For some PA/PTAs the direct appeal, also referred to as an annual appeal or an annual fund, is the largest fundraiser of the year. A direct appeal is usually a request, made by the PA/PTA board to all parents at the school, to donate toward the PA/PTA’s budget for the year. This fundraiser requires relatively few volunteers and relatively little time –the bulk of the work is writing and distributing the appeal letter.
Common Steps in Conducting a Direct Appeal:
Write the appeal letter. Make the letter as compelling as possible–explain why the PA/PTA needs money, how the money will be used and how it will benefit their children. The letter should include information on how parents can donate (by check/credit card, where to send the donation or drop it off). An enclosed reply envelope can increase response rate and make collection easier.
If your PA/PTA is a 501(c)(3) organization, you might want to include a sentence to that effect, adding that the contribution, therefore, is tax-deductible. The letter and/or donation form also should remind parents to find out if their employers offer matching programs. If possible, you may want to offer to complete any paperwork involved in obtaining matching gifts to make it easier for parents. For more information see Matching Gifts.
Distribute the letter. There are several possible distribution channels – mail, email, and backpacks/folders that go home. You may choose to use more than one.
Send a reminder. Again, you can use multiple channels – mail, email, and flyers sent home with children. See Communicating with Parents.
Collect donations. This will mostly entail collecting donation envelopes from the school’s incoming mail, and/or a drop-box you have set up at the school. You may also collect donations in-person at whatever times you deem appropriate (see “Things to Consider” below). The treasurer must record all donations and deposit them in the PA/PTA’s bank account.
Acknowledge the donations. This is a very important part of the process. Thank you letters let donors know their contributions are appreciated and remind them of the good use their money will be put to. Moreover, if your PA/PTA is a 501(c)(3) organization, donations of $250 or more are tax-deductible only with specific written acknowledgment in order for them to be tax-deductible; most not-for-profit organizations include this language in their thank you letters. For information on the legal/tax requirements of donation acknowledgment, see Donation Acknowledgments.
Things to Consider:
Timing -- Think about when you think parents will be most receptive to the appeal: is it at the start of the school year, around the holiday giving period or another point in the school year? Consider also other fundraisers your PA/PTA is conducting that may compete with the parents’ ability to give. Be willing to change the timing from year to year until you figure out what works best in your school.
Suggested donation amount – Many PA/PTAs ask parents to give whatever amount they can, while others include a suggested figure in their appeal letter and/or on the donation form. Take into account the range of income levels in your school, the history of giving, and your budget needs when coming up with suggestions. Consider reminding parents that any donation helps, and that if parents cannot donate money there are other ways to contribute to the school.
Credit card payments – This option can make it easier for some parents to give and for the PA/PTA to collect. Some PA/PTAs offer payment plans through credit cards allowing parents to spread their donations out over several months. To get a merchant account allowing your PA/PTA to accept credit card payments, speak to the bank where you have your PA/PTA bank account.
In-person donations at school events – If there is an appropriate school event going on at any time during your annual appeal you may want to set up a table where parents can donate (by check or credit card) on the spot. A sign by your table will remind parents of the appeal, and for many, it may be easier to donate in-person.