There’s nothing like a good plan. Everyone knows what to expect and people can get started early. When you rely on time-strapped volunteers, that is crucial. Even more important is a clear idea of why you are doing what you do!
P&Cs work best when there are clear, shared goals – a well understood sense of what you are there for and what you are trying to achieve. It’s important your committee talks about this and that the P&C aligns with the aims of the school and the majority of parents. A survey to find out what is most important to parents can be useful.
Sometimes, within a committee, people have different underlying ideas about what the main focus should be and this can lead to conflict, so it is a good idea to discuss it openly, either in a general sense, or event by event. If you can hear the differences of opinion then it is easier to accommodate them or agree to a compromise.
It might be that the focus of selling mangoes is to raise funds for a much needed or appreciated purchase for the school, but perhaps the disco is mostly about having a fun night for the kids and families and it doesn’t need to do any more than break even. Being clear about the goal will guide what the event looks like and help you direct your resources and time. For example, if your disco focuses on fun rather than funds, you might add a lip-sync competition or a game of musical statues and provide a sought-after prize.
The community is much more likely to support your events and efforts if you can articulate a clear aim. If the focus is on fundraising, be very clear about what you are fundraising for.
Businesses are more likely to donate prizes, and parents are more likely to promote a fundraiser and encourage others to purchase or participate if there is a clear need or benefit.
Try to involve the whole parent community in decisions about what to fund – would the Kindy parents appreciate new readers? Is there a need for more shade on the playground? It’s best to work in with the School Board’s plans and it’s nice to ask the school’s Student Representative Council what they think the school needs.
Once you know what you are doing and why, the next question is when. A well thought-through calendar of P&C events and fundraisers is a must-have item. Make sure you coordinate with the school to avoid times that are busy for staff and so that school and P&C events and fundraisers don’t hit families all at once. Space things out so that your volunteers don’t burn out.
Keeping it fresh
Most schools have their go-to events and fundraisers but it is also important to mix it up, so we have pulled together some of our favourites from the many and varied activities we hear about from our fabulously inventive member P&Cs — read on!
Parents are suckers for their kids’ creative works, and some P&Cs have used this to great effect. At one school, a lunch-time knitting club stepped kids through the process of making fabulous beanies. At the end of the term, an auction was held and the creations sold to the highest bidder. There was a lot of interest, the kids felt great about what they had made, and the bids got high!
Parents do get sick of fundraisers asking them to buy discretionary items, but often there is much more interest if the products for sale are ones they would purchase anyway. We have seen schools run fundraisers selling toilet paper, keep cups, trolley tokens and even Christmas trees.
If it is not money you need, but feedback, try an ‘ideas raffle’ – people drop their thoughts into a box and at the end one is pulled out for a prize (meanwhile you get all the ideas and feedback)!
Competitions can be a great addition to a fair or other school event. They add interest and attract people who might not otherwise have come and can become fundraisers with a bit of promotion and an entry fee. You could try a lego building competition (lego sets make obvious prizes) or cupcake decorating contest. A photography or a drawing competition makes a great addition to an art show. One P&C held a cake-box decorating competition at their fair. They provided the cake boxes for the kids to decorate, but entry was contingent upon the box containing something to sell on the cake stall! Clever stuff!
Feed back on progress
Once you know what your aim is, make sure to feed back to the community on how it went or how you are progressing. If having fun was the aim of your event – publish happy pictures in the following school newsletter. If you’re purchasing items for the school, be sure to share photographs of the kids using them so that people can see that their efforts were worthwhile. If your goal is a bigger one, the ‘fundraising thermometer’ is a well-loved tool and a helpful way to keep everybody motivated towards the common goal. Instead of saying ‘we have another $5000 to raise before we can refurbish the canteen’, a picture not only speaks a thousand words, but helps with motivation!
While the traditional thermometer is great, with a little imagination you can take this concept and make it a lot more fun! If you are raising money for tree planting, draw a bare tree on a poster and add leaves to show your progress. When the tree is full, you have reached your goal! If it is library books you are after, you could draw bookshelves and colour-in or add book as you approach your goal. The options are limitless and you can always get the kids to help!
This article appeared in ParentACTion Magazine, Term 1, 2019.