When it comes to fundraising, charter schools are in a unique position. Your charter school is unique from private schools because it is state funded and doesn’t charge tuition, which can create a barrier to fundraising; however, charter schools are also unique from public schools because parents must seek out and choose your school.
While charter schools traditionally follow the path of public-school fundraising where the focus is on supporting specific activities such as athletic teams and academic outings, the self-selective nature of the school’s community offers fundraising opportunities similar to private schools. The following tips will help your school raise more money by unlocking its full fundraising potential.
1. Cast a clear vision.
Your charter school is unique with a unique mission, a unique vision, and a unique brand. That’s a story you must tell to attract significant gifts.
Many charter schools cast small fundraising visions, choosing to focus on funding one field trip or special event at a time. These fundraising goals are important, but like an old-money private school, charter schools should also talk about creating a legacy for future generations and about what makes the school unique.
In other words, think big and cast a long-term vision. Donors won’t invest in small visions, and your school can and should have an inspiring story to tell!
2. Explain why your school needs the money.
Charter school fundraisers are often plagued by the fact that parents, grandparents, alumni, and the community at large all know the school receives government funding. As a result, they wonder why the school needs additional fundraising revenue. To be successful, you must explain why your school needs to raise money over and above what is provided by the state.
Fear not! You know why your school needs the money, and you know why it is important for the students that you serve. Develop and emphasize a fundraising story that highlights these reasons so donors will want to support your school.
3. Ask through a variety of channels.
Many charter schools rely on “small-ball fundraising” such as candy sales, car washes, small events, etc. These tactics have their place in your fundraising program, but you shouldn’t limit your efforts to these high-stress, low-return development strategies.
Instead, create a multi-channel fundraising approach that solicits donors through a variety of strategies, including face-to-face asks, direct mail and annual appeal letters, online giving, recurring giving, fundraising events, crowdfunding, and yearly giving days.
4. Focus on major gifts.
Charter schools can and should seek major gifts instead of relying solely on small donations from current families via transactional giving methods. While not every charter school will receive a $1 million grant from Oprah Winfrey, as Mastery Charter School in Philadelphia did, every school can build a strong major donor program to support its work.
Just because you are representing a charter school that doesn’t mean fundraising best practices don’t apply. Over 70% of all money available to non-profits (including schools) in the United States comes from individual donors, and most of that money comes from major donors. Your school should put the time, effort, and investment into cultivating and soliciting major donors.
5. Create a development committee.
Finally, every charter school should have a development committee to assist with fundraising. The development committee can be comprised of current parents, parents of alumni, grandparents, aunts, uncles, alumni, faculty members, etc. Development committees generally have 8-25 members, but your participation may vary.
The development committee’s goal is simple: help raise money. The best way for them to get involved is by reaching out to their friends, neighbors, colleagues, business partners, and others to introduce them to the school and what makes it unique, to invite those contacts for a campus tour, or to introduce them to your development team.
Your charter school has an amazing mission with a unique strategy for accomplishing that mission. Use these tips, along with the resources already at your disposal, to build a thriving development program that cultivates lifelong supporters.
For more school fundraising tips, visit our K–12 Fundraising and Alumni Management resource hub.
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