I’m Supposed to Plan What?
Fundraising on a College Campus by a real sorority girl
Fundraising in college is a very unique and specific thing. Most organizations are actually founded and based around the idea of raising money for another, more in need organization. Throughout my time at Bradley, I was involved in multiple student organizations that had specific fundraising requirements. Throughout this article, I will share some of my stories, the stories of my friends, and the tips and tricks I learned! Remember, fundraising is hard, but raising any amount is impressive and worth the extra effort!
Plan, Plan, Plan (and then plan some more)
The most successful events I was ever involved with were always able to succeed due to a detailed planning process.
As a college student, organization, delegation, and time management are going to be key to making your fundraiser top tier. If your event is slated for the spring, start in the fall. Get it on the calendar right away so members are prepared and ready—there’s nothing worse then a last minute event. There’s always going to be a test, project, or meeting—so best to tackle your hurdles head on and get a little something done every week (rather than procrastinating everything to the end).
My freshman year, I witnessed a catastrophe of an event by my sorority due to lack of delegation and planning. The chair of the Pageant Committee was too over extended within our organization and other organizations on campus, which unfortunately caused the event to be hectic, unprofessional, and frankly, a little embarrassing. It looked amateurish and unorganized, leading other organizations to see us that way. To avoid a situation like this, I would suggest getting a committee together and assigning team leads to take on the bigger aspects of the event. No need to micromanage–trust that if you leave someone in charge of decorations he or she will do their job and do it well. This can be tricky if you’re a control freak like me, but I’ve learned to delegate only to reliable members of my organizations who I know will get the job done. Having weekly meetings to check in on progress and boost morale can really aid in making sure your fundraiser is on the right track for success. These meetings can include goal setting, brainstorming, and team building as well. As serious as the planning process is to the success of your fundraiser, it can still be fun and exciting!
Pro Tip: Properly budget as early in the year as you can. The earlier in the year, the more money in the budget. This can save you the hassle of trying to squeeze money out of the budget later on!
Publicity is huge with fundraising in college.
If people don’t know about an event, nobody will show up. If you go to a smaller school like I did– trust me, nobody will show up. Publicity is going to be different depending on the event, but one of your committees should definitely be in charge of getting the word out there. Getting people excited about what you’re putting out is key. Most fraternities and sororities will have some sort of philanthropy week in which there is an event every day. The most successful philanthropy week on my campus was put on by the same fraternity every year. In my opinion, they had the perfect equation for success. The sororities competed for the most points at multiple events during the week. The reason participation was so high for the event was due to the unbelievable effort these frat-stars did with publicity. They had t-shirts made that everyone wanted to buy. Members of their fraternity each got a hat and if a sorority girl could get the hat off their head (most of the time by running after them and tackling around campus) they got extra points. There was a fun dance competition and a pageant. Every sorority was informed about the events and wanted to participate—that is what good publicity does for a fundraiser!
Pro-Tip: Social media should be your best friend if you’re in charge of publicity. Make sure to create a Facebook event with a detailed description of the event itself and how people can donate. Posting often and creating a social media presence can engage members of the community who wouldn’t have heard about the event any other way—such as family and friends from home. Create a separate “donation” page for those members to contribute as well!
Professional can mean a variety of things, but to me, it includes being organized, friendly, and educated.
Attendees of your fundraiser should feel like what they are donating their money to is worth it. I’ll be the first to admit—it is hard to get college students to donate money. We’re poor and every extra cent is useful (for pizza…usually pizza). But when we do donate, it is because we are convinced it is going somewhere important. Secondly, the event should be fun and inviting. A sorority on my campus would take a pie to the face for a $1 donation to their philanthropy. Not only a great incentive to get friends to donate, this event is light and fun for everyone involved. Lastly, know about what you’re raising money for. If someone asks you about your fundraiser, you should provide details about the organization you are working for. This helps persuade people to donate and lends credibility to your organization. Know fun details that can draw potential donors in and show them your passion!
Pro-Tip: Create cheat sheets with statistics and fun facts about the organization you’re fundraising for so all of your members have the knowledge to discuss the purpose behind the event!
Inspire Your Organization & the Extended Family
Be positive and the inspiration will permeate the event.
When things get hectic and people get crazy, it is so easy to lose sight of what you are working towards. Be sure to remind the members of your organization why you’re putting in the work to have a fundraiser in the first place. Putting others before yourself speaks volumes! Be positive and choose to see the bright side of things; having a good attitude is so powerful. I will never forget the feeling of raising over $1000 in one night for my sorority’s philanthropy. It was amazing knowing that I was a part of something bigger then myself and real people were going to benefit from my actions. So although it takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, make sure to remind others and yourself that the reward is sweet.
Many organizations fostered deep loyalty due to the emotional connection that developed during the collegiate years. Alumni isn’t only for the institution, its very relevant to all social and community groups. Stay in touch with updates so that when you do reach out to ask for financial support it’s a natural ask. Extended family also means traditional familial connections. Do cultivate communications with parents and grandparents of current (and future alumni) in a meaningful way. This also opens doors for support and extending the reach to those that care for organization members. Parents & grandparents are always looking to find an open channel to connect with their college student; using an beloved organization as subject matter is very viable.
Extend fundraising to all these additional parties will increase scope and scale. Most importantly doing so will increase fundraising income!
Pro-Tip: After the event, hold a post-mortem discussion with your board. This is not a “bitch-fest.” The point is to open a conversation about what went well, what could be improved upon, and then start planning for the next year.
Pizza or Philanthropy? Choose Both
Fundraising is not always easy, but the challenges that arise can be easily solved and handled with some good planning, positive attitudes, and reliable team members. Take charge and be an effective leader, those skills will continue to help you post-college as well. Making a difference on your campus is easy when you’re prepared, organized, and ready for a challenge!
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Special thanks to Amanda Dacks for this article contribution.
Amanda recently graduated from Bradley University, where she majored in Business Law and Theatre. She was involved in multiple student organizations and helped with the planning of many events throughout her college career. A recent transplant to Los Angeles, Amanda enjoys watching Netflix, hanging by her pool, and trying new restaurants!