Expert Tips and Resources: Raising Funds and Building Relationships
Meet the Experts
Ms. Budak is currently the President of the Schaumburg Township Council of PTAs, presiding over meetings of the presidents of the PTAs and PTSAs of the 28 schools in Illinois School District 54. Prior to that, she was the president of the Lincoln Prairie PTSA (Hoffman Estates, IL), where she was involved in the fundraising events discussed in her interview.
Katy DiIorio has been in education for the past 12 years in both a public and private setting. For the past six years, she has worked in administration as an Elementary School Principal. Before moving into this role, Katy taught both Kindergarten and First Grade. She has seen fundraising events build from previous years as the school community ties deepen and the memories of past events propel the students, parents, and staff to continue achieving.
A graduate of the University of Texas in Austin, Mr. Shelby has been a teaching for twelve years, the last six as a fifth grade teacher at Encino Park Elementary in San Antonio, Texas.
Over the past decade US schools have faced drastic budget cuts, which has lead to less per-pupil funding at the K-12 and also college levels. As a result, more and more teachers and schools have turned to their own fundraising activities and events to ensure that students have what they need in order to be successful both in and outside the classroom. Fundraisers help with the purchase of additional classroom supplies and to pay for extracurricular activities, as well as essential tool such as computers, printers, science equipment, art and music programs, and much more. These events, however, can also be fun learning experiences for students of all ages. This guide is designed to help parents, teachers, and others create and run school fundraisers that are both fun and effective.
In the 2014-15 school year, at least 30 states provided less per-pupil funding for K-12 than it did seven years ago.
On average, a teacher received $547 from their school and school district combined to spend on his or her classroom for the 2014/2015 school year
On average, teachers spent $490 out-of-pocket on materials for his or her classroom during the 2014/2015 school year
How Funding Helps: K-12 Needs at a Glance
Every classroom is unique, but there are some items and supplies common to all, many of which would not be available without the help of alternative funding sources. Here's a look at those supplies, as cited by school staff and the teachers themselves:
|Elementary||Junior High||High School|
|1. General supplies. These are the items most people think of when considering materials for a classroom. They include pencils, erasers, lined paper, notebooks, glue sticks, storage bins and boxes, etc.||1. General supplies. General supplies for junior high and middle schools mirror the transition of students from elementary-age children to high school teens. Along with the always essentials like pencils and lined paper, middle school classrooms additionally need items like notebooks, assignment folders, pens, etc.||1. General supplies: The advancement to high school means a greater need for all types of classroom supplies with an increased emphasis on writing materials.|
|2. Art supplies. Teachers often use art as a way to give lessons a visual element, whether drawing a scene from a book or allowing the students to exercise creativity during a down time. Typical supplies here include items such as construction paper, crayons, colored markers and pencils, scissors, and glue.||2. Chromebooks or iPads. Many school districts are attempting to go paperless with writing assignments, uploading prompts onto online boards, grading in digital margins, etc. This allows parents to track progress and also gives students a chance to learn tangible computing skills. The short-term costs can be steep, but the use of laptops and tablets should save money in the long run.||2. Subject-specific supplies. In high school learning becomes increasingly topic-specific and, therefore, requires class equipment and materials to meet more targeted needs. Items include science and math lab supplies, equipment for electronics labs, auto, wood and metal shops, and the like.|
|3. Cleaning and sanitation materials. Kids are messy and classrooms can be breeding grounds for all sorts of minor illnesses. Therefore, items such as facial tissues, antibacterial wipes, and disinfectant sprays are always in demand.||3. Art and music supplies. One of the biggest changes students encounter upon advancing to middle school is the transition to multiple classrooms and subject-specific classes. In regard to art classes, this means an increased need for more sophisticated art materials (paints, pallets, canvases, sculpture supplies). For music classes, this means musical instruments, music scores and paper, and more.||3. Computers, printers, and scanners. Lesson plans, as well as in-class and homework assignments, tend to become more fluid on the high school level. This means that access to current news and information, and means to disseminate coursework with immediate changes is particularly important.|
