The changing face of fundraising

11/19/2010  |  JENNIFER STOLL
funding field trips

For the last few years a struggling economy has resulted in funding cuts for education that have sparked outrage, protest and opposition nationwide. Art and music are slowly becoming extinct on children’s learning grounds. Field trips have become nearly impossible because admissions fees to institutions like zoos and museums seem unaffordable — bus funding alone has been a deal breaker in many would-be field trip opportunities. Like so many times before, students and teachers are looking to fundraisers to help make-up for the necessary dollars lost and find creative ways to fund educational field trips.

Ever-popular traditional fundraisers give children and parents the opportunity to raise money for fun and educational field trips through candy sales and holiday decorations.

Loads of pre-ordered and ‘splurge purchase’ products contribute to educational needs each year and have proven successful in reaching goals time and again. However, demands for a healthier country and advances in technology are quickly changing the tide. Newer, healthier and more convenient options are shifting fundraising trends and playing a more socially conscious role in communities.

This new outlook on fundraising encourages an understanding of the social responsibility that comes along with satisfying monetary need. Like most other actions, almost invariably, it has been thought that fundraising sends a message to the community and the product sold is the vehicle that presents that message. For years, traditional fundraisers have served the intended monetary purpose, but with, what many are calling, little understanding of social responsibility and impact, and ownership over what a product contributes to or inflicts upon a community.

Options for socially-aware fundraisers are gaining strength and supplying much-needed financial support for struggling education budgets.

New trends in fundraising stem from themes of social consciousness and responsibility, as well as advancing technology, in hopes of fundraising in a manner that is more about how to be proactive while satisfying needs.

Shifting trends include:

Social Consciousness and Responsibility

Organic products — Some organizations have begun using organic chocolate that is all natural, as well as organic beauty products for customers that prefer the traditional items fundraisers offer.

Green products — Sale of environmentally friendly household appliances and cleaners.

Recycling programs — Recycling ink cartridges and old cell phones is helping to decrease the number of plastic ink cartridges discarded in landfills each year while fulfilling funding needs. Organizations pay for the collection of these items and dispose of them correctly and non-toxically.

Tree seeding sales — A supporter can purchase a tree sapling to plant and raise, while the fundraiser earns a profit, the customer is contributing to cleaner air.

Technology Driven Fundraising

Donor Fundraising — Dependent upon individuals making pledges or donations on behalf of a cause.

Social Networking Sites — Students and teachers are going viral, using online resources and social networking sites, such as Facebook, to build webs of donors.

While new trends strengthen, a problematic economy creates obstacles.

The evolution of fundraising parallels the needs and changes in communities nationwide and, with the help of technological development, it has broken into the global realm. However, a problematic economy creates a problematic state for the foundation of donor fundraising, in general. Because the economy has affected individual finances as much as educational or corporate, the manner in which supporters are gifting aid is changing. Initial concerns anticipated the slowing of the rate at which money is donated, but studies are showing that the rate is not being affected as strongly as the actual dispersing of funds. While supporters are still donating their committed total amount, they are making smaller donations to significantly more causes. Whether or not this is a positive change is in the eye of the fundraiser.

Similarly, there are many conflicts with asking parents to pay their child’s way for off-campus educational experiences. As many parents struggle financially, they cannot afford the added pressure that comes with costly trips or having to deny a child while their classmates go on without them. Further, many public schools have begun either capping the amount that a teacher can request from a parent, or forbidding the request altogether.

Field Trip Factory (FTF), a company that offers free, educational field trips that meet federal and state learning standards, offers some very creative solutions. From career-based trips, to lessons in nutrition, arts and music, FTF is making learning relevant through real life, hands-on experiences. Field Trip Factory has been providing people of all ages with free learning opportunities for over 15 years.

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