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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, August 3, 2007

Public school fundraiser? Try alumni

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Government Writer


This week, The Advertiser featured a series of reports on ways you can help your local schools:

Today: Helping with fundraising

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Car washes, bake sales and chili tickets remain effective ways for school groups to raise a little money, but schools looking to create more significant and consistent funding streams might want to cultivate a spirit of philanthropy in their alumni and current students.

That's an area where some of the top private schools excel and public schools should tap into, say professional fundraisers.

"There should be a lot more private giving for the local high schools," said Kelvin Shoji, director of development for University of Hawai'i athletics.

Shoji notes that often when people are asked where they graduated from, they'll name their high school rather than their college.

"There's a tremendous amount of affinity for your high school, so you're looking at your alumni," he said.

Alumni associations can do more than just track former students down for reunions. They can encourage the alumni to give private gifts, fund scholarships or make annual pledges.

Foundations across the nation focus on building affinity with people who have benefited from their programs and encourage them to help provide the same opportunities to others, Shoji said.

Private schools have advantages that public schools don't have, and some can start teaching students to give back from kindergarten and still encourage their graduates and their parents to keep sending checks long after the final tuition bill is paid.

Jane Heimerdinger, director of institutional advancement at 'Iolani School and president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in Hawaii, said a disadvantage for public schools may be that they don't tend to track their students beyond graduation.

"We enjoy following our students ... through their college years, into their professional years, into their marriages and throughout their lifelong journeys," she said.

Not only do graduates tend to remain connected to the school, often they send their children back there for their own educations. "We have three, four, five generations of families attending 'Iolani," Heimerdinger said.

But the giving starts long before the students become successful enough in their professional lives to start making monetary donations.

"Another great source are our current parents," Heimerdinger said. "They're enthusiastic about the support they get from 'Iolani and the programs we offer, so they're supportive of our efforts to raise funds in terms of scholarship and program needs."

'Iolani also asks local and national foundations and corporations for donations.

However, while 'Iolani doesn't focus a lot on candy sales or car washes, Heimerdinger sees value in them. "There's a certain spirit about those hands-on fundraisers," she said. "They're a point of rally for our parents and students. There's a camaraderie that goes on with selling spam musubi and shave ice at volleyball games.

"The result might not be as much money as you want, but one of the spinoffs is working together as a team, having a common goal and working with teachers, administrators and students to raise money through those common efforts."

All schools need those kinds of activities to hold them together as a family, she said.

Banding together to address a current need painting a gymnasium, for example gives students experience helping with their schools, helping to build that philanthropic spirit.

"It's very beneficial and unifying," Heimerdinger said.

Share your school news

It's a whole new school year, and we have ways for you to share your school news:

  • Submit articles about the good things happening at your child's school to our community Web sites at honoluluadvertiser.com.

  • Have your favorite school snapshot included in our photo gallery at honoluluadvertiser.com.

  • Chat about back-to-school issues at www.HawaiiMoms.com.


    Parents especially those with more than one school-age child sometimes feel they're constantly participating in fundraisers and can lose enthusiasm over the course of the year.

    The national Parent Teacher Association offers these tips for helping parents avoid "fundraising fatigue":

  • Offer parents weary of soliciting grandma and co-workers for contributions ideas of groups outside the workplace and family to approach, such as adult sports leagues and church, social and civic clubs.

  • Include in your letter to parents tips on how to fundraise appropriately in the workplace. For example, advise parents to avoid sending office e-mails about the fundraiser; to post a sign-up sheet in a central break room, with a sign that reads, "Don't feel obligated, but feel free"; and to leave the children at home and instead have them write a thank-you letter to the office.

  • Offer parent incentives, such as dessert at a local restaurant or the chance to win a dinner out or a weekend getaway.

    Other tips for successful fundraisers include:

  • Provide parents with a complete fundraising schedule at the beginning of the year. If you're running product fundraisers, be sure to include launch dates, deadlines for turning in orders and money and, if possible, an estimated delivery date for products.

  • Use Web sites, newsletters, outdoor boards (e.g. the school marquee), local cable bulletin boards and homework hotlines to communicate important information to parents and to provide updates on the fundraising campaign. And of course, always be sure to mention why you're raising the money.

  • Take advantage of special school events, such as your next open house. If you're selling fundraising products, put those products on display and offer samples to parents. Also, find a way to illustrate what your PTA's fundraising efforts are going to make happen. Another powerful tactic is to report on what was made possible the previous year thanks to a successful fundraiser.

  • And finally, find a way to say thank you to all participants, perhaps by hosting a quick breakfast break one morning in the cafeteria. Report final results and recognize extra efforts. If your fundraiser led to an enhanced media center, a playground or a new computer lab, host tours for supporters.

    Source: Article by Jon Krueger at www.pta.org

    Reach Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.