Fundraising ideas for classes and small groups

Fundraising can be tough in a normal year, let alone in today’s current economic climate. What options do small groups have, without the backing of an entire school?

Many school-based fundraisers are large-scale – a fete, a disco – and involve engaging support from the entire school community. But there are often occasions when funds are only being raised by a small group, perhaps a single class seeking assistance to pay for an excursion, or an extracurricular group needing money to travel to a competition. With a smaller pool of volunteers, fundraising needs to take on a more open frame of mind.

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School News spoke with Anthea Cockerill at The Fundraising Directory for advice and a discussion of the challenges and opportunities presented by small group fundraising.

“The challenges of small-group fundraising are evident,” says Cockerill. “They include a limited volunteer pool (many of them kids), time constraints, competing with other, larger-scale fundraising, and the goal being so specific that it isn’t relevant to the broader community.”

“The advantages are that the goal is often one-off and very specific, so you can come up with a clear plan to achieve that goal,” she adds. “Your small team is often very passionate about achieving that goal, so you can really rally the troops if you come up with a good plan.”

Approaches to Small Group Fundraising

Cockerill explains there are two ways that fundraising can be successful.

“The first is transactional – you sell something people want or need at a fair price. Chocolate boxes are a great example of this. People will buy a fundraising chocolate box regardless of the cause, so distribution becomes more important than the challenge of communicating your message.

The second is to connect people with the purpose of your cause – to inspire a community to get behind you and help you reach your target. For this, you need clear messaging around your goal and how you plan to achieve it. You must get the basics right to ensure your campaign is thoughtful, realistic and connects with your supporters.”

Cockerill is quick to point out that it is actually more of a spectrum than distinct types of fundraising, and a product fundraiser can be transactional as well as meaningful. The most successful types of fundraisers, she adds, have both elements.

Six Fundraising Ideas for Small Groups

Cockerill shares six of the best ideas suited for small fundraising groups:

  1. Chocolate box fundraiser. For distribution, try to access some large offices that can go through chocolates quickly. Workplaces can provide a quicker turnover with less running around.
  2. Mega event fundraiser. Aim to raise all of your funds in one large event. This could be a ‘Bogan Bingo’ or Comedy Night. It might be a vintage car festival in your town, or you can have multiple ways of completing your target at night. Have a large countdown so you can take everyone through. 
  3. A 50/50 raffle. This is a premium fundraiser, so it is only suitable if the surrounding socio-economic environment is appropriate. Sell 100 tickets at $150 or 150 for $100 each. The winner gets $7,500, which is 50 percent of total sales. One chance in 100 or 150 is good odds!
  4. Sponsorship/Partnerships. Approach several small businesses and sell sponsorship spots. Ask your local chamber of commerce or anybody else running local events if you can be their ‘charity of choice’ for which you raise your funds. Perhaps you can either run a raffle or coin collection at their event. Approach your local RSL or Lions Club to see if there are ways that they can help you to reach your goal. Contact your local community group (such as Rotary, Lions, Zonta, Sorpotomist or Country Women’s Association) and offer to be a speaker, talking about your cause and what you hope to achieve.
  5. Crowdfunding Platform. Platforms such as GoFundMe can be a great way to mobilise support from near or far. Set up a challenge for your group, such as ‘Walking the length of 1000 baseball fields’ (or something better than that!), and get everyone to seek sponsorship from their family and friends.
  6. A variety of smaller fundraisers. If you can grab a Bunnings sausage sizzle spot, go for it! A trivia night is also a great opportunity to raise some handy money. Run a car wash or raffle an Easter hamper outside your local supermarket. Simply break your total down into manageable pieces and chip away at it!

Tips for Small Group Fundraisers

Most successful fundraisers engage with people and make it personal. This means letting people know what the funds are being raised for and what the opportunity means for your group.

Cockerill says videos work well here and are easy to share over social media. “Ensure you let people know what this opportunity means for your community/region, club, and especially the individuals involved. Be specific about what support you need to achieve this target, and keep everyone up to date with your progress on that target—this helps to maintain momentum.”

When volunteer numbers are low, sometimes external assistance is necessary. Cockerill suggests reaching out to local politicians and asking about available grants or appealing to local businesses that might have the capacity to assist with tasks such as printing and distributing flyers. Even local banks sometimes have volunteer programs where they support their staff as volunteers.

She suggests researching the local area and determine which stores and businesses get plenty of foot traffic. Can they display posters promoting your fundraising?

When volunteer numbers are low, engaging an external fundraising company can sometimes have a huge impact on the end result. They will have staff and resources to provide assistance with marketing and accounting, supply the product or run the event. Online fundraisers also remove the problem of having a limited pool of local customers, and broadening reach via email and social media to customers across town and even interstate.

Shannon Meyerkort

Shannon Meyerkort is a freelance writer and the author of "Brilliant Minds: 30 Dyslexic Heroes Who Changed our World", now available in all good bookstores.

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