By DonorSearch

5 Steps to A+ Private & Independent School Fundraising

If we’re going to dedicate an entire guide to private and independent school fundraising, we should probably begin by defining the two types of schools. Let’s do that now! Although the difference between the two is minor, it still exists and needs to be pointed out.
  • Private School: A private school is operated by a non-governmental agency. Private schools receive no funding from public officials or governmental entities.
  • Independent School: An independent school is nonpublic and also not associated with a church or third party entity.
The biggest semantic difference here is that independent schools cannot be classified as such if they’re governed by another agency, like a church, whereas a private school can be. Both, however, are nonpublic, and therefore have to rely heavily on fundraising. That’s where this guide will come in handy! The independent and private schools being discussed here are K-12. If you’d like some information on fundraising for universities and colleges, click here. Otherwise, your independent or private school likely relies heavily on its ability to raise funds from its community. Follow this 5-step guide and make the grade in your fundraising class this school year.
  1. Set New Goals for the School Year and Hone Your Story
  2. Document Your Fundraising Strategy
  3. Put a Team Together
  4. Follow Independent and Private School Fundraising Best Practices
  5. Host a Fundraising Event
It can sometimes be difficult to think of new and creative school fundraising ideas that will keep your whole community engaged, but following some best practices for school fundraising will go a long way to boosting your overall success. Keep reading to learn more!

1) Set New Goals for the School Year and Hone Your Story

All private and independent schools have their own needs and missions that have to be individually strategized for. Now is the start of the school year, and therefore, the perfect time to sit down and do some goal setting. Ask yourself and your team:
  • What is special about your school?
  • What is your school’s mission?
  • Has your mission shifted since the last time you had a goal-setting session?
  • How can your fundraising efforts make the biggest positive difference in the education of your students?
  • Where do you see the donations you gather being spent?
Your answers to these questions are going to help you craft your strategy, a point we’ll get to in step two, but, more broadly speaking, they’ll also help you hone your story. In order to be successful, you’ll want an overarching fundraising story, one informed by your past accomplishments and driven towards specific future experiences. Each story should be as unique as your school is. You need an impetus for people to donate. That impetus starts with your story. Learn more about the uniqueness of the fundraising process at K-12 schools.

2) Document Your Fundraising Strategy

You have your goals set, and you know your story. It is time to move from the abstract to the tangible. That means reworking your goals into a thought-out and realistic strategy. As you map out your strategy, you’re going to have to return to the questioning board. Use this checklist to make sure you hit all the most important points. Next, ask your team a few essential questions:

What goal do you need to accomplish?

This is the most general of your strategizing questions. You have to be able to answer this before you can move on to any of the others. Your goal setting was all leading up to this question.

How much money do you need to reach your goal?

You’re in the realm of fundraising. Trying to accomplish your goal without a specific dollar amount in mind is like trying drive to a new restaurant without the street address. You reach the general region, but it is highly unlikely that you’ll get to where you need to be.

When do you need to reach your goal?

Almost as important as setting that dollar amount, you also need to determine a deadline. That date will have a massive impact on the speed in which you’ll have to work and the depth at which you’ll be able to address various tasks.

Which donors and prospects are you looking to for funds?

Contacting all prospects and donors will turn up some donations. However, you have limited time and resources that would be better spent reaching out to specific people who have a higher likelihood of donating. It’s a far better return on your investment (ROI). Using tools like wealth screenings to help you identify your most likely prospects can help you distribute your resources effectively.

What is the giving capacity of your donor and prospect pool?

How you target your donors and prospects will change depending on their giving capacities. If you’re soliciting a major gifts candidate, that process will differ from the manner in which you’d solicit a donation from a monthly giving prospect. Each is worthy of your attention, but they simply require specific acquisition strategies.

How are you going to solicit donations?

Building from the two previous questions, your communication methodology will be based on the prospects you’re targeting. That’s why conducting prospect research is so valuable to your organization. By getting to know your supporters and alumni better, you’ll be able to create an outreach strategy that is the most effective at reaching your goals. Some will respond to direct mail; others will need a visit. Maybe you’ll have the room in your budget for travel. Maybe you won’t. Plan smartly and budget accordingly, always keeping ROI in your thoughts. Consider, too, trying some school fundraising ideas that don’t require you to ask for financial donations. In-kind donation drives are a reliable staple for schools of all sizes.

What additional support will you need?

This question is essentially asking – what exactly is needed to accomplish this? That could be answered in many ways. You might need to put together a parent fundraising team, bring on a development consultant, or hold a training day for staff. Additional resources often come at a certain expense, so deciding what you’ll need throughout the process, and deciding early, is the best step you can take to handle the onslaught of tasks that come along with a fundraising initiative. The highly detailed strategy that you’ll generate while working through these questions is designed to be your school’s guidepost throughout the campaign. With this plan in place, everyone will know what their part in the process is and have ample time to figure out how best to accomplish their tasks. Learn about the tools you can use to research and answer questions like these

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