|4. Books and other reading materials. Kids need books to learn to read, and after they learn, they want to read everything they can get their hands on. Classrooms, however, are often short of textbooks, but they also need lots of non-textbook reading materials.||4. Sports equipment. Sports, especially team sports, begin to play a larger role in middle school, creating the need for balls, bats, racquets, safety equipment, and more. Sports programs are often among the hardest hit by school budget cutbacks.||4. Extracurricular activities. School organizations, clubs and other out-of-classroom activities are abundant in high school, especially as participation in them becomes more important to students seeking acceptance at top colleges and universities. The list of extracurricular activities is almost endless, each with its own need for specialized materials and equipment. Of equal importance are funds to pay for food, lodging, and transportation for off-campus travel and events.|
|5. Presentation items. The old chalkboard just doesn't cut it anymore. Instead, teachers need smart boards, easels, up-to-date-maps, and more for class presentations.||5. Books and other reading materials. Middle school students require an expended breadth of reading materials when compared to elementary students, including novels, newspapers and magazines for current events.||5. Career counseling and college prep. Sometimes overlooked in funding for high schools and their programs are career counseling and college prep services. Advising students on when and how to best prepare for life after high school is fundamentally important.|
Funding Ideas, Strategies, and Resources
Often the biggest obstacle to success in anything is getting started. What type of fundraiser should you do? Who should be involved? How do you spread the word?
These and plenty of other questions can be answered by tapping into the prior experiences of others. This section is designed to do just that by taking a look at the ideas, strategies, and actions one can take to get started on the path to a successful school fundraiser.
What Type of Fundraiser Makes Sense?
Parents, teachers, and educators use a variety of events to raise money for their kids and schools. Some events are more effective than others, however. Determining the right type of fundraiser to pursue is crucial to its success and depends on a clear understanding of context – what type of fundraiser makes the most sense for each school's unique situation. Here are a few important questions that organizers need to answer in order to narrow the broad list of fundraising options available and find the activity likely to work best for them.
"Each event should be meaningful with a clear outcome or desired goal. Events are most successful when the participants are enthusiastic and have some level of investment in the event itself."
Things to Think About
What are the ultimate long-term financial goals of the school's fundraising efforts?
Context is key. It's important to look beyond the specific event and consider what the school's financial needs are, both big and small, over the course of the entire school year and beyond.
How and when will the funds raised from this particular activity be used?
Are funds needed quickly for an emergency or for an unexpected school event or will the funds need to last throughout a quarter, semester, or entire year?
What is the timeframe for raising the funds?
Whether you can spend several days or weeks on a fundraising drive or need to complete an event in a day or over a weekend will likely be one of, if not the biggest, factor in choosing an event type.
Who's in charge?
While it’s good to get lots of people involved, there should always be a leader. A successful fundraising campaign requires effective leadership. Be sure to choose a chairman with the talent, time, and energy to see the campaign through.
Who will be helping out?
Great leadership is essential, but so is a solid supporting crew. Decide how many people will be needed to carry off a particular activity or event, and get them excited and involved as early as possible.
Expert Advice & Strategies
Be specific with needs and goals
Instead of saying “we need money for our classroom”, the more specific you can be, the better. For example, create a list of art supplies, books, etc. that you intend to purchase with the money received. This gives potential donors a stronger connection to your classroom and your cause.
Concentrate on organization first
Effective leadership starts with organizational structure and delegation. Get a good team together and delegate responsibilities and tasks for each member. It may also be a good idea to have these responsibilities in writing so that everyone is clear on what they each have to do. And keep the written information to use in future fundraising campaigns.
Confirm event dates (and venues, if needed) as soon as possible
Be sure to take a good hard look at both the school's and the community's events calendars. Nothing will ruin a fundraising event more quickly than scheduling conflicts with other events. Once the dates for your event are determined, be sure to inform school and community organizations immediately so that they do not schedule conflicting events afterward. At this point, it’s also wise to secure any necessary venues – don’t just assume a place will be available when you need it.
