It is becoming increasingly difficult in the current economic and school setting to raise money for charitable organizations. Teachers, students and parents are hit from multiple directions to raise money for sports, extracurricular activities, PTA and other school functions with limited funds. In order to achieve success in raising funds for charities, there must be some common elements for parents and students to direct funds into sustainable, long-term fundraising programs.
In the past 34 years, Lake Station (Indiana) School Corporation’s Elementary Physical Education program has raised more than $105,000 for the American Heart Association (AHA). The school corporation holds an annual event – “Jump Rope for Heart” – in which more than 400 elementary students participate. Students find financial sponsors and jump rope for a specific time.
Some of the components that have made this program a success can be effectively applied to other school systems and grade levels to boost the fundraising efforts of various groups within a school system.
Knowing the Why
It is suggested that schools select an organization that has a very widely known cause to partner with in fundraising efforts. Lake Station selected the AHA because people are very familiar with the work of the organization.
Many families are tragically affected by heart attacks and strokes, and even the students may know of someone in their family who has had one. The AHA is a very widely known and recognized charity across the country, and that really helps to have a successful program.
In addition, issues with the heart are closely aligned with physical education and the need to focus on good health throughout the student’s life. The Lake Station organizers also knew that the AHA has a high level of trust in people’s mind that the money raised is going to the right places. As such, it was easier to attract likeminded people who support the work of the AHA.
Have a Timeline
Planning is always a key part of the success of any fundraising. You must allow a timeline that gives adequate time to promote the event, along with the specific activities the students/parents will encounter to do the actual sponsoring.
The Jump Rope for Heart program is also held at the same time each year, and students actually expect it to happen and are very excited in the weeks prior to the event. In the area of planning, the more details on timeline the better. You cannot assume that a small activity (like purchasing snacks for the event, or verifying that event materials made it to the student’s parent) is taken care of, so all steps should be listed.
Go Online and Social
With the AHA, Lake Station has the benefit of tremendous materials and support through the AHA website. This makes the process of obtaining sponsorships from families and friends much easier. The AHA has an online “Head Quarters” that allows a school to access and create:
• A school fundraising web page.
• A personalized “Jumpify Me” e-card to share with friends and family.
• Sample emails to send to friends and family.
• Donation reports that show how much have been raised online.
In addition, there are other social media and mobile tools that allow fundraising on the go with a Jump mobile app, sharing with Facebook friends by adding the “boundlessFUNDRAISING” application to your Facebook page, and spread the word about the student’s fundraising efforts to more than 20 social networking sites with Social Share, including Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and LinkedIn to name a few.
Reward and Celebrate
Giving the students great incentives in their fundraising is a key success factor. This is one area where all participants in the Jump Rope for Heart event get some recognition for their efforts. There are prizes available at all levels of fundraising. It’s amazing how excited a first-grader gets when he or she sees the many prizes available. The higher the amount raised, the greater the level of prizes available to the student.
In another Lake Station annual event, The North American Games, the top fundraising student gets special recognition by ringing the North American Games bell to officially start the Games. This is in front of more than 1,000 students and parents who attend the Games and provides a great amount of recognition for the student and brings a lot of exposure on the fundraising to the parents. There are several students each year who compete intensely for this recognition reward.
There are other factors that will ensure a successful fundraising effort for a major charity. The Lake Station program has been successful for many years – perhaps these ideas will work in other schools.
Kelly Schmelzer is a 35-year veteran of the Lake Station School Corporation in the role of director of elementary physical education. She also coaches eighth-grade volleyball and varsity track. She was the original founder of the Jump Rope for Heart program in 1981. Sunni Rossi is regional vice president youth market for the American Heart Association and has been with the AHA since 1999. Prior to that she was a regional director in Southeast Indiana engaging schools with Jump Rope and Hoops for Heart.