One of the nice things about working in the fundraising community is that people are very generous and willing to share their advice and experience. I approached some of Australia’s most respected fundraising businesses and asked about the most common mistakes they see and their top tips for schools and fundraising groups.
I spoke with Emma McNeilly, founder of Expressions Australia, Sophia Stefanos, Managing Director of Schoolyard Stories, Kellie Gornall, founder of Fundraising Mugs, Victoria Birch from Crowd Comms/Galabid, Katie Jackson designer and owner of School Active Sports, Vince Cargeeg of The Gelo Company (aka Bogan Bingo) and Melissa Symons, the School Fundraising Officer at Australian Schools Plus.
With more than 85 years of experience in the Australian fundraising sector between them, they have been witness to some of the biggest changes in the area, primarily the move away from simple old-school fundraisers towards healthier and more meaningful activities. The other major development is the growing utilisation of social media and digital fundraising which Melissa Symons says ‘allows individuals [to] tap into your own networks and share personal connections to what you are raising money for.’
Best tip for school fundraising
Choose an event that allows your school to benefit from the event itself as well as the funds raised. Benefits can be social (trivia night), health-related (walk-a-thon or Jump Rope for Heart) or literacy-related (read-a-thon or book publishing) – Sophia Stefanos, Schoolyard Stories
Look at what you buy regularly and ask your suppliers to contribute a percentage of sales to your club – Katie Jackson, School Active Sports
Don’t forget grants – they are a great way to kickstart (or completely fund) your project and there are so many aimed at schools – Melissa Symons, Australian Schools Plus
Tell people WHY you are raising funds, make it personal and keep your community up-to-date. Also get lots of people involved because the more ownership you give people, the more they will support your fundraiser. Thank people often and loudly. Let people know how you went and how funds are being spent – Emma McNeilly, Expressions
Allow enough time to advertise in advance and also show early designs to other parents to encourage more orders – Kellie Gornall, Fundraising Mugs
Don’t underestimate how long anything takes – Vince Cargee, CrowdComms
What are the most common mistakes made when fundraising?
Not saying thank you to supporters – it’s a small but important gesture that is appreciated by donors and helps secure their support for future fundraisers – Victoria Birch, Crowd Comms
Volunteers taking on too much themselves rather than asking for help and delegating tasks – Sophia Stefanos, Schoolyard Stories
Not realising how much time and money complex events can take – Katie Jackson, School Active Sports
Not starting with a plan – you should always start with a budget, volunteer resources, timeline and goals. Also not balancing the mix of events and sale fundraisers: events can be a drain on volunteers – Emma McNeilly, Expressions
Underestimating the amount of work involved – Vince Cargee, The Gelo Company
Organisers trying to make it easier for themselves but inadvertently making more work for parents at home – Kellie Gornall, Fundraising Mugs
Not finding potential donors beyond the school gate to avoid donor fatigue – Melissa Symons, Australian Schools Plus