6 Low Effort Fundraising Tips for Your Private or Charter School

Giving Tuesday is almost upon us!  This is the largest one-day event for non-profits to raise money.  Last year, over $177 Million was raised on this single day.  Hopefully your school has gone to their website and downloaded their FREE tool kit and are gearing up for this event.

While Giving Tuesday is a wonderful one-day event, for many schools, it is not enough to overcome the persistent challenges that you have in your budget.  There are two things that no school has enough of: time and money.  The best fundraiser from the eyes of a time strapped school administrator is one that requires a very small investment in time.   And preferably one that doesn’t involve getting your kids to sell stuff!  When I was researching this article and doing Google searches, I was floored by the number of school fundraising companies that want you to use your students to sell things.  I get it.  How do you say no to the nice little kid trying to sell you wrapping paper, magazines, cookies, etc.?  But we all know that parents (and probably administrators) are not fond of the door-to-door approach.

The best school fundraiser is one that you set up and it passively works in the background, raising money.   In reviewing the following ideas, you will probably be struck that these are not new, revolutionary ideas.  In fact, I hope that you have currently a few them in place.  These will not replace any fundraising that you currently have in place.   But, these are some easy things that you can do to bring in some incremental revenue with a minimum amount of work.

Amazon Smile Program

Amazon has a program called Amazon Smile where a portion of your purchase is donated to a charity of your choice.  This is a great opportunity for your parents to support your school by doing nothing more than continuing to shop at Amazon.  How much can you make?  It is not a lot of money (0.5% of the purchase), but for the effort – it can’t be beat.  Let’s try to ballpark what you could reasonably expect to earn.  According to Statista, the average Prime customer spends $1300/year and non-Prime customers spend $700 at Amazon.  Let’s call it $1,000 to make the math easier.  So, if 400 of your families spend the average for the year, 0.5% of $400,000 in purchases nets out to $2,000 / year.

Not a ton of money, but all you have done is registered at Amazon Smile, and then made sure that you are communicating to your parents to select your school when they shop at Amazon.

Alternatives to Amazon Smile

Not everyone is a fan of the largest ecommerce company in the world.  For many, they want their dollars to go to local merchants.  A start-up company in my hometown of Indianapolis, aims to do just that.  www.boosterville.com.  Have your parents sign up and register their credit card at Boosterville, then anytime a parent uses that card at a participating Boosterville merchant, your school gets an automatic donation.  No more buying wrapping paper, instead, this is just a parent’s regular purchases that raises money for you.  If my family is typical, your school will raise a ton of money from our pizza ordering habits alone!

They also tend to be more generous with the amount of donations compared to Amazon Smile.  These local merchants might be your parent’s businesses, so I really like the closed loop environment that Boosterville is offering to both their merchant and non-profit customers.

Developing Wish lists

You want to give your parents an easy way to support you in lots of different areas.  One of the best ways to do that is by using wish lists.  Amazon, as well as many other retailers, allows organizations or individuals to make wish lists.  This is a great resource for you to set up when you are making a year-end appeal for supplies.  I know that many organizations prefer to receive monetary contributions because you can spend it on any need, but often a parent is more motivated to pay for something more specific like stability balls in the classroom, or a new reading carpet.  They like to see a tangible example of their generosity.

Using wish lists is a great way to make it easy to donate and for them to know that it is going to something tangible that you need.  “Just make a few clicks on a platform that you are already shopping on and bam – you help your child’s school.”  The downside is that you are somewhat locked into a particular retailer, but this makes it easier on you by just sending out a link to your holiday wish list.

Library supplies

This is a bit like the concept of the wish lists, but I have seen this program work well for clients.  They create a wish list on Amazon for books that they are trying to purchase to stock/restock the library.  On the month of a child’s birthday, they send out an email to those parents asking if they would like to purchase a book in their child’s name for the library.  Then, when the book arrives, they put a sticker in the book recognizing the generosity of the parent in honor of their child’s birthday.  It is a small gesture, but it means a lot to the parent that their gift will live on for many years and their legacy of giving will be known to future students.  Simple concept that takes you a few minutes to set up the wish list, and then send out the emails.  It’s a relatively easy way to supplement your library with new books and potentially freeing up the new book budget.

Monetizing your website

This is one that is a little bit more commercial. I have seen some schools embrace this and others say “no”.  It is akin to selling signage at your sports fields.  Have your web developer add some spots to your website where you can put some display ads for local businesses.  Your website is probably getting a few thousand hits a month anyway and this gives local businesses a great way to reach a targeted audience.

This can be a slippery slope and has several considerations: do you charge by impressions, by clicks, etc.?  For simplicity sake, I would just charge a flat fee initially, and I would approach local businesses or businesses from your existing parental base.  For an article that explains how to identify your parent businesses, you might want to read this article that covered that topic.

Let’s say that you charge five local businesses $100 a month to display their ad in a tasteful way at the bottom of your home page.  $500 a month times 12 = $6,000.  This is more than enough to cover the yearly costs of your website.  Plus, once it is set up, it is somewhat passive income where you don’t really need to do much other than to get your first round of advertisers and then resign them.

Employ the best practices of fundraisers

Finally, I want to make sure that you employ some of the best practices of fundraising.  These are simple, but they are very critical to have in place:

  • Make it easy to donate
  • Thank donors for supporting you
  • Recognize their donation.

Simple, huh?  But many schools don’t do this.

Make sure that you can accept donations on your website.  Setting that up means that you can easily send or provide a link to anybody who wants to support your school.  Second, always send a thank you note to your donor.  Bonus tip, having a student handwrite a letter is more impactful than something that the principal typed.  Third, publicize your donors.  Have a donor honor role on your website and your school.  Most people love to see their generosity recognized, and this can create some positive peer pressure for others to donate.

Employing these tactics is not the definitive answer to your revenue challenges.  Your income will always be dictated by your enrollment.  But, these are some simple things that you can employ to hopefully bring in a little bit of extra money with a minimum amount of work.  If you need a bit more professional help or want to engage a true leader in the development world, you can’t do better than employing Jessica White.  She has worked with many non-profits and schools and is just an all around good person.

Happy fundraising!

Nick LeRoy is the president of Bright Minds Marketing and former Executive Director of the Indiana Charter School Board.  Bright Minds Marketing provides marketing and recruitment consulting to private and charter schools.  For information about how Bright Minds Marketing can help your school improve your marketing and enroll more students, visit our website, send an email to nick@brightmindsmarketing.com or call us at 317-361-5255.

Nick LeRoy

Nick LeRoy

Nick LeRoy, MBA, is the president of Bright Minds Marketing and former Executive Director of the Indiana Charter School Board. Bright Minds Marketing provides enrollment and recruitment consulting to private, Catholic and charter schools. For information about how Bright Minds Marketing can help your school improve its’ student enrollment, send an email to nick@brightmindsmarketing.com or call us at 317-361-5255.

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