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.