Fundraising is often seen as necessary to securing the resources your charter school needs to fulfill its mission and provide the best education possible. But charter schools, especially those serving low-income and underserved populations, often lack the funds to hire professional fundraisers. That’s why charter school fundraising requires volunteers and school personnel to undertake responsibilities––even though they may not know much about it.
We have put this guide together for you to hopefully ease the burden of fundraising, and to offer some fun and creative means for raising the monies you need to successfully support your school. Follow the steps below to get started on your fundraising journey.
1. Understand Roles
For any fundraising program to be fruitful, you must first understand how each member of your school community should contribute. One of the most important components of any strong fundraising campaign is an active board of trustees. However, your fundraising plan should also include a development committee, the school staff, parents, and students. See how each can get involved below.
The Duties of the Board
The board exists to provide a strategic vision for the school, hire the school’s leaders, and provide budgetary oversight. They also, however, should be responsible for championing and supporting all fundraising activities. When board members are recruited, they need to be informed about these requirements to participate in the procurement of charter school donations.
They also are expected to make a sizable financial contribution to the school, and donate in-kind professional services, such as legal assistance, accounting, and marketing expertise. It is best if your school institutes a formal policy regarding personal contributions from the board members as it is then easier for the members to convince others to give if they have given themselves. Also, many foundations require that 100% of the board make donations to the charter school as criteria for providing grants and other monies. Personal giving strengthens a board member’s connection to the school as well.
The development committee’s primary responsibility is to raise non-grant funds to support your school’s mission. They need to develop annual and multi-year charter school fundraising plans to generate enough funds to satisfy the non-public, non-grant fundraising goal. They then need to coordinate the fulfillment of the plan with the efforts of staff, parents, and other volunteers.
Other important tasks of the development committee include systemizing the charter school donation process for different categories of benefactors such as individuals, corporations, and foundations, providing board members lists of local corporate and foundation officers to determine if the board knows any of the individuals listed (if so, the board members will help contact the people to ask for donations), develop sub-committee to carry out fundraising events, and continuously work to identify new prospective donors.
Applying for foundation and corporate grants is a great way for the school staff and teachers to participate in your charter school fundraising programs. They can also volunteer at events and tap their network of friends and family as potential donors.
As parents are some of the main stakeholders in the success of their children’s school, they are a great pool of talent from which to recruit volunteers, especially for events. And like teachers and staff at the school, they can reach out to their wider social networks to ask for charter school donations.
2. Setting Goals
There are different types of charter school fundraising campaigns, such as annual fund drives, capital campaigns, and fundraising for specific projects, like a library renovation. Each fundraising campaign you develop should have a clear scope and be achievable. It is better for morale and community reputation to have a few smaller successful campaigns than one larger, failed campaign. Ensure that each campaign has small, actionable steps and you have determined the appropriate fundraising strategy (fundraising strategies are detailed below) for your desired outcome.
There are a wide array of charter school fundraising sources available to you, and it’s better to secure a mix of financial support than depending on one single source. While allowing for some funding flexibility, this also shows potential donors that the school’s mission and values appeal to a variety of people and are worth supporting. Outlined below are the major sources of charter school donations and the pros and cons of focusing on each one:
- Individual donors
- They provide immediate revenue
- Reaching out to individuals is a great way to cultivate potentially large prospective donors
- Their contributions typically increase incrementally over time
- Engaging individuals increases the school’s visibility in the community
- When individuals donate, it’s more personal and it energizes the staff, board, and parents
- Individual donor fundraising campaigns require sustained, extensive time and effort to plan an implement
- Foundation Grants
- Their missions are to give money away
- They tend to give large donations at one time
- Information on foundations is easily available to the public
- Foundations confer credibility for additional potential donors
- There is intense competition for funding, and money can only be applied to the program described in the RFP (request for proposal)
- They are likely to keep giving year after year
- Corporations often also give in-kind donations as well as financial assistance
- They are willing to loan executives or employees as volunteers
- However, most corporate awards are small and the company may expect something in return, such as public recognition or adding colleagues to the board
- Government Grants
- Government grants are more likely to be renewed each year and thus are a reliable source for charter school fundraising
- The grants are often given to schools with a large numbers of minority students, non-English, and limited-English speakers, with serious academic and social need, and low-income
- Usually, government grants are larger than foundation and corporate grants
- Receiving a grant enhances the school’s credibility with other public and private funding sources
- They are highly competitive, there are strict application deadlines, awards can be on a reimbursement basis (school pays upfront costs), extensive record keeping is necessary, and reporting and audits are required
Pick Your Fundraising Strategies
Over 75% of charitable giving comes from private individuals, so soliciting individual charter school donations should be the focus of your charter school fundraising efforts. But that still leaves room for other approaches such as fundraising events, product sales, and corporate proce
80-85% of individual charter school donations come from 15-20% of the donors. This means it is important to keep up continuous contact with individual donors and keep them updated on happenings and successes at the school. Take the time to send emails, letters, personal notes, and make phone calls to keep big donors in the loop.
When soliciting a new potential donor, understand that you may have to contact them up to six times before securing a gift, and this includes at least one in-person meeting (tip: for the meeting, be very well prepared and do not leave the meeting until you have scheduled a follow-up meeting).
Events are a great way to raise awareness about your school in the wider community and should be included in any charter school fundraising plan. Below are some tried-and-true event ideas you can implement at your school:
- Pledge drive – best for specific programs instead of general funding
- Talent show – sell refreshments at the show; great for involving parents and students
- Flea market – ask school community and local businesses to donate items
- Student art show – charge a small admission; sell artwork and/or refreshments
- Holiday bake sales – can be held at the school or local community center
- Read-a-thon – have students ask friends and family to donate money for every chunk of specified time
- Halloween Festival – charge admission at the door or tickets for haunted house
- Spring Auction – ask local merchants, community members, and parents to donate goods and services – ask local restaurant to donate dinner; charge fee at the door
- Family Fun Night – hire a magician, sell hot dogs and soda, decorate w/balloons; ask for donated items to raffle throughout the event
The Girl Scouts may have cornered the market on cookies sales, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the same idea. Your school can sell magazines, candy, gifts, wrapping paper, flowers, candles, or household items and receive 40-55% of the profit. Choose the timing to coincide with holidays and events for great success.
Your fundraising program can be significantly enhanced by getting local businesses involved, as well as tapping into the resources of large, national corporations. Ask nearby supermarkets and retail chains to donate a percentage of their sales for a specific period of time to your school and then advertise this promotion throughout your school community.
Remember General Mills and their boxtop campaign? They are still doing it, so get involved today and your school can receive 10 centers for every box! Or sign up with Amazon Smile and receive 0.5% off every eligible purchase.
5. Campaign Effectiveness
Finally, the cornerstone of any great charter school fundraising plan is a thorough evaluation of each campaign to determine best practices and potential areas for improvement. For each fundraising operation, you need to look at your ROI (return on investment), the growth rate (are results increasing or decreasing over time for annual appeals, and for events, were the number of participants much greater than the number of volunteers?), retention rate, and average gift amount. This is where the board’s financial expertise can come into play again.
You Can Do It!
Clearly, there is a lot to undertake when it comes to successful charter school fundraising. The success of your school depends on significant and continuous fundraising to continue operating and offering the high-quality education your students have come to rely on. Charter Asset Management supports charter schools with a diverse array of funding programs by offering dependable, low-cost, and efficient short-term capital. Contact us today with any questions you may have.