Call it what you want – Annual Appeal, Direct Appeal, End-of-Year Fundraiser, etc. – it’s often the most important fundraiser (i.e. highest earner) of the year. The amount a PTA raises is dependent on a variety of factors, some that cannot be controlled, and some that can. We're here to help you with the latter.
If this would be a new fundraiser for your school, we have great news! It's an easy, efficient and effective way to raise money. If your PTA already conducts this type of fundraising, check out our five-step process below to see if we can help and please share what has worked for you.
Step 1: Determine the goal
Take time to determine how much, realistically, your Annual Appeal can earn. Consider your school population, what you earned in previous years, how many other fundraisers you do, the financial needs of your school, your PTA budget and goals, etc.
Keep in mind, your fundraising goal doesn't have to be a dollar amount. Some schools ask for 100% participation in making a financial donation. Point out that any school support is appreciated, needed and valued. Parents who are able to volunteer at a field trip or event, share a skill (graphic designer anyone?), donate supplies, make cookies for a bake sale should all be made to feel needed and valued – because they are!
Step 2: Set up a payment system
Aim to make donations to your Annual Appeal simple, convenient and secure. Ideally, you'll have a system in place that allows for donations to be made online with a credit or debit card, as is common practice.
Good old fashioned personal checks are also an option. Let people know exactly who to make the check out to and how to get it to the PTA.
If you receive a cash donation, keep accurate and detailed records and deposit it as quickly as possible. If your PTA has rules about handling cash transactions, be sure to look 'em up.
Step 3: Put together a timeline and communication plan
Set an Annual Appeal start and end date that preferably doesn’t overlap with other large school fundraising activities. Make sure you allow enough time so you’re not promoting the fundraiser too frequently.
Next, determine how you will promote your fundraiser – flier, snail mail, email blast, poster, letter backpacked home, designated web page, table at school function, skywriting (a fundraiser can dream, right?). Pick an assortment of materials and promotions to be sure to reach the largest variety of people.
Note any relevant events during your fundraiser timeframe and take advantage. Giving Tuesday is a well known international day of giving. Beyond that, highlight the spirit of the holiday season, entice donors by encouraging an end of year tax-deductible donation or coordinate your ask with a school event where parents will be in attendance or that is hosted by the PTA. Let attendees know in advance that you’ll be collecting funds for the Annual Appeal at the event.
Step 4: Create promotional materials
Draft your emails, letters, posters, etc., and be sure to get a variety of people to review them. The message and tone are very important. As mentioned in Step 1, take into account some of what makes your school unique like it's population and financial needs as well as your PTA's budget and goals.
Do your best to have your communication echo the mission and values of the school you are representing.
Ask for volunteers to help offset the cost of creating and printing your materials. Can you get a volunteer from your school or community to print letters being backpacked home, flyers or posters? This saves money and demonstrates that your PTA is being thoughtful about the budget.
Step 5: Send thank you notes
This may be your most important step. Come up with a system where your donors are thanked as soon as possible after they make their donation. If you can, personalize the message by including their name, the amount they gave and the date. Utilize tools like spreadsheets and mail merge and keep expenses low, if possible, by utilizing email. Again, don't forget to include the PTAs Tax ID number if you're a registered non-profit.
It's not easy to ask people to donate money and it's not easy for people to donate. Show gratitude for every donation you receive no matter the amount and remember why you're doing it – it's all for the children!
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