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Fundraising and Todays Busy Teacher

Todays school teacher has a lot on her plate. She drives to work thinking about the days lesson plan, races to check her e-mail before the first bell, herds several of her students to and from the bathroom, and calls roll all before the first piece of chalk hits the board. Its no wonder the school fundraiser isnt her first priority.

“I very rarely have all 20 of my kids in the classroom at the same time,” said second-grade teacher Jessica Carlton. “Theyre either going to gifted or speech class, or Im walking them to the clinic or the library. I only have about an hour a day with all of my students, and I have to try and make the most of it.”

“Teachers are frustrated across the country,” said Fred Brown, a former elementary school principal and an Associate Director at the National Association of Elementary School Principals.”Theyre being asked to do more than they ever have before, and they just dont have a lot of time to devote to fundraising.”

To succeed, however, school-wide fundrasing drives need the full support of the entire school community, including busy teachers. So how do you get those overworked educators on board when its time for the kick-off?

“The key for parent/teacher organizations is to keep a strong relationship with teachers year-round,” said Tim Sullivan, publisher of PTO Today. “Teachers can be enthusiastic about the fund-raiser and be part of the fun, or they can just hand out order forms. And it all depends on whether they think the PTOs efforts areworthwhile. Parent groups need to make teachers realize were all in this together.”

Principals can also get teachers more involved by “laying all the cards on the table,” Brown said. “I used to have a meeting with my faculty and share the building budget with them,” Brown said. “Wed figure out what we needed, and wed create a wish list of things we wanted. Then wed set goals, and figure out a fundraising project to meet those goals.”

“If teachers are in on the plan from day one, its easier for them to see the big picture,” Brown said. “Theyre more willing to engage if they see the goal but dont have to sacrifice a lot of classroom time.”

According to the National Education Association, teachers spend about $400 a year of their own money on classroom supplies. Sullivan suggests providing a “teacher-stipend” program to help them cover out-of-pocket classroom expenses. Jesse Kenney, a professional fundraiser in Watkinsville, GA, works with PTOs that offer top-selling classrooms 10 percent of the profits.

When possible, Kenney also works with the fundraising chair to hold a separate fundraising meeting with just the faculty. Brown says the key to gaining involvement from teachers is to make their role in the fundraiser as simple as possible by minimizing the accounting and paperwork that ends up on their desk. “Teachers just dont have time for counting dollars,” he said. “Thats a job for parents and volunteers. Teachers should be collecting the money in an envelope, and handing it off to a parent.”

Sullivan says be sure to focus on the results, not the money. “Give teachers progress reports, but dont tell them youre three-quarters of the way to $10,000. Tell them youre three-quarters of the way to 50 class field trips,” he said. Without teachers, the school fundraiser is an uphill climb.

Fundraising professionals say the most successful campaigns have energetic, involved teachers behind the scenes. The key is getting to the teachers early, keeping their time investment to a minimum and making sure they see a tangible reward.

Article Courtesy “The Fundraising Edge.” A publication from the Associaton of Fund-raising Distributors and Suppliers. Visit www.afrds.org

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