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December 16, 2018

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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.

So, how do you go about making that decision?

Start by determining your financial goals. You can't make any kind of decision without good numbers. You'll also need to break those numbers down for further analysis.

Your first number would be the amount your school wants to raise for the entire school year. Your second number would be the amount that this particular fundraiser needs to produce.

Take those two numbers and divide each one by the number of students in your school. These are your baseline numbers for decision modeling.

Once you have your revenue numbers broken down into per student per year and per student per fundraiser, you can begin weighing certain decision criteria. You can estimate how a change will impact your bottom line on a per student basis.

What are your decision criteria?

  • Participation - Will a change to a new fundraiser increase or decrease your participation percentage?
  • Revenue per Participant - Will a new fundraiser significantly increase how much total revenue each participant generates?
  • Profit Percentage - Does the new fundraiser provide a higher or lower percentage of the revenue as net profit?
  • Organizational Effort - Does the new fundraiser require fewer volunteers to conduct or is it more labor intensive?
  • Sales Effort - Is the new fundraiser going to require increased selling by students and their families or less effort?
  • Impact - Is this fundraiser going to negatively impact your organization's other efforts or enhance them?

How do these criteria affect your revenue numbers?

  • Participation - A higher level of participation is a good thing, with one caveat. It pays off in higher net profits only when a participant actually produces worthwhile results.
  • Revenue per Participant - A no brainer here. Boosting this top line number is the Holy Grail of fundraising. Your new program has to beat the old one in this category unless your profit percentage is much higher.
  • Profit Percentage - Don't overemphasize the percentage. If it is much higher, then your overall revenue can be lower. Your bottom line is always revenue times percentage, but don't let the higher percentage come at the cost of lower revenue or alienating your customer base.
  • Organizational Effort - Your volunteer base is your group's most valuable asset. Don't destroy it by making them work long hours only to net your group less than the equivalent of minimum wage for all the time your volunteers (and you) invested.
  • Sales Effort - A product or event that doesn't excite any of your supporters is bound to produce lower results. Make sure your new fundraiser is easy for students and their families to support.
  • Impact - A change from a "known" fundraiser will have an impact. Avoid anything that will reduce future revenues or cause a decrease in volunteers for your other fundraising activities. Just like you want to avoid burning out your volunteers, don't burn out your supporter base with poor quality items, bad timing, or a lack of planning.

So, what's it all mean?

When weighing a decision to switch to a new fundraiser, you must factor in anything that affects your organization, your support base, and your financial numbers.

Anything that increases your net revenue per student per fund- raiser without taking away from your ultimate goal of maximizing your net revenue per student per year is a good thing.

Your bottom line? Choose the fundraiser that will produce the highest net revenue per student. Once you decide, plan your campaign around achieving that goal and then work your plan.

Final advice:

  • DO - Make a change if your old program is loosing steam.
  • DO - Make a change only if you can do better financially.
  • DO - Base your decision on maximizing net revenue per student.

  • DON'T - Do anything that doesn't NET you more per student.
  • DON'T - Be swayed by one factor and ignore all the others.
  • DON'T - Be afraid to change, but base it on the numbers.


Editor's note: Kimberly Reynolds is the author of Fundraising Success and the "web mistress" of She brings a high-powered background to the fundraising arena, including a dozen years of sales experience with Dell and Cisco Systems.

Her book, Fundraising Success, is packed with powerful tips that are guaranteed to boost your group's results. Kimberly focuses on helping schools, churches, and youth sports groups by providing event ideas and advice on organizational techniques.

Visit her website,, and discover some easy ways to help your group. Be sure to sign up for her free weekly newsletter. You'll enjoy the articles and the freebies!

This article, School Fundraising - copyright 2002 Kimberly Reynolds, is reprinted with permission.

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