How to Attract Donations to Support Your School
Updated: Mar 6
Schools can learn a lot about donations from the nonprofit world. Donations come from the heart. It may be a parent who brings extra school supplies for the classroom, a nonprofit that provides books for the library, or a community member who donates money in exchange for his name on a brick. These donors are giving because they believe in your vision; they connect with your "why." Are you doing enough to share your vision with potential donors?
Many nonprofit organizations rely on donations to fund their services. You can borrow these five strategies from successful nonprofits to attract more donations for your school:
Tell your school's story. Share stories about those who will be helped. Describe the problem and how this donation will make the situation better.
Ask for a specific amount, for a specific goal. Effective donation programs often outline various amounts and provide a checkbox for each on the donation form. Keep the decision-making process simple. Set goals and decide on your priorities for those donations and make it clear how the money will be used.
Report on the impact of donations. Did you fill that classroom library? Did you buy those new uniforms for the marching band? Did you send students to a STEM competition with donated funds? Even if the donations will simply be supporting your general operations, let people know what you were able to do because of the successful campaign. People want to know their contributions are making a difference.
Make donating easy. Display links prominently on your website and be sure donations can be made through a secure connection. Encourage alternative ways to donate, such as by check (be sure your mailing address is conveniently displayed) or in person by cash or credit care (be sure your office staff are aware of your preferred procedures for collecting donations). Consider a Facebook Fundraiser. Be sure your school is set up on AmazonSmile and that parents can easily find the link.
Say thank you. Implement a procedure where someone in your office is responsible for tracking all donations and mailing a follow-up thank you note, signed by the director or other appropriate leader. These days, no one expects to get a thank you note by US Mail. Show your appreciation with a little extra effort. Or better yet, keep reading to see how you can get your board of directors involved!
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Invite Support from Your Board of Directors
Your board members know better than anyone when your school needs financial support, but they don’t always know what to do about it. Invite their support by sharing your goals and asking for their help. You want to lead the work, but you don’t want to DO all the work. So how can they help?
Start by making fundraising part of the discussion at board meetings. Ask one or two board members to join you in calling several donors to thank them for their support. This is a good way to start. Make the phone calls together with a board member. Plan your script and decide who says what. It’s easy to thank someone for what they already gave and making the calls with you should relieve any stress the board members feel. Review your list of donors and identify any that are high value ($1,000 or more) or repeat donors. If your list is short, call all of them. The donors will feel pleasantly surprised and your board member will feel like they can be part of the solution. Schedule these phone calls throughout the year, as new donations are made.
Next, have a conversation with the board about requesting contributions from board members. Decide together how to set a reasonable goal and what their comfort level is with this idea. You can frame the request in such a way that the board members are responsible for a certain dollar amount, which can come from personal donations or requested donations from others. Some will be more comfortable giving their own money; some will find it easier to get contributions from others.
Charter school boards do not make this type of contribution a requirement, and many do not even talk about it. If you plan to ask your board for support in fundraising, it’s an important step. It is much easier to ask money from others if you have given yourself. If your board members have limited funds, then set the dollar amount at a place they feel comfortable, or simply ask that each board member give what feels like a meaningful amount to their family.
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I Don't Have Time for That
Donations can come from one-time contributions, annual campaigns, or ongoing monthly events. They can be a powerful way to connect with parents and community members. If 100 parents contribute $100, you have added $10,000 to your bottom line. But what if you could get the whole $10,000 from one person?
Philanthropy is a subcategory of donations, where a single patron supports your organization because they deeply connect with your mission. They may not have children attending your school but they believe in your work. These donors are your VIPs. Find them, connect with them, bring them into your circle, and appreciate them. It most likely will require personal attention from someone in leadership, perhaps a school principal or board member, and it will be worth the effort. If they are treated well and continue to love what you do, they can become sustaining supporters for many years.
You may be thinking that you don't have time to warm up the wealthy donor and make sure he's happy. This is a great job for your board of directors. It can be hard for board members to participate in school-based fundraising, but they can play an active role in your annual campaigns and individual philanthropy efforts. Help them understand what is needed, and set reasonable goals with them.
Expand Your Impact
You can expand your school's impact by developing new sources of funding. Learn to create a funding plan and work with your board of directors to set new goals and identify new prospects. Before long, you'll have developed a school wide culture that celebrates community support.
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Learn how to Take Control of Your Budget with a Funding Plan
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