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Back To School: Five Excellent Fundraisers For Your School

By Melissa Summers

A couple of my friends are big jerks and have kids that have already gone back to school. We have a few more weeks to plan everything out. What outfit we’ll wear on the first day, what neighborhood kids will walk together, mimosas or Bloody Marys?
Late last year a reader emailed to ask for a few creative fund raising ideas for her kid’s school. School fund raisers are a necessary evil for almost every school I’ve ever heard of because no matter what the school budget there’s always more extras we can give our kids.
Still I’ll admit to shuddering when the Pizza Sale flyer comes home or when the Fresh Orange & Grapefruit sale comes around….I want to help but man do I hate selling Oranges at the office. Our PTA gets a new fund raising chairperson every two years so this summer there’s been a lot of brainstorming about new ideas.
Here are five of my favorite creative school fund raiser ideas. These fund raisers won’t replace the big programs like Market Day, Entertainment Books and Scholastic Book Fairs but they’ll bring in extra cash to build up the PTA’s budget.
school fundraising ideasWalk-A-Thon
A lot of the fundraisers that come are things like cookie dough and chocolates and pizza. At the same time schools are being forced to cut athletic and gym programs because of budget constraints. The Walk-A-Thon (or Fun Run, or Jump-A-Thon) is a great way to get kids moving and make money for the school. Kids collect pledges per lap (or jump) at $1 each for up to 8 laps. If you want to get a little more involved you could also involve the community by organizing a 5K event. Here’s a short “How-To“.
Car Wash
There are two ways to organize a car wash fundraiser. You can either collect pledges per car the kids wash or you can sell tickets before the event as gifts. Ideally the kids will collect tips to add to the revenue even more. To involve more kids, have a food stand set up selling coffee, juice and bagels.
school fundraising ideasChili Cook Off
A pub in our area holds a popular Chili Cook Off each fall to raise money for our local Boys and Girls Club. Schools love pot luck events so the Chili Cook Off is an easy stretch. Participants make their best chili, a panel of judges chooses the best and you’re done. You can charge for entries, sell tickets to attend, or both. My local pub charges $10 to each participant, and $10 to attend (and taste all the chili you’d like). The winner of the cook off gets a trophy and the participant pot of money, the money from ticket sales goes to the Boys and Girls Club. You can organize your event and distribute money however you choose.
school fundraising ideasOnce a Month Popcorn Sales
For this fund raiser you’ll need to invest in a real popcorn popper. Once a month, each class is responsible for making signs, selling popcorn after school and assigning parent volunteers to spend about an hour popping all the popcorn you’ll need for the sale. Each box sells for 50 cents or a dollar, and the proceeds go to each classroom to spend as they choose. One class at our school used the money to subsidize an end of the year trip to a movie. Another class used it to help pay for their class camping trip.
school fundraising ideasFamily Fun Night Concert
One of the biggest money makers at our schools is an annual Family Fun Night with a performance by a favorite local children’s band, The Candy Band. Two band members happen to be involved in the PTA so that makes things easy. But you can do it in your area if you can find a local children’s band willing to play your event. Look for a band at local events, concerts in the park or the zoo. They’re often willing to play for free or a reduced rate because they’re playing to a captive target audience.
What fund raisers has your organization tried?

Melissa Summers
About the Author

Melissa Summers

Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.


Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.

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  • Fer

    Thanks for the ideas. The popcorn one sounds simple enough…

  • j9

    Our school does the NO FUSS fundraiser. Each family is asked to donate any amount of money…no amount it to small or too large. It happens 1 time a year and there is no selling involved. They have found that they raise more money b/c parents are not forced to run around selling stuff and just donate a large sum instead. Also, many companies donate or match. Extended families can donate too. Nice for everyone…parents arene’t bothered with selling with kids and the kids don’t feel pressured for the dumb 50cent toy they want because a friend earned it.

  • delia

    We’re doing a walk-a-thon this spring. We also do Popcorn every Friday with the proceeds going to the sponsoring classroom. I wanted to find a recycling type fundraiser since our school decided it was too much work to walk the recycling bins to the curb. Everything just gets thrown in the trash.

  • SY

    Our Jog A Thon is held during school and earns about $30,000 per year, it’s held every Fall and kicks things off – last year we even had Jamba Juice donate post run treats. We also started an auction this year and the committee said it was a ton of work, but it saved the jobs of our librarian and science teacher and earned enough for a music teach this year. The auction brought in over $50,000. We are lucky, we live in a school district in California where the parents are super involved and many grandparents/extended family are very generous. Every year though it’s a struggle to keep the money coming in…we’re always looking for ways to enrich the students without tapping out or alienating the parents.

  • SY

    Also wanted to say we are thinking of instituting the “Penny Wars” at the school. Got this idea from the back of Three Cups of Tea, but you can Google Penny Wars and it explains it fairly well…they said it can bring in anywhere from $3,000-7,000 so it’s extra money we’ll be able to use for teacher enrichment and field trips.

  • My highschool organised a phantom renovation crew to cover the insurance excess after a fire.
    You could pay 10 dollars not to help paint, 20 dollars not to assist with the cleanup
    40 dollars to be excused from the endless planning meetings. (a bargain, in my mind) We Raised 5,000 bucks, and discovered some parents with usable skills to assist with the actual renovations.
    We also followed it up with a swim suit car wash where you could pay not to have your car washed by teachers and administrative staff wearing swim apparell (Because they were NOT HOT) We organised it after school for three consecutive days, barracading the loop that the parents drove through to pick up the kids. Hilarious.

  • Our last elementary school’s mascot was the “woodchuck.” We held the Woodchuck Run a few weeks after school started and did either a flat rate or a dollars per lap model. We ended up raising about $12,000 and tiring the kids out!

  • Angela

    Our school does a Knowledge A Thon. Each grade level came up with 100 general curriculum questions, not too hard. The kiddos get to study for about 6 weeks during that time gathering pledges based on how many questions people think they will get correct. Everyone participates, we do it during school, even if they don’t gather pledges. All kiddos get a small thank you prize and we really stress the fun. It is not high pressure at all. The teachers really get involved coming up with games for the kids to practice questions with etc. We make about $15K a year on this baby. It is little out of pocket and it is our most popular fundraiser. Highly recommend it.

  • Amy

    Our school did a silent and real time auction. A local auctioneer donated his time and made it really fun. Parents and businesses donated items and they were auctioned off one night at the school. No expense for the school and great revenue.