Wittmann Elementary School has 570 ethnically-diverse students, and the school is part of the ABC Unified School District in Southern California, which serves more than 20,000 K-12 students.
For years, Wittmann PTA and Education Foundation found it difficult to raise the funds necessary to increase the number of student programs while maintaining 16 enrichment and career pathways for its K-6 students. Wittmann turned to memberplanet, and PTA membership funds increased by 75% between 2014 and 2016. More than 77% of funds in 2016 was raised online, and staff membership has now reached 100%.
The Common Funding Challenges Faced by Schools
Insufficient school funding is unfortunately a sign of the times. A 2016 review by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities revealed that 31 states had lower funding than before the recession of 2008, and total local funding across the nation declined between 2008 and 2014.
Parents, teachers, and administrators have found themselves in the position of having to financially supplement programs that were once included in the curriculum. In a survey of more than 1,000 principals across the nation, the National Association of Elementary Principals found that 94 percent of schools relied on fundraisers to supplement money from district, state, and federal sources.
Wittmann’s Fundraising Struggle
The Wittmann Organized Warriors, or WOW, is responsible for fundraising and supporting the school’s wide range of career and technical enrichment programs, including Music, Video Game Programming, Math Olympiad, Robotics, STEM, Art 4 Kids, Ecology, Performing Arts, and Business Finance.
Three years ago, Wittmann realized there was a problem with WOW’s fundraising efforts. Although the group was raising money, it couldn’t provide enough revenue to maintain existing programs, add programs, and upgrade the technology necessary for the school to remain competitive. Furthermore, volunteers no longer felt comfortable handling cash, nor did they like contacting parents about bounced checks or corrections.
Boosting Parent Engagement and Transparency
When Wittmann’s administrators decided to improve their fundraising efforts, they explored various online options, such as GoFundMe and Kickstarter. These platforms “lacked the parent connection and outreach and publicity needed to properly communicate,” according to Principal Miguel Marco.
The school approached memberplanet about providing a system to meet its needs, and quickly started using the platform’s features. These included newsletter templates, an interactive directory for members, a free group mobile app, Smart Lists to develop targeted distribution, and group text – all to connect with members and bolster engagement.
"We wanted to show our parents the fundraising progress and donation totals," Marco said. "memberplanet offered a graph of total funding for all parents to see. And membership funding reports and the communications features allowed us to target groups of parents who have donated in the past, target funding goals, and do cost analysis for future events."
The platform's easy-to-use member portal also allowed donors to print documents and receipts for tax purposes.
A Closer Look at Wittmann’s Online Results
In 2014, Wittmann had raised $20,395 in membership dues. By the end of 2016, total membership funds had risen to $35,655 – a 75% increase over the span of three years. The $27,535 raised online through memberplanet represented 77.2% of 2016’s total – an impressive leap from 2013’s $550 online membership funds.
Although funds are still coming in via mail and checks, Marco has noticed the effect of increased online giving.
“Not only has the frequency [of donations] increased, but the total dollar amount is higher online compared to offline contributions,” Marco said.
This increase in donations has been earmarked for a number of programs, including the Dance-a-thon, Jump-a-thon, Language Program, and Math Olympiad. Marco attests the use of online event management and donation campaign features were key in broadening fundraising reach.
Furthermore, the memberplanet solution helped Wittmann achieve:
An All-in-one Fundraising and Membership Solution
When Wittmann made the decision to work with memberplanet, the school was approaching a crisis. A lack of financial resources made it increasingly difficult to provide students with the enrichment programs necessary in today’s competitive world.
What began as a means to raise funds and increase parent involvement in the process has had a ripple effect within the school. Not only have programs been saved and upgraded, but fundraising has become more efficient and staff members have been freed up to work with children rather than on administrative and financial tasks.
In all likelihood, school budgets will remain a contentious issue, and enrichment programs are often the first to go when it’s essential to save core programs. In addition, fundraising fatigue and the limited financial resources of families can make raising money difficult.
memberplanet’s streamlined, all-in-one online membership solution makes it convenient for parents to join WOW and donate money, while making it easier for staff and volunteers to manage the process, communicate with members, and solicit funds. Marco remains convinced that the software, coupled with memberplanet’s best-practice approach to member engagement, is critical for future growth and success.
“We were able to boost membership and increase funds enough to save at-risk programs. It’s given us the luxury to focus on adding new ones and upgrade technology resources.”
Principal of Wittmann Elementary School
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