Learn more about how your school team or organization can put on a more successful digital fundraiser.

3 Tips for a Successful Virtual School Fundraiser

As a parent or teacher involved with school clubs or sports teams, fundraising might be something you view as a necessary but difficult part of these activities. Students often need additional funding for extracurriculars. However, traditional fundraising methods can be tiresome, requiring large investments of time and resources only to be met with subpar results.

Instead of spending another year selling items from catalogs to local friends and neighbors, consider switching to digital fundraising. During a digital fundraiser, you’ll simply engage donors by promoting the campaign online. Then, collect donations via a virtual payment portal. This way, you won’t need to collect cash or checks, and it’s possible for supporters to contribute from anywhere. And the best part is that you can take almost any fundraising idea online.

Whether you’re hosting a school-wide fundraiser or raising money for the marching band’s next competition, it’s paramount that your group has fundraising software that makes the process easy. These tools take care of all of the tiny, tedious details for you. For example, you might choose a solution that automatically creates individual fundraising pages for each student and seamlessly sends funds to your account at the end of the campaign. 

In this short guide, we’ll help you get started by covering three tips for a successful digital school fundraiser:

  • Deciding on an idea for your fundraiser
  • Planning out the fundraiser
  • Marketing your digital school fundraiser

While the main parts of the fundraiser, like promotion and donation collection, occur online, don’t forget that you can include in-person components, too. Capping the campaign off with a fun event (or centering the campaign around a final event) is a great way to build excitement and deepen engagement. You’ll likely want to hire a fundraising event planner to coordinate this element of the campaign will to ensure that everything runs smoothly, and you raise the most money possible! 

Let’s dive in by exploring how to get started by choosing an idea that your students (and their families) will love.

Deciding on an idea for your fundraiser

When kicking off any fundraiser, it’s key to choose an idea that resonates with participants, supporters, and the volunteers helping you run the fundraiser. 

First, make sure that the idea you choose is age-appropriate and appeals to participants’ interests—a cheerleading squad of teens might enjoy a 5K race, but a tee-ball team of six-year-olds may not. Additionally, the idea you choose shouldn’t involve extreme amounts of preparation and involvement from your volunteers. 

If you aren’t sure where to start, this 99Pledges guide to school fundraising ideas offers a range of events to kickstart your team’s brainstorming. Some of the most popular ideas include: 

  • A walk-a-thon where participants walk together along a route that your organizers map out ahead of time.
  • A read-a-thon during which students read as much as they can, log the minutes spent reading, and collect donations based on those minutes.
  • A talent show where students perform for an audience. Consider selling tickets to enter, as well as snacks and drinks during the show.
  • A raffle, ideally using prizes given from local businesses as in-kind donations or part of a sponsorship deal.

Next, consider taking a pledge approach to your fundraiser. Pledge campaigns are more engaging for students and will help you reach a wider audience. During these fundraisers, team members collect pledge donations from supporters, typically based on a unit relevant to the campaign idea. For example, if you host a walk-a-thon, supporters would donate a certain amount of money per mile participants walk.

Planning your event

To plan a successful charity event, your school must follow best practices for smart virtual fundraising. 

First, look for a fundraising platform that keeps incoming donations organized and offers a streamlined donation process. Your software should make donating as easy as possible, and it should allow your participants to track their fundraising progress on their pages.

Next, strategize your approach based on past campaign data. Analyze your data to understand who contributed to your school in the past, who participated in events, and how supporters found out about your fundraiser. Then, ask strategic questions to propel your campaign forward:

  • Which communication channels lead to more first-time engagements?
  • What were supporters’ key motivators to donate in the past?
  • How do your donors prefer to give?
  • When are the best times to post on social media, send an email, or communicate via another channel?

Be sure you’re taking advantage of the data your chosen software can collect. Let’s say you’re a coach for the school basketball team. Data from past fundraising campaigns shows that while you mainly promoted your team-wide donation page, supporters tended to donate to individual pages instead. For your upcoming campaign, you plan to urge parents and team members to heavily promote individual pages online.

Marketing your digital school fundraiser

Now that your event has a concrete plan of action, design a marketing timeline to attract support before, during, and after the campaign. Make sure to keep any insights or discoveries you made while analyzing your donor data in mind to create more personalized messages.

Effective 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. And when you advertise digitally, you can reach far beyond the school and the local community to win the support of donors across different regions.

When promoting your fundraiser, 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 fundraiser. Your volunteer base, likely made up of students’ family members, already has multiple networks they can pull support from, both social and professional. Encourage them to promote the fundraiser not only through word of mouth, but also by reaching connections via social media and other digital communication channels.

If your school is looking for great ambassadors to aid in fundraiser promotion, 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, particularly those who are involved in education. 
  • Parent volunteers: These parents have a personal connection to your cause—their students. They are accustomed to devoting time and effort to your team or club (think of the practices, games, performances, or competitions they attend), and their social networks include other local families and relatives who have personal connections 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 a special gift, like a gift card or a free t-shirt. Appreciation goes a long way for both volunteers and donors.

Use the right platforms to communicate your message.

Once you find volunteers to market your fundraiser, give them the right messaging tactics. Supply them with the right materials and tips for best practices. For example, you might create a social media calendar for parents to help them remember when to post about the fundraiser. It might also be helpful to create templates for the posts to make it as easy as possible. 

Most importantly, make sure your message is clear. You should include a single call-to-action that leads donors directly to the correct web pages for your fundraiser. If you are incorporating an interactive event, the details of when and where it will be held 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.

Popular (and cost-effective) marketing channels can include:

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

Just remember, the most effective digital marketing strategy involves multiple platforms that allow you to establish several touchpoints with supporters near and far. When your promotions appear on more than one of the communication platforms supporters use, they’re more likely to keep the campaign at the top of their minds and donate.

After your campaign, you’ll have one very important job left: thanking your donors. This can be as simple as sending out an email after they donate. To personalize the message, eCardWidget’s guide to donor thank-you emails suggests using an attention-grabbing subject line, greeting them by name, and referencing specific details like the amount they donated.

Build your teamwork skills by choosing a creative fundraising idea. Then, follow digital fundraising best practices (like leveraging the right platform) to plan your event and choose strategies for the campaign. Finally, empower the members of your school community to help market your efforts. Once your campaign wraps up, you’ll have the funds your team needs and strong connections with your new network of supporters.