Fundraising for Small Groups Newsletter

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December 16, 2018

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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.

Reduce Your Fundraising Noise

Regardless of the economic situation, parent groups always try a lot of different things to raise money. Collecting box tops and soup labels, school carnivals, product sales, raffles, walk-a-thons, car washes, etc. Unfortunately, these activities all generate fundraising noise and the more fundraising your group does, the louder it becomes. In today's economic climate, it's vital that your group reduce its fundraising noise. Supporters are already apprehensive about spending or contributing

more money. If they develop apathy, then it becomes even tougher to meet your fundraising goals. John Kukta, a professional fundraiser in Ohio, advises PTOs to concentrate on fundraisers that make the most money for the school and eliminate other less effective programs.

"One well-planned, well-executed fundraiser can more than triple the results of several status quo programs," Kukta said.

Organizations considering schoolwide programs in particular should forego adding too many fundraisers to the school calendar, experts say. PTOs, parents and faculty need to talk to each other and work together to develop a fundraising plan that accomplishes the group's collective goal.

When evaluating your fundraising options, consider this: a recent survey shows 8 out of 10 parent groups sell popular consumer items to raise money (product fundraising). Six out of 10 say its the most profitable method for raising money. Each year, schools earn nearly $2 billion through product sales, according to the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers.

Fundraising in a Weak Economy

Here are some more tips for running a successful fundraiser from parent volunteers, principals, fundraising professionals, etc:

  • Identify the Finish Line

    Set a specific beginning and ending date for primary fundraising activities and stick to it. Without a clear target date, the campaign will drag on often without direction.

  • Rely on Your Fundraising Professional

    Rely on your product fundraising company professional for suggestions and advice. They often know what other neighborhood schools and sports leagues are doing. Tapping this knowledge will help avoid going head-to-head against another school's fundraiser.

  • Keep Energy Levels High

    Communicate before, during and after the program remind parents, students, teachers and other volunteers of the fundraiser's goals and deadlines. Provide regular status reports and updates.

  • Remember To Say "Thanks!"

    Don't forget to thank all your supporters and let them know when the new computers are installed or the new playground is ready to open. After all, it wouldn't have been possible without their support.

  • Have fun!

    With the right approach, fundraising itself can bring ownership and pride to parents, teachers and students.

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About the Author:

This article is from the Fall 2008 issue of the Fundraising Edge, an online publication of the Association of Fund Raisers and Direct Sellers 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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