Student organizations are a great way to get involved on your campus and engage with your classmates and the surrounding community. Most colleges and universities offer hundreds of different organizations and clubs for students to join, from sports leagues and Greek life to community service groups and clubs based on members’ shared interests.
The extent to which student organizations receive funding varies widely among student organizations. Limited budgets often leave some student organizations with insufficient resources to host events or participate in activities to further their mission. On the other hand, even well-funded student organizations host fundraisers to expand the options and opportunities at their avail.
No matter what organization you’re a part of or what your group’s present financial situation looks like, the tips below can help your organization meet its fundraising goals. With a bit of planning and creativity, you can do a lot to strengthen the financial health of your organization.
Know Who Your Audience Is
First, you need to pick an effective fundraiser. From bake sales to charity walks to silent auctions, there are lots of options to choose from. Being mindful of who your intended audience is and what kind of activity is likely to attract the most participants can help you eliminate less lucrative fundraisers in lieu of one that works for your organization.
The details that go into planning a successful fundraiser will depend on the traditions, culture, and location of your school. Even if your student organization is esoteric or subject-specific, incorporating your school’s distinctive culture into your fundraiser will help you reach more people by appealing to something which the entire student body has in common.
Communicate Goals and Deadlines To Fellow Members
Once you decide what your campaign is going to be, you need to convince others to get behind your idea and be a part of it. Remember to keep it simple–you should be able to explain your campaign in one or two sentences. Using clear and concise language to communicate your fundraising idea will help others understand why they should support and donate to your cause.
Be straightforward when it comes to the targets and deadlines of your campaign. People–your potential supporters–like to receive specific information, so offer concrete dollar amounts if you’re asked what the suggested donation is. You can also reinforce the message that no donation is too big or small. Research shows that citing specific numbers–$7 or $14.50, for instance–increases the probability that someone will choose to support your cause.
Don’t forget these details when strategizing and coordinating your outreach efforts:
- Highlight the URL of your campaign’s website and/or any hashtag associated with the fundraiser.
- Include all relevant and important information on flyers and promotional materials. Clearly list the date, time of day, and location where your fundraising event is occurring.
- How to give: provide a link or detailed instructions on how to donate.
- Goal: Why is your organization trying to raise money? How much money are you trying to raise? Make it clear what you’re trying to achieve.
Make it easy for people to donate to your cause.
People are busy. They will be more likely to donate if you make the process effortless. Any digital payment processes and interfaces should be user-friendly and functional. In my experience, having an online option is most effective.
If you’re collecting donations on-site at an event, invest in a square card reader so that people without cash on hand can give via credit card. Carrying around lots of cash is uncommon these days, so enabling people to donate with a credit card will expand your donor pool significantly.
Social media is a powerful tool–so use it!
If you’re part of an organization that already runs an annual fundraising campaign, find out and make sure the fundraiser is featured on social media. Being consistent with marketing and making use of the same hashtag from year to year will do a lot to raise awareness of your fundraiser and increase your organization’s impact.
If your organization is launching a brand new campaign, consider what your hashtag will be and be intentional about your choice. Keep it short—so it is easy to type—and memorable. If necessary, do some research on social media to see what hashtags are successful, and which ones are already in use.
Don’t Rely on Social Media to Do the Heavy Lifting
Social media is a great way to spread awareness about your campaign as fellow students engage with their peer-to-peer networks, but it takes more to get a campaign off the ground. One of the best ways to spread awareness and encourage engagement is by recruiting a group of highly visible current students and alumni to help spread the word the “old-fashioned” way. Try to work with students and alumni who aren’t current or former members of your organization. You can check in with this team of supporters throughout the campaign to make sure your message is spreading how you want it to.
Specific Fundraiser Ideas
Need some ideas or help brainstorming? Here are a few fundraising ideas that students have found success with in the past:
Big-ticket item giveaway: Reach out to community sponsors or board members of your school for a donation of a big-ticket item. Raffle the prize off to a lucky winner!
Off-the-beaten path: The Woodsmen Team at Colby College stays afloat by selling the firewood they chop to the Colby Outing Club and other people in the local community (in Maine, many people heat their houses via wood-burning stove).
Fashion show: The Otis College of Art and Design hosts an annual fashion show featuring collections designed by students at the school. Otis has raised over $25 million since staging their inaugural fashion show back in 1983.
Special privileges: Enlist the cooperation of a famous alum, or a popular professor on campus. Hold a contest or a raffle for the chance to have dinner with Professor Smith, or a guitar lesson with that sought-after music professor.
DanceBlue is one of the largest student-run events at the University of Kentucky. The 24-hour dance marathon held each year raises money for pediatric cancer.
The Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College in Ohio, which runs on human sewage, maintains its state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant by paying students 25 cents to deposit “fuel” in building’s bathroom facilities.
Montana State University’s annual King and Queen of the Ridge fundraiser takes place at Bridger Bowl Ski Area, northeast of Bozeman. The King and Queen of the Ridge raises money for the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center.
Fundraising can be challenging, but it can also be extremely fun. With careful planning and effective communication, your fundraiser will be a hit. As long as you are mindful of your audience and goals, and use your imagination, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish.