Each year, back to school seems to come earlier and earlier, right?! We swear summer was longer when we were kids! (It’s not just us, is it?) But it’s about that time of year again. And to help you kick the school year off right, Mightycause has pulled together our top five education fundraising tips.

photo of a school stairwell with bright decorations

Education Fundraising on Mightycause

“Education fundraising” is a pretty broad term. It encompasses everything from pizza fundraisers at the elementary school level, to car washes that support a high school football team, up to the complex world of higher eduction fundraising that is lead by a full staff of development professionals. And because it’s so broad, it’s one of the biggest fundraising categories on Mightycause.

Who can run an education fundraiser on Mightycause?

Education fundraising can get a little complex. So, to make it easy, here’s a shortlist of organizations that can use Mightycause for their fundraisers:

  • 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations
  • Public schools
  • Religious organizations (and, by extension, schools run by the church/organization)
  • Most parent-teacher associations/organizations
  • Most fraternities and sororities

School clubs and student collectives may also be able to use Mightycause for fundraising, but they’ll want to check with their school’s administrators to see if it’s appropriate for them to fundraise under their school’s tax exempt umbrella. Personal fundraising on Mightycause is an option for those groups. Donations are not tax exempt, but allows groups not covered by their school’s tax-exempt status to raise money online.

If you’re not sure whether you can use Mightycause for your education fundraiser, contact us at support@mightycause.com! We’re always happy to help you figure it out, and find the best way for you to fundraise on our platform.

Top Five Education Fundraising Tips

#1: Be wary of sales-based fundraisers.

Sales are a staple of school fundraising. Who didn’t sell pizza kits, wrapping paper or candy bars as a kid? But even though these are very common, we recommend using caution when considering a sales-based fundraiser. Ask yourself (and your school administrators) the following questions.

Who benefits most — the school or the company?

We’re going to level with you: the point of these fundraisers is selling a product. Your school, students and parents are simply a vehicle for product distribution. The companies offering these products are not nonprofit organizations. Their main concern, and purpose, is profit for themselves.

nerdy guy "making it rain"

In many cases, you need to sell a minimum amount of product in order to start seeing money for your school. For instance, Joe Corbi’s pizza kits, a staple school fundraiser in the Mid-Atlantic region, requires that you sell a minimum of 100 kits or “units” before your school starts seeing a $5 earning for each kit sold. So, with pizza kits in the $20-$25 range, that means your school must earn around $2,000 for the company before you see even $5 for your efforts.

Is that the most effective way to raise money for your school?

School Fundraisers on Mightycause: No Products, No Sales, No Strings Attached

Is it good for our students and their families?

Have you ever known someone involved in a multi-level marketing (MLM) company like Herbalife, Amway, or Scentsy? Have you bought a set of Cutco knives because a cousin was selling them, and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer? Sales-based fundraisers work a lot like that — they rely on people asking family members, friends of the family and neighbors to buy a product. In many cases, they don’t really want the product, or could have spent their money elsewhere, but make the purchase to help out someone they care about. (This is extra effective, of course, when the person asking them to buy a product is a cute, wide-eyed kid they love raising money for their school.)

Is this a fair position to put students in? Or their families, for that matter? Is it maybe a touch exploitative? These are tough questions to think about as you evaluate fundraising possibilities, but important to consider carefully.

Is the competitive aspect fair?

A lot of sales-based fundraisers use incentives to motivate students to sell more products (and raise more money for their school). This can look different for every fundraiser, but sometimes it’s winning a pizza party for the top-fundraising class, sometimes it’s an actual prize, and sometimes it’s just bragging rights. But, given that the winning fundraiser or class is based on the amount of product sales and sales are made to people the student knows, students from families with more money to spend are at a distinct advantage.

education fundraising image

It’s something to keep in mind when planning your school fundraiser. With online-based campaigns, there are plenty of ways for all students to get involved and be part of it.

