In the spring of 2013, Woodrow Wilson Elementary in Denton, Texas, was contemplating ways to raise funds for more iPads for students; we had 24 for 600 students. Certain options were out of the question—asking kids to sell stuff that no one wanted, or using a fundraising company that would take a healthy portion of the donations and give participants cheap prizes. We did want to showcase what could be done with iPads in a creative way. Out of these parameters, the Wilson Film Festival was born.
Each class in our school created a movie using an iPad. We unleashed their creativity with as few boundaries or requirements as possible. Teacher training was offered. Length, plot, and the apps used (iMovie and Puppet Pals were the most common) were left entirely up to the class. In all, 29 films were submitted. Subjects included curriculum topics (American holidays, earthquakes, and volcanoes), mysteries, baseball, and the school day. The festival is set up as a competition between classes and each dollar donated is a vote for that film. We will announce the winning classes in January. All the festival entries are available online.
The key to turning the festival into a money maker is, of course, communication. We talked about it, sent notes home, made telephone calls, added the event to our webpage, worked with the district’s Public Relations department, used social media, and promoted at every opportunity. We built anticipation and released all of the films on the web at once. We later celebrated our success by having a Red Carpet Event where we showed all of the films on a big screen in the high school auditorium.
We’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way! Here are a few:
- Send some kind of pledge card home with students at the beginning. If we were selling stuff they would have an order form to fill out.
- A front page story on the local newspaper did not bring in a lot of donations from the community but it did boost parent donations.
- Have a big premiere event with opportunities for donations.
- Have a shorter deadline for donations. Those big fundraising companies that run a promotion for 10-14 days know what they are doing!
- An online donation site is critical. Ours accounted for about two thirds of our donations.
- Add your videos to YouTube so that they can be viewed on all devices and platforms.
So, how did we do? So far we have raised nearly $10,000 and money is still coming in. While that’s only about one third of our financial goal, we still count the experience as a success!
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