Beginning this fall, schools will lose about $100 billion in federal funding that was provided as part of the $814 billion American Recovery & Reinvestment Act passed in 2009, according to news reports. Education continues to feel the budget-pinch across the country. Many schools and groups are relying on fundraising to bridge the gap in order to keep everything from extracurricular programs, class offerings and even teachers and teacher’s aides. There are now more fundraisers than ever before (e.g. school, sports, scouts, music programs, etc.) and that is why it is so important to stand out in the crowd.
We now live in an age of smartphones, smart cars and even smart homes. So why not “smart” fundraising? By bringing something creative, efficient and effective to the table, school and youth groups can easily execute sales, without exhausting themselves, just by planning smarter.
When a high school band in Ridgewood, NJ, needed to pay for new uniforms, color guard equipment, scholarships and guest performances, supporters came up with a plan to boost their door-to-door sales of citrus fruit, just by thinking creatively. Parents were organized to supervise and drive the students in groups of two, to houses around the community. Students placed flyers in mailboxes with information about the fundraiser and how to order. This ensured that every potential customer was aware of their sale –even if they weren’t home to answer the door.
“By combining traditional sales tactics and increased group efforts with efficient and less intrusive online based ordering, students were able to cover their entire community within a few hours and increase their sales by 10 percent,” says Jim Messina, owner of a New Jersey based fundraising company with more than 30 years of experience.
The Power of Social Media and Internet
A growing trend in schools is utilizing the power of social media, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to reach fundraising goals. Among Americans who supported a fundraiser in the past year, 9 percent report that they made their purchase online, according to findings from a recent national survey commissioned by the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers (AFRDS). Social networking sites, blogs, forums and RSS feeds have penetrated modern school and youth group fundraising operations, thanks to their ability to increase online traffic, enhance communication, retain existing volunteers and attract new ones, according to fundraising professionals. By utilizing these types of Web 2.0 technologies, schools and parent groups can affordably launch and manage fundraising campaigns and projects, update members, boost collaboration and communicate with people across the globe.
Schools and groups can also use email templates that can be customized to their fundraiser. Parents and students can then send this out to their email contacts. The email can contain information about their cause and their fundraising goals, along with photos and contact information to place orders.
“Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Myspace are all great social media tools that can be used to post about your fundraiser everyday to friends and family,” said David Hammon, founder and president of a fundraising company in Colorado. “On YouTube we even have how-to videos on fundraising technology and how to drive sales using these game changing tools. We also have contests for which student sends out the most template emails promoting their sale, and each student has their own specific shopping site to send contacts to.”
Another tool that fundraisers can tap into fits in the palm of your hand: smartphones. They can be used to plan and communicate with ease and speed. Advisors can synchronize dates and deadlines with students, volunteers and teachers –just by sending calendar invites. Mobile apps like maps and GPS can be helpful when trying to cover communities for sales. If a volunteer has to leave early, they can mass text other volunteers to find a replacement. The sky is the limit.
“The fundraising industry is looking into developing smartphone apps for each student to track their progress,” said Hammon. “Solid promotion from start to finish is key. I always say that if you do one sale and do it right, you can reap the benefits for a whole year and not burn out parents and the community.”
Making your fundraiser “smart” is as simple as utilizing technology to plan and organize your fundraising and being the most enthusiastic group, with the best product and the best customer service in your community.