Fundraising to protect enrollment and increase financial aid:
Recent data confirms the financial impacts that schools have already felt from COVID-19. In a recent survey (See Figure 1), schools overwhelmingly reported that requests for financial aid have already exceeded forecasted FY21 budgets. For many schools, offering financial aid to families is the most important thing they can do to protect enrollment. In response to the growing need for aid, advancement offices are being asked to raise additional funds.
5 Tips for a successful Covid-19 Relief Fund
Below are five tips for running a successful COVID-19 relief fund to support families and ultimately protect the most important source of revenue at your school – enrollment. This guide was created based on interviews conducted by members of the Veracross team with University Prep (Seattle, WA) and Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School (St. Louis, MO). We are pleased to share their insights and strategies with you.
1. Create An International Relationship Between Your Covid-10 Relief Fund And Your Annual Fund.
It may seem dangerous to pull focus from the Annual Fund, but strategic solicitation can isolate and highlight both needs. Clearly describe the operating costs addressed by the Annual Fund as well as the additional and unique financial aid needs met by designating a gift for the Relief Fund. Consider dividing your donor base to avoid double solicitation to those unable to give to both funds. Schools can refer to previous donation trends and requests for aid to inform when and to whom the appeals should be made.
2. Communicate Directly And Thoughtfully With Top-Capacity Donors.
Connect on a personal level. How has COVID-19 affected them – their health, family, and business? Whenever possible, use real numbers to define and amplify the tangible ways that the fund is helping students and programs. For example: “Our enrollment will drop by X number of students if we don’t raise $X for our Relief Fund.” Schools may also want to consider making appeals to previously unconnected organizations with significant potential giving.
3. Create Segmented Email Lists To Target Constituents With Relevant Language.
Thoughtfully consider each audience to be solicited and what information/data describing need would be most motivating. Mirror the language in your previous communications (ie: Alumni vs Parents). Make sure the language is personable and that comprehensive information also lives in the parent portal. Link each email list to its own online giving form with specific monetary values ($10, $50, $500, $1000, other, etc.) and be sure to also include an acknowledgment.
4. Make Requesting Funds As Easy As Giving Funds
Create a simple application form for families to request aid; and be sure to communicate an expected timeframe in which an applicant can expect an award decision. Consider providing an opportunity for families to submit anonymous thank you notes that can be shared with donors.
5. Determine Who Will Be Responsible for Reviewing Requests For Funds. Maintain Those Channels To Manage And Award Funds.
Consider creating an interdepartmental committee including members of the Business Office, Financial Aid, and Admissions. A single group reviews requests, determines awards, alerts families of funds given, and tracks monies allotted to ensure accurate data capture and financial forecasting.
Veracross offers a full suite of fundraising tools designed specifically for independent schools to support their COVID-19 relief and general fundraising efforts. For more information on how UPrep and MICDS uses these tools, or for a demonstration of our software, contact us.