Fund-Raising for School Groups

Burned by school fund-raisers that were more a problem than a profit? Maybe one of these suggestions will make the grade.

By Terrie Solomon


Who Picked This Fund-Raiser, Anyway?    to top

Face it: Selecting a "blockbuster" profitable school fund-raiser that every kid and parent loves is absolutely impossible. Schools need extra money for everything from athletic uniforms to field trips for athletes, band members, cheerleaders, the "brain game" students, and on and on. With so many needs for so many causes, it seems impossible to select a fund raiser that isn't the "same, old thing." (Remember, too, that most parents aren't begging to direct one of these fund-raisers, either.) More often than not, the school sticks with "tried and true" activities that don't require lots of "up-front" work, and so adults don't need to learn the ropes of some new fund-raising venture.

Now, take a few minutes as a parent, school-fund administrator, or even participating student, and make a quick mental list of all those "tried and true" school fund-raisers that you hope you never have to participate in again. Which ones top your list? Chocolate bar sales? Candy sales in general? Flavored popcorn? Magazines? Raffle tickets? Greeting card sets? Seasonal items like those for Christmas? This list could go on and on. So, what do you say about putting those boring, repetitive school fund-raisers on the "hold" list, and taking a look at some novel, creative, less stressful, and even—dare I say—fun ways of bringing in that much-needed money?

What's best about most of these suggestions is that they are "self-contained," meaning that they don't require complicated agreements or connections with big professional fund-raising organizations. A few ideas do work within a larger organization, but most are fairly autonomous.

  • Advice
    Get the word out! Fund-raisers need promotion to be successful no matter what they are.


Fund-Raisers That Kids Really Can Do     to top

In order to find out which of the two seasons best suits you, you will need to perform a color draping test.

Colorful World
When you compare two colors draped on you, one right after the other, to determine which color looks better and makes you look most vibrant, you have performed a color draping test. Color draping is often used to seek which palettes under one's key characteristic look best.

Wouldn't it be nice to sit back and let the kids have a great learning experience conducting a fund-raiser pretty much on their own? Here are several options for kids that have minimal parental intervention:

  1. Corsage (and Boutonniere) Sale—Whether it's for homecoming, Valentine's Day, or Mother's Day, selling corsages is a fairly straight-forward process. An adult needs to approach local florists to set "bargain" wholesale prices for the base cost of the flowers, but students can advertise, take advanced orders, and manage a booth for pick up or last-minute sales with little difficulty.
  2. "Santa-Grams" and Related Holiday Spin-offs—Regardless of age, students will love sending "special delivery" messages to each other for about any special occasion—Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, you name it. Students can send their messages with the sender identified or from that "secret admirer," and each message comes with an appropriate bit of candy to sweeten the gesture.
  • Advice
    Who handles the funds is an important consideration. Dishonesty among helpers is not the primary concern, but eliminating confusion as transactions occur is the primary concern. Limit the number of individuals handling money, and create a fool-proof accounting system to document the exchange of money at every stage of the process.

What do you need to pull this fund-raiser off? Sell messages at lunch, homeroom, before school, or make the order forms available for students to fill out on their own and then turn them into the appropriate authorities, along with payment. Use computers to print out order forms and the messages, to keep track of the type of sweet treats (candy cane, sucker, chocolate) that accompany each message, and to log orders and delivery of the final products. Everything is sold in advance, with students needing to know only a recipient's name and homeroom. Delivery is minimally disruptive, when compared with other special student activities.


Parent-Supervised Fund-Raising Suggestions     to top

To handle a fund-raiser with a bit more earning power, parents have to be willing to take more active roles. As supervisors, parents can oversee the process, but students can still do the majority of the work.

  1. PTO-Sponsored Gift Shops—The PTO or sponsoring organization requests "low-cost" gift donations from families. Each item bears a "very affordable" cost (from $1 to $5), so that younger shoppers can buy gifts for family members at prices they can afford and still keep the surprise. Older students can volunteer to man the booth during lunch and free-time hours, with parents volunteering to work the booth in busier class hours.
  2. The sponsor sends each child home with an announcement detailing the gift shop booth days and times. Parents are instructed to send money for the child to use for gift buying in a sealed envelope labeled with the student's name, teacher's name, classroom number, and money amount enclosed. Younger students are given a special "appointment" time when they can take their money envelopes to the shop and select gifts with the assistance of adults or older students.
  3. Christmas Gift Wrap Service—Once the hassles of Christmas shopping are behind you, what could be worse than a huge stash of gifts needing to be wrapped? Wouldn't it be nice to deliver that mess to a special gift wrapping session, where you could have tea or coffee while you wait for your gifts to be wrapped, or drop off your stash for pickup later. Older students can itemize unwrapped gifts that parents drop off, wrap gifts while "customers" wait, wrap items left for wrapping, or coordinate pickup for the wrapped packages.
  4. Creating Face-Painting Fun—Perhaps your school has an annual festival or fair already. These events take an "all-out" effort with tons of parental involvement and take almost the entire year to plan. If your school has one of these festivities, you can have the most popular booth of the event by setting up a face-painting booth. If your school doesn't have an annual festival, you can still put this fund-raiser to work by making the face-painting booth part of your county fair or any local festival. All you need to get started is a handful of "artistic" student painters, a large display area to show customers your vast selection of face-adorning paintings, and lots and lots of face paint.
  • Advice
    You will need a reliable method to track who orders what, when the order is fulfilled, and when payment occurs.


Wanted: Adventurous Adult Volunteer     to top

If your school's staff is lucky enough to have a real "personality" as a teacher, coach, or faculty member, and that adult is an adventurous person, then you have a ready-made fund-raiser waiting to be recruited. Would your principal dye her hair neon pink for the day? Would your basketball coach be willing to get a "Mohawk" haircut? What outrageous thing can you think of that would cause students to get into their funds or collect contributions from others?

If you have a special adult willing to play along, set a contribution goal, and watch the dollars come in. Once the goal is met, prepare yourself for the reward event that students will remember for years to come. Ask a parent hair stylist to volunteer to do the hair design work—but make sure the fun happens in an assembly where students can "witness" the fun. Caution, however: you need an adult volunteer who doesn't mind being the star of the event and who can take the "fun" as well as dish it out. If you try this fund-raiser, it's guaranteed that pictures will make a big appearance in the yearbook, and if you want to sell pictures or videos, go for it.


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