If you are associated with a school and implement walk-a-thons or run-a-thons as a fundraising event, then you know that they can be very successful and can also be an administrative nightmare! St. John the Evangelist Catholic School took some time to speak with us about their recent experience with their third biennial walk/run-a-thon campaign called Race for Education. Anne McFaul, this years’ organizer, outlined tips for managing safe online registrations for students, garnering sponsor support, and utilizing fundraising merchandise through an exciting new online system.
The Home and School Association (H.A.S.A) is the fundraising arm of the school, and they manage anywhere from 7-10 fundraising events a year. The Race for Education is their biggest event. The funds raised are dedicated to updating the technology needs of the school as well as ensuring that essential classroom needs are met. This is their second year using a software system rather than a paper based registration system, and the first year they chose DoJiggy online fundraising software.
One of the issues that face all schools when organizing an event, like a walk or run, is how to get the kids to register online. In addition, for many schools security and privacy is a serious issue. St. John the Evangelist is a pre K through 8th grade school, and they certainly came up against these obstacles. Their solution was to devise a three option registration system for parents to choose from:
1. Offline paper registration
2. Online event registration with name present on the student’s fundraising page
3. Online event registration with a coded name
The administrators of the event managed all of the registrations; a task that may sound daunting. However, the online tools allowed the benefits of this technique to far outweigh the detriments. In fact, St. John’s found that by having administrators manage registration they avoided a lot of hassle and time consuming problems. Anne compiled detailed instruction packets for the families on how to create their personal fundraising website pages. In addition, DoJiggy has devised a Fundraising Library to help with this task. Parents could then concentrate on helping their children with the actual fundraising; a process they were pleased to find was very easy. The individual pages allowed for fine-tuned fundraising and personalization, aspects that the school will highlight next year.
As for security concerns; students were given the choice of whether or not to upload photos on their pages, and no participant list was available on the website to ensure further protection. The main function of the autonomous fundraising pages was still attained; with students able to connect directly with their family and social networks across geographical boundaries, yet the overall security of the student body remained intact.
Sponsorship was also a big part of this years’ event. In fact, it was the first year that the H.A.S.A really concentrated on sponsorship. While DoJiggy offers a feature for managing sponsorship packages online, the school was able to obtain their premiere sponsors before even using the online function. The trick, says Anne, is to start early. A minimum of three months from the event is suggested for circulating registration preference sheets and contacting sponsors.
Incentives also played a motivating part on the fundraising drive. The dexterity of easy-to-understand reports was a plus in being able to manage top fundraiser categories and positive classroom challenges.
Finally, Anne and her crew took a chance with a learning curve by implementing an online fundraising merchandise store on their event website where they offered customized fundraising merchandise, like t-shirts, sweatshirts, water bottles, etc. Participants and supporters just click on the store link and are able to choose and customize items from a diverse product list chosen by the school. This economically streamlined system saves organizations and schools from having to make costly guesses on how much merchandise to order for a date specific event, and provides additional revenue as a percentage of each sale goes directly towards the cause.
As with any new venture, there are lessons to be learned. Anne offered some sound advice for other organizations considering using this option.
- Be sure to get your logos designed and submitted early! The key to successful sales with the merchandise store is availability on the website from the first advertising push.
- Take into consideration the shipping time. Products must be ordered within two weeks of an event in order to arrive in time. Consistent promotion and an explicit focus on this timeline will greatly help busy parents act in the moment.
- Although the merchandise store makes the most sense for an event budget, Anne suggested having a small amount of items available at the day of the event. Late orders are inevitable and point of sale stimulation can be very effective on the day of the event. The risk of being stuck with extra merchandise should be offset by effective promotion of the online sales and less product necessary on the day of the event.
Overall, Anne and H.A.S.A were satisfied with the online management aides for their event and proud of their school’s spirit for the turn out. They raised 35% more than their original goal with about $34,000 for the school’s important needs. The event not only served to help the school, but the community as well. Anne noted that seeing the parents and students all having a great time together incited a general enthusiasm that spread beyond the school atmosphere.