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How we clutched funding in a week with a piece of paper

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Years ago, I got approached to conceptualize and lead fundraising projects at the Parent-Teacher Association of a primary school.

Situated in a small town, it is the biggest primary school with more than a thousand students. Too big that public funding often falls short of ensuring a conducive and safe environment for learning. To put it kindly, funding goes only to essentials that it cannot cover for the floodings on its gates, and the need for extra fencing to ease worries of kids falling from the second floor and deter school robberies. This is the dilemma the Parent-Teacher Association adopted.

The Plan>

The Plan #

Raising funds through calls for donations and writing to local officials is a great thing.

But this is not the only school in town dealing with hurdles. And teachers have to do the same thing for their own classrooms.

Luckily for the association, the school is very kind to host whatever fundraising events they plan for free. As it has been for years. Planning for events considered the following:

  1. Audience with money to spend. The parents, mostly.

  2. Our limits. Since this is not the only primary school in town with needs, we avoided capturing their audiences by focusing on this school’s parents only.

  3. Sales and Marketing. It has always been teachers and parents kind enough to market the events. Usually done only at parent-teacher meetings, it will now be promoted also on flag-raising ceremonies. Mini-flyers will also be distributed for kids to take home.

  4. Sponsors. Local businesses and individuals who would love to promote their businesses and their names (election season 😉).

The team came up with three events – a bingo, a ballroom night, and a dance fitness party.

Now, fast forward to the first ever event - the bingo…

The Problem>

The Problem #

Only three weeks before the first event, about 80% of the bingo cards are still not sold.

Panic ensues in the association. Less than 20% sales are far from breakeven, let alone bearing the cost of the cards. The squad would have to double up on the succeeding events if this one fails. Or else, they might shamefully hand in debt to the next set of officers next year instead of a kickstart funding. Even more panic ensues…

Until a wonky, secondhand Epson printer came into my mail. Bingo!

The Resolve>

The Resolve #

In my years of working with for- and non-profit institutions, certificates are always handed out whether for participation, achievement, or even just being in attendance.

The school even rewards students with certificates for excelling in academics quarterly.

I was baffled why I haven’t thought of this earlier. Even more, I was baffled as to why the school has not thought of this to recognize its stakeholders when they were doing this for their students.

We gathered the names of those who sold at least 20 cards, printed certificates to recognize their valor, and honor them the next morning during the flag-raising ceremony. A big surprise for the team came. Bingo cards were sold out by the end of the week with demands for more.

The game has changed and it has become a walk in the park for the association since.



1. The Why>

1. The Why #

Most times, the first thing we consider when doing strategy is the WHY.

Why are stakeholders not proactive in the fundraising efforts that would benefit the children?

👉 Because there’s a lot on their plate.

  • Majority of parents struggle to make ends meet.
  • Privileged parents would naturally focus on their kids’ classrooms. The rewards are instant and more felt.
  • This would be more work for the teachers when they already struggle to raise money for their own classrooms.

Hence why this fundraising pursuit with the PTA would be a waste of time. It is not required nor rewarding.

2. What now?>

2. What now? #

Now, we can do two things – require or reward.

Requiring quotas to everyone will be a punishment and demotivate stakeholders. Rewarding efforts would take a huge effort coupled with risk of failure. It had to be delivered as something for them to consider. Even better if they felt this could not be resisted.

We chose the non-evil option.

3. The Action Steps>

3. The Action Steps #

To ensure every party takes the rewards program seriously, we had to make it appear that the program is established and was not just my afterthought. 😉

I was lucky to have been working in the brand side of things for businesses. Helping brands be powerful while staying true for a living has been very helpful in this position we were in. Here’s how we did it:

  • Step 1: The awards. Divided into two categories – the “PTA Teacher’s Awards” and the “PTA Parent’s Awards” – with simple criteria: track and reward the first ones who met the quota set by the association.

  • Step 2: Visual cohecency. The certificates were designed consistently to what is going to appear on their screens. Consistency is very important!

  • Step 3: Establishing authority. Cohesive visuals and beautifully printed and framed certificates are cute but not convincing enough – they needed weight. We had the school principal on board the process, and sign each certificate of recognition.

  • Step 4: Launch! Flag-raising ceremonies on Mondays gather everybody at school. Apart from dressing nicely that day, the squad got lucky as it was the principal who presented each award. And in every other awards ceremony.

The Success>

The Success #

It has become a walk in the park for the association since.

The ballroom night was a success through a word of mouth from the town’s elderly. Turns out they love these events.

The dance fitness party became the most attended. It also raised the most funds. Aside from giving out awards, we introduced an affiliate program wherein they get to keep 15% of their ticket sales to spend on their classrooms.

A win for everyone.

The Impact>

The Impact #

For the parents, they said the recognition felt rewarding. Their efforts for the community are being seen. They even get recognized by the end of the school year.

For the teachers, apart from having a frame to display at classrooms, it gave them a new avenue to stand out for a chance at promotion in the entangled office politics common (sadly) in public institutions.

For the students, the adopted projects were realized. Students can now easily pass by the gates without having their shoes wet. The worries of young kids falling from railings were also gone, and no one can steal the TVs in their classrooms anymore.

For the association, they saw a huge participation boost in activities. They were also able to hand in a kickstarter for their successors who replicated the awards ceremony.

For me, it was seeing what was taught by business classes on rewarding employees with my eyes. It was impactful to see it introduced and see the big change compared to entering a workplace already doing it.

For all the parties, it is very unfortunate that these events stemmed from the lack of public funding but it is sure as hell rewarding.