7 Outside-the-Box Ideas to Help Fund Your School Safety & Climate Improvement Programs

September 8 2014


  • William Grace Frost, Former Director of Strategic Relations, Community Matters
    William Grace Frost
    Former Director of Strategic Relations, Community Matters
  • Rick Phillips, Founder, Community Matters
    Rick Phillips
    Founder, Community Matters

From the coming and going of the Title IV Safe & Drug-Free Schools funding to President Obama’s latest Now Is the Time initiative that’s partially directed towards school climate improvements, administrators have had to be creatively adept with their budgeting, cutting back in lean times, and cautiously expanding when external funding has become more available and fluid.

As a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization working within the budgetary constraints of the American educational system for the past 17 years, Community Matters has had to learn a thing or two about ‘imaginative funding’ in order to successfully give the work away and to continue living our mission.

Here are a few tips that we’ve discovered that you may be able to put to good use as well. And, if you have an out-of-the-box fundraising idea that might help others, please take a moment to share it on this blog:

1. Express your uniqueness – Fundraising techniques and styles are as varied as the personalities and organizations that they serve, so be sure to choose ones that work for you. Just because someone else raised thousands of dollars from annual cookie sales, doesn’t mean that a baked goods fundraiser is right for your organization; choose a theme or technique that builds off your uniqueness and sets you apart from all the others.

2. Look beyond the obvious philanthropists – At CM we call it “mining connections”. Start with a brainstorming session to list everyone you know who knows someone of influence or means. Leave no stone unturned, but be sure that the people you list are ones you have a personal connection with and with whom you would be readily able to ask for help. Go beyond the typical family, friends and neighbors to consider: high school and college alumni; religious or spiritual affiliates; business mastermind circles; golf club and other sporting group members; bridge clubs and other social gatherings; political alliances; and, ultimately, be sure to consider people and organizations who benefit most directly from having schools that are more safe, welcoming and inclusive.

3. Involve the community-at-large – There’s really no point in trying to do it alone. Consider that raising funds can become a community-involvement process that not only secures necessary monies for school programs, but also brings people together from all walks of life in support of children, safety and education.

4. Fully utilize social media – On-line fundraising has become ubiquitous; it expands your fundraising audience far beyond the borders of your town. Find someone who is savvy with social media and you may quickly find your school streaming in funds with a Kickstarter project, Facebook sales or an Etsy Success art initiative. And be sure to have a DONATE HERE button on your website!

5. Get visual – Storytelling is the number one focus of marketing both in the non-profit and for-profit worlds. Now more than ever fundraisers are using photos, pictures and film to open the hearts and coffers of their audience. And with the amazing viral potential of video, make sure you include some creative cinematography in your fundraising media plans.

6. Tag team with other successful fundraising events / endeavors – If your budget is tight let someone else do most of the legwork and marketing by entering a booth at a successful event or festival that allows you to take advantage of large numbers of people that might otherwise have been unreachable. For example, Community Matters has found itself the happy recipient of corporate golf fundraisers and Rotarian auctions.

7. Search for local family foundations – There are many families, yes, right within your community, who have accumulated wealth significant enough to set up a family foundation; your next big donation may very well come from the parents or grandparents of the kid who used to be the class bully.

The bottom line is that successful fundraising today is calling on all of us to push the boundaries of our comfort zones and to expand beyond the old “tried and true” techniques. With the focus of schools leaning more and more towards programs such as social-emotional learning, restorative practices and climate improvement programs, it’s more important than ever that your school creatively generate the funds it needs.

So ignite your imagination, think outside-the-box and most of all, remember to have fun, because the authentic passion you express about your cause is ultimately the most influential key to opening the funding door!
If you want more ideas, request our Funding Tool Kit by emailing toolkit@community-matters.org or contact us at info@community-matters.org or call 707-823-6159.

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