Your “Ask” Calendar
Vol. 12 No. 7
Sometimes it can feel as though fund raising never stops. As soon as one campaign is over, another begins. Once the Parent Association raises enough money to send students to band camp, they begin another for basketball uniforms—and doesn’t the biology lab need new beakers?
All of these requests can drown your families in a tidal wave of requests for money, leaving them exhausted by the time the annual fund comes around. An easy way to fix this is an “ask” calendar.
As we noted last month, different organizations at your school may be raising money at different times for different reasons—all of them asking the same constituents for money.
Some asks are required requests for money, such as tuition and technology fees. Other “asks” are for additions to the curriculum, like field trip expenses or sports team equipment.
Still other asks stem from a perceived need in the community. These requests focus on donations to local charities or stem from disasters like foreign earthquakes or a student’s house tragically burning down.
Finally, the Development Office has formal asks. These are campaigns like your annual fund and special capital projects. But, after all the other asks in a school year, families will feel worn out. They’ve already paid the other obligations and feel that they’ve fulfilled their philanthropic duties for the year.
An ask calendar can help eradicate duplicate requests for donations and ease the burden on families bombarded by philanthropic opportunities all year round. In developing this calendar, you as the Development Director should make a list of all the fund-raising solicitations everyone at your school annually makes. From the smallest bake sale to the orchestrated auction, list the number of asks for your school and date them.
You might be surprised how many fund-raising events your school supports. One school catalogued their asks and found that if a family had a student in each division, they could be asked for money a total of 127 times in a single school year!
Now that you have collected all the asks, it’s time to organize them into categories. If they’re required, why not roll these fees into the tuition? Instead of one ask of tuition and nineteen asks in other assorted fees, one lump sum will facilitate both easier collection of these dues, as well as transparency with parents as to the real cost of their child attending school for the semester.
As for the other asks, determine which are important and which are redundant or have a low rate of success—easily found by comparing how much money was raised versus the goal of the fund raiser. In some cases, the money may have gone to a competing fund raiser—an easily solvable problem with the new calendar.
Once you have a clear picture of the current fund-raising calendar, it’s time to have a meeting with the Chairs of all the different committees and associations responsible for raising money during the year and hash out a singular plan everyone can accept. Sometimes, as in the case of the Parent Association, you may find that limiting a group's fund raising to one or two large events instead of smaller, continuous efforts will be more effective.
Everyone wants to see the school adequately funded. By gathering all the asks onto a single, coordinated calendar within the governance of the Development Office, you can both bolster current fund-raising efforts and direct-giving efforts to those which would be most beneficial to the school.
Additional ISM resources:
ISM Monthly Update for Development Directors Vol. 7 No. 5 The Development Committee Calendar
ISM Monthly Update for Admission Officers Vol. 11 No. 8 Reflecting on Parent Associations
ISM Monthly Update for Development Directors Vol. 12 No. 6 Working With Parent Associations
Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 37 No. 12 The True Amount of the “Perceived Cost” of Attending Your School
I&P Vol. 26 No. 16 “Back Up” Your Management Team With Task Calendars
I&P Vol. 37 No. 8 Strategic Financial Planning and Your School’s Budget Companion Documents