This was Big M’s first year at preschool. She goes to a partially co-operative school, which means, that we as parents contribute to the school beyond just sending our child every day and paying tuition. We give our time, signing up for required Parent of the Day sessions throughout the school year, and we give our talents. During the parent orientation meeting in August, parents are asked to sign up to volunteer for various committees, ranging from special events to room mothers and school fundraisers. In my past life, I raised money for hedge funds – fundraising sounded perfect. No one else joined me – what did the rising 4’s parents know that I didn’t? How hard could school fundraisers be?
Asking people for money can be awkward. But the truth is, school fundraising can actually be a lot of fun. You have a captive audience to pitch to who all share a common interest of bettering their children’s school. The difficult part is expanding the source of available contributors beyond just the school families to maximize potential funds raised, and not exhaust the school family’s resources.
Keys to Success
Pairing a semester in the role of School Fundraising Chair, with my past professional fundraising experience, I have a few tips to make fundraising for schools most effective.
Outline a Concrete Goal
At the outset of the year, sit down with your school’s leadership (PTA, Principal, Director, Board, etc.) and ask what the school wants to raise money for. Be specific – both in description of what you are fundraising for and how much you are trying to raise. When you fund raise, you need a pitch – everyone wants to know what their contributions are going towards. “We are aiming to raise $10,000 to update the playground equipment at our school!” garners far more attention, than “Would you like to donate to Springfield Day School?”
Setting a goal and promoting it across the student body also creates common purpose and community. Hang a poster in the main foyer clearly stating the goal, and tracking funds raised to date. In every fundraiser announcement, remind parents and students of the goal and how much they have raised so far, cheering everyone on!
Solicit Talent, Ideas from School Family
Don’t be wedded to the same fundraisers annually. Every year, new families join the school. They may have great fundraising ideas from their prior experiences. Across the school family, there are likely local business owners who would happily donate their products or services for fundraising… the lower your costs for products, the more you net for your school. One of our school’s most successful fundraisers this year so far was with a local bakery, owned by the grandfather of one of our students. We sold pies for Thanksgiving, and he generously donated a sizable percentage of the sales back to the school.
Set a Calendar of Events
After setting the fundraising goal and soliciting input from the school community, create a calendar of events for the year. It doesn’t have to be completely fixed but having a general outline will help you plan and solicit additional volunteers for events, should you need them. It also lets parents know how many events you plan to have over the course of the year vs. just a surprise, “Hey, we’re asking for money again!” note in their inbox every 3-4 weeks.
Parents and friends are more willing to contribute when they know the collection plate is only being passed 5-6 times during the year, where they may be more tight with their purse strings if they don’t know what else is coming down the pipe. One thing I have also learned is EVERY school has fundraisers, so as the community preschool, we also have to be cognizant that older siblings at the local elementary schools are coming home asking for checks and hosting events regularly too.
Lastly, plotting out the year will help you set a fundraising target for each event to ultimately reach your annual goal. Note that it can be far more effective to concentrate on fewer, more lucrative events, than having a fundraiser every 2 weeks. By spreading them out over the school year, one event every 1-2 months, you won’t inundate families with requests.
Offer a Product People Want with High Margin to School
How many times has a child come to your door selling candy bars or magazine subscriptions? Aside from the safety concerns that raises in today’s world, how much money is a school raising off a $2 candy bar, and how many do you actually have to sell to meet your goal? Part of the success of our pie fundraiser was that people LOVE pies at Thanksgiving, and given it was a school family’s business, the margin to the school was great. Parents, grandparents, neighbors, friends, the teachers – everyone bought pies.
Our other most lucrative fundraiser this year was with Yankee Candle Fundraising. As the best selling candle brand in the country, it’s a great product everyone loves. The fundraiser sells candles at the same price as they retail for in stores, and Yankee Candle donates 40% of the sales back to the school. You can even coordinate an online only sale, where buyers just have to enter your school’s code on the fundraising site, the product ships directly to their address, and your school still gets 40% of the proceeds.
Attract the Broader Community
One of the easiest ways to increase the potential of a fundraiser is to attract the broader community beyond just the families at your school. This is especially important when you are part of a small school like we are… We have just over 20 children in our school across the 3s and 4s programs, and with multiples in the 4s program, that’s even fewer families. All our families are already paying tuition and giving of their time and talents, so to then ask them to pony up $20+ here and there every month or so to contribute to school fundraising gets a bit repetitive, and doesn’t raise a whole lot of money.
Selling a popular product is one easy way to attract interest from the broader community. Another way is to host a family-friendly event and invite the local community to participate as well. Not only is the increase in attendance a great way to raise funds for the school, it also helps promote the school’s name within the community. Our school hosts a Breakfast with Santa each December, and opens the invitation to not only school families, but their extended families, friends and the local community.
School Fundraisers: Ideas and Resources
Remember my tip from above: focus on products people want that net a high margin back to your school. A popular product, with high margin to your school, and a high price point is the ideal combination. Most of the resources below offer 40-60% margins to the participating school.
- Yankee Candle Fundraising
- Innisbrook Fundraising Programs
- Gift Wrap
- Cookie Dough
- Back-to-School Pre-Packaged School Supplies
- Coupon Books
- Spirit Wear – school shirts, sweatshirts, hats, mugs, etc.
- Book Fairs
Partner with Local Businesses
Local businesses are usually more then happy to support local schools. They see it as an opportunity to promote their brand to their local audience. There are lots of different opportunities depending on the businesses in your area.
- Partner with local bakery for pie, baked good sales for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter
- Partner with a local florist or farm for flower sales at Christmas (poinsettias, wreaths), Valentine’s, Easter and Mother’s Day
- Partner with a local boutique for Mom’s Night Out – a percentage of sales made from the evening go to your school, and have all the school moms invite their girlfriends to attract a broader community
- Partner with a local restaurant for a School’s Night Out – a percentage of sales made from the evening go to your school, and the restaurant gets a full house for the night
- Partner with a local farm or farmer’s market to have your school’s own CSA
Host a Family-Friendly Event
Events are nice as fundraisers because while you are charging admission, and potentially soliciting money in other ways (pledges, silent auctions, raffles, event donations), you are also providing entertainment and a service in exchange for it. The possibilities here are really endless, but it does require careful planning, coordination, lots of volunteers and management of costs to make sure you maximize funds ultimately raised for the school. Events should always include food and beverages (for free or purchase), children’s entertainment, and additional fundraising opportunities beyond admission: donation box, silent auction or raffle, or photographs with a special guest or character.
- Holiday or Seasonal Carnivals
- Thanksgiving Feast
- Breakfast with Santa, Frosty or the Easter Bunny
- Father-Daughter / Mother-Son Dance
- Trike-A-Thon or Bike Rodeo – students collect pledges for laps ridden or events completed
- Read-A-Thon – students collect pledges per book read over the month, year
- Magic or Puppet Show
One last fun idea that nets 100% profit to your school – Coin Wars. We are currently running this fundraiser at our preschool now for the month of February. It’s a great way to introduce young children to the concept of money, and perfect for timing around President’s Day as well.
Get the full set up and download a FREE printable fundraiser bundle, including a flyer and flashcards to teach your preschooler about money.
What fundraisers have you participated in for your school or community? What raised the most money for your school? If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy our Financially Savvy Friday series, covering family finance topics to help you find financial freedom.