Using Printed Materials to Maximize Fundraising Income for Schools
For K-12 schools and associated club and sports programs, the ability to devise and execute a variety of successful fundraising efforts throughout the year is no longer a luxury. For many of these programs today, it is a matter of survival.
One of the most lucrative methods of fundraising is through printed materials such as calendars, posters, catalogs and greeting cards. With a minimal investment these items can generate thousands in fundraising revenue, but they have to be done right.
“Where our old school calendar broke even and was hardly worth the effort, our new calendar made over $3,000,” says Nathan Garner, band director of the award-winning 75-member Hamilton Aggie Marching Band of Hamilton High School in Hamilton, Ala. “Our program depends on fundraising. We can’t afford unproductive, generic efforts.”
Fundraising decision makers like Garner need to know what the best revenue generators are; how to increase return; offset materials costs; and also maximize advertising revenue, donations, community involvement and even media coverage. One of the best ways they can guarantee success is by learning from other schools that have done it best.
Garner was able to achieve his dramatic turnaround in revenue from calendars after he discovered useful information at the website of Printing Center USA, an online print specialist that provides a Market Smarts section for educators.
“I was very interested to see what has worked at other schools,” Garner says.
Marching to a $3,000 profit
The Hamilton Aggie Marching Band had sold an annual band calendar before, but it was a relatively small tear-off type with a single picture at the top, printed by a local printer. “We’d sold ads to local businesses in our old calendar, but they were so small, they were more of a donation,” Garner says, adding that he saw the possibilities of creating a larger, custom band calendar.
“For the same price we’d done the smaller tear-out calendar before, we created a large 28-page calendar with a full-color photo of the band on the cover, and black-and-white photos of the band and kids inside,” he says. “Friends and families loved seeing their kids in the bigger photos, and businesses liked the bigger ads.”
To get people excited about the calendar, the band printed people’s birthdays and anniversaries over photos throughout it. Each birthday, anniversary or “in memory” listing cost $1. With the purchase, people listened to local radio stations and a local TV station to hear their names announced on air on their birthdays and special occasions. One daily winner from the birthday listings received a free meal from a local eatery, and one weekly winner from the anniversary listings received two movie tickets at a local cinema.
Out of 500 printed calendars, the band sold most at $5 each and gave copies to those buying ads. It sold 10 $25 ads on most of the inside pages, as well as a total of almost 1,000 birthday, anniversary and “in memory” listings. Since the calendar cost $1,200, it netted the band more than $3,000 in profit while generating much excitement and involvement in the school and community.
“We’re thinking about adding a CD of band music to a future calendar, or posters with scheduling and advertising,” Garner says. “You’ve got to keep trying new things to keep things fresh. The entrepreneurial skills the kids are learning from creative fundraising will serve them well both in school and out of it.”
Rounding up almost $8,000
The Hawaii High School Rodeo Association printed a 15-month calendar to raise money and showcase students in the high-school rodeo program. Each of 15 graduating seniors received his or her own page with a description of his or her future plans.
To incorporate other students in the calendar, smaller student pictures bordered the calendar’s top pages each month. The bottom pages were simple and clean, each with a different anti-drug slogan. A community photographer donated the photography.
When the Rodeo Association sold the calendar around the community and at rodeo events for $15, 700 were sold out of 750, generating $10,500. After paying for the printing cost, the Rodeo Association netted almost $8,000 while honoring its graduating seniors.
Making student service real to donors
Archbishop Murphy High School, a coeducational Catholic college-preparatory school in Everett, Wash., got creative by using its annual report to honor donors and raise money for the school. The report included photos of the students in the many services they contribute to the community, along with descriptive captions and a donation envelope in the report’s center.
“From international relief, to food and clothing drives, to working at retirement homes and summer camps, our students are actively giving back to the community,” says Patti Means, Archbishop Murphy High School’s director of communications. “While honoring donors in the report, we wanted to show them what their generosity is helping to make possible, both in the lives of our students and in the lives of those they touch.”
As a convenience to donors, Means wanted to place the school’s existing donation envelope in the report’s center, so those wanting to contribute to the following year’s activities could do so more easily.
Besides the annual report, the school also has used a similar tactic for a boys’ basketball team poster. The poster includes a large color team photo, the team’s schedule and advertisements from local businesses, which essentially cover the cost of the poster.
“With the down economy, schools need to fundraise more creatively so they can give their best to students and the community,” concludes Means.
Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, Calif.
Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, California. He writes about health, business, technology, and educational issues, and has an M.A. in English from C.S.U. Dominguez Hills.