Beyond Grants - Improve Your School Fundraising Efforts
Updated: Mar 6
Schools operate within a unique funding structure. This School Support Pyramid demonstrates how various sources of revenue can work together to provide additional revenue for your school. It may operate a little differently for you, with different revenue streams being higher or lower on the pyramid, but this model represents what I have seen in the schools I have worked with.
School Support Pyramid
At the base of the pyramid, you will find general school funding. This may be tuition for private schools or state revenue based on enrollment for public schools. It may also include special program funds, such as Early Literacy funding that many states offer, and funds for federal programs such as Title I and Title II. Generally speaking, once enrollment is set, this money is predictable and reliable, and it can be budgeted in advance.
School fundraising is a topic for another book, however I have four important points that can improve your fundraising efforts. First, establish procedures and policies to support your fundraising activities. Ensure that everyone who handles money is trained in and held accountable for following your policies. Whether we are talking about your teachers collecting money for “dress down day” or parent volunteers collecting funds at an off-site car wash, everyone needs to follow the same rules. There is a fantastic book available to help your school stay out of legal trouble, which I discuss in this blog post: Keeping It Legal: a school fundraising resource you need to have. Check it out!
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Secondly, keep your fundraising efforts tied to your vision. Yes, it’s all about the vision. Every school activity should reflect and reinforce your core values and your vision. Establish guidelines for what your school will and will not support as fundraising activities. Do you allow students to sell products? Do you encourage “spirit nights” at local fast food restaurants? Which restaurants? Do you want a snack stand to sell sugary snacks or sodas? Do you want your fundraising campaigns to be competitive or collaborative? How do these activities and products demonstrate your commitment to your school’s mission and vision? Your fundraising efforts show the community, “This is how we do things here.” Be thoughtful about the message you are sending.
My third point is to set clear and transparent goals, and then to share the results with your community. Nothing kills enthusiasm for fundraising like a parking lot conversation where parents are complaining because they worked so hard on that event last year and they don’t know where the money went. Work with your team to determine what you are raising funds to do, how much you hope to raise, and how you will communicate your results.
Finally, school fundraisers work best when the goals are tangible and familiar to parents. Don’t try to raise funds for a professional development training (unless your parents are highly invested in this particular training). Instead, focus fundraising efforts on something that will directly affect students. For example:
A new technology program that students will useSupplies for a school playNew sports equipment or playground itemsA school tripMusical instruments
Build the base of your school support pyramid with a thoughtful and focused approach to school-based fundraising.
In Part 2, you'll learn how to Attract Donations and Philanthropy.
This article is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Grant Writing for Impact: Fulfill your vision with a robust school grants program. Visit my website to learn more at www.peggydowns.com
What fundraising activities have worked for you? Can you share any other tips that would be helpful to our readers? Comment below and share with a friend.
New Series by Peggy Downs
Book 1: Start-Up Guide for School Grants (Answers to the Questions You Should Be Asking)
Book 2: Charter School Grants (Save Time and Write a Better Grant)
Book 3: Grant Writing for Impact (Leverage Grants to Dramatically Increase Funding, Impact, and Credibility for Your School)
Each book in this series addresses a different level of grant writing skills. Just getting started and full of questions? Start with book 1. Ready to write your first grant? Choose book 2. Interested in learning how to develop a school grants program? Then book 3 is for you.
Each book offers links to free resources to help you be successful with school grants. Order yours on Amazon today.Grant Writing for School Leaders
Ready to learn more? Check out some of my favorite posts:
Peggy Downs works with school leaders who want to leverage grants to dramatically increase funding, impact, and credibility for their schools. More info and a ton of free resources are waiting for you at:
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