Effective Practices : Development

Fundraising Events
Development Section 3

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1. What are examples of fundraising events that schools hold on a regular basis?
2. Are there other non-event fundraising activities that are successful in schools?
3. What is the role of profile-raising events at the school?
4. Which person or group holds responsibility for coordinating each these events and delivering the expected benefits?
5. How are fundraising efforts coordinated with community development activities?
6. What are the key points in a schoolÕs fundraising philosophy?

DEV 3-1

What are examples of fundraising events that schools hold on a regular basis?
One school surveyed holds two major fundraising events on a regular basis, the annual Holiday Fair and the bi-annual auction. Here is a picture of the experience of this large school:

The Holiday Fair is a seasonal event. It features vendors, activities for the children, food and entertainment. It raises about $30,000 each year, net of expenses. The vendors bring in about a third of the revenue. They pay 25% of their gross and $50 per table to be at the event. Vendors are also required to provide one item for the raffle at the fair. The parents make items that are sold at the fair, and this raises another third of the revenue. Each class is assigned a project by the school, and given the money to cover the supplies for making the project. The items made by parents are then sold at the fair. Projects can include things such as dolls, capes, and wooden toys. Often times the projects assigned relate in some way to the class’s curriculum for the year. A class can choose to do a project other than the one that is assigned, but in that case the school does not advance the funds to the class, but reimburses for expenses out of the proceeds. The balance of the money raised is from the raffle, food sales, the bakery, and the pocket lady. There is also an advertising book that provides some income. The event is held inside the school, with vendors in the gym, entertainment in the auditorium, and food and other offerings in the various classrooms.

The bi-annual auction raises about $60,000. It features both a live auction and a silent auction. It is held offsite as a dress up event for adults, and features a unique theme and location each year. For example, one year the event was a Black and White Ball, named in recognition of the local baseball team’s uniforms and held in a special room at the ballpark. Tickets are usually about $75 per person, and include dinner and dancing. Sometimes the event features a cash bar, at other times beer and wine are included in the ticket price. This decision is usually based on the logistics of the location for the event. The most popular gifts are services that the faculty offers to provide. One teacher might offer a night of babysitting or to coordinate a birthday party, another might offer to make a week of lunches for a family’s children. The only drawback to this event is deciding what to do in the off years to help even the cash flow to the school. The school is considering a benefit dinner next year with a big name speaker.

Wreath sales are popular events in Waldorf schools, and take place in various ways. Two of these are described below:

In one school the event is a wreath show and silent auction. Families and students are invited to create their own unique holiday wreaths and then donate them to the auction. The wreaths are hung on display and offered for bid. Activities are provided for the children in one area while the adults are bidding in another part of the school. The event features beautiful desserts, elegantly served by community members. The event grosses about $10,000 with a net of $9,000.

In the second school the wreath sale is kicked off in October and raises about $21,000 net for the school. Each family is sent a wreath package with a picture of a commercially produced wreath, the price, and an order form. The hope is that each family will sell 15 wreaths to family and friends. The wreaths are delivered to the school and available for pick-up the three days prior to Thanksgiving. Parents will pick up their wreaths and deliver them to the families on their order slip. The school also makes shipping boxes available for $2.00 each if people want to ship the wreaths as gifts to friends and family out of the area.

Classes receive 25 cents per wreath for their class fund. In addition, this year each class will receive $4.00 per wreath for each wreath more than what was sold last year by that class. To support this event each class has a wreath rep. The rep is responsible for verifying the order forms are correctly filled out and ensuring that the checks add up properly before submitting them for processing.

Concerts and music festivals are another popular fundraising activity. One school holds a family music festival in May or June. It is held outside on a huge field. It has featured Pete Seger and Peter Yarrow in the past, and offers food, vendors and games for the children while the music is being offered. The amount raised varies depending on the talent performing. One year the event grossed $47,000, but the usual amount is $35,000. It usually nets around $21,000. This event has a tremendous friend raising benefit as it is promoted widely in the broader community and people from all over the school’s market area are in attendance.

This school also holds a classical concert called Midwinter Music. It is held in January or February. The proceeds again vary depending on the featured musician. It has ranged from $6,000 to $12,000 in gross revenues in the past, and expenses are only about $1,000.

Most schools hold some sort of May Day celebration, and the emphasis is usually more on friend-raising than on fundraising. However, one school holds this as the only fundraising event of the year. The event has been celebrated since the founding of the school, and all the proceeds go to a scholarship fund. The event is a celebration of spring, attended by parents, students and alumni. There is lots of food, games for the kids, and a silent auction as the major fundraising vehicle. The production of the biggest student play of the year occurs following the celebration.

Frequently the Parent Association raises funds for the school through small-scale fundraisers. The Parent Association has the ability to designate where they wish the funds raised to be used. They often choose an item or two from a faculty wish list to present as a year end gift, as well as helping to fund requested items throughout the year such as performances by a visiting eurythmy troupe, special guest artists for assemblies, and programs such as a school’s annual Civil Rights Brunch.

DEV 3-2

Are there other non-event fundraising activities that are successful in schools?
One school directs an annual calendar and note card sale that has a major fundraising impact, contributing about $40,000 a year. It does require a significant amount of planning and advance work to get all aspects of the project into place.

