What Schools Can Learn From Nonprofits: Fundraising Edition

What Schools Can Learn From Nonprofits: Fundraising Edition

For nonprofits, fundraising is key to fulfilling their mission and making an impact on their community. Because of this, they need to be experts in connecting with donors and inspiring them to give.

Similarly, your school raises funds to support your academic programs, extracurricular activities, scholarships, and more. Learning from the successes of nonprofits can help you secure the funding you need and greatly enhance the student experience. In this guide, we’ll cover five essential fundraising lessons your school can learn from nonprofits.

1. Focus on the “why.”

Nonprofits understand that donors contribute to a fundraising campaign because they’re drawn to helping make a difference. That’s why, on their donation pages and marketing materials, they use stories and statistics to highlight the purpose of their fundraising campaigns and what they’re trying to accomplish.

Your school can inspire more people to contribute to your fundraisers by mirroring nonprofits’ efforts and following these tips:

  • Tell stories. Choose a student whose experience encapsulates the goals of your fundraising initiative. This could be someone who benefited from a scholarship, participated in a special program, or overcame challenges with the help of school resources. By sharing the stories of individual students, you help donors visualize their potential impact.
  • Incorporate compelling visuals. Incorporate photos or videos of students participating in school activities, showcasing their achievements, or speaking about their experiences. Visual elements make your stories more engaging and relatable. However, be sure to get permission from students or their guardians before publishing any images online.
  • Use donor-centric language. Frame your messages in a way that emphasizes the donor's role in making a difference. Use phrases like "Your support will enable…" and "Thanks to your generosity, we can...” This approach helps donors see themselves as active partners in your mission, directly contributing to positive outcomes.

For example, an elementary school raising funds for an upcoming field trip might share the story of Carlos, a shy fourth grade student who came out of his shell after meeting his best friends during last year’s field trip.

This personal narrative shows families and community members that the field trip offers students, like Carlos, a crucial chance to connect and belong. Understanding this impact can motivate more people to support the fundraiser, knowing it will help other students in similar ways.

2. Diversify your revenue sources.

Since nonprofits need consistent funding to carry out their mission, it’s essential for them to develop several revenue sources that they can depend on. Your school can take this same advice. Consider going beyond simply hosting a fundraising campaign and tapping into valuable revenue opportunities such as:

  • Partnerships with local businesses. Encourage local businesses to sponsor school events, sports teams, or clubs. In return, you can offer promotional benefits like displaying the business's logo on uniforms, event banners, or school newsletters.
  • School grants. According to Double the Donation, there are many online grant research tools your school can use to uncover funding opportunities and find grants that fit your needs. Some are targeted toward specific educational programs, technology upgrades, facility improvements, or extracurricular activities.
  • Merchandise sales. Choose items that resonate with your students, families, and staff. Popular options include apparel like T-shirts, hoodies, and hats, as well as school supplies, water bottles, and tote bags featuring your school logo or mascot. Offer a range of products at different price points to cater to various budgets.
  • Online shopping fundraisers. In addition to purchasing branded merchandise to support your school, families can also contribute year-round through their everyday purchases. Simply register with an online shopping fundraiser platform and have supporters download their app, and a portion of their sales totals will go directly to your school!
  • Fee-based after-school programs. Survey parents and students to determine which types of programs are most in demand. This could include tutoring, sports, arts, technology, or special interest clubs. Tailoring your programs to community interests ensures more people will participate.

Developing various revenue sources is vital for your school because it ensures a steady flow of income and reduces your dependency on any single funding stream. This will also help you weather economic changes and potential funding cuts more effectively.

3. Make use of fundraising tools.

Like nonprofits, your school has a lot on its to-do list, from budget planning to student support. Fortunately, there are many fundraising tools available to ease the burden on staff and volunteers.

Both nonprofits and schools can use fundraising software for:

  • Gift card fundraising. Students, families, and community members can support your school by simply buying gift cards through a gift card fundraising platform. They’ll be able to use these gift cards to make convenient online or in-person purchases while a portion of the proceeds goes toward covering your fundraising needs—it’s a win-win!
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising. You can get your school community directly involved by empowering students and staff to fundraise on your behalf. Participants create their own fundraising pages, share their personal stories and connections to your school, and reach out to their networks for donations.
  • Auctions. You can organize live, silent, or online auctions with items donated by local businesses, families, or staff. By investing in a silent auction software solution, your school can tap into features such as live-streaming, mobile bidding, and customizable event sites to create memorable fundraising experiences for your community.

When choosing the best fundraising tools for your school, consider the specific needs of your community, the ease of use, and the potential for engaging a wide audience. It's important to select tools that align with your school’s specific goals and resources.

4. Engage with donors through multiple channels.

Interacting with donors through multiple channels helps build strong relationships by connecting with them in their preferred ways. When crafting fundraising appeals, nonprofits know that it’s not just the content that counts, but the channels through which you send them.

Your school should consider using the following channels to engage donors:

  • Email. Email allows you to reach a wide audience quickly and cost-effectively. Email campaigns can also be easily tracked and analyzed, providing valuable insights into your donors’ behavior and preferences.
  • Social Media. Social media platforms make it easy to reach a diverse audience. By sharing compelling stories, updates, and interactive content, you can involve followers in real time and foster a community around your cause.
  • Text. Text messaging is a direct and immediate channel to connect with your donors, making it excellent for time-sensitive campaigns and updates. It allows you to send concise, urgent appeals that donors can respond to instantly, right from their phones.

By establishing an active presence on various communication platforms, your school can maximize fundraising engagement and build a strong community of support over time. Be sure to consider your school’s website as well. Having a high-quality website is crucial for effective communication and enhancing your fundraising efforts, since it serves as a central hub for sharing information and collecting donations.

5. Harness the power of gratitude.

Donors lie at the heart of every nonprofit’s success. To keep donors invested in their cause, nonprofits make gratitude an integral part of their fundraising strategy.

Some popular recognition ideas for your school include:

  • Thank-you emails
  • Social media shoutouts
  • Appreciation videos
  • Handwritten cards or animated eCards
  • Special recognition events
  • Donor feature stories in newsletters

According to SchoolAuction.net, while you should provide updates on the impact of donors’ gifts, avoid any additional monetary requests in your thank-you messages. Consistently celebrating your donors through a variety of thoughtful gestures not only shows your school’s appreciation but also fosters a loyal and supportive community that is vital for your ongoing success.

Wrapping Up

Whether you’re raising funds to purchase new sports equipment, expand your extracurricular offerings, or renovate a school building, applying a few tried-and-true nonprofit best practices can make a world of difference to your campaign. Track and assess your fundraising results to identify what strategies work so you can improve year after year.

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