Your top priority for fundraising special events isn’t actually to raise funds.
Yes, you read that correctly.
That’s what Nic Prenger, the president of the Steier Group, said on a recent Pushpay webinar entitled, The 5 Fundraising Mistakes Schools Make. Steier Group offers customized fundraising strategies for their clients. In the past 20 years, the group has raised more than $1.3 billion across more than 1,000 capital campaigns for their clients.
Prenger notes that the best goal of fundraising events is to build your network. “You’ve heard them called ‘friend-raisers,’ and that’s absolutely true,” Prenger said. He says special events should be geared toward creating energy among current supporters and finding new supporters, whom you hope will give primarily through an annual appeal.
During the webinar Prenger described four special events that tend to work well and hit different donor audiences:
1. Golf outing
This event targets an older crowd and a corporate crowd that might choose to buy foursomes. Look for opportunities to create shareable moments that people will post on their social media feeds, Prenger advises. The better your school prepares for these events ahead of time, the more likely you’ll be able to provide shareable moments at the event.
These events are designed for all of your donors. It’s one of the largest events you’ll do all year. Provide some entertainment, a dinner, and maybe even a silent auction. Most schools seem to have these kinds of events down to a science.
3. Grandparents Day
Prenger notes that grandparents pay for the tuition, in part or in whole, of more than half of private school students in the United States. That means grandparents are at least as invested as parents in the success of your school. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, he says. Invite them in for breakfast, to interact with the kids, and (if you’re a religious school) for mass or chapel or some kind of celebration. Just make sure you thank them for their support of the students and of the school.
4. Trivia Night
This can draw in younger families. They don’t see it as a fundraiser but as an opportunity to interact with other parents. The better trivia nights that Prenger has seen involve a theme and even costumes. He says:
“You want people to feel good about your school. Trivia Night will help people do that. If you don’t raise a single dollar, this is still an important part of your school [fundraising strategy]. You’re getting people engaged. You’re getting them involved. It’s a good time for your development staff to actually mingle among those parents and get to know them.”
Prenger shared a variety of other tips in his webinar on topics like capital campaigns, annual appeals, and more.