Rural and Small Organisations Tip #1: Local Think Tank

Due to popular request, I promised our Facebook readers that I would write an article on fundraising for small or rural schools.  The more I looked into it, the more there was to talk about, so I am writing a series of tips that will be rolled out over the next few months.  These tips can relate not only to schools, and not only to remote organisations, so pay close attention.

The first tip in the series is ‘The Think Tank’.

There is no silver bullet to fundraising – no one answer that will make it effortless or straightforward.  A number of factors need to all work together to create an effective fundraising plan.

In rural and remote schools, your community is defined by what is close by.  The luxury of attracting ‘outsiders’ to come and support your efforts is limited.  On the flip side, that sense of community is likely to be stronger as everyone relies on those close to you.

The answer to your fundraising challenge will be different in every situation (although stay tuned to this series to get some good ideas).  The best ideas are likely to come from people who live and breathe the same air as you.  I’m not talking about the ‘same old volunteers’ who do everything.  I suggest forming a ‘Think Tank’ with your local businesses (perhaps there is a chamber of commerce or business group you can tap into), local personalities, school principal and local politicians.

Naturally these people are not likely to have the capacity to be hands-on with your fundraising, but they are the ones that can give you the best insight into how to partner with the broader community to maximize your efforts.

Set a morning aside and invite these relevant people to a ‘no-obligation think tank’ session.  Provide refreshments.  First, set out your goals and specifically identify your challenges (eg same old volunteers, same fundraisers etc).  Ask for their ideas on how to provide maximum benefit to those that support your fundraising, and also how to receive maximum benefit in return.  Some things you may wish to suggest to get the ball rolling include:

  • Is there a ‘main’ industry/ business in town that would benefit from a significant strategic partnership with your organisation.  Eg, perhaps they could provide the playground (or other items on your ‘wish list’) in return for appropriate recognition and promotion.
  • Can your local politician point you in the direction of available grants?  Can they assist in the application?
  • Are their local functions that you can piggyback your fundraising onto – eg local business lunches – can you run a quick raffle or fundraising activity?
  • Do local business have spare capacity to assist with smaller tasks – eg are all staff kept busy all the time – might they be able to help with smaller things like doing up flyers, or even larger things like helping with grants?
  • Who can help promote participation in your fundraiser/ events?  Who prepares local newsletters/ flyers?  Who gets a lot of foot traffic?
  • Do your local banks have a volunteer program where they support their staff to volunteers?
  • Promoting to a local school is a valuable marketing tool – what are they looking for – how can you best work together?
  • What are their ideas for what the local community is looking for?
  • Would it be possible to organise a working bee with the broader local community?

Most people are very generous with their ideas, and you never know what flash of brilliance a session like this might generate.  At the very least, you are providing some structure to the conversations you have with those around you that are likely to be key supporters.

Happy Fundraising!

Mandy Weidmann

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