Incredible Ideas

3 Tips for a successful virtual school fundraiser.

As schools are returning for the Spring 2021 semester, many are remaining in an entirely virtual or hybrid setting. This school year has brought forth many challenges of how to effectively involve the school community, as well as provide support for the students and staff.

Schools that have moved to a virtual setting during COVID must adjust their activities accordingly, including fundraising efforts. Especially in such uncertain circumstances, school fundraising is crucial for providing funding for new accommodations. The catch is, virtual fundraisers require unique or brand new strategies to be pulled off successfully. In addition, it’s crucial to have an effective marketing plan in place. With this information, going virtual can be an easy transition!

At 99Pledges, we’ve helped numerous schools take on all kinds of social-distanced fundraising challenges with effectiveness and ease. We’ve also accounted for issues schools may encounter when transitioning from in-person to virtual events. To help your school plan a successful virtual fundraiser, we’ve put together a list of things to consider when hosting one for your school. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Deciding on an idea for your event
  • Planning out the fundraiser
  • Marketing to your school’s community

Remember, just because it’s crucial to remain distanced for such events, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your goals as a school. These events will ensure safety for your community members while providing a memorable event that involves the entire family. Let’s get started on how to move your fundraiser online.

Deciding on an idea for your fundraiser

With COVID, it can put pressure on your team to keep participants engaged if they can’t physically gather to support your cause. How will your school most effectively host an event for the whole family while in a virtual setting? 

Thankfully, there are many ways to plan a fun, yet fully virtual school fundraising event! The 99Pledges guide to school fundraising ideas offers a range of events to kickstart your team’s brainstorming. Our favorites include: 

  • A walkathon where walkers pick their own course to complete during a designated timeframe
  • A read-a-thon that can be logged online
  • A talent show made of videos to be voted on by your school community
  • A raffle that can be tuned into from home

Each of these events can keep your students and families safe and distanced from others. There are a lot of helpful online resources for specific events. For example, a walkathon can be planned and tracked through a running app (or logged manually through the honor system if needed). Therefore, participants can walk their own course but remain a part of a team effort to raise money.

We recommend taking a pledge approach to your school fundraisers because these campaigns are more engaging for students and will help you reach a wider audience. Pledge fundraisers are campaigns in which your participants gather support on their individual donor pages through pledges from their friends and family. Easy as that!

Remember, this step of the process can be tricky, but it can be a creative exercise to see which fundraising event ideas you can turn into online activities. Online guides such as the ones in this section are great places to start when your team needs extra inspiration!

Planning your event

Now that you’ve chosen which idea you want to go with for your fundraiser, your school must use best practices for smart virtual fundraising

Learning these tips now will serve your organization in the future. That’s because virtual fundraising events will likely remain a trend because of the wide range of benefits they offer, chief among them being cost-effectiveness and the ability to reach larger audiences. Here’s how to set one up.

First, choose your fundraising software. You’ll want to look for a platform that helps keep incoming contributions organized and offers donors a streamlined donation process. For instance, with the 99Pledges fundraising platform, your school can create a campaign page to serve as the main event hub. Then, each participant will be set up with their own fundraising pages that connect to your primary page. Your software should make it easy for donors to pledge money and for your participants to track their progress on their pages. The pledges will turn into fundraising dollars for your school after your event.

Then, strategize your campaign approach based on past event data. This can come from your records on who has contributed to your school in the past, who has participated in events, and how people found out about your fundraiser. Such information can help you ask strategic questions to propel your virtual event forwards such as:

  • What platforms of promotion lead to more first time engagements?
  • What were key motivators to donate in the past?
  • How do your donors prefer to give?
  • When are the best times to post on social media, or send an email?

With those things considered, be sure you’re taking advantage of the data your chosen software can collect. In a completely virtual setting, you can use new data about who donated, how they found your page, and more detailed information to develop a strategy for future events. 

Marketing your virtual school fundraiser

Now that your event has a concrete plan of action, your marketing timeline must attract support before, during, and after the virtual event.

Effective event marketing sets your school up for success in interacting with your supporters as well as your larger community. It’s an excellent opportunity to tell people about your school’s efforts and mission, and it establishes rapport in your community. In promoting your virtual event, consider the following steps:

Have your volunteers help spread the word.