Be realistic in your goals
Always do some research to estimate the amount of money reasonably expected to be raised from a specific activity or event. If you’re planning something that has been done on an annual basis, a fairly accurate estimate should be no problem. Also, consider increasing the campaign's financial goals a little from years past. Doing so provides a good incentive to staff, parents, and students to go the extra mile.
Consider a consultant
There are lots of professional consultants out there who specialize in school fundraising events. Whether one is needed depends on a number of factors such as size and difficulty of the planned event, as well as experience of the campaign's leadership and support. Ask this question: Will hiring a professional consultant be cost-effective?
Need Help? Key Fundraising Resources
Can't think of a unique fundraising activity? Need help in planning and executing a successful event? There are plenty of great resources accessible online for free. Below is a list of suggestions to get you started:
The AFRDS is a fundraising industry professional association that provides helpful resources such as a fundraising handbook and fundraising "report card" on their website.
This program allows individuals to clip box tops from participating products, send them in to their school's program coordinator who in turn redeems them with the program for cash.
Private company whose site offers programs for school organizations, particularly those for college fraternities and organizations.
This Ford Foundation site offers information for the big picture regarding the need to promote educational efforts nationally and worldwide. The Ford Foundation additionally provides grants to help promote its education initiatives.
FundingFactory is a "fundraising-thru-recycling" company that offers their services to schools and nonprofit organizations throughout the contiguous United States.
Excellent site for ideas for fundraisers generally and for different school groups specifically.
Another private company that allows schools to earn money, in this case by collecting UPCs and beverage and sauce caps from participating products to earn points that can be redeemed for art, athletics and academics merchandise.
Excellent site from the National PTA with links to fundraising event ideas and other associated resources.
PTO Today is a media company and service provider dedicated to, "providing a full suite of products, programs, and services to the entire K-8 school parent group market."
Similar to the Box Tops for Education program, this Tyson Foods-sponsored program allows participants to clip Project A+ labels from Tyson products and redeem them for cash.
How Teachers Can Take Action
There are a number of great organizations out there that provide financial support for their schools. There are also plenty of additional resources that exist for teachers looking for alternative fundraising activities outside of the more common school- and district-wide programs. Here are a number of resources designed specifically for teachers and their fundraising efforts:
ClassWallet is a website where funders can make donations and teachers can access those funds to purchase needed classroom materials from sponsoring businesses like Amazon, Scholastic, Office Depot and others. Contributions through ClassWallet have the same tax deduction status as those made directly to the school.
The ClassWish website allows teachers to create a "Wish List" of the materials needed for their classrooms. Supporters then contribute money designated for specific K-12 schools or teachers. ClassWish then purchases the materials and has them shipped directly to the school. ClassWish is a nonprofit organization and donations are tax deductible.
Sponsored by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, Edutopia's website offers a clearinghouse of resources for K-12 teachers including this page of information on funding opportunities of every size. Teachers can access fundraising-related blogs, videos and more.
Fund for Teachers provides grants to teachers that allow them to "pursue self-designed professional learning experiences." Eligibility is open to PreK-12 teachers, who apply by submitting detailed descriptions of their proposed fellowships. Awards of up to $5,000 are made to individuals and up to $10,000 for educator teams.
Similar to Classwish, Fund My Classroom's website allows teachers to register for a variety of supplies and other resources. Parents and others can then log in and purchase items needed in the classroom, with the items then sent directly to the school. This service is free of charge and 100% of proceeds are directed back to the classroom.
This NSF website page offers information on, and links to, programs that provide either direct or indirect funding for K-12 educators in areas such as curricula development, training and retention.
The NEA Foundation is a nonprofit organization that has invested over $7.1 million funding nearly 4,500 grants to public school teachers aimed at enhancing teaching and learning. It is supported through educator contributions, corporate and foundation sponsorship, and other sources. More than $11 million in grants have also been made directly to unions and school districts through the Foundation's Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative.
