Article by Laura Newcomer
If you’re a teacher or administrator at a school, then your hands are full every day. Between managing student needs and working to provide stellar educational opportunities, working in a school is often more than a full-time job.
Which means fundraising might be the last thing on your mind.
Nevertheless, fundraising benefits all kinds of schools—from elementary through high school and from public to private institutions.
If you’re looking for fundraising ideas for schools without running yourself ragged (and without having to wash a single car), consider any of the following effective and unique school fundraisers.
Unique School Fundraisers that Work
High School Fundraising Events
Battle of the Bands
As far as high school creative fundraising ideas go, this staple of many coming-of-age stories doesn’t get old. Aspiring musicians and music lovers of all ages will flock to this event, where you can charge both a registration fee (for participating bands) and a ticket fee (for everyone who’s excited to listen to the bands play).
Consider inviting local celebrity judges to attract more people to the event. You can also up the fundraising ante with sales of refreshments, shirts, and other event memorabilia.
If you’ve spent any time in front of a TV recently, then you know cooking shows are all the rage. Capitalize on that trend by bringing a “Top Chef”-style cooking competition to your high school.
Students, teachers, and/or parents can pay a fee to register to compete, and participants can pay to watch the competition. Plan to bring in local celebrity judges to make the event even more enticing.
Food Truck Fundraiser
Your high school can hop aboard the food truck trend—and enjoy some delicious food in the process—with a food truck fundraiser. The idea is to invite as many food trucks as possible to your high school for a food truck event (read: eating extravaganza). In exchange for access to your school community, participating food truck vendors can donate a set percentage of their profits from the event.
Parents’ Night Out
Parents will line up at your door to pay for babysitting by qualified high school students. You have two options for what comes next: Either send parents on their way (and let them know when they need to be back to pick up their kids!) or plan an event for them at the school complete with refreshments, entertainment, and perhaps a raffle. In the latter case, make sure you increase the ticket price accordingly.
Electronic waste is a major environmental issue. Your school can minimize this waste—and raise funds in the process—by running an electronics recycling drive. Partner with an organization (such as Planet Green Recycle) that collects recycled electronics. Ask students and their families to donate used ink cartridges, phones, and other small electronics, and then send in the donations in exchange for a check.
Inspire students to do good in their communities while raising money for your school! During a serve-a-thon, students pick a local volunteer opportunity and then raise funds from their friends and families to support their efforts. Consider setting up students with online fundraising pages to make fundraising as easy and appealing as possible.
Middle School Fundraising Events
Chess is the world’s most popular board game, so odds are good there are chess aficionados in your community just itching for the chance to showcase their skills at a chess tournament. Charge participants an entry fee and consider serving refreshments at an additional cost.
If you have a lot of participants, consider breaking them up into brackets so the tournament runs more efficiently. Be sure to group players according to their experience levels so newbies don’t get eviscerated in the first round. The last player standing (er, sitting) wins a prize.
Put a new twist on an old fundraiser idea by hosting a neon run (or walk). Instead of asking participants to sweat it out during the heat of the day, neon runs, or glow runs, take place at night so people can show off all of their (you guessed it!) reflective neon. Participants pay an entry fee and should also be encouraged to raise additional funds from their networks.
Hand out glow sticks, neon vests, and glow-in-the-dark balloons to help people feel festive and locate each other in the dark. Make sure the route is very well marked and take appropriate safety precautions!
A favorite of middle school students everywhere, this fundraising idea involves getting the principal to commit to doing something bombastic if students reach a certain fundraising goal. Dying his or her hair green? Wearing a clown costume to work? Completing the ice bucket challenge? The options are endless! Involve students in the challenge selection process to increase participation.
This one is great for students’ brains and for your school’s bottom line. Encourage students to recruit parents, family members, and other people from their social networks to pledge a donation for every page or book they read. Then, challenge students to compete for the most pages/books read. The most voracious reader wins a grand prize—but really, everyone is a winner when people read!
The popularity of good old-fashioned spelling bees seems to know no bounds. Enhance learning and raise funds by recruiting student participants and then charging a ticket fee for the spelling bee competition. You could also encourage students to find sponsors who will donate a certain amount for every word students spell correctly.
Elementary School Fundraising Events
Arts & Crafts Sale
Put an elementary school twist on a high-art concept with an arts and crafts sale. Drum up student excitement for the arts by letting them know their creations will soon be on display. Then, invite parents and community members to the arts and crafts show/sale, where they can purchase children’s creations.
To minimize expenses, consider asking local art supply stores to donate some of the materials.
Looking for elementary school fundraising ideas that work? Get food involved! Rare is the person who doesn’t like pancakes, so you’ll find no shortage of participants (or volunteers!) for a pancake breakfast. Hold the event on a weekend when parents and community members are more likely to have free time in the morning.
It’s also helpful to come up with a special “gimmick” to make breakfast even more appealing. Anyone up for trying to create a Guinness Book of World Records-worthy pancake?
Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament
Invite students, families, and community members to a (not so) cutthroat tournament in the form of a rock, paper, scissors competition. Charge a buy-in fee to each participant. Then pair off participants and let the winner of two out of three games move on from each coupling.
Participants who want a second chance can buy their way back in for an additional entrance fee, and the last player standing wins a prize. Consider serving refreshments for an added cost.
Many primary school fundraising ideas are a great way to bring your community together. Inviting school families and community members to a warm-weather picnic is a great way to gather locals and encourage everyone to enjoy some fresh air. And raising funds is the icing on the cake!
Choose a pleasant locale, get any necessary permits, ask local establishments to donate food and drinks, and then charge families an entrance free. To ramp up the fundraising even more, consider hosting a raffle at the picnic.
Few things are cuter than watching little kids dress up in costumes and try to remember their lines. So get rehearsing and start marketing the affair!
Encourage parents, families, and community members to attend the play for a ticket fee. Serve refreshments before the play and during intermission to increase the amount of funds raised.
This is a simple way to raise money and reduce your school community’s eco-footprint. The idea behind a shoe drive fundraiser is to ask students, families, and community members to bring in gently used or unworn shoes. Then, donate the shoes to an organization (such as Funds2Orgs), which will repurpose the shoes and cut your school a check.
Snowperson Building and/or Ice Carving Competition
Kids, parents, and community members alike will get excited about this wintry competition. Charge an entrance fee for would-be participants, and then invite people to compete in different categories of snowperson building and/or ice carving.
Divide up the competition by age bracket to keep things fair. And consider inviting local celebrity judges to create more interest (even if they’re not professional ice carvers).
What Are the Most Profitable Fundraisers?
If you’ve ever wondered how to organize high-profit fundraisers for schools, the ideas on this list are a great place to start. But remember: It’s not just about choosing school fundraisers that make the most money. Select an event you think will be both fun to plan and fun to attend—which means it will be easy to attract an audience of willing donors.
Whether you work for an elementary, middle, or high school, use this list of fundraising ideas to raise money to enable you to continue providing your students with exceptional learning and growing opportunities. And remember to appreciate yourself for everything you already do for our future leaders!