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Scholarship Fundraising

Posted By: on February 13, 2017

Fundraising Websites verse Traditional Methods

By Kelly Gutowski

My first introduction to fundraising happened many years ago when a former high school classmate, Rob, approached me with an idea for a scholarship fund. A fellow classmate of ours was killed, and after years of searching, the police still had no solid leads. In the wake of this tragic event, Rob felt the need to take some kind of action as a way to memorialize our mutual friend and in some small way, potentially lessen the grief of his family. The goal was to build a sustaining scholarship fund; a wonderful way to perpetuate the nurturing and kind character that our classmate possessed.

We contacted our alma mater and found they had a scholarship committee that managed many individual scholarships for graduating students. The high school committee agreed to manage the funds, manage the recipient selection based upon our criteria, and provide a monthly spreadsheet of the fund progress. This left Rob and myself responsible for getting the word out and general fundraising efforts.

We began compiling a potential contributor list which was used to generate mailing campaigns. We tracked down contacts, collected information, and tracked contributor status. We mass-mailed scholarship information with instructions for returning checks, and we passed out information at events. Slowly the fund grew, and faithfully each month, the school committee manually compiled and forwarded a fund report.

Our diligent efforts paid off several years later when we finally reached the goal of a self-sustaining fund. Today, I'm pleased to say the fund provides scholarships to not one, but two lucky recipients annually. It was a long road; one that was paved in hard work and dedication.

The Gap

You may be wondering why I just shared this success story and there are several reasons. First, I wanted to use my experience to show you how much effort went into the fundraising campaign in years past versus online fundraising websites available today. It took preparation and diligence, not to mention the licking of many envelopes and stamps. Keep in mind that we did not have the same fundraising tools available that you have access to today.

As I think back over our experience, I see loss-gaps in our gathering efforts and two particularly stand out in my mind. With mail campaigns, we sent out the information and requested checks to be returned. However, if it was our request was not responded to immediately by the recipient, there was a chance the letter or email got buried, or set aside and forgotten. The same was true when we distributed information at events such as the reunions. Every time someone walked away with that envelope, we potentially lost a donation. It is not that our potential contributors were not generous, it was more the theory that life gets in the way. Envelopes are misplaced, people forget in the hustle of everyday life, and checks are a hassle to write. The solution is to fill those gaps, change the process slightly and fundraising is more convenient for the contributor!

I have since learned that online fundraising would have greatly enhanced our efforts whereby helping us reach our goal much more quickly. It also would assist in capturing and retaining more recurring donations. While traditional methods of mailing campaigns (electronic and hardcopy) are still very effective and encouraged, online fundraising streamlines your fundraising efforts.

Tools for Today's Fundraising

Technology restructured fundraising efforts bringing us online fundraising through fundraising websites such as Continue to Give. Let's use the two examples above; email campaign and passing out information at events.

Today you still send out email campaigns. You draft a compelling note presenting your cause. The difference is that you include a link to your campaign page on Continue to Give. Now, the potential contributor can, in a click, be taken to the page and make their contribution instead of writing a check, addressing an envelope, locating a stamp, and dropping it at a mailbox. You closed the gap converting the potential contributor into a contributor. Additionally, during the online donation process, the contributor has the option to setup a recurring transaction! The opportunity to convert one-time contributors to recurring contributors is greater because the decision is part of the donation process.

As for fundraising events, where we handed out envelopes and the potential contributors walked away tucking them in a pocket or purse, we now can have mobile giving. In advance of the event, go to your online fundraising page. On the right hand side, you will see the option "Go Mobile". There are two mobile giving options; QR code and text to give number. Simply print these and place them where your supporters will see them at the event such as the registration table. They can text or scan the QR code to access the online giving. Think about it. They don't walk away! There are no more lost envelopes, no checks to write, no more stamps, and thankfully, no more envelopes to lick.

After seeing Continue to Give's mobile giving feature, I cannot stop thinking about how it would have enhanced our efforts, and helped us reach our goal much sooner, and also capture more recurring donations.

Structuring Options

My final point centers on the overall structure of our scholarship fund. As you now know, the school acted as the fund manager and distributed monthly status reports. If Rob and I had chosen to go it alone and manage the fund ourselves, Continue to Give could set-up a crowdfunding account for just our scholarship which is one option. However, with the school committee involved, the best option would be for the scholarship committee set-up a master account with each individual scholarship as a project within the master account. Individual scholarship managers, like myself and Rob, could then login to view the status of our scholarship project at any time and access reports without the need for the committee to send us monthly spreadsheets. WOW! The scholarship committee can effectively, and securely, manage separate scholarship funds through their master administrative account making and save time because the no longer generate monthly reports manually. They can track the overall fund as well as individual scholarship projects. Talk about making scholarship management easier on all levels. Additionally, if the school scholarship committee purchased a giving kiosk, they could make it available for any scholarship project event. The return on investment is quickly realized when utilized at fundraising events and the number of donations increases due to convenient giving.

So, whether you are crowdfunding an individual scholarship, or working under a committee, consider the benefits of Continue to Give and streamline your efforts. Continue to Give specializes in online fundraising and scholarship management is just one of the many ways they serve people every day. Take it from my experience, go to Continue to Give's fundraising website and register today.

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