We spend a lot of our time at PTO Today reminding parent group leaders that building involvement and creating supportive learning communities for the kids are the key parent group challenges. Fundraising isn’t the main mission.
One of my favorite expressions: We fundraise to exist; we don’t exist to fundraise.
But when making that point, I hope we don’t ever give the impression that we don’t value what good fundraising programs—and the people and companies who help us put those programs on—do for our groups. The fact is that the best groups often also have the best fundraisers. And the best fundraisers often help the best groups do their great work. It’s a symbiotic relationship; success goes together.
I’m reminded of this point each January when I travel to the national fundraising convention (AFRDS, the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers). The meeting gives me a chance to see what’s coming for parent groups: what products will be in next year’s catalogs, what best-practices are working to help groups increase sales, what trends are impacting fundraising success.
But this year, I was happily reminded of a more long-term truth about fundraising: It’s amazing how much good work gets done with the proceeds from fundraising campaigns.
Think about it for your own group. You probably raise somewhere between $10,000 and $30,000. (The national average is $22,000.) You likely support teacher stipends, field trips, and school performers. You put on family events. Perhaps you funded a playground in the past few years.
You decided the school needed an after-school program and—voila!—your group found the funds. The principal told you about the auditorium sound system that no longer made sound—voila again! Did you buy die-cutting equipment? Did you help fund the Accelerated Reader program? Maybe you even paid half a salary so your school could still have art classes.
Now multiply that by 80,000 K-8 parent-teacher groups. It’s $1.8 billion dollars of good work for our schools. That’s billion. With a B.
It’s really quite amazing.
How many kids thrived in school because a PTO program helped them find a passion? How many teachers are going the extra yard because support from the PTO makes them feel valued? How many friendships have been forged (and life lessons learned) on the PTO-funded playground? How many families had their best night of the year eating cold spaghetti and playing bingo at your last fun night?
We read a lot these days about the failings of fundraising. With door-to-door sales (which rarely take place anymore) and the food police, fundraising can make an easy target.
But the stories almost always conveniently forget the powerful impact fundraising has on our kids and our schools, and the close connection between successful, well-done fundraising and all the essential good work parent groups get done.
We fundraise because we have such valuable work to do. Fundraising helps us make it happen. That’s a good story. I hope you’ll share it.