April 2020 – right at the start of the pandemic in the US – seems like the least likely time to find fundraising success, but thanks to a supportive community, generous local business partners, and stellar promotion efforts, the Bismarck Public Schools Foundation was able to raise $2,349 in just 3 days by hosting restaurant takeout fundraisers with 3 local Applebee’s.
Read on to learn all about how they did it!
“People in our local community are concerned for our businesses, our local restaurants. When they see they can support the restaurant and a nonprofit, it’s killing two birds with one stone. They feel like they’ve achieved two different things and it’s such a fulfilling feeling to be able to do that and I think that’s one of the main reasons it was super successful.” – Stacey Lang, BPS Foundation Development Director
Coming Together to Support Families in Need
In late March 2020, many Bismarck, North Dakota families were struggling. Some families already in a tough financial position faced job loss or other pandemic-related problems and needed help.
Spotting the need, the Bismarck Public Schools (BPS) Foundation established the COVID-19 Family Assistance Fund to act as a safety net for families and address essential needs.
In their day-to-day operations, the BPS Foundation uses donations to improve students’ learning experience and strengthen educational services within the Bismarck Public School District.
Restaurant Takeout Fundraisers – A Win-Win Strategy
With the COVID-19 BPS Family Assistance Fund in place, the nonprofit set up fundraisers with 3 local Applebee’s, one each on a Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday in mid-April. The Applebee’s locations agreed to donate 20% of the event supporters’ sales back to the Fund.
Looking back on the event, BPS Foundation Development Director Stacey Lang identified working with restaurants as a key strategy for their fundraising success, saying, “People in our local community are concerned for our businesses, our local restaurants. When they see they can support the restaurant and a nonprofit, it’s killing two birds with one stone. They feel like they’ve achieved two different things and it’s such a fulfilling feeling to be able to do that and I think that’s one of the main reasons it was super successful.”
The partnership was truly a win-win, as the fundraiser brought a whopping $11,748 in extra sales to the 3 participating Applebee’s locations.
Event Promotion – The Secret to Fundraising Success
Another secret to fundraising success was the BPS Foundation’s multi-faceted promotion of the event. To rally the community behind their cause, the nonprofit:
- Posted the event on their website
- Posted about the event on Facebook
- Created an event flyer – linked here
- Came up with a cool slogan, asking supporters to “Takeout the Effects of COVID-19”
- Sent emails to every school secretary within the district and asked them to include the fundraiser in their email newsletters to parents
- Sent PSAs to the local media, resulting in a local TV station running the story both a week before the event and day-of
- Contacted high school counselors who run each school’s Facebook pages and asked them to post about the event
In addition to all of the amazing promotion efforts above, the nonprofit also had the great idea to tap into inter-school rivalry. They specifically set up the event to run 3 days, one for each high school and its associated elementary/middle feeder schools. Monday was for Bismarck High School and South Central High School, Tuesday was for Century High School, and Thursday was for Legacy High School.
Both the BPS Foundation and the Applebee’s were blown away with the community response. Each day, the participation just kept going up and up!
The Applebee’s were not even open for dine-in – all of the $11,748 in the event’s sales was generated through takeout orders only, picked up by supporters in their cars.
Since the event, the fundraiser’s $2,349 in final donations has helped Bismarck families with basic necessities they could not have accessed through existing community resources.
The fundraiser appeared to be in just the right place at the right time. Stacey Lang commented, “I think so many people want to help but they don’t know what they can do. This was so timely and we were able to take those funds and be able to use them in our community. This is something people could do while actively abiding by social distancing guidelines.”
Join in for the next one or host your own!
Since April 2020, the BPS Foundation has held several more successful restaurant fundraisers. Check the News & Events section of the BPS Foundation website to see their current initiatives and join in the next time they partner with a local restaurant.
Not from Bismarck? There are thousands of restaurants nationwide that are eager to work with you! You can find nearby restaurants that do fundraisers and request an event with a few clicks online.
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