Harper Collins

Perfect planning 1: strategy

In the autumn 2015 issue of PTA+ Magazine, Australian fundraising expert Mandy Weidmann explains how to agree a strategy.

Strategic planning is an organisation's way of defining its direction and deciding how to allocate resources to deliver its strategy. It should outline:

  • Why you are doing what you are doing - your purpose and goals?
  • How you are going to achieve it?
  • Who is going to help you get there?
  • What action you will need to take to achieve your goals?
  • Which specific resources need to be made available?

Download a Fundraising Strategy Map template
See a sample Fundraising Strategy Map

Developing your overarching strategy is best done with the entire PTA team, Head and other stakeholders such as Governors. A survey is a great first step, even if the response is limited. A number of free online survey sites make it easy to distribute questions, collect responses and collate information. Seek input from staff and teachers, too. You can also download the PTA+ parent questionnaire. Circulate an agenda prior to any planning session to allow participants to consider the items for discussion.

Your PTA needs a 'mission statement' which answers the question 'Why do we exist?' in one memorable sentence, that's concise, active and positive. By having a clear understanding of why your PTA does what it does, you can establish goals - the tangible outcomes you hope to achieve through your fundraising activities.

Goals should be SMART

Speak to the Head - identifying the school's focus areas will help you prioritise your goals. Consult your governing document and agree as a committee which resources your PTA will fund. These might be:

  • Capital (e.g. playground)
  • Academic (e.g. library resources)
  • Environmental (e.g. bird boxes)
  • Cultural (e.g. theatre trips)
  • Social (e.g. workshops)
  • Sporting (e.g. equipment, kit).

Experienced committee members will undoubtedly have their own expectations and opinions on what goals are achievable and realistic. This input is useful, but can also be limiting. Use the SMART model to test preconceived ideas:

  • Specific. In consultation with the school, outline exactly what you want to achieve.
  • Measurable. Set the bar so that you know when you have achieved your goal, and to give your team something to aim for.
  • Attainable. A team needs stretching slightly, but too much, and members will feel hopeless and demotivated.
  • Realistic. Does your team have the time, resources, skills and knowledge to achieve the goal?
  • Timely. What is the timeframe? Some goals may be long-term while others will be more immediate.

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Establishing a target

Knowing what you want and why is one thing, knowing what it will take to achieve it is another! You might have a whole series of small goals or one super-sized objective. Research your fundraising history in as much detail as possible. Knowing how much you have raised in the past will provide a starting point for setting a realistic target. Look at invoices, minutes of meetings, event breakdowns with costs and profits, handover notes, etc. Once you establish the cost of each goal, the value, all added up, becomes your target.

Outcome drivers

You have a target, but how will you reach it? Consider your income and outgoings. Examine your spending and investment history. Not only will this help to determine your current goals and targets, but information about past investments reminds your support base of the added value your group has provided over the years. Look at ways to increase revenue and reduce costs, such as securing sponsorship or hiring out equipment, and buying refreshments on a sale or return basis to reduce waste.

Assess your support base

Look at who you are reaching and who you should be reaching. Your PTA needs a clear understanding of your current support base and a plan to engage and optimise this, while recruiting a new and wider audience for your events. Think outside the box - if your existing supporters feel they are being 'hit on' too often, think laterally about who else can engage with your PTA. Your foot-soldier volunteers will be more motivated when they know what part they are playing in achieving the end goal. When supporters have confidence in your plan - and the capacity to carry it out - they are more likely to support your fundraising and go the extra mile to ensure its success.

Time for action!

Identifying your support base helps determine what you will do. And there are so many different fundraising options to consider - just look at pta.co.uk! Once you've identified what you want to do, draw up a fundraising calendar, timed to maximise support, and build-in a marketing schedule - your fundraising calendar is no use if no-one knows about it!

Identify your resources

What and who is needed to realise your target? You need to have the capacity to deliver, and for this you'll need people and knowledge. 'People' refers to your workforce. This includes the inner sanctum of your committee: critical leadership roles for individual activities (such as fair coordinator), plus the many hands that make light work - your volunteer army! Knowledge is the other resource that must be considered. Do your volunteers have the appropriate skills for the task? Most often they will rise to the challenge with the skills they bring to the table, but consider the value that training can add to them personally - and to your PTA. Without a stringent system of record keeping, valuable knowledge is likely to be lost, wasting time and impeding successful fundraising growth.

Communication is key

Planned communication involves a dialogue with your community so that everyone knows your key message - what you are about (your purpose) and where you are heading (your goals). Communication should be planned, strategic and clear, not haphazard, reactive or last-minute. A well-executed plan will leave your support base in no doubt of the value and benefit the PTA provides. If the community understands and identifies with your goals, your requests for support will have a context and will receive a more positive response. The more people know, the more they will want to be involved, and the more people involved, the more successful your fundraising will be. If you're planning a particularly active fundraising year, let everyone know in advance and explain why, so that they can make allowances in their budgets as well as their schedules!

About our expert

Mandy Weidmann is the fundraising coordinator at her children's school, so understands fully the everyday challenges and triumphs of working with other volunteers to raise funds for a good cause. As a small business owner she knows how important it is to have a great plan in place! Mandy is author of The Practical Fundraising Handbook and publisher of the Australian Fundraising Directory, as well as being a qualified lawyer and mother of five children - she knows all about managing chaos!

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