Empower those who are already passionate about your cause to spread the word about your virtual event. Your volunteer base already has multiple networks they can pull support from including social and professional. Their friends and family are likely to donate because they see their loved one caring about your mission and will want to help. If your school is looking for great ambassadors consider the following groups:

  • School board members – These figures in your community are already dedicated supporters of your school and its efforts. Their promotion will reach large professional networks, especially those who are involved in education. 
  • Parent volunteers – These parents have likely participated in multiple school events, and they have a personal connection to your cause—the student. They are accustomed to devoting time and effort to your school, and their social networks involve local families and relatives who also have a personal connection to the student.

Your school’s ambassadors and volunteers can easily direct their networks straight to the relevant fundraising page, which will help your event tremendously. To empower them to do so, consider incentivizing them with special rewards, like a thank-you event or a free t-shirt. Appreciation goes a long way for volunteers.

Use the right platforms to communicate your message.

Once you find the right volunteers to market your virtual fundraiser, provide them with the right messaging tactics. Supply them with the right materials and tips for best practices.  For example, refer them to a Fundraising Letters donation request template to ensure a unified message. You’ll reach a larger audience of potential donors in no time.

Regardless of the platform, make sure your mission’s message is clear. Your call to action should lead donors to the correct webpages for your virtual event. If supplementing your fundraiser with an interactive event, the details of when and where to find it should be included as well. 

Then, consider which channels are most effective for your marketing strategy. Use multiple outlets to spread the word to a wide audience of potential contributors. This can include both digital and print mediums. Just be sure to use the platforms that are most relevant to the segments you’re trying to target. For example, if your previous donors frequently engage with your school’s emails, consider ways to personalize your email marketing most effectively. 

Other marketing channels can include:

  • Social media posts
  • Digital newsletters
  • Text updates
  • Direct mail
  • Handouts to students
  • Community bulletin boards

Just remember, the most effective marketing strategy across multiple platforms will help you reach a broader audience beyond just your students and their parents.

Although fundraising events adjusted to a virtual setting this year, it doesn’t mean your school has to sacrifice its goals. Remaining flexible as an organization is key for planning a virtual event during the COVID era. 

Build your teamwork skills by deciding on a creative virtual event idea. Then, use best practices to plan your event and strategies for fundraising. Finally, empower the members of your school community to help market your efforts. With these tips in mind, you’ll have a memorable and successful virtual school fundraiser!

Guest Blogger in Getting Attention, Incredible Ideas | 0 comments

Some Great Ideas & Inspiration from Marketers & Fundraisers at NTC -- Wish You Were HereI had the pleasure of co-hosting a meet-up for nonprofit marketers & fundraisers here at NTC (NTEN's mind-blowing annual conference) yesterday afternoon, along with nonprofit marketing guide Kivi Leroux Miller.

Running in the room 5 minutes before blastoff I was thrilled to see over 100 folks raring to go. We were a bit astonished but quickly got folks talking cocktail party style before we started the peer-to-peer Q&A. Here are the top 3 take-aways I got:

  • How to generate and work good storytelling
    • Show prospective storytellers how to do it (your donors, volunteers, program participants, clients), and tell them what your org's going to do with the stories. Will motivate and focus folks.
    • The Me Not Meth campaign launched some demo videos to model what the campaign was asking former meth addicts to do — create home-made videos of their own stories. That broke the barrier and drove video submissions. Even better, they had the budget to blanket selected geographies with billboard advertising inviting storytellers to participate.
    • Re-purpose the stories you have for different channels. Survey input can work as testimonials (if you have name, title, org). Video outtakes can become profiles.
    • Thank your storytellers and subjects.
  • Don't jump into Twitter or even Facebook till your Web site, SEO, e-alerts and blog are everything they can be! Web site is home base. Still few examples of traditionally successful social media campaigns.
  • Mobile fundraising — Still evolving. Expensive to launch & support a program. Key takeaway –  start collecting cell numbers now! They're usually good for the long term.

More to come. Just trying to get my brain and fingers to catch up with my ears!

