How to Do an Annual School Fundraising Audit
Ah, another awesome fundraising year completed. Summer’s arrived and you and your fellow PTA/O members are ready for a well-deserved vacation. But before you set off with your sunglasses and suitcase, make sure to schedule one last important fundraising activity: an annual audit of your school fundraising.
An annual audit is something every PTA/O should do to make sure their budget and books are in order before the new school year. Usually this annual audit covers every aspect of the PTA/O’s finances over the course of the fiscal year. So, a large part of the audit should include your school fundraising efforts. It might not sound fun, but when done right, performing an audit actually makes your life as a PTA/O leader so much easier. Not only does it provide a clear picture of the PTA/O’s financial health, but it also gives you an opportunity to evaluate the results of your fundraisers according to your original financial goals.
Keep reading to learn the benefits of performing an annual school fundraising audit.
Why do an annual school fundraising audit?
More effective work
A huge part of the PTA/O’s activities throughout the year involve spending and raising money. Keeping careful track of the money going in and out not only makes your job as a PTA/O leader or volunteer easier and gives you peace of mind, but it also makes your efforts more efficient and effective. The more aware you are of your budget, available funds, recordkeeping processes, vendor relationships, and more, the easier it is to plan for your next financial year.
It’s important for any entity that spends money and holds fundraisers to earn the trust of the school community, including the school board, administration, and of course potential donors. After all, the PTA/O is responsible for using donors’ money wisely! Performing an annual audit ensures that the PTA/O is upholding its duties to the school community by keeping a clean house.
An annual audit covers all aspects of the PTA/O’s financial activity, not just school fundraising - but the benefits for your school fundraising activities are enormous. An annual audit of how much money was raised through each event or campaign and how that money was spent provides valuable insights into your fundraising efforts the next year. This way you know what worked well, what didn’t, and how to make improvements or capitalize on successes next year.
How to do a school fundraising audit
Evaluating the effectiveness of your school fundraising efforts should be a part of your larger PTA/O annual audit. Consider the following to get the most out of your school fundraising audit:
Who performs the school fundraising audit?
This depends on how your PTA/O handles its overall finances. Some schools hire a CPA to perform their annual audit, while others form a volunteer committee from their own ranks. To keep the audit impartial, PTO Today recommends a group of three to five people who have not had access to the PTA/O’s finances, ideally officers such as the vice president or secretary. The CPA or audit committee will then review all records related to the PTA/O’s budget and funds, including but not limited to:
- Bank statements
- Check register
- Canceled checks
- A list of transactions
- Reimbursement request forms and records of reimbursements (receipts, invoices, etc.)
- Tax forms
- Treasurer reports
To glean useful information about your fundraising efforts in particular, make sure that the auditor(s) are provided with the above types of records for each event or campaign.
What is included in the fundraising audit?
Once provided with records of each fundraising event, including checks, bank statements, contracts with vendors, donor records, and anything else in the list above, auditors should review these documents to determine and evaluate:
- How much money was spent on each event and where the money came from
- How much money was raised from each event and where donations came from
- How the funds were used after the event
- Whether or not the fundraiser’s initial goals were met or exceeded
Remember, the goal of your audit is to get a clear picture of what money was spent and gained, how it was spent or gained, and who spent it or brought it in. With these details, you can then go on to determine how effective your school fundraising has been and how you can improve it in the future.
When should the school fundraising audit be performed?
The best time to perform the annual audit is after the end of the school fundraising year, typically mid- to late summer. If you use an audit committee, make sure these volunteers are willing and able to meet about twice during this time of year to perform the annual audit. It might not sound like the most fun way to spend some of your summer vacation, but PTA/O leaders and volunteers will be so much happier next year knowing all the books are in order.
Plus, the annual audit doesn’t have to be boring! Consider making it part of a PTA/O retreat or party so that volunteers can socialize, relax, and bond a little while doing this important job.
Getting the most out of the annual audit of your school fundraising
Evaluate the numbers
Hopefully the annual audit of your school fundraising shows a squeaky clean record and leaves your PTA/O leaders feeling proud of their work and confident for the year to come. But that’s not the only benefit you can hope to gain from a school fundraising audit. One of the most important outcomes from an annual audit is that you can use the insights to determine the effectiveness of your fundraising efforts, including what worked and what didn’t.
