The Data-Driven School Fundraiser

While we can shake our heads and bemoan data’s takeover of our lives, it’s much more interesting to embrace it. Say you’re involved in your child’s PTA and are asked to volunteer for an annual school auction…

Whether the fundraising event has web-based solutions like BiddingForGood and Greater Giving, or a simple spreadsheet or collaborative GoogleDoc, your committee can take an analytical approach to planning, budgeting, and executing an auction that then gets progressively more successful every year.

Injecting some “data thinking” into the auction only works with the right buy-in from your fellow organizers, and it may take a meeting or 2 to convince them to test and experiment this year.

What was measured about past years’ events and can those data be trusted? If not, can we start this year? These metrics might include:

a. Tickets sold and comp tickets — the relationship between price(s) and attendance over time.

b. Anything that allows you to segment and analyze the behaviors of the attenders and bidders (e.g. Where there more couples or families or single attendees? How many teachers brought guests? What was the average spent and donated by each segment? How many people gave to the event without buying a ticket?

c. Product mix (What sold? What didn’t sell? What sold for at or over face value? Were there more handmade goods or restaurant gift cards or other items? Were opening bids too high? Were there enough items at the various price points?)

d. What are the time sinks and are they worth keeping? Which elements take the most time to plan, set up, and man during the event? Are those producing the highest yield? What haven’t we tried yet (and be sure to check in with administration in case some things aren’t allowed, e.g. casino games for a Quaker school)?

e. Are the sponsors being appropriately leveraged? If you have a sponsor who does graphic design and you usually ask for a $100 donation, would they be willing to design some materials for the event? Would a parent whose social media marketing business usually donates time to making decorations be willing to instead donate in-kind services like a 2-week social media mini-campaign for promoting the event this year?

If you’ve had successes applying your nerdy data mindsets and systems thinking into volunteer work, please share your ideas in the comments.