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Five Simple School Fundraisers

Putting the Fun Back in School Fundraising

By Melissa Summers

School fundraisers are a necessary evil for almost every school — no matter what the budget, there are always more extras we want to give our kids.

Still, I’ll admit to shuddering when the Pizza Sale flyer comes home or when the Fresh Orange & Grapefruit sale starts. I want to help but, man, do I hate selling oranges at the office.

Fortunately, there are some simple and fun ways to raise money for your kids’ school. Here are five of my favorite creative school fundraiser ideas. These won’t replace big programs like Market Day, Entertainment Books and Scholastic Book Fairs but they can help bring in extra cash for a class, club or school program.

Five Simple School Fundraisers

1. Walk-A-Thon
A lot of traditional fundraisers center around selling things like cookie dough, chocolates and pizza. At the same time, schools are being forced to cut athletic and gym programs because of budget constraints. A Walk-A-Thon (or Fun Run or Jump-A-Thon) is a great way to get kids moving and make money for the school. It’s also an ideal fundraiser for little kids, who have lots of energy and never stop moving. Kids collect pledges for their activity — say, $1 for each lap they walk around the school grounds, or for each minute of jump roping. If you want to get a little more involved, you could also involve the community by organizing a 5K event. NonProfit People has a step-by-step guide to organizing a charity 5K event.

2. Car Wash
A car wash is a good option for slightly older kids — say, middle school and up — who can do the bulk of the work themselves (advertising the event, selling tickets, washing the cars). There are two ways to organize a car wash fundraiser: You can either collect money at the event for each car the kids wash or you can sell tickets before the event. You can raise even more money — and involve more kids — by selling drinks (coffee, water, lemonade) and baked goods during the car wash.

3. Chili Cook Off
If you’re looking for a fundraiser that’s a little more adult oriented, a chili cook off is a nice option. A pub in our area does this each fall to raise money for our local Boys and Girls Club and it’s a really fun community event. It’s also an event that’s fairly simple to organize. Participants enter a giant pot of chili, a panel of judges — which can include school administrators and teachers, PTA members or local celebrities — chooses the best, attendees get to sample the entries, and you’re done! You can charge for entries, sell tickets to attend, or both. The best chili gets a ribbon, the school gets the cash and everyone’s a winner.

4. Monthly Popcorn Sales
If your school’s concession stand has a popcorn machine, this can be a simple way to get students involved in raising money. Once a month, a designated class or group is responsible for coordinating the popcorn sales. Students can handle making signs to advertise the event and selling popcorn during lunch or after school. Older kids can probably pop popcorn with adult supervision, but younger grades will need parents to handle this. Each box or bag sells for 50 cents or a dollar, and the proceeds go to the group or class who did the work, to spend as they choose. One class at our school used the money to subsidize an end-of-year trip to the movies, while another class used it to help pay for their class camping trip.

5. Family Fun Night Concert
One of the biggest money makers at our school is an annual Family Fun Night with a performance by a favorite local children’s band. In our case, two of the 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 for free or for a reduced fee. You can sell tickets to the event or charge at the door. You can also raise additional funds by including a bake sale or face painting for the kids.

More from AlphaMom

Raise Money With This Adorable Lemonade Stand
Giveback Lets You Start Your Own Charitable Giving Foundation
Lead by Example: Teach Your Kids About Saving Money
Swap Birthday Gifts for a Charitable Donation

Photo source: Depositphoto/mizar_219842





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

    August 26, 2008 at 12:18 pm

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

  • j9

    August 29, 2008 at 7:54 am

    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

    August 29, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    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

    August 29, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    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

    August 29, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    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.

  • Sarah

    August 31, 2008 at 6:19 am

    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.

  • Jeff

    September 1, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    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

    September 3, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    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

    September 3, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    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.