Digital Fundraising for Your School
Updated: Mar 6
As a school leader, you are responsible for your school's budget. That may be more challenging now than ever. Have you found yourself saying something like this?
"I have no idea where we'll get the money for that."
"Our biggest fundraising activity is usually a major event, but we can't do that this year. How will we do our fundraising when we can't host in-person events?"
"We have so many unexpected expenses this year. Where will the money come from?"
Digital fundraising may be the answer. In this post, you'll learn what digital fundraising is, how it can work for your school, and how to set up your plan. Keep reading to learn more!
What Is Digital Fundraising?
You are familiar with traditional school fundraising activities. Your school might host a 5K Run or Silent Auction. You probably schedule a Book Fair or two each year. Maybe your parents usually host a snack bar at volleyball or soccer games. Whatever you have been doing will look different this year. It's time to add digital fundraising to your plans.
Digital fundraising is simply traditional fundraising taken online. You can use many of the same strategies that have been successful for schools in the past. You just need to add a few new tools and techniques to make it work online.
What Do You Want to Accomplish?
The first step in developing any fundraising campaign is to be clear on your goals. Which of the following goals make sense for your school at this time?
Acquire new donors
Retain existing donors
Grow value of existing donors
If you already have a strong fundraising base, you may be looking to simply keep your donors engaged, or you might be looking to increase the amount your supporters are donating. If you are new to fundraising or if your donor base is smaller than you would like, then you probably want to acquire new donors. Pick one of these goals to guide your decisions for now.
You can use digital fundraising events to attract new volunteers as well as donations. You can target the donations to support a specific program or to support general operating costs.
Whatever you plan to use the money for, be sure you are transparent to your donors. Use the money for what you said you would, and share results with your community. They want to know their donations are contributing to your success. They have a right to know how their money is being used. And you'll build trust and support with open communications about how donation dollars are spent.
Get Ready for Digital Fundraising Success!
Remember to make digital fundraising a priority. Set your goals and post this where you'll see it every day. Print in color on 11x17 for best results. Click the link below to download now.
Is Your Website Ready for Digital Fundraising?
Before you start to drive traffic to your website, you need to be sure it's ready for your new fans. Work with whoever manages your website to ensure the following:
Website pages are clean, consistent, and accurate
Website banner announces your digital fundraising event
Donation page is easy to find and all links work
Donation page gives a clear and compelling case for WHY donations matter and how they will be used
Landing page for donations has no distracting links
Donations are easy to make, with safe and secure processing of credit card information
Alternate ways to donate are clearly stated, such as mailing address of school or invitation to donate at the front desk
What Tools Do You Need?
You will need a few new tools to be successful with digital fundraising.
Email list, separated out for parents, community members, and potential donors
Email service provider (talk to your web support team to learn what they suggest)
Social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter
Approved images that showcase your school's recent activities and events
Approved marketing content
Website optimized to lead to donations page
Attractive and effective donations page
What Do I Use?
I use many of these tools in my marketing work too. Here's a list of my favorite free options.
Email service provider (free account up to 1,000 subscribers): MailChimp
Free photos with no copyright restrictions: Pixabay
What Type of Fundraising Activities Work Online?
Search online for what other schools have done. You'll find a million creative ideas! Here are just a few that I have seen.
Annual Campaign - If your school normally hosts an annual event to request donations, consider taking the event online, or combining online features with a modified in-person event.
An annual campaign can be set up an any time of the year. You can plan your campaign around the holidays, and take advantage of the end-of-tax year benefits your donors may be looking for. You can plan your campaign around an important community event, such as a festival or local hero's birthday.
Giving Day - You've heard of Giving Tuesday. Your school can plan promotions around a day that is recognized worldwide, or you can set a date of your own that is meaningful to your community.
"I Don't Have Time For That" Campaign - This campaign takes advantage of the busy modern life. Instead of asking your community to buy cookie dough or donate school supplies, you can create a list of all those things your parents "don't have time for." Assign a dollar value to each activity the parents might wish to opt out of, and let them donate money instead. (Credit to School Fundraising by Sandra Plau Englund for this idea.) You might create a funny list of fundraising activities your school has sponsored and say,
"I am choosing not to buy gift wrap that I didn't even need, so instead I'll donate $25."
"I don't need any more cookie dough, so I'll donate $50 now."
"I can't play golf anyway, so here's $200 instead."
"I absolutely don't want to walk a 5K, so here's $500 to save my poor feet."
Virtual Book Fair - Whether you are able to host a regular book fair or not this year, you can add an online fair to increase your reach. Students can share links with distant family members who often love to contribute this way.
Virtual Walk-a-thon - You may have heard of the recent virtual Walk to End Alzheimer's. You can host a virtual walk, too!
Sponsor an Event or Sponsor a Kid Campaign - Create a list of events or specific student needs that match your school's vision and goals. Assign a dollar amount to different levels of support and encourage parents and community members to help your school have a greater impact.
Consider adding a digital component to all of your activities.
Register participants online to collect email addresses for future campaigns.
Create a fun online contest or giveaway that will bring viewers to your donations page.
Encourage teachers to add donations page or current fundraising campaign links to classroom websites.
Check out these resources to learn more about school fundraising.
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So How Do You Plan for Digital Fundraising?
1. Review What Has Worked
Start with a clear idea of what has worked with traditional fundraising in the past. Take an inventory or talk with people who have been involved in your pervious fundraising events. What worked? What could be improved? What are current trends in fundraising? What aligns with your school's mission and vision?
2. Set Your Goals
Determine how much money you need to raise through digital fundraising this year. Will you plan to match last year's work? Will you need to increase donations this year?
3. Decide Which Programs Will Benefit
Donors contribute more when they understand how their money will make a difference. If you can paint a picture in your messages about how this program is impacting students and appeal to their emotions to support a genuine need, you'll find greater success.
4. Set Your Fundraising Budget
It costs money to get money. You will need to decide how much money you have to spend on website design, marketing materials, mailers, and social media advertising.