Another listing site, TeacherLists provides a platform that allows teachers and schools to efficiently upload and manage supply lists throughout the school year. Parents and others can easily access up-to-date school supply lists at any time or place, helping to keep classrooms from suffering materials shortages.
The Teaching Community website offers a wealth of information and resources to promote careers and opportunities in education, including the article linked to here on resources to find funding for the classroom.
The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) is a union of teachers, nurses and others working within the five boroughs of New York City. Their website provides this helpful page on funding classroom projects that can be used by teachers everywhere seeking ideas and access to further resources.
Get Creative with Crowdfunding
Thanks for the Internet and social media, people can reach out to others far beyond their classroom walls and even their surrounding community. Crowdfunding can be a great way to expand one’s audience and increase the success of fundraising events. Many have heard of larger crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and Indiegogo. Over the last few years, however, crowdfunding has expanded, with many focused on educational causes.
There are three basic steps to crowdfunding:
- Individuals seeking funds submit a detailed description of their project and a goal amount to a crowdfunding website.
- Potential donors can then search the site and evaluate the numerous requests. If something strikes their interest, they donate funds on the site designated for the specific project.
- Once the stated goal is reached, funds are distributed by the website to the funds seeker.
There are more crowdfunding sites with programs for school fundraising than can be discussed here. The following is a list of some of the best known and successful:
Adopt-A-Classroom is a nonprofit organization that pairs donors with teachers to raise money for their classroom needs. 100% of the funds received are made immediately available to the teacher through an online credit.
DonorsChoose.org is an online charity aimed at providing crowdfunding to K-12 public schools throughout the United States. Teachers post project requests on the site. Donors can then contribute to those projects in amounts as small as one dollar. Approximately 70% of projects are successfully funded. If a project does not meet its stated goal, funds contributed are returned to the donors.
Primarily a social networking site for students to showcase their academic achievements and connect with others with similar interests, GoEnnounce additionally allows students to launch fundraisers for clubs and causes they are interested in.
As mentioned earlier, GoFundMe is one of the most popular crowdfunding websites out there. It's Education, Schools & Learning section allows school fund seekers to submit their project requests and then collect contributions with no deadlines or limits.
Piggybackr is a crowdfunding website that focuses on schools, communities groups and youth. Individuals and groups seeking funds in these areas create a project fundraising page on the site. Donors contribute using credit and debit cards. Once the fundraiser is over, Piggybackr sends the funds seeker a check for the amount raised, minus a small percentage-based fee.
Get Funding from Big G
Despite government education funding cutbacks, state and local governments remain lucrative money sources for school fundraising activities. These funds are primarily provided in the form of government grants, which are typically made available to public school districts, private schools, and institutions of higher education.
How Grants Work
There are two basic types of grants available that provide funding from the federal government. Direct grants are applied for directly to the federal government. Funds are then distributed from the federal government. Competition is high among those seeking this type of funding, as award amounts are commonly quite substantial. Pass-through grants are those in which the federal government distributes funds to state governments who in turn distribute money to schools and other qualified recipients. Pass-through grants are typically awarded in lesser amounts than direct grants.
Grant funds are not loans and, therefore, do not need to be paid back. Once awarded, however, grant recipients are required to use the funds exclusively for the purposes stated in the original grant application. As a result, there are typically strict reporting requirements and recipients must keep detailed and accurate records in case of audit.
To find out about federal grant opportunities, visit the Grants.gov website. Visit the state's official website for grant availability, and qualification and application requirements for state grants.
The Grant Application Process
The application process for government grants is extensive and time consuming. Applications typically require the applicant submit a compelling and persuasive description of the organization's need. Most individuals and organizations find the process too complicated to take on alone and hire professionals to help them through. The following is a list of the basic steps that must be taken to successfully apply for a federal government grant. More specific details about the application process can be found at Grants.gov.
Applicants must register as either an individual or an organization. To register as an organization requires obtaining a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number, registering with the System for Awards Management (SAM), creating a user name and password with Grants.gov, and naming and registering an Authorized Organization Representative (AOR).
