Dear Chapter Development: Fundraising Ideas to Send Members to National Conference

Dear Chapter Development: My Chapter needs to raise money to send members to National Conference in Atlanta. Do you have any ideas?

5437288053_624c075aa3_bThe PRSSA 2015 National Conference, Nov. 6–10 in Atlanta, is shaping up to be one of the best national events yet. For many Chapters, fundraising for National Conference is a daunting and around-the-clock task. Here are a few ways you can optimize your fundraising potential and send more members to Atlanta:

Utilize your PRSSA National resources.

The FUNdraising Bowl Playbook is an invaluable resource for you. The Playbook is a compilation of successful fundraising ideas submitted by Chapters; the ideas are supplemented by suggestions for best practices and information about expectations for each event. My favorite playbook options are the Greek media training and headshot fundraisers.

If you are a Chapter president utilize the Chapter Presidents’ Google Group. The group is a place for Chapter presidents to connect in a digital space and share ideas. Ask your fellow Chapter leaders what kind of fundraising projects they’ve found to be most successful or what their Chapter is doing to prepare for Conference.

Try your university and alumni.

Most universities offer funding to student organizations in some way or another. Start by asking yourself, “Who most supports students organizations at my school?” It may be the dean of your college, your student government association, your student senate or even your university trustees. Find a way to contact this person(s) and illustrate to them the importance of Conference. The best funding applications demonstrate how the event will add value to the university community and help a number of students further themselves in the communications field.

If your Chapter has a strong alumni base, you should be utilizing it as well. Consider reaching out to former executive board members or Conference attendees first. For other alumni, you may want to build a relationship with them before you make the ask for donations. You could even consider utilizing a crowdfunding site that would allow alumni to make contributions easily. Also, keep in mind that many of these alumni may be members of your PRSA Sponsor Chapter.

Make the individual effort.

For many Chapters, supporting members to attend Conference is not a simple reality. However, the opportunity to attend Conference is one given to everyone involved with PRSSA. For that reason, I encourage members to make the individual effort. Write a letter detailing how important National Conference is to your professional development or career goals and share that letter with the people that mean the most to you. This could be aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends or even close colleagues. There’s nothing wrong with asking people close to you to invest in your future.

Try saving up. National Conference happens around the same time every year and costs roughly the same amount, making it one of those things you can plan to budget for. Start thinking early in the year about how you can attend Conference and you won’t have as much pressure to secure donations. A Conference registration is equal to approximately 60 Starbucks drinks.

Also, consider how you can secure a National Conference “sponsor.” Try reaching out to your university community, the Champions for PRSSA and your PRSA Sponsor Chapter to seek a local business, educator or professional who would be willing to aide you in your efforts to attend Conference. These dedicated people have signed up to offer support to students in whatever capacity they can.

As a PRSSA member, you have a wealth of resources at your disposal. Happy fundraising and I’ll see you in Atlanta!

Gary Bridgens is the PRSSA National vice president of Chapter development and a senior in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. Follow him on Twitter @garingiscaring, connect with him on LinkedIn or email him at


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