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Rescuing the Annual Fund from the Ho-Hum
Rescuing the Annual Fund from the Ho-Hum

School uses funny videos—plus a superhero and a dragon—to educate about funding gaps

By Theresa Walker

Let's face facts: The typical annual fund message about closing the budget gap is boring and confusing. So the Powhatan School injected some creativity, in the form of playfully kitschy videos, into explaining why the fund is important.

"Humor helps break down people's defenses and opens them up to receiving messages," says Kit McGinnis, Powhatan's development director. She thought the tactic would disarm parents who may balk at making a gift in addition to paying tuition at the Virginia K–8 independent school.

The result: A caped superhero and a prince rescue Powhatan's audiences from the humdrum annual fund message while helping the school raise more money to close its 13 percent budget gap.

Last year:
Powhatan Man saved the school from its gap in a fun, five-minute video that explains what tuition doesn't cover and the annual fund's role in bridging the difference. The school also stationed a life-size cutout of the superhero inside the library and sent holiday cards encouraging parents to make his new year happy by giving an annual gift. Parent participation increased from 64 percent to 100 percent, and the campaign exceeded its $125,000 goal.

This year:
In a new video that debuted at Parents' Night in September, Powhatan Man retires his cape to become a prince who seeks help to bridge the funding gap so that he can slay the dragon that has kidnapped his princess. It's a dream, of course. Talk of the annual fund quickly lulled the school's annual fund working group to sleep. With an increased annual fund goal of $135,000, McGinnis hopes for a repeat performance of last year.

About the Author Theresa Walker Theresa Walker

Theresa Walker is a senior editor at Currents, where she covers the marketing and communications beat.




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