money from PTO fundraiser on desk with spiral notebook, calculator and pen

A Clever Strategy for Streamlining Your PTO’s Fundraising Approach

How would you describe your PTO’s current fundraising plan-  slimed down and strategically streamlined or all over the place, hoping something will stick?

If you answered the latter, well you’re in good company. 

Lots of PTOs plan a half a dozen fundraisers for the school year.

To be honest, that’s just too much and these PTOs are probably not following fundraising best practices.

You see, the Golden Rule of healthy PTO fundraising is to hold no more than one fundraiser for every two free events.

This is to ensure that parents don’t feel like the PTO’s hand is constantly out, in search of funding, and more importantly, that the PTO is giving back to the school community.

So if you’re not following that ratio of fundraisers to events, then it’s time to streamline your fundraisers into a more workable approach.

But coming up with a slimmed down fundraising strategy that works can take a long time to develop, so you’re smart to look for some guidance!

Let’s get into that now, and explore how to strategically simplify your PTO’s fundraising plan to transform your PTO for the better!   

The Strategy

A simplified PTO plan looks like this: Choose one (maybe two) high yield fundraiser that has the potential to bring in a ton of money, and then plan for smaller “add on” fundraisers for free events your PTO is offering throughout the year to round out your funding needs. 

That’s it!

Some examples of high yield fundraisers are auctions, raffles, crowdfunding and peer to peer campaigns.

These types of fundraisers all have the potential to bring in a ton of money for your PTO, especially if your PTO is focusing all efforts on making one campaign shine.

For “add on” events, think of anything that makes money, but isn’t directly a part of the main event.

Some examples include restaurant dine to donate nights, spirit wear sales, and concessions at any event.

These efforts are definitely fundraisers, but they don’t necessarily read as fundraisers to families, and therefore won’t negatively affect the larger fundraising strategy.

Why Simplify?

There are so many benefits to streamlining your PTO’s fundraising plan for the year! 

Benefits for families

The primary benefit that touches everyone in the school community is that you’ll avoid  bombarding families with a bunch of different fundraisers.

And this is so important because if families are always hearing about this or that fundraiser, they’re going to start tuning your PTO out and won’t hear anything you say, no matter how clever the social media post is or how many times you say it. 

This means that they won’t participate in the fundraisers and fundraising income will tank. 

And then because fundraising goals haven’t been met, there’s the temptation to add yet another fundraiser, which just reinforces the downward spiral!

Constantly asking school families for money via multiple fundraisers, such as catalog, cookie dough or gift wrap fundraisers, bake sales, penny wars, etc. will make families feel like nothing more than piggy banks. 

This will also lead to lower participation rates, and overall smaller fundraising income as a result.  

Benefits for PTO volunteers

A secondary benefit, admittedly less immediately recognizable, is that having fewer fundraisers throughout the year reduces the burden and workload on your team of PTO volunteers

First, it’s plain to see that it’s a lot less work to plan for one fundraiser than it is for three. 

There’s less paperwork, prize selection, fewer morning announcements to write and flyers to design, less parent letters to draft, and fewer meetings with the Principal to get approval for the fundraisers.

PTO fundraising can feel an awful lot like being stuck on a hamster wheel and that’s exhausting!

Give your volunteers the opportunity to get out from under that heavy burden by slashing the work involved to raise money for your PTO.

What’s more, too many little fundraisers makes for scattered messaging, so streamline efforts and focus on just one or two fundraisers for the year for a refreshing change.  

Benefits for Your PTO

Running a simplified fundraising strategy has long term benefits for your PTO.

First, it instantly dispels the stereotypical reputation of PTOs that they’re only ever raising money.

This bad reputation can carry on for years, even though your PTO may have adopted the new strategy, which can depress participation and income. 

So head that possibility off at the pass by avoiding fundraising overload entirely.

Second, there are also payoffs for your PTO in terms of volunteer recruitment. 

Would you rather sign up to be Fundraising Chair for a PTO that never leaves the fundraising hamster wheel or the one that is more strategic?

Silly question, right?

No one wants or needs an unpaid full-time job.

Over to You

In sum, streamlining your PTO’s fundraising strategy to fewer campaigns can lead to overall greater fundraising numbers in the end. 

It not only saves your individual volunteers from getting burnt out, but it can do the same for parents and families too!

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