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Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now

by the AFRDS

Ever felt like that before? Ask any former fundraising chair that question and you'll get an unequivocal, "YES!" Then they'll tell you how their predecessor could have made their job easier.

"Keep good notes. Include procedures for tracking money, organizing volunteers. No information is too trivial," according to one fundraising volunteer.

Otherwise, as California principal Susan Van Zant put it, "First-time volunteers are left to devise their own systems which often create more work for the group and the company." Indeed, with a good record-keeping system in place, experts say organizations can save a lot of time.

Cynthia Francis Gensheimer, an avid school fundraiser and author of Raising Funds for Your Child's School, agrees. "Imagine how much easier your job would be as first-time chair of an event if you were handed a file from your predecessor containing a report of what he or she had done the year before,"she notes. "When it comes to fund-raisers that are annual events, keeping good records from year to year is imperative."

Just what is a good record-keeping system? One state PTA describes it as easy-to-use and understand; reliable and accurate; and designed to provide financial information quickly. Most office supply stores carry products for simple record keeping with complete instructions for their use. There also are computer software programs available. Members of the National PTA may access the organization's Money Matters which contains very specific guidelines useful to PTA treasurers.

Many professional fundraising companies offer suggestions, if not written guidelines, for how their particular program should be conducted, along with appropriate materials (e.g. order forms, collection envelopes, tally sheets, etc.) to help groups execute the fundraising drive. After all, it is in their best interest that the fundraising chair is organized and successful in keeping track of the program's progress.

The Music Booster Manual, published by the National Association for Music Education, suggests that each fundraising project file contain a permanent record of: financial goal and results; number of participants and total work-hours expended; breakdown of areas of responsibility; support requirements; committee assignments; problems encountered and recommendations for improvement.

According to Gensheimer, the best-run PTAs and PTOs ask the people who chair their fund-raisers to submit reports a few weeks after the event. These reports should contain information mentioned above, as well as a calendar or timeline - when to begin interviewing fundraisers, soliciting volunteers, promoting the event and so on. She also suggests keeping copies of fliers that were sent to parents, memos to teachers, signs posted at school, and simple reminders.

Once the fundraiser has been evaluated and a report filed, it's a good idea to provide a copy to the school administrator or advisor and the fundraising company with whom you partnered. That way everybody will be in the loop and ready to make next year's fundraising activity better than ever.

References: Raising Funds for your Child's School, publisher Walker and Company, NY, NY.


About the Author:

This article is from the Fall 2001 issue of the Fundraising Edge, an online publication of the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers, and is reprinted with permission. Visit their web site at for more information and a look at the complete issues of the Fundraising Edge.

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