Nancy Schwartz in 09NTC, Incredible Ideas, Nonprofit Communications | 0 comments
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Keep Your Eyes Peeled Ways to Distribute Content Proliferating Like BunniesBuzzmachine blogger Jeff Jarvis’ new book — What Would Google Do? — was just published. What’s interesting is that the publisher also introduced a 23-minute video book version at $9.99. Jeff says it’s a brief, fun intro to the main points in the book. HarperCollins’s research revealed that there are folks interested in the ideas but unwilling to spend hours reading the book.

For nonprofit communicators, its publication highlights how the world continues to serve up an ever-growing range of new ways to distribute your important information. Since your org’s knowledge, connections and data are your greatest assets when shared strategically, you should watch what’s going on very closely.

I can’t think of anything more effective than a head researcher at the Foundation Center introducing key findings from recent research on changes in foundation giving via a brief video; or the program director at the Coalition to Prevent Homelessness using a short video to introduce its new strategy to counter the increased number of homeless families. It’s likely that in both cases some viewers will dig in for more detail, and that the strategy would capture many who wouldn’t have touched a report or press release with a ten foot poll.

What’s most important though, is that you keep your eyes peeled for new communications channels that may supercede or complement the ones you’re using now. Jump on short-form video now, though. It’s a no-brainer.

P.S. No matter the channel, it’s crucial that your tagline and other key messages are powerful and consistent. Otherwise you’ll confuse and irritate your audiences. Download the free Nonprofit Tagline Report for must-dos, don’t dos, case studies and 1,000+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Nancy Schwartz in Incredible Ideas, Nonprofit Communications | 0 comments
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Ask Your Base to Make the World a Better Place, Without Spending a Cent The Give ListThe Give List, launched just last week by Allison Fine and Marnie Webb, already lists 71 ways to support communities and causes without your wallet.

It’s rough out there right now for all of us, but that means that other folks and organizations need our help more than ever. So incredible minds Fine and Webb put their heads together to shout out for ways gift givers can strengthen lives and communities.

What’s great is that Fine and Web are putting Web 2.0 to work to brainstorm far and wide, and have already received some great ideas. Take a look at this eye-opening list of $0 helping ops from Lacey at the LA Chamber Orchestra.

Take 15 minutes today to brainstorm how your supporters can help your org even if they can’t give a cent, then shout it out via your blog, site and e-news. Don’t forget to add your ideas to the Give List by tagging your ideas with #givelist on Twitter, or with “givelist” (without the quotation marks) on de.licio.ous, your post or flickr photo so the Give List team can share them with the world.

Great job of seeing the bright side, Allison and Marnie, and crafting a network to inspire others to share their bright ideas for making the world a better place.

Photo: Kevin Eddy, Flickr

Nancy Schwartz in Fundraising: Innovations & Research, Incredible Ideas, Incredible Minds, Nonprofit Communications | 1 comment
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The Upside of the Downturnis incredible ideas.

I've finally taken off my coat, 1 1/2 hours after arrival at the office.

You see despite my best intentions, I couldn't resist diving right into all the incredible ideas delivered to me over the last 24 hours. (BTW, they come in automatically — once I subscribe to the blogs, sites, etc I want updates from — via my RSS reader. RSS readers are a Web-based, spam-free, quick and efficient way to read news you need. Once you take 3 minutes to watch this video, you'll be ready to set up your own reader.)

I've seen no stats on this, but it really seems that adversity is breeding innovation. The economy is in the toilet with life as we've known it gone for good, but I think it's spurred us to be more creative than ever.

There were so many incredible ideas, guidelines and models in my reader this morning that I've realized I have to share more of them. So I'm launching two new post types — Incredible Ideas and Incredible Minds. Watch the blog for introductions to some of the best minds and ideas out there, which I promise will teach, motivate and inspire you.

My first recommendation: If you don't have your RSS ready to go, do it NOW. My top picks are Google Reader and Bloglines. Then as you come upon blogs, sites or other resources you want to keep up with,  just subscribe to have new content sent to your reader. 

Nancy Schwartz in Incredible Ideas, Incredible Minds, Nonprofit Communications, Professional Development, Web 2.0 | 1 comment
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