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Five Minutes of (Updated) Fundraising Advice for Charter Schools

By Melanie Horton, Senior Marketing Manager

Originally published October 24, 2017; last updated November 16, 2020

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 five simple actions schools can take to increase donations, as well as a fequick tips to help strengthen the connection to potential and existing donors.  

Five Fundraising Actions Your School Can Take Today

1. Participate in #GivingTuesday: Celebrated the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, GivingTuesday was started in 2012 as a “global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world” (www.givingtuesday.org). The movement provides an opportunity for charitable organizations to rally their communities and encourage donations to their causes through the use of the #GivingTuesday hashtag on social media. For GivingTuesday 2019, online contributions reached $511 million, an increase of nearly 28 percent from the previous year, and the organization estimates that total online and offline donations totaled nearly $2 billion. That same year, the hashtag earned more than 20 billion social media impressions!  You can find several resources to help plan for #GivingTuesday 2020, which falls on December 1 this year, at www.givingtuesday.org, including a toolkit for nonprofits with links to social media templates and messaging along with other ideas for engaging your community. 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 smile.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. Some individuals may not be 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 also 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.  

You may want to check this list of top matching gift companies and share it with your community so those who donate have a quick way to verify if their company has a matching gift policy. This list is not comprehensive as it only covers larger companies with strong matching gifts programs, but it’s still a helpful reference to have. 

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, the Kroger Family of Companies, which operates over 2,700 grocery retail stores across the country, has a Community Contribution Program that allows rewards card users to select a community organization to donate to. If Kroger doesn’t have a presence in your community, you may want to pay a visit to your local retailers to ask if they have similar programs.  

5. Don’t leave grant money on the table! There are hundreds of grant opportunities available to charter schools, some of which require no more than a simple application form.  It can be difficult to make time to focus on grant writing when there are so many other things to get done, which is why EdTec offers grant research and writing services for busy school leaders.  If you wish to speak with someone about how we can customize our services to meet your school’s needs, please send us email to learn moreFor more information about upcoming grant opportunities for charter schools, you can sign up to receive our monthly grants email. 

Three 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.

3. Stay in touch. Add all donors who are new to your community to your contact list and include them in relevant communications such as newsletters and invitations to upcoming invitations as a way to remind them of all the great things happening at your school and why they should continue to give! It’s always more difficult to reconnect with donors when they haven’t heard from you since their last donation. Donors are important stakeholders, and we want them to feel like they are a true part of the school community. The more we nurture donors, the stronger these relationships will grow over time.