Find grants 2
Once registered, individuals and organizations use the "search grants" search engine on the Grants.gov website. This is where specific grants programs can be located and qualification requirements reviewed.
Download the correct application package 3
This is also done on the Grants.gov website. Be sure to read the instructions carefully to determine which application package is right for your organization.
Apply for specific grants 4
Start by obtaining the FON and/or CFDA numbers for each grant to be applied for. Then, very carefully fill out all required forms and documents in the application package. Once completed, the application package will be submitted online by clicking the "Save & Submit" button on the website. This button will not be active until all required documents have completed, all required forms attached, all required supporting documents submitted and the application package is free from errors. Track the application 5
Following submission of the package, applicants can track the progress of their application through the vetting process on the Grants.gov website.
The state grant application process varies from state to state. However, much of the same organization information will likely be required when applying for federal grants will be needed in applying for state grants.
College & Campus Fundraising
Elementary, middle, and high schools are not the only ones in need of raising education-related funds. College and university sports, recreation, academic, and social groups, along with Greek organizations, often encounter the same fundraising needs as their younger counterparts. The types of fundraising activities and events can vary, however, sometimes significantly. One of the major reasons for this is that college clubs and organizations often cater their events to other college students and adult members of their surrounding communities.
The goal remains the same, though, as does the fundraising process. Organizers should ask the same questions and follow the same expert advice. And if an event is held on campus grounds or sponsored by a school-recognized club or group, be sure that the event abides by all campus rules and regulations.
Ideas for College Fundraising Events
When it comes to fundraising, college students can be very inventive. Below is a sample of some of the most successful and creative college fundraising ideas:
- Breakfast in bed service This is a unique wrinkle on the ever-popular pancake breakfast. Have members of your club or group cook and deliver breakfasts to fellow students in their dorms or Greek residences. This activity is particularly successful on weekends.
- Casino night A tried-and-true favorite. Attendees pay a fee for entry into the "casino" and are given monopoly money with which to gamble. Those who accumulate the most monopoly money at the end of the night can use the proceeds to purchase prizes donated by the community.
- Food delivery service Provide food delivery to fellow students from favorite local restaurants and fast-food places to fraternity and sorority houses, and to on-campus dormitories.
- Fraternity or sorority competitions Organize competition events between Greek organizations on your campus and charge an entrance fee to attendees. Additional funds can be raised by selling food, drinks and event t-shirts.
- Movie night Another favorite college fundraising event. Rent a copy of a favorite cult movie and show it in a campus hall or local theater. Midnight showings are particularly popular. Again, sell food, drinks and event t-shirts for extra profits.
- Lazy-boy raffle Raffles of just about every kind can be found on college campuses. The trick is to come up with the most unique items or services to raffle off. With the Lazy-Boy raffle, the winner receives a full day of attending classes where a recliner is provided in each class for his or her special comfort. Have group members carry the recliner behind the winner from class to class.
- Sports marathons This is great one for sports like baseball and basketball. Have school sports teams participate in 24-hour marathons, taking on other college clubs or Greek organizations. Charge an entrance fee, sell food and drinks and event t-shirts. Take donations, too.
- Wandering photographers and photo booths Rent an old-time photo booth and place it at school concerts or sporting events. If a photo booth can't be found, attend campus events as a wandering photographer and sell photos to the attendees. Don't forget to bring a portable printer.
Looking for more college fundraising ideas or guidance? Here are a few excellent online resources, most offered by colleges themselves:
From Juniata College, this website presents a comprehensive list of mainstream and unusual fundraising ideas for college students. Great for brainstorming.
Brought to you by the College Lifestyles Online Magazine, this site lists fundraising ideas for sorority-sponsored events and activities geared primarily for women.
Simple guide with advice and ideas for planning and executing successful campus-associated events. Offered by Carnegie Mellon University.
Provided by Farleigh Dickenson University, this guide offers a wide range of unique fundraising ideas for fraternities, sororities and other college clubs and organizations.
Written specifically for student groups at the College of Du Page, this guide offers excellent information and advice for organizing and carrying out successful fundraising events that college students everywhere can use.