So, how can you use these insights to have even more success next year?
Make sure that your annual audit evaluates each fundraising event from the past year against its original goals. Did the event go over-budget? Did you raise or exceed the amount you hoped to raise, or did you fall short? Use the answers to these questions to adjust your efforts the following year. This is why it’s so important to determine the goals of your event or campaign every time you organize a school fundraiser.
Look for patterns
Are there any patterns that emerge over the course of the school year? For example, do certain types of school fundraisers routinely earn more (or less) than others? Do you notice an increase or decrease in participation/donations across your school fundraisers over time?
These types of patterns can prompt you to reflect on how well you’re following school fundraising best practices, explored further in the following section.
Though an annual school fundraising audit focuses on the numbers, you can use your financial insights to take your evaluation a step further. Once you have a picture of which school fundraisers were the most financially successful and which ones left something to be desired, you can look at the details of the fundraising event and think about why certain events worked better than others.
For example, let’s say your audit reveals that your spring school fundraisers routinely earn less money than your fall fundraisers. When you dig deeper into the records for those lower-earning spring campaigns, you also notice that each event had fewer and fewer volunteers than the last. This pattern could indicate one of a couple of possible problems, such as:
- Poor volunteer management: Volunteers aren’t adequately prepared leading up to or on event day, leading to a confusing or tiresome volunteer experience that they don’t want to repeat.
- Lack of volunteer appreciation: Volunteers aren’t thanked or are treated poorly during the event or campaign, discouraging them from participating in the future.
Consider each of the following aspects of school fundraising to determine where you shined and where you can improve next year:
- Planning: Was the event rushed, or carefully planned ahead of time? Did the event have clear goals or were the plans disorganized and vague?
- Volunteer recruitment: Were people made aware of what events and campaigns were happening and how they could participate? Were parent volunteer forms used to gauge interest and availability?
- Volunteer management: Were volunteers properly informed on how to participate, treated respectfully during the event or campaign, and thanked promptly throughout and after participation?
- Promotion: How well did you get the word out about your event or campaign? Was there enough time for donors or participants to prepare to take part in your event or campaign?
- Execution: How smoothly did things go on event day? Did you have enough volunteers? Was the venue appropriate? Any technical issues or equipment mishaps? Did donors and participants understand what was expected of them on event day?
- Donation tracking: How well were donations managed throughout the campaign or event? Did you use a quality donation tracker to make it easy to record and collect funds?
- Timing: Was the event planned carefully around other fundraisers to prevent fundraising fatigue?
- Fun! Was the event unique and engaging enough to attract donors and participants? Was there exciting music, an opportunity to get people’s bodies moving, or awesome school T-shirts custom-made for the event?
Tips for turning insights into action
With your audit results and last year’s fundraising records in hand, it’s time to put what you learned to use for next year. Every PTA/O will have its own unique lessons to take into their future school fundraisers. But no matter your results, every school can benefit from revisiting a few basic school fundraising best practices.
School fundraising expert tips:
- Use a mix of different types of school fundraisers throughout the year such as fun runs, dance events, read-a-thons, restaurant nights, and more. Also, host a couple ongoing campaigns such as a corporate gift matching program and selling school spirit gear online throughout the year. School fundraising works best when you have a variety of funding streams.
- Have a clear goal for every fundraiser. One of the biggest fundraising mistakes is holding a fundraiser without a clear idea of how much you need to raise and what the funds will be used for. Not only do clear goals help you determine what type of fundraiser to set up and how to carry it out, but also it encourages more volunteer participation and donations. People love to know what their efforts and money will be going towards!
- Use an effective online fundraising platform. These days everything happens online, and it’s wise to take advantage of technology to streamline your fundraising efforts. Donation platforms like MyBooster are a lifesaver for PTA/Os, making it faster and easier to track and collect donations through a user-friendly dashboard.
- Have fun! School fundraising isn’t just about money - it brings people together, allows students and volunteers to exercise valuable skills, and strengthens the school community. Each fundraiser you organize is an opportunity for wonderful lifelong memories!
Ask the experts
If your annual audit of your school fundraisers shows room for growth, the experts at Booster can help your school make great strides this school year. Learn more here!