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How to Fundraise for Schools: A Primer

March 13th, 2006

Just as I sat down to write this, I got a “pass it on” e-mail from one of my cousins. Starbucks allegedly wouldn’t send free coffee to the Marines, yadda yadda. Well, of course it’s an Urban Legend but that isn’t the point.

The point is: If Starbucks didn’t have any free coffee to pass out, it would be cuz they’re saving all their love and grounds for moi, Wacky Mommy.

That’s right, Fundraising Tip #1: Starbucks rocks. They are extremely generous in donating coffee, pastries, mugs, teddy bears and more to the schools. Also, they will give you bags and bags of coffee grounds for your garden (for the rhodies, azaleas, blueberries…) They reduce their garbage bill and your yard flourishes. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When planning any school event, be it an auction, a build-your-own-playground drive, a talent show, Teacher Appreciation Week, a parade of cute little kindergarteners going around the block while their doting parents film them… it’s a good time to fundraise. I fundraise year-round, cuz that’s the kind of maniac I am. (Don’t be intimidated, we cannot all be this wacky. Plus? I’m so discouraged, like out of my mind discouraged, about the state of schools in Oregon and nationwide, that this makes me feel better. Fundraising Tip #2: Are you in it for the money, honey? No, I’m in it cuz I like to get free stuff — for the kids, to raffle off and raise money, to give to the teachers and staff… And I hate feeling helpless. Which I do, every time I think about the mess our schools are in in this country.)

What our principal does for the parents at our school is this: At the end of the school year (or somewhere around mid-summer) she types up, on school letterhead, a letter for us approving our fundraising efforts. (You can also have your PTA prez write something up. People don’t really care what the letter says — they just want the Tax ID number, so I make sure to give it to them.)

Here’s a draft (feel free to crib from it):


To Whom It May Concern:

This letter is to introduce you to a parent at Yadda Yadda Elementary School. Our parents are gathering donations for a variety of upcoming events at our school during the 2005-2006 school year. These events include (list them out — this year ours included an auction, a dance and Teacher Appreciation Week. Three is a good number to go with). Our auction benefits (yadda yadda) at our school.

I am both appreciate of and grateful for the time they are giving to help our school and the children in our community.

They wish to talk with you about an opportunity for your business in conjunction with this endeavor. Please consider this a way to not only support Yadda Yadda Elementary, but as a way for you to promote your business with our school families and community.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Ms. Principal

(The PTA Tax ID number is below her name.)

And oh baby — the things you can get with a letter like this:

Cash donations
Food to serve at events
Gift certificates (hair salons, restaurants, hotels, etc.)
Passes (to the zoo, the children’s museum, the science museum, the art museum, etc.)
Coffee, coffee, coffee
Gift baskets (everything from chocolate lovers baskets to art supplies to gardening items)
Gym time
Kid fun (classes at a martial arts studio, dance studio, swim passes for Parks & Rec)

More later — dinnertime.



I made the rounds to the Starbucks stores today and gathered up ceramic mugs, travel mugs, pitchers for steaming milk, and little tins filled with tasty Vanilla After Dinner Mints and Gum for the teachers at school, for Teacher Appreciation Week. (Dedicated as the first full week in May, but we’re celebrating May 8-12 at our school.)

OK, here’s the weird part. Because you know me now, right? As well as you can know a virtual friend who keeps a blog that you are kind enough to read occasionally. We’re friends, you’d better believe it. Virtual friends rock. So, you know that I, WM, can’t just get some cute little spring-themed mugs and fill them with jellybeans and tra-la-la, everyone’s happy.

Starbucks donated Christmas mugs. (Plus a few standard-issue travel mugs, pretty and non-seasonal, and one really cool miniature thermos — FITTED WITH A LEATHER SLEEVE. Chic. That one, I gave to the principal, who deserves that and a whole lot more.) I’m thinking, WTF? Christmas mugs? Granted, I had enough little cute tins of mints and gum to pop into the mugs. (If you give a mug, there had better be a giftcard or a truffle or something in there. Otherwise? Just a mug.) But really, WTF? So I hit on this — I wrote notes to everyone that said, “Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! And, um, happy holidays, too! Love, Your PTA.”

Brilliant, no? Oh, please. That’s like one of the most stupid ideas I’ve ever had. But I ran with it because, you know, WTF? If I leave these mugs in my basement and try to do it right, next Christmas, I’ll forget about them. Or they’ll get broken. Or whatever. I am not the most organized. I took them to school and passed ’em out.

I must say, we have the sweetest, best teachers at our school because geez, you would have thought I was handing out gold covered chocolate coins.

Me, brightly: “Hi! Happy Christmas in April!”

Teacher: “Huh? Oh, wow, seriously? Oh, no way, THANK YOU! You guys always think of the sweetest gifts…”

Etc. All sincere, and not just trying to make Wacky Girl’s Mommy not feel like an idiot. I told the school librarian, “Eh, sorry they’re seasonal. I just take whatever Starbucks gives me.” She was all, “Who cares? It’s a nice mug!”

Lesson Learned: Be Creative. And don’t forget the mints.

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