Five Minutes of Practical Fundraising Advice for Charter Schools

All charter schools can use a few extra dollars to fund projects and programs that support the success of their students. Wherever your school is with its fundraising strategy, there’s always room for evaluation and improvement. We’ve put together a list of four simple actions schools can take to increase donations, as well as a few quick tips to help strengthen the connection to potential and existing donors.

Four Fundraising Actions Your School Can Take Today

1. Participate in #GivingTuesday: Celebrated the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, #GivingTuesday was started in 2012 as a way to harness “the potential of social media and the generosity of people around the world to bring about real change in their communities” (www.givingtuesday.org). The movement provides an opportunity for charitable organizations to rally their communities and encourage donations to their causes, and has grown rapidly over the last few years. For #GivingTuesday 2015, 700,000 donors contributed nearly $117 million, and the hashtag earned 1.3 million mentions on social media and 114 billion Twitter impressions! You can find several resources to help plan for #GivingTuesday 2017 at givingtuesday.org, including a social media toolkit and ideas and case studies specific to schools. Don’t worry about implementing all the recommendations the first time you participate; you can start by incorporating #GivingTuesday into your existing social media plan, and set aside time well in advance next year to develop a more comprehensive strategy.

2. Register on Amazon Smile. Amazon Smile donates 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases to the charitable organization of your choice. There is a simple registration process, so you will need access to the school’s EIN and bank account information. Once you are registered, remind parents, teachers, staff, and other stakeholders to bookmark amazon.com, where they can select your school as their charitable organization of choice; they only need to do this once, and all future eligible purchases made at smile.amazon.com will result in a 0.5% donation to your school. Once an individual makes a purchase that results in a donation, they’ll be able to view and keep track of the total amount donated to the school across time; this is a fun, useful feature that allows donors to see the collective impact of several small donations made by members of the school community across time.

3. Remember to ask donors if their employer participates in a matching gift program. Most people are not aware their employer offers a matching gift program, leaving potential fundraising dollars on the table! Make sure to include this reminder on your website’s donation page, as well as in any direct mail fundraising campaigns. While there is technology available for purchase that can be linked to your school’s website, which allows donors to check their employer’s matching gift policy and guidelines on the spot, this is easy to do without the help of extra tools. Just include a simple, noticeable message that prompts donors to ask if their employer, or their spouse’s employer, participates in a matching gift program. You can also prompt donors to check a box if they already know they have access to a matching gift program, and remind them to proceed with the necessary paperwork. Asking donors to check a box makes it easy for you to follow-up about matching gifts.

What happens next? The donor will then need to request the proper paperwork from their employer (as well as verify that the school is eligible for a matching donation) and submit a matching gift form to your school. Upon receipt of the form, a school employee will need to confirm donation from the individual, and submit the form to the employer.

4. Register with local supermarkets and other retail stores. Several retailers offer programs that allow customers to donate a percentage of their purchase to the charitable organization of their choice. For example, Ralphs’ has a Community Contribution Program that allows rewards card users to select a community organization to donate to. The process varies with each retailer, so it’s best to pay a visit to your local retailers and ask if they have similar programs.

5. Apply for grants. Charters have access to hundreds of grant opportunities, but most school leaders aren’t aware of these opportunities or just don’t have time to research and apply. EdTec provides flexible grant research and writing services to help schools avoid leaving money on the table and pursue funding for projects. Set up a call with us for more information and sign up to receive our monthly grants email.

Two Ways to Strengthen Your School’s Fundraising Program

1. Make your case. The stronger your story, the more compelled your stakeholders will feel to give. Is your per-student funding rate less than the state average? Less than the neighborhood school district? Share these facts with your audience, and include numbers when you have them. You’ll also want to include a list of things you aim to accomplish through fundraising, be it reducing class size, purchasing new musical instruments, enhancing facilities, or starting an after-school STEM program, as well as a tally of funds raised to date (if any) and what you’ve been able to accomplish as a result. Give your potential donors proof that their money will be put to good use!

2. Be thankful! Always send timely thank you notes, preferably within two weeks of receiving a donation (and sooner if you can). While it is a nice gesture to send hand-written notes, this is not always feasible, especially for larger schools. Have a template thank you note ready to go, personalize the letter with the donor’s name and donation details, and ask the school’s principal or executive director to sign it. You might also consider putting together an annual publication that recognizes donors for their contributions, and includes information about the projects and improvements that were made possible by their generosity. Donors will enjoy being recognized, and be more compelled to give in the future.

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