Florida School Learns That Teachers' Quotes Draw Donors

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A private school in Florida used quotes from each child's teacher for mailings to parents in a fundraising campaign. The personalization effort paid off, helping beat the school's goal by more than 40 percent.

During the 2004-05 school year, One to One Gulfcoast, Venice, FL, a direct marketing firm specializing in the nonprofit market, used New York City-based XMPie's uDirect Professional software for variable data printing to develop the campaign for The Out-of-Door Academy, Sarasota, FL.

The campaign raised $345,452 in three months, surpassing the goal of $241,000. The academy also attained a record 82 percent participation rate from school parents and 100 percent participation by board, faculty and staff. The average gift exceeded $500.

The effort consisted of letters, postcards and a phone-a-thon. The signature piece was a letter distributed to every child's family. But to deliver the most powerful message, One to One collected statements from more than 90 faculty and staff members so that each letter contained a quote from each child's teacher. Families with more than one child attending the school received a single letter with quotes from all of their teachers. Other rules were written for families with twins -- there were 11 sets in the school -- who got a letter with two quotes even though both children were in the same grade.

In addition to the mailers, One to One introduced fundraising phone-a-thon postcards to alert potential donors when to expect calls, including an option to be placed on a do-not-call list. In fact, the development office raised $11,000 from parents who initially called to be removed from the contact list the first year.

After the success of the variable data printing project, every parent volunteer re-opted to participate in the 2005-06 fundraising campaign and one faculty member from every grade level also made a commitment.

"Parents want the collateral to be as personalized as the education that the school offers," One to One president Brian Weiner said. "When we treat each recipient as an individual and speak to them in a way that shows that the teacher knows their child, parents are more willing to make the financial contribution to continue that kind of superior treatment."

The 2005-06 campaign still has one mailing left, as well as a grandparents event, where grandparents get to shadow their grandchildren at school. It also gives the school valuable face-to-face time with the grandparents to solicit donations.

"For comparison, we are already past where we were on March 31 of last year," Weiner said. "I would expect that we will end up at close to $400,000 by the time the campaign closes."

One to One has been creating campaigns for the academy since 2004.


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