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Fundraising to Get Excited About

As parents, we’re very familiar with the deluge of paperwork that comes home from school every night, including volunteer sign ups, field trip forms, homework, and more. Some days I feel like the piles are taking over the kitchen counter! I do my best to sort them every couple of days, but sometimes things fall through the cracks. And some things, admittedly, I just intentionally put off.

If I’m being totally honest, I groan at the sight of some of the fundraising forms. The thought of begging neighbors or co-workers to buy pizzas or coupon books or wrapping paper is less than appealing. However, I also understand and appreciate how important fundraising is for schools, so I suck it up and do my best.

But last December, some PTO members at my son’s school decided to hold a fundraiser for a new playground system, and they came up with what I thought was a genius idea. Parents donated tape, wrapping paper, and gift tags and then offered gift-wrapping services to the community. For a $1 gift donation, parents would gather to wrap Christmas presents!  It was a service people were willing to pay for and only required parents to donate a couple hours of their time and their wrapping fingers. Most importantly, it generated funds for the school. It was a lot of fun to get into the holiday spirit, wrapping presents and spending time with other parents.

Parent-led fundraising is an important part of a school’s budget. Planning and executing a fundraiser can be a lot of work, but it’s also a chance to have fun and make a difference in your child’s education. We’ve put together a list of tips for a successful fundraisers and researched some creative fundraising strategies. 

Make Your Fundraiser a Success

Plan it. A well-planned fundraiser is more likely to be successful.  Brainstorm each stage of the fundraiser and then delegate necessary tasks to your volunteers. Write down a timetable for all tasks and choose a goal date for completion. Plan for any upfront costs and determine who will be responsible for those costs.

Pick a goal. Pick a cause that the money will be used for and pick a target dollar amount. For example, “We would like to raise $5,000 for new playground equipment.” This will give volunteers and donators something to get excited about and a concrete picture of how their dollars will be spent, in addition to giving you something to celebrate when the goal is reached.

Promote it. Spreading the word may be the most important – and most enjoyable – part of fundraising. Get creative with flyers, emails, posters, social media, and more. Ask parents, teachers, and community members to spread the word. Be sure to promote the goal and what the money will be used for.

Report back. After the fundraiser, be sure to send a thank you to all volunteers and those who donated money. Tell everyone how much money was raised and how wonderful it will be to have these funds available for use toward the goal. You can also create a document full of suggestions for future fundraisers. Provide information about suppliers, local businesses who contributed, volunteer responsibilities, etc. You may even try getting an article and a photo in your local paper.

Creative Fundraising Strategies

Keep it simple. This year, in lieu of selling coupon books or other products, my son’s school kept it simple for the main fundraiser. They set up the main lobby of the school as a train depot and outlined a train track throughout the halls of the school. Students were asked to have family and friends sponsor them to walk laps around the track, which they completed on fundraising day. It required a minimal time commitment from parents and generated over $10,000 for the school. (It also provided a way for students to be more active and get more exercise on fundraising day!)

Sell something useful. People are more likely to purchase something they would buy anyway – so why wouldn’t they buy to benefit your child’s school? My son and daughter’s schools both participate in Market Days, a service through which you can purchase a wide variety of healthy, fresh food including pre-prepared dinners, vegetables, and dessert. The school gets a percentage of sales. Families love this service because they can purchase prepared food, saving them time on crazy weeknights, while also contributing to the school. Many schools also offer scrip fundraising programs, where you buy gift cards for local and national retailers and the schools receive a percentage of the dollar amount you spend.

Get everyone involved. Most family and friends of school-aged kids don’t mind donating their dollars to schools. But hosting events in which they can get involved may generate more excitement for the event and increase participation. Some of the following ideas allow for lots of participation – and are lots of fun!

  • Host a 5k, fun run, or dance off
  • Compile a school cookbook, including favorite family recipes from students, teachers, friends, and families
  • Gather donations from local businesses and host an auction or trivia night

Offer a service. If you’re fundraising for a high school, you can have the kids work with you on fundraisers! Offer a delivery service, whether it’s coffee, lunch, or special holiday messages. You can also offer a babysitting service, where under the supervision of a couple of teachers or parent volunteers, parents can drop off younger kids while they enjoy some time off. Older kids can also plan and run car washes.

Fundraising doesn’t have to be a source of stress. It’s an opportunity to get creative, have fun, and make money for your school.

What unique fundraisers have you planned or participated in?

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