BLOGS  >  JUNE 20, 2024

Crowdfunding in the Classroom: A Guide for K-12 Schools


We all want our children to have the best possible experience at school: in the classroom, on field trips, and in sports and after-school activities. However, K-12 school districts are facing a tight financial squeeze today. Budgets have been cut, competition is increasing, and the future balance of federal, state, and local contributions to education funding remains uncertain. In this environment, it’s no surprise that teachers and parents have turned to online crowdfunding platforms to raise extra money for their kids’ education.

Online fundraising is quickly becoming a critical source of support for everything that makes up the educational experience, but schools can be exposed to risk if they lack defined policies and a secure platform for raising money online. This blog examines some of the best practices we’ve learned from discussions with school administrators and our own hands-on experience helping districts organize and execute successful online fundraising strategies.

Traditional Fundraising Strategies Aren’t Meeting K-12 Schools’ Needs

Traditional approaches to fundraising typically struggle to raise enough money to fund everything teachers and parents want for their children.

Let’s look at an example. If your school has a big pizza party fundraiser, about half of the money you raise is probably going to the company supplying the food. Likewise, things like bake sales can only raise a limited amount of money. These events can still be great for the community, but they’re not ultimately that effective as fundraising methods. They also require parents or other volunteers to dedicate a lot of time to organizing, running, and cleaning up after the event.

K-12 school districts need a simpler and more efficient approach to fundraising. Fortunately, technology is providing a solution that allows schools to raise money online with minimal time commitment from parents and staff.

Crowdfunding Is Already Disrupting School Fundraising

Individual schools and teachers are already using public crowdfunding tools to raise money for a wide range of needs inside and outside of the classroom. While the initiative is laudable, the results can be unpredictable. If your district doesn’t have a centralized platform and clear policies for online fundraising, teachers can inadvertently put their school’s reputation at risk and even threaten the trust of the donor community.

For instance, teachers might turn to the web to raise money for classroom basics like extra notebooks or desks. There might not even be a funding shortage; a teacher might just not realize that resources are available, or think they’re helping out by bringing in extra money. But they could still spark an outraged reaction from parents. Imagine the phone calls coming into the office: “How could you not provide funding for kids’ desks?” 

In other cases, teachers might set their sights on a more ambitious goal, like getting tablets for their classroom. But once the tablets are purchased, the teacher finds out there isn’t curriculum available for them, or the devices don’t meet the district’s standards for security. So the tablets end up locked in storage, and soon enough, the calls start coming in: “We donated money—why aren’t the tablets in my child’s classroom?”

The risk is real, and maintaining parent and donor trust is essential. It may have been no big deal when a few web-savvy teachers started trying crowdfunding for specific class projects, but the technology has outpaced schools’ official policies and created

substantial risks for unprepared districts. Crowdfunding can be much bigger than any conventional fundraiser like a bake sale. You need district-wide fundraising policies and coordination to avoid these issues and effectively raise money for school programs.

Enter Follett Destiny® Fundraising Manager

Follett Destiny Fundraising Manager is a powerful tool that enables schools to streamline their online fundraising efforts. Here’s how it can help:

  1. User-Friendly Interface: Destiny Fundraising Manager offers an intuitive and easy-to-use platform that allows teachers and administrators to set up fundraising campaigns quickly.
  2. Integrated Promotion Tools: The platform includes built-in tools to promote campaigns via social media, email, and other channels, making it easier to reach a wider audience.
  3. Transparency and Accountability: With Destiny Fundraising Manager, donors can see exactly how their contributions are being used, which builds trust and encourages more donations.
  4. Support and Training: Follett provides comprehensive training and support to help educators maximize the effectiveness of their fundraising campaigns.

Some specific features include:

  • Compare multiple time periods and campaigns’ performance over time
  • See how many impressions and unique views your email has received
  • Learn who is donating and how much (individually, on average, and in total)
  • Check which messages specific donors clicked
  • Save, export and print reports
  • Much more!

Coordinated, Secure Fundraising

Our online platform gives your district all the tools needed to organize and manage successful fundraising campaigns—in a secure, unified environment. This is important, because lack of coordination and transparency are some of the biggest risk factors associated with online fundraising.

When individual teachers are starting their own campaigns with no supervision by the district, all kinds of things can go wrong. It’s easy to create the impression that schools are disorganized, underfunded, and unreliable. If donors start to become skeptical that their funds aren’t going to be properly spent on school programs, they probably won’t remain donors for long. Destiny Fundraising Manager eliminates this issue by making it 100% clear that every fundraising initiative is legitimate and being managed appropriately by the school district. This enables donors to give with confidence—and ensures that kids in the district actually get the benefits of those donations.

You can set donation options for the duration of each campaign and accept online payments to collect funds. All of the money you raise can be stored in a dedicated digital wallet to keep things safe, secure, and transparent. You don’t have to worry about the legal or ethical issues that arise when teachers use personal bank accounts or fail to keep detailed records so the district can audit fundraising results.

Enterprise-Level Visibility and Reporting

Transparency is a cornerstone of trust between schools, teachers, parents, and donors. That’s why we built powerful reporting functionality into our platform. Every single donation that goes through our platform has an accounting code attached to it, so you can see who made the donation, which campaign they gave to, and which school should receive the funds. This is critical not only for maintaining transparency and trust, but also to get donations into the schools as quickly as possible.

Consumer-facing crowdfunding and payment tools weren’t designed for enterprise-level use. As a result, they lack back-end capabilities for tracking and auditing funds from a large group of donors (as you’d expect to have in a school fundraising campaign).

Keeping track of your fundraising campaigns quickly turns into a headache when you have disparate campaigns, accounts, spreadsheets and reports coming at you from different sources (or, even worse, when you don’t have any detailed information about donations). Our reporting tools keep track of all the details automatically so you can see at a glance how much you’ve raised, which campaigns are doing the best, who your top donors are, and much more. Destiny Fundraising Manager facilitates detailed reporting for everything that matters to your district: donor information, engagement metrics, and overall fundraising performance. You can even monitor your campaigns’ performance in real time to see how much you’re collecting and who is engaging with your campaigns.

Best Practices for Successful Online Fundraising

To make the most of Destiny Fundraising Manager, consider the following best practices:

  1. Set Clear Goals: Define specific goals for your fundraising campaign, including the amount of money needed and how it will be used.
  2. Engage Your Community: Use the platform’s tools to actively engage parents, community members, and potential donors. Share compelling stories and visuals to highlight the impact of their contributions.
  3. Provide Regular Updates: Keep donors informed about the progress of the campaign and how the funds are being utilized. Transparency builds trust and encourages repeat donations.
  4. Say Thank You: Show appreciation to your donors by acknowledging their contributions and sharing the success of the funded projects.

Conclusion

Crowdfunding through Destiny Fundraising Manager offers a practical and effective solution for educators seeking to enhance their classrooms despite budget limitations. Administrators and donors can both enjoy complete confidence that the funds being raised will be used as intended, and the district can always audit the results down to the details of even the smallest donation. Learn more about the challenges we’ve seen and how we’ve helped other K-12 districts achieve their fundraising goals. 

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