Fundraising, the ever-evolving challenge

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is ​a retired educator in Ottawa area. He has a keen interest in promoting technology as a progressive learning tool among the students in his school. ​Paul is active on Twitter (@mcguirp) and blogs on all sorts of topics, including climbing (climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in April​), mental health, politics, a wide variety of education topics and anything else that comes to mind. His blog is called 'Whole Hearted', taken from the author and researcher Brené Brown, whom he admires greatly.​ Paul loves writing for Innovate My School and connecting to other writers and educators whenever possible.

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It seems that everything I do requires fundraising. It has played a significant role in my life. I am an educator and have worked in a variety of schools for thirty-one years. I have also worked for a number of NGOs whose primary function was to support growth and development in the Global South.

I have also taken groups of students, and later educators, down to a number of countries in the South including the Dominican Republic, Mexico and El Salvador. All of these projects required the raising of funds to pay for projects we were supporting in our host countries.

For many years, we ran trips for students and educators to El Salvador

I always made it clear that the money we were raising was going to projects and schools in the countries we were visiting. Fundraising in the high schools was a full-time job, but our efforts always paid off and we were able to do some great things in the communities we supported.

A twenty-year tradition at St. Mark High School near Ottawa – all funds went to projects in the Dominican Republic

Over the years, I have learned a great deal about what fundraising should look like. My ideas continue to evolve based on a whole number of factors.

First, when fundraising for communities in the Global South, it is imperative that the communities you are working with make the decisions on where the money will go. There is a great temptation in the West to consider those who raise the money to be the ones who are in control. To do this simply continues the paternalistic relationship that has existed for centuries between the West and the Global South. Our aim is to transform this relationship into an equal partnership.

Second, you need to be transparent. It is so important to let your"There is a great temptation for those who raise the money to be the ones who are in control." funders know where the money will be going. This is sometimes a challenge, but funders have the right to know where their money is going even though decisions will be made by communities and organizations in the South.

Third, you need to consider the longer lasting impact of your contributions. If you are raising money for a scholarship program, you better be sure that you will be able to raise the necessary funds for an agreed upon length of time. There is nothing worse than starting up a scholarship fund then leaving students without the resources necessary to complete their education.

Fourth, increasingly people want to get something back for their donation. It can be a simple as photos and accounts of what the money is being used for. However, what I am finding now is that donors want more than this before they commit to a funding project. I have come to this conclusion after a stint working for a small NGO. People want more and are not as willing to support organizations unless they can get something back.

While this is new to me, this is a very important point and one that NGOs really need to consider at a time when so many different groups are competing for funders. Cake auctions do not lead to long-term funding commitment, so there needs to be a new approach to raising money. I will write more about this in my next post.

The need is great, but the fundraising landscape is changing

How do you fundraise in your school? Let us know below.

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