Revolutionizing School Fundraising: An Interview with Dennis Levene, CEO of Schoolfundr

Schoolfundr
Photo Credit: Schoolfundr

Schoolfundr, led by Dennis Levene, is attempting to change the fundraising game for schools nationwide. The company is quickly showing signs of success, partnering with over 1,000 new schools and raising millions of dollars in 2023 alone. We spoke with Dennis to uncover the inspiration behind Schoolfundr, the secret behind its viral adoption, and the impact it’s working to create.

What did you do prior to founding Schoolfundr? What was the moment that inspired Schoolfundr?

Before founding Schoolfundr, I had a seven-year stint in big tech and consulting in New York. This experience was invaluable, but I felt a need to focus on something more personally fulfilling. My journey into the world of education fundraising began with conversations with educators and parents, revealing the real challenges they faced in raising funds for schools.

The real ‘aha’ moment, however, came when I contributed to my nephew’s school fundraiser. 

I was shocked to find out that only 80% of my donation actually went to the school. The fundraiser was through a well-known platform, yet a significant chunk was taken out as fees. This was a real eye-opener for me. After digging into the competitors, I realized that it wasn’t just the high fees charged to the schools but also that these companies provided a poor experience and no transparency for donors, students, coaches, or athletic directors.  

Driven by this revelation, Schoolfundr was born. The goal was simple: to make fundraising effortless and efficient for schools. We’ve developed a platform that allows schools to raise more than ever and keep 100% of what they raise minus standard credit card processing fees.

Schoolfundr is a significant departure from my previous career in tech, but it’s driven by a desire to solve the real need of schools and create a tangible, positive impact in the world of education. 

Why is school fundraising important?

School fundraising is essential, as it compensates for the shortfalls in educational budgets, especially for extracurricular activities. For example, a study found that 86% of athletic directors depend heavily on fundraising, with these efforts contributing about 25% of their budgets. This reliance underscores how critical fundraising is, not only in supplementing basic educational needs but in ensuring the continuation of valuable extracurricular programs. 

These activities, ranging from sports to arts, play a significant role in the holistic development of students. Therefore, school fundraising isn’t just a financial stopgap; it’s a key component in nurturing well-rounded educational experiences for students.

What are the most critical factors to ensure the success of a fundraiser?

The most crucial element for a fundraiser’s success is undoubtedly the active participation of students. Without their engagement, a fundraiser is unlikely to be successful. After ensuring student participation, it is crucial to personalize the fundraiser and provide ease for everyone involved. Personalization makes the effort more relatable and compelling for potential donors, who often contribute because of their connection to the students. 

Additionally, simplifying the process for organizers, participants, and donors alike is vital. Making it easy to create, share, and donate enhances the overall effectiveness of the fundraiser, leading to tremendous success and raising more funds. Our fundraising coaches have run hundreds of fundraisers and have the expertise to ensure fundraisers are seamless yet successful. 

What advice can you give schools and groups looking to run effective fundraisers? 

In evaluating fundraising options, it’s essential to focus on three key areas: product quality, service quality, and the economic model. While many companies excel in one of these areas, and a handful do two well, Schoolfundr is unique in excelling in all three. 

Our tech platform and product are purpose-built for schools, with all the features they need to run successful fundraising campaigns. In terms of service, we provide a dedicated fundraising coach and comprehensive support to each client to guide them every step of the way. 

Lastly, our economic model strictly can’t be beaten, allowing groups to keep ALL the funds they raise. Our model is based only on optional donor tips, contrasting sharply with other platforms that take a substantial cut from donations. By combining our best-in-class product with the best-in-class level of support and a best-in-class economic model, Schoolfundr enables school groups to raise more than ever with less work while letting them keep what they raise so that students can reach their full potential. 

Can Schoolfundr really be successful relying solely on optional tips from donors?

Yes! It is amazing to see the results of aligning your mission with that of your donors – to help students keep the money they raise. Our team has been blown away by the willingness of donors to leave an optional tip, which only further affirms the importance of our mission.  

We often hear Schoolfundr is “too good to be true” and get asked if we share, sell, or monetize personal and student data to make money, and the answer is unequivocally no. We categorically do not and will never sell or market student or donor data; it would go against everything Schoolfundr stands for. 

All our data is secure, using state-of-the-art software to protect our users’ data, and we are PCI and FERPA-compliant. Our donors have validated our business model of asking for optional donor tips and have given us the confidence that the generosity of donors will continue to be more than enough to operate our product and services. 

Can you share a success story that demonstrates Schoolfundr’s impact?

One story that I am particularly proud of is our work with Avon Grove’s soccer team in Pennsylvania. They raised $5,000 with a competitor last year but only received $4,000 after accounting for platform fees. This year, using Schoolfundr, they raised $8,600 and kept every penny besides standard online processing fees, enabling the team to get new uniforms and warmups. This fundraiser embodies our mission as we were able to help Avon Grove raise more funds with less work and keep a more significant amount of what they raised so their students can reach their full potential.  

The best part of my job is undoubtedly working with and supporting unique impact groups like Avon Grove’s daily. These partnerships help us spread our impact nationwide, empowering schools to raise and keep more! 

Published by: Nelly Chavez

(Ambassador)

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