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Managing a Fundraiser
Why Your Group Should Be
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.
“We’re using our Facebook group to discuss new strategies, and we have been able to bounce some great ideas around,” she said.
By now, you’ve probably come face-to-face with Web 2.0. According to Wikipedia.com (which is part of the phenomenon), Web 2.0 refers to the second generation of web development and web design that facilitates information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design and collaboration on the Internet. Examples include Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, etc. Hundreds of millions of people around the world are taking advantage of this new technology to communicate in new ways, including parent groups.
Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other Web 2.0 applications are so popular because of the faster pace of life most of us are experiencing these days, according to Internet experts. “The time people have, especially parents, is increasingly fragmented,” said Frank Skinner, a marketing professional based in Atlanta, GA who develops strategies using Web 2.0 technology for non-profit organizations. “Reaching parents at the right place and right time, even if it’s for only a split second, is more important than ever.”
In addition to Facebook, Mrs. O’Dekirk’s group uses Twitter to communicate with parents more frequently than ever before. Twitter is a micro-blogging website which allows users to send and read brief messages. Today, Mrs. O’Dekirk “tweets” several times per week to keep parents informed about her PTA’s activities. In 140 characters or less (the limit for Twitter messages), Mrs. O’Dekirk sends reminders about upcoming meetings and early release, where to purchase spirit wear online fundraising updates and calls for volunteers, among other items. When “tweeting” about fundraising, Mrs. O’Dekirk always mentions the goal of the program to prevent apathy and build support among parents.
“Many parents have praised our Facebook and Twitter pages and all our efforts to keep them informed,” Mrs. O’Dekirk said. “In the past, I heard parents say ‘I didn’t know you needed help’ and ‘If I had only known.’ I’ve not heard a single parent say that this year.” Parent groups are also tapping another Web 2.0 technology to get students excited about fundraising. The online video-sharing website YouTube allows anyone to post videos up to ten minutes. A quick search turns up several videos of school principals getting their heads shaved, taking whipped cream pies to the face and even letting students take over their office for a day. Each of these wacky activities was a reward for students who helped the school reach its fundraising goal. This fall if your principal agrees to a little self-humiliation to help the cause, don’t forget to bring along your video camera. Post that footage on YouTube as incentive for future fundraising events. Another idea: ask your fundraising professional if he or she has any professionally-produced video you can post as well to help keep momentum alive.
Web 2.0 technology is being leveraged by millions of people and organizations around the world. It’s a lot to take in, but be sure to consider whether your group would benefit by establishing a presence in this new area. “Social media unfortunately comes with a lot of hype,” Skinner said. “However once you get past the frenzy, these communities are an inexpensive way to maintain your presence with the people who matter most.”
About the Author: This article is from the Fall 2009 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 afrds.org for more information and a look at the complete issues of the Fundraising Edge.