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How to Engage High School Student Fundraisers

College students graduating

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Published January 31, 2017 Reading Time: 4 minutes

When it comes to a successful fundraising campaign, don’t discredit the power and passion that high schoolers bring to the table. Even though they’re young and not the most financially equipped, they connect with causes as powerfully as any adult.

High school student fundraisers can be influential for your organization because they:

  • Have major social network presences
  • Can help disseminate your fundraising campaign across an entire campus
  • Are the future of fundraising

The trick to keeping high school student fundraisers motivated is to engage them in the way they naturally learn, particularly at school. Here’s how you can align your fundraising strategy with students’ learning habits.

How Do Students Engage?

Students learn in a variety of ways, but there are six key areas of student learning that you can adapt to your fundraising:

  • Make education meaningful
  • Foster a sense of competence
  • Allow for autonomy
  • Create collaborative environments
  • Establish positive teacher-student relationships
  • Promote natural learning

Apply each method to your strategy with the following tips.

Make Your Goal Meaningful

If high school student fundraisers don’t perceive your fundraising campaign as meaningful, they won’t deem it worth their time. Center the SEO campaign theme around something close and personal to the daily lives or interests of young fundraisers. Ask:

  • What do high school students care about?
  • How can you best engage students across channels they already use?
  • Were there any fundraising initiatives that successfully engaged younger supporters in the past?

For example, if schools in your area have strong sports programs, you might incorporate an athletic element into your fundraising campaign and its events.

Foster Competence

During your fundraising campaign, you want students to not just be successful, but to feel imminently successful as well.

One way to empower them is to connect them with previously successful student fundraisers. These past fundraisers can walk your new supporters through tips and best practices on how to achieve success. When your fundraisers see these success stories in the real world, they can feel encouraged and more easily replicate them in their own efforts.

Additionally, goal setting and achievement are ways to help people feel more confident in themselves and their fundraising effort. Encourage student fundraisers to set creative challenges and goals for themselves to incentivize donations.

A student could, for example, set up a campaign where they agree to do 10 pushups for every $10 donation. As the donations come in the student racks up pushups. This mixes in a feeling of autonomy for fundraisers.

Allow for Autonomy

In the professional world, autonomy is one of the best motivators outside of financial incentives. Most people want the freedom to work in a way that lines up with their own preferences, rules, and conditions.

This yields a final product that someone built themselves, fueled by the desire to see it thrive. You instill autonomy and pride in student fundraisers when you:

  • Allow fundraisers to share their personal connection to your cause—their “why”—on their personal fundraising page
  • Avoid the use of controlling language when communicating with fundraising teams. Rather, encourage.
  • Encourage student fundraisers to create their own challenge to incentivize donations, whether it be to do pushups, shave their head, or give up a certain beverage

Enable student fundraisers to operate autonomously, and you open the doors for a diverse array of ideas to expand the depth of your cause.

Encourage Collaboration

According to Meghan Brio, contributor at Forbes, “Collaboration isn’t about being best friends, or even necessarily liking everyone you’re working with.” Rather, collaborative team environments are supposed to bring together diverse perspectives, ideas, and opinions to achieve a grand, unified vision. It’s about bringing your best self to the table and working to achieve a common goal with your colleagues.

This is especially relevant when it comes to team fundraising. Everyone is in the same boat to accomplish one goal. To ensure team dynamics remain focused on unity, dedicate time to teach students how to communicate and behave together in a collaborative setting.

Do this well in advance of the campaign launch to ensure the message is understood and internalized. Students who work well together can motivate each other and amplify their engagement with your cause. This also lays the foundation to build and sustain strong, collaborative leader-student relationships.

Build Positive Leader-Student Relationships

Teachers are arguably the most influential factor on student achievement in the classroom. In the same way, you can assign a “teacher”—or team captain—for fundraising groups to foster a sense of connection, belonging, and purpose during the campaign.

This way, while you allow for autonomy, you still provide guidance to move whole teams along. For example, you might encourage team captains to orchestrate one-on-one meetings or reach out regularly to the team.

This is an opportunity to touch base and gauge their team’s level of success, motivation, and progress toward the fundraising goal. At the same time, captains can provide actionable feedback to the team, both to ensure the fundraising goal is met and build on the foundation of a positive relationship.

Emphasize Natural Learning

Students remain engaged when they want to learn and understand—the key word being “want.” Give them a reason to stay intrinsically motivated to your campaign’s goal and purpose.

One powerful way to do this is to connect them to the people they are impacting. If you’re fundraising for a homeless shelter, consider orchestrating a trip for the teams to visit one and pass out lunch. Treat this as a legitimate opportunity to learn something and develop a new perspective on life they may not have known before.

If it’s not feasible for you to connect student fundraisers directly with the people you serve, then create and share content that does so. Videos and images are powerful tools that can transport supporters to the front lines of your work.

Regardless, do what you can to provide students with the opportunity to see the people and institutions their effort impacts. That makes your fundraising cause more tangible, and inspires motivation in your fundraisers.

High school student fundraisers can be powerful fundraisers, but you have to sustain their motivation to participate. Once you engage them today, you can create long-lasting relationships that can power your work in the future. After all, they are the future of fundraising.

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