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Do you look around at your school fundraisers and fetes only to see the same faces year in, year out? Is it always the same people rolling their sleeves up and getting involved?

There are two real concerns when this happens – the first being that they could suffer from fundraising fatigue; the second is that this very visible group might give off the impression of being a clique, scaring off new parents from putting their hands up to volunteer.

Some people have genuinely good reasons why they are unable to help, but there are plenty of others who might just feel overwhelmed or shy about getting involved.

Every school has the same problem – groups of parents who are unable (or unwilling) to get involved.

Some will have genuinely good reasons why they are unable to help, but there are plenty of others who might just feel overwhelmed or shy about getting involved.

Here are some practical tips for finding new volunteers to fundraise at your school:

Tip 1: Make it easy for new helpers

You wouldn’t expect to start a new career without a job description, and so you shouldn’t expect volunteers to walk in and make it up as they go along. Using past experiences develop easy to follow guidelines for the main fundraisers and events each year.

Have simple checklists which cover all the major decisions and steps involved. The easier a job is, the more people likely to put up their hand – and once someone has done a particular job, it is more likely they will be willing to do it again in the future.

But let volunteers know that signing up to help for one event doesn’t mean they will be expected to volunteer for every event for their rest of their lives.

Tip 2: Be loud and proud

Some people don’t volunteer to help at events and school fundraisers because either because they were not asked, or they didn’t know about it.

Working parents, and those with older children spend less time at school and may not see posters or signs advertising an upcoming event.

Don’t rely on one form of communication – you will need to utilise the school newsletter, posters, the class representatives and teachers and even get up to speak at assembly.

Be prepared to hang around at school drop-off and pick up and talk to people in person. Let people know who you are. If you’re not a fan of the direct approach, make a small flyer with the details of the upcoming event, what volunteers are required, the tasks involved, and a contact name/email. That way you can introduce yourself and ask for help, but you are not putting people on the spot and asking for an immediate response.

Be generous and very public with your praise for volunteers, and make sure the principal is vocal as well.

Let volunteers know that you don’t take them for granted, and that important decisions don’t take place behind closed doors.

Tip 3: Try something new

If your school does the same fundraisers every year, parents might be avoiding volunteering out of sheer boredom.

Trying something new could bring a new group of helpers out of the woodwork. If you’re not sure what would appeal to your school – ask them, not only how to raise money, but what to raise the money for.

Many people don’t like selling things or asking others for donations. These people might be more willing to assist with community events. For every ‘fundraiser’ have a free or low-cost event for the entire school community – such as sunset picnics, carols by candlelight, overnight camping or movie nights.

Introduce new families to the P&C members – people are more likely to volunteer to help friends and people they know, than strangers they have never met.

Tip 4: Be inclusive

Approach new families as soon as they enter the school by welcoming them to a school event as a VIP and letting them see the positive school community.

Introduce them to the P&C members – people are more likely to volunteer to help friends and people they know, than strangers they have never met.

If you find there are large groups of parents who stopped helping when their kids hit middle school, find events with a goal that is relevant to them and their children.

If their child is in Year 8, they might not care about a new sandpit for the Kindy, but might volunteer at a senior school disco if the money is going towards Year 8 camp.

Tip 5. Limit the demands placed on parents

It can seem like parents are constantly being asked to put their hand in their pockets – up to fourteen years per child, multiplied by how many children you have, and suddenly schooling is an expensive proposition.

As such, limit the number of fundraisers your school does every year.

Consider having a big fundraiser every two years (large fete, quiz night etc) rather than half a dozen smaller events throughout the year.

Remember that many families will have competing demands from other areas in their life such as fundraising from sports clubs, churches and other groups they may be part of.

Finally, try and avoid making fundraisers competitive. It might seem like a good idea to give prizes for the most chocolate bars sold or the most number of canned foods donated, but it can be off-putting to many people for different reasons, and can back-fire by reducing the number of people choosing to become involved.

Do you have anything helpful to add to this list? Please share in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com
  • Parents who do shift work sometimes have to work when otherwise they would be volunteering at the school. They can’t always get rosters alterred either. I know parents who have tried to do that. There has to be other employees willing to swap too. Some Mums have younger children otherwise they would be able to help with things at school during school hours. My Mum volunteered and helped in the school canteen. The profits were used for sports equipment, something there was a shortage of. I know one Mum who repaired library books at the school to keep them in good condition while her children were in classes there. A couple of mothers contacted suppliers for samples and donations of other products to use to raise funds via raffles. The more that can be collected that way the more net profit and increase in fundraising you achieve. If it help[s to lower the ticket price ultimately you may sell more tickets and achieve the same result or get more profit. If tickets cost too much people will either buy less or not buy any at all. We had a similar issue for volunteers to take the kids to netball and basketball. It was always the same parents who put their hands up..sometimes after others didn’t. I can remember my brother played “away games” the week I played “home” Mum had the car one week, Dad the other. Mum had to ask around for a volunteer once when she knew there was no way she could go.

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  • Volunteers are so important. I remember as a kid how much my parents got involved and I do wonder if my generation is as generous with their time as our parents were.

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  • I wish I’d taken a screen shot of the notice I’d seen a little while back that basically cut to the chase by saying
    ‘we all know how valuable your time is,
    if you need to pay for a babysitter,
    you need extra time with the family …….
    work out what all of that is all worth to you & write a cheque out now so we can all go home to our families!
    They made it sound funny, where as my way sounds cold! But the point is, they are right. Many would prefer to write a cheque, so let them


    • lol taking the easy route hey lol. that would have been interesting to read

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  • I agree, I love being able to do things for my kids, it’s just a bonus that there are other benefits.

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  • Volunteers are the lifeblood of so many “busineeses” in Australia – thank goodness for them

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  • Good article – thank you! It often is the same faces – but I do it for the kids and enjoy it and think of all the positives. :)

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  • I do notice it’s the same people year in year out doing the volunteer jobs. It’s becomes a dilemma when a couple of them decide to retire at the same time :/ Great Tips here on how to get more people involved. Too many are happy to criticise rather then involve themselves and make changes


    • I agree – if you are not happy with something then make a change and be the change.

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  • I’ve been involved in an our organisational charity foundation for years and know how hard it is to get volunteers or even other board members involved. Unfortunately sometimes it’s the same people doing everything all the time!
    I like the advice offered in this article so might try a couple next time. I have a daughter going to kindy next year so I’m sure I’ll need this advice.


    • Hi Toni,
      Your experience in the charitable sector will be so valuable by the your daughter starts school… I’d love to hear your advice on what lessons you learned in one sector (professional) is relevant and helpful to the next (schools)

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  • Really like the idea of checklists for newbies and for repeat events. Many events and parent support groups at schools can be very “in the know” and if you aren’t part of the “in group” you can feel very left out. Will take on these ideas at my kids school. Thanks.


    • Thanks,
      I think the checklists are good because thry remove the ‘person’ from the event, which means new people are not constantly chasing down last year’s organisers (who may not want to be chased) and on the flip side, it means people can’t retain control. You can always add new ideas to the checklist each year, and make notes about what worked and what didn’t.

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  • This article makes some very good points about why people don’t volunteer, and how to change that. The last tip about not making it competitive is not something I would have thought of, but is so true.

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  • Some good tips for a tough gig.

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  • Lke gt

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  • there are some great ideas here, will definately pass these on to my daughter’s school as they are looking for volunteers all the time. I hate when people try to make you feel guilty for not volunteering.

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  • Lots of great ideas. Thank you

    Reply

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