Looking to marshal your parent volunteers into an effective fund-raising team? While Jean C. Joachim's book, Beyond the Bake Sale: The Ultimate School Fund-Raising Book, is written as a guide for parents, it also is a good manual for principals. A veteran volunteer, Joachim provides step-by-step directions for planning and executing school fundraisers big and small. Joachim talked with Education World about the book and her ten years of fund-raising experience. Included: Advice on launching and maintaining effective fund-raising efforts.
Move over, Wall Street entrepreneurs. Jean Joachim has some tips for you.
As a member of a parent fund-raising group at New York City's P.S. 87, she helped raise more than $200,000 a year for ten years for the school. In her book, Beyond the Bake Sale: The Ultimate School Fund-Raising Book, Joachim provides outlines for organizing and running high-yield projects, such as a pledge drive, a flea market, a street fair, a haunted house, and pizza-and-movie nights. She also suggests pairing up with local restaurants or stores so a portion of a day's sales go to the school, and lists strategies for tapping into corporate America's funds.
Education World chatted with Joachim about the best fund-raisers for raising a few hundred dollars or many thousands of dollars, how to keep parent volunteers involved, and more. The complete text of that e-interview appears below.
Education World: How could principals use this book?
Jean Joachim: Principals should collaborate with parents. They should meet with parents and suggest ideas from the book that they think are particularly appropriate for their school. The principal has to be willing to get behind fund raising and get the teachers involved. Fund-raising efforts must be supported by the staff if they are to work. Most parents want to please the principal, and will follow his or her lead. It's easy to start with a wrapping paper drive or book fair. A book fair really can add to the school library.
EW: You obviously had a large number of dedicated volunteers at P.S. 87. How can a school principal begin building a core of volunteers, if one doesn't exist?
Joachim: Acknowledgement goes a long way toward building a good core of volunteers. If the principal goes out of his or her way to praise the parent volunteers, especially in front of other parents, this will add cache to the volunteer work. If the principal hosts a thank-you breakfast of bagels and coffee for volunteers, you will find people falling all over themselves to join up.
EW: How can a school determine the appropriate number and type of fund-raisers per school year?
Joachim: The number and type of fund-raisers will depend upon the needs of the school. If you are only trying to add $1,000 worth of books to the library each year, you can have much smaller events. But if your parents need to raise money to pay for your physical education teacher or librarian, then you will have to raise significant amounts of money, and that will mean bigger and more frequent events.
Try to schedule events with breathing room between each one. This gives your volunteers a chance to rest and to recruit others to help. Time off also gives parents a chance to be creative and come up with new ideas.
EW: Your book includes more than a dozen fund raising ideas. Have you a personal favorite or two among them?
Joachim: I think I like the auction and the street fair the most for the enormous fun they create and the large financial return. But I also like the "Friday Night Pizza and a Movie" invented by Greg Goldstein for the sheer genius of its simplicity, it's apparently effortless return of several thousand dollars, and the fact that it fills the winter Friday- night-void.
EW: You've heard them all! Which is the most creative fund-raising effort you have seen?
Joachim: I think the Halloween Spook House and the street fair crawl-around maze created out of moving boxes are enormously creative, but every fund-raiser provides opportunity for creativity. An auction provides a good background for new ideas. No matter what you're doing, there is always a way to add a new twist. You are only limited by your own imagination in your fund-raising activities. Our street fair lends itself the most to creativity. Every year there is a different chairman and it becomes a different street fair with something new added and something old taken away. If you have creative people on your committee, the possibilities are endless.
EW: If principals need to get the most buck from their bang, which fund-raisers have you found to be the ones with the biggest potential for raising those big bucks?
Joachim: The biggest money raisers in my experience are the flea market, the auction, the pledge drive, and the street fair. A Barnes and Noble night [during which the school gets a percentage of the sales] also produces a big return and it's a lot less work.
EW: In your experience, which fund-raisers seem to be the most labor intensive (require more parent volunteers)? The least labor intensive?
Joachim: The flea market is the most labor intensive until you make enough money to pay someone to run it. Before that time, you have to have parents there every weekend. That chews up a lot of volunteers. You also have to have some of the same volunteers there from time to time so people know where things are and how to run the market. Next to the flea market are the auction and street fairs. They take months of planning and many volunteers, but they are over in one day. The flea market is weekly, but the financial return can be staggering if you have a success.
The least labor-intensive is the pledge drive. You need a good writer and people to get the mailing out, unless your printer can do it cheaply, but that's all. Then you watch the money roll in. However, there is no fun involved in that event. Friday Night Pizza and a Movie, or Your School Night at McDonald's or any local restaurant, also are very easy to do and create a good time for everyone.
EW: Do you have a sense of what kinds of fund-raisers might work best in city, suburban, and rural schools? Does it seem to matter?
Joachim: Not really. Most of the fund-raisers work anywhere, with some exceptions. It's possible, but difficult, to have a car wash in the city, for example. And a home handyman day is not a city event, either. But most of the events in the book can be done anywhere.
EW: At your peak level of involvement, how many hours a week did you devote to fund raising?
Joachim: The most hours came during major events. When I did grab bags for the street fair, I would sometimes devote five hours in a day, but only for one day. For one Election Day bake sale, I was there from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. with a two-hour break. Most of the time, it is just an hour here and an hour there. Perhaps you send out three letters requesting donations for grab bags or you stop by five stores soliciting donations for the auction or take your turn in the booth at a second-hand sale or the book fair for an hour or two.
It's hard to separate the fun I was having from the work I was doing. There were many weeks when I did nothing. I was almost never working alone. We always work as a team.
EW: How about kids going door to door? Have you a sense of how many school districts allow that kind of fund raising, or have most school districts banned it?
EW: I am completely against children going door-to-door without a parent for any reason. If a parent accompanies them, then it's okay. But children should never go alone and never go in a strange neighborhood. Nothing is worth risking our children's safety. I don't know of any school districts taking stands on this issue; usually the parents know the right thing to do.
EW: Schools' dependence on revenue from fund-raisers is increasing; some school districts, including New York City, are seeking more help from the private sector. What do you think of that trend?
EW: I think it's great if you can get the private sector involved. After all, the education of today's children affects everyone's future. Parents in your school can only reach into their pockets so many times. Finding funds from other benefactors is key to keeping fund-raising efforts growing. Parents will work tirelessly if they see money coming in from other sources.
This e-interview with Jean C. Joachim is part of the Education World Wire Side Chat series. Click here to see other articles in the series.
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