A great resource for fundraising event and activity ideas offered by students throughout the world and presented by the popular personalized media platform.
Another website with a comprehensive list of fundraising options for any group but particularly attractive to creative college types.
Actually a section of the student services handbook from Mountain Valley College, this website offers solid advice, strategies and ideas for planning and executing effective college fundraising campaigns.
A small list of mainstream fundraising ideas with nice descriptions of each.
Learn from Others: Educators Share Their Fundraising Stories
For firsthand insight on fundraising, take a look at what the following teachers and administrators had to say. Learn from their previous mistakes and use their advice to plan ahead. Whether you’re the lead organizer and planner or a team member helping out, feedback from these individuals should help you plan and pull off a successful fundraising event.
with Katy DiiorioFormer elementary school teacher and principal
How often do you coordinate or host fundraisers? (If you aren’t the organizer but have helped out, how often does your school hold fundraising events?)
Every school is slightly different, with regards to fundraising events. It largely depends on the level of participation from students, parents, teachers, and administrators. On average, a school hosts 4-5 events throughout the school year.
Why do you/does your school hold fundraising events?
It builds a strong community, highlights important educational skills, and instills a sense of social awareness and moral values in the minds of our youth.
Besides helping to raise funding for school programs or bring awareness to a particular cause, fundraising events help a school come together and work towards a common goal. It builds a strong community, highlights important educational skills, and instills a sense of social awareness and moral values in the minds of our youth.
What is the biggest challenge you've faced in doing fundraisers?
There are always many obstacles when putting together a fundraiser. The biggest challenge is to ensure that the vision for a particular event is shared within the community. Without a clear vision and path to achieving the goals desired, it can be difficult for everyone to align themselves with the bigger picture and work together cohesively.
Do students and parents get involved in these fundraising activities? If so, how?
Students and parents play an integral role in ensuring the success of a particular event. Fundraising events utilize the school community to help organize, promote, and volunteer at the event. Many schools have some type of Parent-Teacher Association (i.e. PTA), which allows parents to be as involved as they would like to be. In addition, teachers often use these fundraising events to help illustrate particular skills and values that can be highlighted for students with real world application. Lastly, students and parents are sometimes polled to determine what types of events and how many they are interested in hosting at the school.
Teachers often use these fundraising events to help illustrate particular skills and values that can be highlighted for students with real world application.
Generally speaking, how much have you been able to raise from your school's fundraisers?
There is variation from year to year, but on average I’ve helped raise $15,000/year.
What kinds of things do you end up purchasing with the moneys that you raise?
The current needs of the school usually dictate where funding is allocated, but it has been used for things such as, needed supplies for art and music programs, equipment for Physical Education classes, and more books for both the school and classroom libraries.
What kind of advice or guidance would you pass on to other teachers/educators (as well as students’ parents) in regard to school fundraising? What have you learned through your experience coordinating/participating in school fundraisers?
It is imperative to not overwhelm or inundate the school community with an abundance of fundraising events. Each event should be meaningful with a clear outcome or desired goal. Events are most successful when the participants are enthusiastic and have some level of investment in the event itself. In addition, while making decisions should be a collaborative approach, there should also be an organized system in solidifying the choices made. Finally, don’t forget to have fun and share the successes that came out of the event. Participants enjoy seeing that their love, hard work, and dedication went towards something positive!
Don’t forget to have fun and share the successes that came out of the event. Participants enjoy seeing that their love, hard work, and dedication went towards something positive!
with Neil ShelbyFifth grade teacher at Encino Park Elementary
How often do you coordinate or host fundraisers?
We try to do two all-school fundraisers a year, one in the fall and one in the spring. We also have a book fair, which is just for the library, and clothing drives and things of that nature. But the big ones are the fundraisers in the fall and spring, one by the school and one by the PTA.
What is the biggest challenge you've faced in doing fundraisers?
