Sounds like something Yogi Berra would say, doesn’t it?

This is probably one of the harshest titles on this site, but it’s a phrase that I’ve heard over the past fifteen years and in five States. School administrators need funds more than ever today, yet do not put structures into place that make “advancement” happen.  They “don’t get” the funds they need because they still rely on parents to not only pay tuition, but to support the fundraisers the school sponsors, volunteer at the events that take place there, and be able to participate in the ones they’re not volunteering for.  They “don’t get” the fact that if a school has declining enrollment, there is a declining number of parents that are not only paying more tuition, but expected to give more of their time to help the school meet its obligations.  Schools struggle to understand the reasons parents are leaving, but then find there’s little they can do about those reasons, and don’t have an enrollment director to “own” the process of bringing more children into the school.

A number of years ago, an article in the Pittsburgh Business Times stated that “Black tie can mean red ink.”  Schools that rely on events for some of their largest fundraising dollars are finding it harder and harder to have a successively larger income from year to year.  Schools “don’t get” the fact that fund-raising events are as much about “friend-raising” as they are about “fund-raising.”

For instance, a popular fundraiser for some schools is the car raffle. Sometimes the raffle is for a car, and sometimes it’s for the use of a car (a three-year lease, perhaps). Many seasoned “ticket sellers” know the people that they sell to, so they simply ask them to fill out the ticket stub with their name and phone number.

While that seems to be a simple thing to do, what happens if that contact decides not to sell tickets anymore, or moves away, and becomes engaged with a different school and other community members?  Are you able to still contact those individuals that took a chance on winning a car?

You won’t be, especially if after the raffle is over, the non-winning tickets are thrown away.

Ticket stubs should be filled out completely, with name, address, phone number and email. After the raffle is held and the prize awarded, all those non-winning stubs are taken to a computer where the information contained on them is entered into a database. These folks now become part of the annual appeal for the school, or at least the next car raffle.  With today’s event and ticket software availability, participants may even be able to get their tickets online, and be require to complete the fields of demographic information.

Where did this idea come from? Many years ago, this is what a group of sisters who taught at an inner-city school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  While the parish tried to figure out how to get out of debt, the school had been operating in the black, with NO subsidy (OK, “investment”) from the parish.

Indeed, they “get it.”

The only way that more people are going to come to your events are if they are invited by their friends.  About five years ago, a popular event in our neighborhood had significantly fewer people this year attend.  The event had always been capped at 224 attendees.  That year, there were only about 75.  What happened?


3 families that usually fill one or two tables with 8 or more of their friends had other family commitments happen the same day.  That was 30 or so people right there.  More over, another regular attendee noted he had 6 invitations to charitable events that month, and had to make some decisions regarding which ones he would support.

So here’s a question:  How many people do you need to connect with to sell out an event that has a maximum of 224 attendees?

a) 28

b) 112

c) 168

d) 224

The answer in next week’s Marketing Matters.

And what about the event?  It’s no longer held.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2007-2022 (Original Publication Date: 20070521)