundraisers, and a popular one is the auction. The method is simple: supporters donate things, and then they're auctioned off, with all proceeds going to charity.

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Why Don't More Businesses Help Out Non-Profits by Lance Winslow

The other day at a Chamber of Commerce meeting at the "Enclave Apartments" myself and several other Coachella Valley community business owners were talking in a group about how each of us believed that giving back to the community was the right thing to do. Indeed, I was humbled as each member of the group explained what they were doing to keep our community strong. One person asked why more businesses do not help out non-profits in our community.

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Key Axioms to Remember in Fundraising by Jeff Groenewald

17 Key Principles to Raising Funds in the Non Profit World.

  1. People give to what they understand. Make it simple and understandable.

  2. You cannot give what you do not possess. Look for people that have resources.

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Silly Fundraisers Can Raise Serious Money by Howard Gottlieb

Fundraising should be fun, right? Well, why is it that people would rather have teeth pulled than participate in another fundraiser? What the world needs is more silly fundraisers to make fundraising fun again.

So how do you hold silly fundraisers?

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Green Fundraising: An Eco-friendly Fundraiser by Deane Brengle

Ten years ago if you told someone that you were doing a green fundraiser they would have given you a vacant look. "Green Awareness" and the "Green Movement" had yet to be coined as everyday terms.

Today, pretty much everyone knows what going green means. Most corporations, manufacturers, and businesses are racing to produce earth friendly products, use recycled materials, or develop production methods that don't harm the environment. So it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that pretty soon it would trickle down to school fundraising.

Ron Brandow, of, says, "Many of our current fundraisers and groups were expressing an interest in renewable products and green fundraisers. We could see the market need".

Green fundraising isn’t as difficult as you might imagine, there are a number of things that you can do and sell to make your fundraising environmentally friendly.

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Reaching Your Fundraising Goals in a Weak Economy by the AFRDS

You probably were not thinking about the state of the U.S. economy when you volunteered to head up your school's fall fundraiser. High gas prices and the rising cost of groceries were not top of mind when you raised your hand. It's understandable. Most people would say the slumping U.S. economy is a topic better suited for CNN than PTO. But the slumping economy is certainly having an impact on school and other non-profit budgets. It will influence how much money your group needs to raise and how it is spent. If parents pay annual dues, expect at least a slight drop in membership (and revenue). Be prepared to write bigger checks for field trips due to higher fuel costs. And because discretionary spending has declined among most American households, it's more important than ever to get the most "bang for your buck" by running efficient, profitable fundraisers.

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Thanking Donors: The "Stick Letter" by Deane Brengle

I was recently reminded by marketing expert Marcia Yudkin about the importance of properly thanking a customer after they have made their first purchase. In marketing terms it's called the "stick letter".

As Marcia puts it, "A "stick letter" gets that name because it helps the sale "stick" - this is, it decreases the chance that the purchaser asks for a refund. It does that in several ways: by stating the appropriate expectations for and the benefits of the product; by explaining how to get started using the product; and by saying what to do in case of questions."

Sounds reasonable enough. For a business, refunds are a costly, time consuming process. It makes sense to treat your new customer right so they won't be tempted to ask for a refund. Or worse yet, go someplace else for their next purchase!

Marcia also went on to explain to me that when you treat your customer with the "utmost respect, a good stick letter also sets the stage for more expensive follow-up sales". And that's the point when I had my epiphany - this is exactly what a good donor thank you letter should do.

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Remember to Say "Thanks" by the AFRDS

When that hectic two or three week stretch known as “the fall fundraiser” is over, many parent groups are understandably ready to move forward with other plans for the school year. But it’s important not to overlook the last item on the fundraiser to-do list: saying thanks to all of your supporters.

Once a fundraising campaign is complete, it’s important to thank everyone involved – especially the parents. Use the opportunity to show-off and show appreciation to the families whose support the school will need again during the next fundraiser. Here are some suggestions:

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Video Isn't in the Future For the Small Nonprofit - It's in the Here and Now by Gary Dillard

There may have been a time when the use of video was something for a small nonprofit to think about - next year. That time is history. Many people expect video; almost everyone enjoys it. Without it, you will lose no small number of viewers on your website and you can expect your loss to grow dramatically in the months and years to come.

As the year 2008 was closing out, the research firm comScore Inc. released figures for online video viewing in October. Almost 150 million internet users in the United States watched an average of 92 videos each that month for a total of 274 minutes. How many of them were your videos? How many people read that many pages in a book? Or that many articles in a newspaper?

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Taking Inspiration From a Young Fundraiser by Neill Wilkins

Being around charities and nonprofit organisations for a while it is very easy to become slightly jaded. You raise some money and hey guess what, before you know it they need some more! You spend your whole time trying to come up with novel fundraising ideas and new strategies. You spend time writing fundraising letters and trying to attract new volunteers but sometimes something seems to get lost. Its at times like this that it pays to stop and take stock, to review.

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The Impact School Spirit Has on Fundraising by Jim Berigan

When I first took the position as the administrator of a private elementary school, I was curious what kind of a toolbox I would have access to. Most good toolboxes, of course, have many compartments to store different kinds of tools that will help complete a job.

The tools I was interested most in weren't hammers and screwdrivers and wrenches, but rather donors, volunteers, and school spirit. All of the tools I was interested in would help shape our effort to provide the necessary funds to keep the school operational and thriving.

Unfortunately, the situation I walked into had a pretty empty toolbox, so one of my first tasks was to stock it with as many useful items as I could.

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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.

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Is Your Fundraiser Making Money? by Michael Hf Grant

When organizing a fundraiser you need to look at all the costs involved in it. Not only the costs to the group but also to the members, and the parents.

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Fundraisers - What to Do If Your Website Isn't Generating Enough Donations by Marte Cliff

You won't get donations unless you have visitors, so if you're not getting much traffic right now, the first step is to get your donors in the habit of visiting the site. Begin by asking yourself this question: "Are we giving them a good reason to stop by often?"

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Why Your Group Should Be Exploring Web 2.0 by the AFRDS

Like many PTA and PTO leaders these days, Kathryn O’Dekirk is trying to figure out how to deal with a tight budget. Mrs. O’Dekirk, president of an elementary school PTA in Willow Springs, NC, says her group missed its fall fundraising goal by about $4,000. Reluctant to cut any programs for the students, she turned to the social networking website Facebook to reach out to parents for tips and suggestions on how to bridge the gap.

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