How Mightycause is different

Simply put, we don’t ask you to sell products. Your school keeps the donations you get, and we have flexible pricing plans available that will allow your school to pick a plan that works for you. Whether you choose the 4% platform fee (which donors can cover), turn on platform tips (which means there’s no platform fee at all), or purchase a Premium subscription, you have options! And you’ll keep way more than you would selling products.

Plus, since the donation is a direct contribution to your school, no one will ever be pressured to buy things they don’t need!

#2: Form community partnerships

There aren’t many people in this world who can’t get behind the cause of education. Lots of issues in the nonprofit world can be polarizing, but education just isn’t one of them. Whether you’re fundraising for a school your childhood attends, hosting a donation drive to fill backpacks with school supplies for kids in need, fundraising for education in developing countries, or trying to support a school program, people are more than happy to get behind your cause.

Because the importance of education is such a universal cause, it makes it even easier to form partnerships with businesses in your community.

Learn how to secure partnerships

Corporate and community partnerships are a cornerstone of nonprofit fundraising. And, of course, we’ve got a guide and a webinar on the subject that can help you get started!

Securing Corporate Partnerships for Your Nonprofit

Leverage partnerships for growth

One of the biggest challenges with education fundraising is how to reach people outside of your school. You know teachers and parents will be on board. But how do you mobilize people outside of your school to care and contribute?

Community partnerships are a great way to get people outside of your school’s immediate circle involved in your campaign and invested in your cause. Working with a local business can help bring in donations and supporters from people in the community.

#3: Keep it simple and focused

A common pitfall of education fundraising is making it way overcomplicated. We’ve seen school fundraisers with dozens of pages, complex structures and lists of rules that make our heads spin.

gif of lauren conrad saying "woah"

Fundraising, in general, works best when it’s simple and unfettered. You share your cause, make your case for why your cause is important, and people donate. The end! While we recognize that large-scale fundraisers and events require some intricacy, we always recommend erring on the side of simplicity.

Keep your cause at the forefront

When you’re planning a big event or fundraiser with your students, teachers and parents involved, it can be tempting (and even necessary) to create lots of layers of complexity. But make sure, at every point in the process, you’re staying true to the reason you’re fundraising in the first place: education.

For instance, if you’re planning a dance-a-thon to raise funds for your private school, the dancing is important… but secondary to the cause of education. Make sure you’re hitting on the topic at every point – in talking to parents and school administrators, in promoting your event, and even at the dance-a-thon itself.

Learn more about developing your messaging:

Nonprofit Communications Plan: Practical Steps to Communicate Better

Make it easy to donate

People are much more likely to give to charity when it’s easy. And, in that same vein, people might opt out of donating totally if the process is burdensome, confusing or time-consuming. So that’s why Mightycause is a good choice for your education fundraiser. Donating through our platform couldn’t be easier.

No one has to pull out their checkbook, send an envelope to school with their child. They can quickly make a donation from their computer or phone. Mightycause has designed our donation process for optimal efficiency, using the knowledge we’ve gained over a decade of online fundraising. And we’ve given nonprofits and unprecedented level of control over the process with our new Donor Experience tools.

And, importantly, donations made through Mightycause are tax-exempt. That’s because they’re true charitable donations, not product purchases! Donors get the tax benefit, not a company. (And we send the receipts, too, so that’s less work for your school.)

#4: Be mindful of fundraiser fatigue

“Donor fatigue” is a common concern among nonprofits, but in an education environment, it can be an even bigger problem. That’s because parents, teachers, school administrators are not only expected to donate to fundraisers, but they typically help orchestrate them too!

gif of meredith grey saying "i'm just exhausted"

Here are some ways you can avoid fundraiser fatigue with your education fundraising.

Consider effort vs. return

As we discussed, a lot of the commonplace education fundraisers like selling candy, wrapping paper, collecting box tops, etc. aren’t the most efficient way to raise money for your school. And, furthermore, they’re super time-consuming. Someone at the school has to organize, collect order forms or box tops, count them up, deal with products … and it’s tiring. It’s a lot of effort for minimal reward. (And it’s not uncommon for advice columnists to hear from parents unsure how to handle the deluge of fundraising requests! That’s how stressful it can be for some people.)

