“I often get asked about how to use crowdfunding in schools so when I met Dana and she offered to share her wisdom I was happy to feature her here on the blog. If you’ve been curious about school crowdfunding read on – Patty Lennon”
Dana Ostomel is the founder of DepositaGift.com, a crowdfunding platform that allows anyone, to easily create an online fundraising campaign for any organizational, school or personal need.
Their platform can be used for both donation and rewards-based fundraising. They are the only site that has a ticket sales functionality built into their crowdfunding platform, all of which is perfect for school campaigns, from annual funds to auction events!
Why Use Crowdfunding for Your School?
Schools need to raise a lot of money to keep things going. With budget cuts and and all the various items that each and every child needs to succeed, fundraising is a must. Traditionally most schools use bake sales, candle sales, and wrapping paper sales, as ways of raising money, but what people don’t realize is how much money is lost with these methods. That’s where crowdfunding comes in.
- Crowdfunding allows you to keep over 90% of what you raise, while candle and cookie companies keep 40-60% of what you raise.
- Crowdfunding means your kid isn’t forced to go door to door like a marketing minion and people don’t have to buy a bunch of stuff that they don’t need or want.
- With a crowdfunding site, the donation process is simple,streamlined and most importantly, built to be viral online.
Can All Schools Crowdfund?
Any school can crowdfund successfully. The process is broken up into two steps: Setup and Sharing. The first is about telling an engaging story that compels people to give and share. The second step hinges how you plan to market the site, which is the “sharing” aspect. Your goal is to mobilize the school to grow its donor base with this social fundraising approach. Take this campaign for Portland Jewish Academy, that is currently running on our site. They have managed to raise over $41k since kicking of their fundraiser in October of this year! How?
- Easy to read, engaging copy.
- Strategic incentive to push people to give at higher levels.
- Beautiful pictures to illustrate the story and communicate the incentive.
- Transparency about how the money will be used.
- Allowing people to choose what they want to support.
Modernize and Simplify Traditional Fundraising
One of parents’ chief complaints about school fundraising is that it is typically pretty ‘old school’ — pun intended! The second complaint is that the donations have plateaued and they are looking for a way to raise more money. Both supporters and schools alike want a process that is easy, simple and doesn’t require too much work to both give, but also to get, a wider network involved. Mail gets lost, papers get misplaced, and neither one has a pass-along expectation, so the solicitation stops there; crowdfunding campaigns don’t fall subject to any of these issues. It’s always beneficial for schools to be on the cutting edge, and to keep up with technology.
Implementing a more modern approach to fundraising is an easy way to get with the program!:
- Crowdfunding allows you to modernize events, like the annual appeal, and simplify it, by having everyone donate via one central link.
- You can raise money, sell tickets to school events, and offer rewards based incentives all in one place.
- Use the campaign to grow your email list, your donor base for newsletters, and future appeals.
- Save time and money with paper letters by including the tax deduction information as part of the automatic receipt.
Schools tend to use a lot of paper and need ways that can help them be more environmentally friendly. It’s always more efficient to operate with less clutter and is often more in-line with today’s schools eco-friendly values. Taking your school’s money raising efforts online allows you to:
- Eliminate all those letters and envelopes you’d send out for traditional, fundraising, appeals.
- Teaches the student body the importance of green initiatives.
- Cuts cost by not utilizing paper, stamps, and printer ink.
Now, on to the nitty gritty questions…
What is the best time of year to host this type of crowdfunding campaign?
Crowdfunding campaigns can be done any time of year, but ideally for the most success, look at the entire fundraising and communications landscape for the school year. You do not want competing messages.
- Avoid campaigns that are too close together, where you tax your community and fatigue their giving.
- Use crowdfunding to create an online home base for your traditional campaign, and integrate it into your existing initiatives, rather than running it as an ancillary campaign.
- If a need comes up that is outside of typical yearly fundraising, such as the need to build a science lab like this school, then that may warrant a separate campaign.
- Use it for group gifting during the holidays and end-of-year- in this case it would be based on seasonality-like this school that raised over $14,000 in 2 weeks!
Crowdfunding can be invigorating, and you want to use it as a way to amp people up, but if the campaign comes on the heels of a previous ask, then you risk fatiguing your community.
Let’s Talk About Rewards
Are rewards even necessary? Since schools are nonprofits, rewards are not a necessity. People typically give out of the goodness of their heart. That being said, part of your job when creating a campaign is to consider your strategic objectives — what are you trying to accomplish? One of PJA’s objectives was to increase the average ticket, so they chose to do just one incentive to try and push people to give at higher levels.
Deciding Between Global vs Mini-Campaigns
Should each child set up their own campaign or should the school set up just one that everyone pushes? There are different schools of thought on this, but what I have seen work best is the ‘one school campaign’ approach, so that it’s an entire school effort and individual students and parents are asked to help spread the word. For example:
- Your school can enlist every child to solicit their grandparents to give.
- Run a birthday strategy where parents use social media to ask people to donate to their kids’ school in honor of their birthday. If the average person has 250 FB friends and if you asked people to give just $1, parents could feasibly raise several hundred dollars on their child’s birthday…imagine if every parent did that?!
Are Contributions Tax Deductible?
If your school has nonprofit status, and the donations are going towards the school, then yes, contributions should be tax deductible. This is something you’ll need to confirm with your school accountant. Teachers gifts and the like are generally not tax deductible. If your accountant tells you they are, you could use a tool like what Deposit a Gift offers to customize the automatic receipt. This allows you to include the tax deduction information — which saves a lot of time, and money on separate follow-up!
By using school crowdfunding, you can accomplish so much more for your school, with a lot less effort. More money gained, and less money spent. That’s something every school can get behind!
Dana Ostomel is the founder of Deposit a Gift, the crowdfunding platform that lets you raise money for anything that matters to you. Use it to raise money for any organizational or personal need, from charity to school fundraising, memorial funds, medical bills, disaster relief, or crowdfunding a personal project.
Deposit a Gift is different from other nonprofit and personal fundraising platforms because it lets users customize the look and feel of their campaign, it has an integrated ticket sales functionality and the team is very hands-on with new users.