3 ways schools can maximise fundraising cash flow

The education budget in New Zealand is good, but of course we’d all like it to be bigger.

So, as someone looking to maximise cash flow for your school, what else can you do to optimise your fundraising opportunities? Here are some ideas as to how to motivate parents, guardians and even alumni to improve your school’s income.

1. Encourage frictionless donation

If you want to encourage donations and timely fee payments, you have to make it easy for people to make those payments – and, just as importantly, for your admin staff to process them in a timely and accurate fashion.

The key here is to go cashless.

Setting up cashless payments is easier than you might think. There are many tools on the market that can get you set up, even if you only have a very simple website and limited technical knowledge (and without blowing your budget).

4 types of cashless payment options your school could offer

Direct online bank transfers

Most parents and guardians will have an online banking account. So at its simplest, you just need to give them your school’s bank account details and they can transfer payments and donations directly to your account. This is a good option for setting up recurring payments such as lunch, donations and club fees.

But, while this is a highly simple method to establish, there are some drawbacks that may make our other options below a bit better.

  • Known challenges: Direct transfers will mean that your admin team doesn’t have to handle cash, but it does put the onus on parents to pay – which means your team will still have to send follow-up reminders. Plus, they might send through an incorrect amount, which also means work for your finance team to spot and reconcile the difference.

Online debit/credit card payments

89% of Kiwis make payments regularly with a debit card and 68% prefer to pay with a credit card. According to research by Payments NZ, the majority of their respondents preferred to pay by plastic for both online everyday payments and larger, less frequent payments.

  • Known challenges: OK, loads of Kiwis know and love paying by card. But, card payments come with them a degree of transaction fees. Some of these can even be quite high, which is why you quite often see smaller businesses like dairies and the like not offering credit cards as an option. You’ll need to investigate these fees closely to ensure they’re acceptable for your school.

Direct online payments

Direct online payment tools like POLi would allow parents and guardians to pay your school directly via their online banking account through a secure portal. Instead of creating a payment through their bank, it’s as easy as hitting a ‘Pay Now’ button and typing their bank login details.

Direct online payments are fast and streamline back office bookkeeping because they automate reference information. They can also often be set up quite quickly, and come pre-integrated into software platforms like Kindo and Edge Learning.

  • Known challenges: Direct online payments are growing increasingly well-known, but they’re still not as common as paying by plastic. Some people, as a result, may not be too sure about inputting their bank login details into a platform they don’t recognise. Setting up this option will require a little bit of marketing on your school’s front to ensure people know that it’s something they can trust.

Payment apps

Payment apps like PayPal act as a payment transfer tool. The user loads money into their PayPal account and transfers it into the school’s account. Then your team would transfer the payment back out into your school bank account. They can also be set up to act as payment gateways, allowing users to make debit/credit card payments via the app (with transaction fees accrued as a result).

  • Known challenges: While payment apps are often easy to implement and use, their money transfers can take longer than other cashless payment options as the cash moves between the app and bank accounts. As mentioned, there are also fees to consider.

So which payment option should your school offer?

While we can’t give you a definitive answer, we do know that Kiwis tend to love choice – they generally want to pay using the method they’re most comfortable with, whether that’s by card or online.

Here are some questions that will guide your decision making:

  • How will the payment option make it easy for parents/guardians?
  • Can it automate or streamline financial reporting/reconciling?
  • Is it easy to integrate with your existing system? If not, do you have the resources to learn how to integrate it manually?
  • What are the fees?
  • Is it secure?

2. Understand why parents donate

Giving makes people happy. In fact, a 2008 study found that giving money to someone else boosted the donor’s happiness more than spending it on themselves (The Harvard Gazette).

One of the keys to a successful fundraiser is to understand why people give and what motivates them to donate.

Social dynamics

Whether it’s to build a new library their kids will get to enjoy or an attendance fee for an overnight camp, parents donate because they care about the cause.

Try this for your next fundraiser:

  • Make sure donors, board members, volunteers and supporters have opportunities to invite people in their social networks to events and fundraisers, or to follow your school online.
  • Create visually pleasing and easily shareable posters/graphics for parents, teachers and your network to share online or use in conversation.


If parents trust that their donations will be spent wisely, they can be more willing to give.

Here’s how you can boost trust at your next fundraiser:

  • Make it clear where donations are going and what the impact will be.
  • Consider sharing financial statements on your school website.
  • Maintain trustworthiness by being transparent at all times.

Goal proximity effect

The goal proximity effect suggests that the closer you are to your fundraising goal, the more likely parents are to give; they feel like their contributions matter more in helping push the fundraiser over the line.

Try this for your next fundraiser:

  • Share updates on your fundraiser, whether on social media or in school newsletters.
  • Host a hard launch for your fundraiser once you’ve demonstrated some progress towards your goal.

Overcoming difficulty

Psychologists sometimes call this the martyrdom effect, where people expect to endure pain or difficulty to reach a goal. For example, World Vision’s 40 Hour Famine fundraiser falls under this category.

Try this for your next fundraiser:

  • Hold challenging fundraising events that require some effort (e.g. walkathons, marathons, races).
  • Encourage parents and students to volunteer.


Parents often give donations to receive a personal benefit in return, or to feel good about giving. Egoism is not necessarily a bad thing, so here’s how you can harness the power of egoism for your next fundraiser:

  • Give a public shout out to parents who have donated.
  • Update parents on what their donations have achieved.
  • Send out personalised thank you notes.

Use real data to optimise your fundraiser

Data and fundraising go hand in hand. To run a successful fundraising campaign, treat your school like a business and track key analytics metrics in order to find evidence that will help you optimise your efforts.

Here are some fundraising metrics to pay attention to:

  • Cost per dollar raised: This refers to the amount of money it takes your school to raise one dollar. It’s an important metric to determine the cost effectiveness of your campaign.
  • Donor retention rate: The percentage of donors your school retains after the first donation, with a year maximum between donations.
  • Lifetime value: The net amount you can expect to receive from a single donor. Some parents and even alumni continue to donate to the school long after their kids have left.
  • Number of donations: This tells you how your fundraiser is performing at a glance.
  • Average donation by source: Track donations by source to see which channels parents respond best to. You’ll also be able to tell which channels have a lower cost but bring in more donations, so you can focus on what works best.

Based on your fundraiser performance, you can then assess how it went and adjust your efforts for future events. It doesn’t have to be difficult to collect and analyse fundraising data – there are many platforms (like Edge) that allow schools to quickly create GST reports, cash flow analysis reports, ledger summary reports and more.