And because these fundraisers can fall short of bringing in the funds you need, you might find your school needs to have more than one per year. Donors will be much more likely to give when they’re asked less frequently.

We’ve put together a list of easy, creative fundraising ideas that can help you bring in funds with minimal effort from your school’s employees and parents. And because they’re online, they’re easy for donors too. Check them out!

15 Creative Education Fundraising Ideas

Choose fundraising methods with the biggest impact

When your fundraising runs a higher-than-normal risk of fundraiser fatigue, it’s important to choose fundraising methods with the biggest payout. That means you’ll have to do fewer fundraisers, because the funds you bring in will be greater.

With Mightycause, we have a variety of pricing options available to you. They all have one thing in common, however. More money for your school. Here are the options available to schools:

  • No upfront cost, with the following options:
    • Platform fee: 4% for nonprofit organizations, donors have the ability to cover this for you so you see their full donation
    • Platform tips: No platform fee, donors are asked to leave a “tip” to Mightycause to help us continue providing our services to schools like yours with no upfront cost
  • Premium subscriptions
    • No platform fees, no asking donors to cover fees or leave “tips”
    • One-time annual fee that makes budgeting easy
    • Great for schools and nonprofits that use Mightycause throughout the year
    • Access to additional fundraising tools such as custom donation pages, branded receipts, CRM tools, volunteer management tools, and more

These options allow your school the flexibility you need to choose what’s right for you. And they all will enable your school to see more of the money donated to your fundraiser.

Focus on experiences

As educators, you know the impact quality family time has on kids. And both parents and students are more likely to be excited, engaged participants in fundraising activities that are focused on fun, togetherness and community rather than money and things.

Things like family fun runs, walk-a-thons, ice cream socials and family events are more likely to be a hit — and much less likely to cause fatigue.

#5: Say thank you and follow up!

The school year is hectic and moves fast. There’s a lot to do! Once you’re done with your fundraiser, it’s easy to move into the next project that needs your full attention. But don’t let the fast pace allow you to forget the most important part of successful fundraising — follow up!

Following up ensures that donors feel appreciated. It acknowledges the importance of their contribution, and makes it more likely to ensure that they will come back to support you again.

Saying thank you

On Mightycause, every donor receives a receipt, which you can add a custom message to so you’ve supplied the donor’s tax receipt and official acknowledgement at the same time. But don’t stop there! There’s really no such thing as being thanking a donor too much. Here are a few things you can do to take your gratitude to the next level:

  • Film a video thanking all of your donors. Get students involved to make the video even more special and remind donors of who they were supporting!
  • Add a page thanking donors to your newsletter
  • Ask teachers, school administrators, parent volunteers and even students (if age appropriate) to make phone calls thanking donors for contributing to your fundraiser
  • Have a low-key event at the school with drinks and snacks to thank parents for their help

Keeping donors engaged

One of the most important ways to keep donors engaged is to follow up on how you’re putting their contributions to good use. Since most schools are in regular contact with parents and donors, make sure to circle back to your fundraiser in your communications. For instance, if you were fundraising for your school’s music program, include an update in your parent newsletter! Send a special invite to their next concert, with a note that their contribution made the concert possible — and make sure to thank donors at the concert too.

We’ve got some tips on how to keep donors engaged and coming back that can be easily applied to education fundraising. Read them and put them into practice!

The Mightycause Guide to Donor Engagement and Retention

Bonus Education Fundraising Tip: Have fun!

Education fundraising doesn’t have to be all business, money, work and humdrum activities. Just like education tends to engage students better when it’s fun and piques their interest, it’s important to make sure fundraising is fun and interesting for students, teachers, parents and volunteers! Make it creative, let it reflect your school’s style and mission, and people will come back to help year after year.

gif of kids having fun in school

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