Harper Collins

Perfect planning 2: brainstorming

In the winter 2015 issue of PTA+ Magazine, Australian fundraising expert Mandy Weidmann shares her advice for brainstorming ideas and mapping out a fundraising calendar.

Mapping out a plan enables you to identify the resources needed and avoid potential clashes that could diminish results. You should take into account:

  • Your fundraising history
  • Available resources
  • Fundraising 'tools'

Your fundraising history

Dig out as much historical information as possible. If feedback notes from previous events aren't available, hunt down information from:

  • Previous fundraising coordinators
  • Suppliers of your group's previous fundraising activities (your Treasurer should be able to track down details)
  • Previous meetings' minutes or treasurer's reports.

Consider the amount of effort required, return on investment, potential for improvement and activities that build vital links with the community.

If your group is new to fundraising you will need to rely a lot more on guesswork, but record-keeping will provide groundwork for future efforts. Find out what works for other local PTAs and ask suppliers for rough estimates for a group of your type and size.

Available resources

The resources you have at your disposal might include:

  • Volunteers - the time, effort, and specific skills they can offer
  • Community support and partnerships such as corporate sponsors
  • Assets that can be leveraged, such as match funding or equipment that can be borrowed from other groups.

Ask if members' employers offer match funding. Word of mouth can build strategic connections within your community - get your committee to brainstorm potential contacts.

Consider how you can maximise use of assets and other resources:

  • Plan larger events if you have lots of volunteers
  • Get a grant application prepared for a specific goal by a volunteer who has experience of applying for funding
  • Ask a graphic designer to create programmes for bigger events such as fairs, into which you can sell advertising.

Your fundraising tools

Start with a mix of fundraising options and 'try and test' until you have a suite of 'proven' fundraisers. Keep records so you know what works for your group.

Fundraising tools to consider are:

  • SPECIAL EVENTS: Fundraising events for adults, like charity balls or quiz nights, are great fun but are also wonderful community builders. Events for children or families, such as discos or magic shows, tend to be well attended.
  • ORDER-FORM FUNDRAISING: Schemes such as Christmas cards, calendars or tea towels have no risk, but it's important to get orders in on time.
  • A-THONS: Sponsored activities challenge participants to collect sponsorship for their efforts - including spell-a-thons, fun runs and matchbox challenges. These can be eligible for Gift Aid, potentially adding an extra 25% to your total.
  • GRANTS: If you don't have a volunteer to cover this position, keep recruiting until you do, or get advice at funded.org.uk - a new site from the publishers of PTA+.
  • DONATIONS: Voluntary contributions are important - if you don't ask, you don't know what support is out there. If you send a donation request out each year - to parents, community groups or local businesses - include a 'tick box' option for those who would like to donate but may not be able to do so at that time. You can then send out a separate request at a later date.
  • FAIRS: Fairs require a lot of planning and volunteers over an extended period. Done well, they can bring in a great deal of money.
  • RAFFLES: Raffles are a lucrative source of income and can range from a major draw for a substantial prize to a smaller raffle.
  • ONLINE FUNDRAISING: This kind of fundraising requires very little effort. Shopping affiliate schemes reward your group with a percentage of sales, each time your supporters shop online.

Brainstorm ideas

The first rule of brainstorming is: NO IDEA IS STUPID! Not every idea will be achievable, but everybody needs to feel able to voice their thoughts, otherwise you risk missing out on an absolute gem of an idea.

Look through back issues of PTA+ Magazine for even more inspiration, and consider your target market. Are you tapping up the same people over and over? Can you engage support from outside your immediate community?

Now make it happen...

Having made it this far, you are ready to fill in the blanks for your fundraising calendar! Circulate your plan - you may decide to set up a consultation session with your volunteers to take note of their input, or load a draft copy onto your website and invite people to comment. Good luck!

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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