Public school fundraiser? Try alumni
By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Government Writer
By Treena Shapiro
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.
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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":
Other tips for successful fundraisers include:
Source: Article by Jon Krueger at www.pta.org
Reach Treena Shapiro at firstname.lastname@example.org.