Running a fundraiser can seem like a full time job with all of the stress and none of the benefits. What's going on? Maybe you've fallen prey to one of the 7 deadly sins of school fundraising. From trying to do everything yourself to forgetting to thank your volunteers, these fundraising mistakes can turn any event into a nightmare. Read on, and steer clear!

  1. Not setting concrete, realistic goals. You don't need to run your fundraiser like a Fortune 500 company. But taking time to plan your fundraiser – from figuring out realistic profit goals and spending limits to setting dates and assigning tasks – makes a tremendous difference in how successful it is. Save yourself some stress later and plan now.
  2. Repeating the same fundraiser. Even a successful fundraiser can falter if you run it more than once or twice a year. Your community can only use so many candles or tubs of cookie dough. Also, keep in mind that you're not the only school in the area. If you know that a nearby school has just had a magazine drive, rescheduling or even changing out fundraisers is a smart idea.
  3. Ignoring kid power. It's tempting to do everything, especially when the kids are young, but fundraising can be a great opportunity to teach kids responsibility and allow them to make a difference for their school. After all, they're the ones who go there. Choose fundraisers that allow kids to play a major role, like walk-a-thons and car washes.
  4. Doing all the work yourself. Fundraisers are not one man (or woman) shows. Trying to do everything yourself just isn't a good idea for yourself or the fundraiser. Enlist help, not only from other parent volunteers, but also from the school staff, teachers, and kids. Having everyone on board is the secret to a successful fundraiser.
  5. Being vague about where the funds are going. Although many parents and relatives are willing to support their children's schools, you can make it easier for them by telling them exactly where the money is going. (As long as it's a good cause!) People who can identify with the cause, whether it's saving the music program, buying new computers for classrooms, or helping to send fifth graders to science camp – tend to be more generous. If you have a great cause or story, be sure to let local newspapers know. You might just get a little free publicity!
  6. Exhausting your volunteers. Parents are some of the busiest people around, and it can be difficult to get any volunteers at all. But even if you only have a small group to draw from, you don't want to use the same ones for fundraiser after fundraiser. Instead, try to rotate volunteers so that no one gets burned out.
  7. Forgetting to say thank you. Parent volunteers don't need expensive gifts, but they do need to know that their hard work is appreciated. Thank them every time they help you. At the end of the fundraiser, send a thank you card to all your volunteers, sponsors, and anyone else who helped make your fundraiser possible. When fundraising time comes around again next year, you'll be glad you did.

The good news is that all of these fundraising problems are easy to avoid once you know about them. Print out this list and bring it with you to your next planning meeting!