Scrip sales and percent fundraising programs can produce $25,000 to $50,000 a year for schools. In percent fundraising programs parents that own a business give a certain percentage of their sales to the school. Purchases through OneCause.com and on the Target credit card contribute a meaningful amount each month. Scrip programs purchase gift certificates at a discount from local groceries and retail establishments, and then sell then at face value to parents at the school. The gift certificates are used like cash, allowing parents to make a no-cost contribution to the school every time they shop.

School stores can raise $20,000 to $30,000 a year after expenses. These stores also provide very positive public relations for the school, and support parents by making Waldorf inspired toys and crafts available for use at home.

Magazine drives are another non-event fundraiser. They require very little effort and typically return $4,000 or $5,000 to the school each year.

DEV 3-3

What is the role of profile-raising events at the school?
Many schools have found that fundraising events are labor intensive and run the risk of providing little return if not very well planned. For this reason many schools feel that events are of the most value when they have a significant profile-raising impact and serve to build the positive image for the school. For this reason even events that are designed just as fundraising events are also structured to be community building events and success is measured by both goals. This commitment to friend-raising is particularly strong among schools that have had successful capital campaigns and strong grant programs. They recognize from experience that a strong program of friend-raising is a pre-requisite for any successful capital campaign or grant program.

One example of a friend-raising event is the annual Grandparents Day celebration. Grandparents enjoy a program of entertainment by the children, have an opportunity to hear reflections on the value of Waldorf education from a panel of alumni, visit classrooms, and enjoy sumptuous treats. Parents at the school frequently express their appreciation for these events, as they provide their own parents with an inside look at how things are done in a Waldorf school.

Another example is one school’s Anniversary Celebration. This event was held off-site and featured performances by alumni students. City representatives were present and the mayor spoke about the School. Although there was a fundraising element to the celebration, the event was structured to position the School as a major institution in the town. It should not be a surprise to learn that this school has been awarded gifts of land and other grants as a result of its civic involvement and consciously developed high profile in the community.

DEV 3-4

Which person or group holds responsibility for coordinating each these events and delivering the expected benefits?
In a large school, the Development Director has the overall responsibility for the fundraising and community building effort. She is aided in this oversight work by other members of the development staff and leaders of the fundraising and community development committees. In any size school, successful development work requires an oversight function, someone carrying the big picture of relationship building. The oversight function also ensures that a particular event is well placed on the school calendar and that the theme and key elements of the events match with the school’s image. Development is all about projecting a positive message to the community and connecting with those who are aligned with that message.

Most schools have created subcommittees of the Fund Raising Committee to manage and produce recurring events. The subcommittee chair works with the Development Director to ensure smooth interaction between the school and the volunteers.

The execution of these events and activities often happens through the work of loving, qualified and self-motivated volunteers. Staff members provide support with publicity and art direction for promotional materials, but events run best when the school has a strong commitment to empowering volunteers to run the events.

DEV 3-5

How are fundraising efforts coordinated with community development activities?
All of the individuals and committees involved in fundraising efforts coordinate their projects with the Development Director. It is her responsibility to ensure that the school looks at each fundraising event as an opportunity for community building. There must be a genuine interest in creating positive publicity for the school, both at the event itself and in the manner in which all planning and promotion are conducted. Success is measured by the quality of the experience as well as by the money raised.

DEV 3-6

What are the key points in a school’s fundraising philosophy?
  • Friend-raising must come before fund raising. This is the key philosophy that informs all areas of fundraising.
  • All events are expected to reflect school values and must be conducted in a way that supports a balanced and happy life for all planners and participants.
  • The Development Office and the Development Steering Committee are responsible for holding a consciousness of all fundraising and contributions to the school. Recognizing that all fundraising products and methods create an impression of the school, ALL projects, events, or solicitation of material or cash donations to the school must receive prior review. This applies to any faculty member, parent, friend or student who intends to solicit any person or business from within or outside the school community.
  • No one does any fundraising or approaches any donors without the knowledge and partnership of the Development Director and/or the right committee. Constant reminders are needed on this point, as it is vital if the school is to ensure a consistent and well-executed development program.
  • Big events are labor intensive. Some have a low financial yield, but may have a big public relations payoff. This understanding is crucial to the way in which the School evaluates the success of such events.
  • Plan ahead. Without sufficient lead time the energy required to support an event and ensure that it is fully realized is overwhelming and can lead to frustration and bitterness rather than achieving the important financial and community building goals envisioned for the event.
  • The Parent Association is not a separate entity; it is a part of the school. The Development Office is a partner in planning all parent events and in setting the budget for these events. There can be no sense of them and us.
  • Student involvement in fundraising should be age-appropriate and complement the curriculum whenever possible.
  • Empower volunteer leaders and really let them roll with an event. The more freedom people experience in creating something like this for the school, the greater their creativity and the higher their commitment to its success.
  • Set clear expectations for the event in advance, and agree on how the success of the event will be evaluated. Do a good, thorough review and keep good records. Ask for input in formal ways, such as providing forms and asking for written feedback.
  • As part of the feedback process ask for the names of people who need to be thanked for work above and beyond the call of duty. While key volunteers may be obvious, recognizing the unsung heroes is also important.
  • Say thank you!

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