Making Money the ‘Stars and Stripes’ Way: Some Ideas from American High School Fundraising

US-style fundraising has always been watched with some awe from Europe and other parts of the world.

High schools around the US are returning after their long Summer breaks, and some are already planning for Thanksgiving activities, a busy time of year in the fundraising calendar.

One particular event, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, attracts college and high school bands from across the country, to participate as marching bands in the nation’s biggest parade, which has been running since 1924.

But there’s a hefty price tag to transport an entire band, with instruments, to New York City, with accommodation over one of the busiest holiday weekends. Brian Froedge, Band Director for North Hardin High in Kentucky estimated his trip in 2015 would cost USD $1,000 for each of his 220 band members – meaning a big fundraising effort was required.

Here are Froedge’s other suggestions (taken, in part, from an article in US News) – read on for some American inspiration for your next fundraising initiative!

  1. Bigger is better:

Focus on fewer, but larger, events which can raise more money (with less admin) than multiple smaller activities, like bake sales. You don’t want to sell products which you have to buy first, or which require you sharing the profits – so go for a gala dinner, benefit concert or an auction. Try and get the local news involved for some free coverage to encourage wider participation.

  1. Minimise Risk:

Consider how much money you need first and then plan your ideas carefully. If you’re raising money for new music equipment, have you negotiated with the supplier to ensure the lowest cost? And when you’re ordering party supplies for your gala dinner, have you found the best bulk discount or tried to persuade a local business sponsor to cover the cost (in return for their branding)?

  1. Get Creative and Be Persistent

When involving parents or the wider local community, it can get repetitive to hear about the same fundraising events.

“It can be challenging to continuously raise funds”, says Jen Olivieri, President of the booster club at Hull High, speaking to US News and the Money section. “Because there are a lot of fundraisers all the time, I think people are just sick of giving money.”

So, come up with something new! A themed event, an inspiring speaker, an auction partnered with a local restaurant or business. Froedge also says “have a plan B” – he raised about half the required funds for his band to travel to New York, but band members were prepared to pay the remainder, as an investment in a trip of a lifetime.

  1. Include Teachers and the Wider Community

In case you hadn’t already realised this by now, use your human capital! Roll out the charismatic teachers, the student sports stars or the local celebs.

Whether it’s a classic tug of war- teachers vs students, a football match (teachers vs students) or “who can sell the most products” (you got it- teachers vs students) – there are lots of ways you can engage your community in a fundraising event.

Also, if a request for money comes from a popular teacher, it could generate a warmer response, than a campaign from the school’s fundraising team.

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