The most challenging thing that I've seen is that you are asking people to give you money, and you want to get as much as you can but you don't want to be annoying by asking all the time. So you look for fundraisers that the community can get behind, things that they can get excited about, that the community cares for. We've done things like healthy fundraisers such as a run-a-thon or walk-a-thon. Health is big in our community, so we want to do something that they will be supportive of.
Do students and parents get involved in these fundraising activities?
They do. I'm in a very wonderful community. They want the best for their school, its teachers and students, and so they give as much as they can.
Generally speaking, how much have you been able to raise from your school's fundraisers?
It can be anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 per event. We're usually somewhere in the middle there. It depends on the year and the group. So, we may do one in the fall and it raises $10,000. We may then do a carnival in the spring that raises $30,000. It just depends on the event.
What kinds of things do you end up purchasing with the moneys that you raise?
We start with by looking at the school as a whole. This year we bought amplification systems for every classroom. We used to have a horrible hill where everybody sort of limped down and we've put in a sidewalk. So, we start big with the school. Then we look at what's left over and we go to grade levels, and each grade level uses the funds to buy anything from science supplies, art supplies, things that they need to further their curriculum.
If you had one single piece of advice, tip or comment that you would like to pass on to parents in regard to school fundraising, what would it be?
Your teachers are trying to do everything that they can to help their students reach their full potential, and the fundraising helps supplement that effort. Teachers can't do it all; the district can't do it all. We need a little bit of help. And it's not about every parent giving a lot of money. It doesn't have to be a monetary thing; it can be a voluntary thing. It's that teamwork and community building to help the child reach his or her potential..
with Susan BudakPresident of the Schaumburg Township Council of PTAs
What were some of the major fundraising events that you were involved in while President of the Lincoln Prairie PTSA?
The two tenets that Lincoln Prairie uses for fundraising are: 1) never fundraise in a manner that forces the students to sell products to their neighbors in a door-to-door situation, and; 2) never fundraise in a manner that sells products to parents at inflated prices. So, most of our fundraising is done through the Lunch Extreme program, which is our weekly hot lunch program; treat day which are health treats that are served every other week; the gift card program; a book fair, which supports our school's learning resource center; and a pancake breakfast.
Can you give me an idea of the amount of money raised by these events?
The operating budget at Lincoln Prairie School is probably a little bit more than $15,000 a year. For the fundraising activities, though, only the net profit is included in that number, not the actual cash receipt from parents, which would make that amount much higher.
How important is student and parent participation in fundraising?
Lincoln Prairie is very lucky in that it has a very active parent community. For example, on days when we're serving lunch, we may have three to four volunteers at the school doing that. A big event for us, like our field day, which is one of our uses of funds, we will have closer to 50 parents volunteering at that event. The pancake breakfast is a fundraising event where we will have a lot of volunteers. We will probably have close to 20 or 30 volunteers involved in that. And our upper-level students, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, will help out on set-ups, decorations, stuffing envelopes, handing out flyers and things like that.
These events also seem to help get parents and students more involved in the education process itself.
Certainly when parents are more involved in their child's education, the child does better. The children know that education is important because their parents are showing them that it is. It also shows children at an early age that it's important to give back to their communities.
What are some of the items or services that are funded by the moneys raised by these activities?
As I mentioned, the book fair proceeds go directly to support our library. We also make a grant to the school each year for a fund that the principal can use to support activities that teachers want to do inside and outside of the classroom. And then we have our own activities, the biggest ones being our cultural arts programs, which involve bringing in performers whose performances are in some way tied to the curriculum. Field day is another one, Dad ‘n’ Me night is another large one. And then we support the eighth-grade graduation and the honors breakfast. We also have what we call the Make-A-Difference program that supports lower-income families either through the purchase of school supplies or spirit-wear for the school. We probably have over thirty committees that we run out of Lincoln Prairie School that are supported by the money that we raise.
If there were one observation you would like to make to help parents and others better understand the importance of school fundraising activities, what would that be?
I would say that the time you spend helping your school, whether it's volunteering with a program or a fundraising activity, not only provides the resources that are needed for the activities themselves, but also pays you back triple-fold (at least) in the experience itself and the sense of community that develops.