As a new member of our PTA I was recently asked to head up the fund raising effort for our schools new playground initiative. My heart immediately sank as I struggled to conceal my “excitement”. That sounds like a wonderful opportunity I stated. What I was really thinking was “oh no, not another fund raiser”! It seems that the fundraising march is an endless one, where we are constantly inundated with requests from school clubs, sports teams and a whole host of other extra curricular activites that kids are involved in.
How was I going to stand out?
One thing I did know was that fund raising was going to be an essential component, but also one of the biggest hurdles standing between our new playground.
Now that our ribbon cutting ceremony is over, and the kids are enjoying their new playground, I thought I would share some of the more important tips that our committee learned along the way.
Form a diverse committee of people willing to help: A diverse committee can be a great asset in delegating tasks based on individual interests or skill sets. Cater to the individual expertise that each individual offers. Some volunteers may not want to be part of a formal committee but may have certain skill sets that become invaluable as the process unfolds.
Set goals based on realistic fund raising objectives Playground projects are filled with surprise costs. Think about elements outside of the equipment, like protective surfacing, pathways, benches, shading and landscaping. Only when you have carefully calculated for all of this, will you have something tangible to strive for. Breaking the overall goal, which may seem insurmountable, into smaller sub-goals, with well defined timelines is a great way to keep people motivated.
Create a vision: Utilizing the design expertise of playground equipment manufacturers and the creativity of young children is a great way to get everyone involved, inspired and feeling a real sense ownership in the project.
Create a highly visible progress tracker: Whether it’s a large sign outside the school, or a giant thermometer at a prominent community location, be sure to show the progress of your fundraising efforts. This small effort serves to keep the community aware of your hard work and everyone committed to the goal.
Market yourselves. Part of your marketing plan should involve advising the larger community of your objectives. Once the community is aware, use free media options to keep them updated. Local radio stations and newspapers often offer air time or print space to non-profit initiatives. Social media is another invaluable tool in connecting people to your initiative. Having a few social media savvy people on your committee is a great way to create and maintain momentum. Social media however is not effortless and consistency in delivering your message and providing updates is key to your success. Utilizing progress video and images are a great way to keep people engaged.
Enlist the support of local service organizations: Many of these groups include community improvement projects as part of their mandate. Foundation and corporate grants typically come with strictly defined qualification criteria but are nonetheless worth exploring. Local businesses who may not be in a position to donate monetarily could offer in kind services that far exceed the value of a monetary donation. These services could range from marketing support to onsite construction activities.
Incentivize the process: Fundraising options are virtually limitless, ranging from bake sales and bottle drives, to raffles, silent auctions and the sale of any number of items. No matter what mix of fund raising initiatives you undertake, a little incentivization, especially when kids are involved, can go a long way. Rewarding exceptional effort can take of form of smaller individual recognition, or larger group recognition incentives such as a pizza party for the top achieving class
Recognize Donors: Although it may be next to impossible to recognize everyone who has contributed to your new playground in one way or another, formally recognizing significant donor support shows appreciation and informs the community of contributions made. This process can be formalized through a donor board near the playground or can take a less formal approach by inviting donors to the ribbon cutting and thanking them in the local newspaper
Last but not least, remember to be your committees’ biggest cheerleader. Your dedication, leadership and overall enthusiasm will help to guide the process and keep everyone highly motivated and on track.