How to Plan a Successful School Fundraiser from Start to Finish

Fundraising is a part of school life. Extra monies are needed for all sorts of things: supplies, computers, activities, travel, and even school infrastructure. Flying by the seat of your pants is not a great idea and disorganization can tank your efforts and alienate future volunteers or donors. Planning a successful school fundraiser requires some time and effort but is worth it.


First, consider who you are working with. You’ll have quite a mix of parents, teachers, community leaders, and students. Each group has unique abilities to add to your fundraising efforts. Brainstorm ideas for utilizing their strengths. 


What are the Steps to Holding a Successful School Fundraiser?


Form a fundraising committee 


This committee, made up of three to five  PTA/PTO members or other volunteers, will define the goals and objectives of the fundraiser. They will share the task of budgeting, brainstorming ideas, and task management.


Define the Goals and Objectives of the Fundraiser


Knowing your goals will help you decide what kind of fundraiser to have and help you plan. You’ll need to answer the following questions before you start:

  • Are you raising money for a specific cause or item?
  • How will the funds be used? Field trips, playground equipment, classroom supplies, tuition assistance, etc.?
  • How much money do you need to raise? School staff and executive board members will be able to help determine goals and budgeting.


Figure Out Your Budget


Your budget will help decide what kind of fundraiser you will be able to have and what resources you’ll be able to use, such as purchasing school fundraising software. Having a formal attire Gala isn’t as doable on a shoestring budget as say, a read-a-thon utilizing the library.

Choose a Type of Fundraiser to Meet Your Needs  



One of the best approaches to fundraising is to have multiple streams of income from different fundraising activities throughout the year. Sell school spirit items all year round and hold annual events a few times a year, such as wrapping paper sales before Christmas or a jog-a-thon in the spring.


When brainstorming fundraising ideas, remember your goals, budget, and resources. Some fundraisers require more volunteers, some are more profitable, while some are less hands-on. Certain school fundraisers get done so many times they become tedious. And some members of your planning committee might be better suited to one type of fundraiser over another. Putting their talents to good use is a wise choice.

creative school fundraisers


What Types of Fundraisers are there?


There are three main types of school fundraisers: product-based fundraisers, service-based fundraisers, and event-based fundraisers. Product-based fundraisers involve selling products like cookies. Service-based fundraisers involve providing a service like yard care or a car wash. Event-based fundraisers involve hosting events like a casino night or a fun run.


A very popular event-based fundraiser is a read-a-thon. Students raise money from sponsors by reading books. Students or entire classes get pledges from the community and track their reading in order to earn money for your organization. Read-a-thons are inclusive in that all ages and reading levels can take part. You can easily make accommodations for non-readers to listen to books on audio. 


readathon school fundraiser is a great way to get your kids to read more


ReadaFun has been running successful online Read-A-Thons since 2012. If you are interested in running a successful Read-A-Thon this year, feel free to contact us today! We would be more than happy to guide you through the process.


Set up a timeline for your fundraiser 


You do not want to conflict with another fundraiser! You also might want to piggyback onto a big event, such as the homecoming game/fundraiser for equipment for the team. You also want to make sure you’ll have the funds in time for whatever it is you need them for. In planning a timeline, you need to consider:


  • How long will this fundraiser take? Weeks? Months?
  • How and when will you promote it?
  • What and when is the kickoff event? (for events like a pledge drive)
  • When is the event day? (for events like a fun run or a bake sale)
  • When should all funds be turned in by?
  • When will you send out acknowledgments and thanks to donors and volunteers?


Coordinate volunteers 


You’ll want to send out parent volunteer forms early on in the year so you have a pool of potential volunteers to call upon. Your forms should include basic contact info and also availability, schedules, skills, and interests. Volunteers are the backbone of your efforts and need to be treated accordingly:


  • Communicate clearly
  • Follow up regularly
  • Delegate tasks wisely
  • Be kind and respectful
  • Acknowledge and thank them during and after the fundraiser


Use the right fundraising platform 


School fundraising software can increase your efficiency and save volunteer hours. For example, ReadaFun’s Reading-Raiser software makes organizing a Read-A-Thon simple for just one or two people and gives you 80% of funds raised, directly deposited into your account. Your organization will have access to research-based tools to help you increase participation and donation rates.

picture of cell phone with major social media platform icons



Promote your campaign


Nothing is more important than getting the word out about your fundraiser! How are you going to promote your event? When are you going to start? 

Make sure you use all the resources available to you, including:


  • Flyers, posters, and newsletters
  • Email blasts
  • School/PTO/PTA websites
  • Social media


One thing to look for in a school fundraising platform is the tools to use social media, texts, and email. Being able to simply send out a link to a student’s fundraising page and have the software take care of everything else is invaluable.


Getting a couple of people to volunteer for the social marketing team is a good idea. Automate as much of it as possible. Give instructions on how to best use contacts and social media with phrases like “share this post” or “like and comment” so that friends and family know how to best help. Just about everyone uses either email or social media (Meta, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter).


Make sure your emails and posts are fun, professional, and informative. Include contact information for your group so that people with questions know how to get in touch. Encourage parents to share the information and attached flyers with their contact list.



General Social Media Tips


Make sure your fundraising materials answer the questions of who, what, when, where, and why for your fundraiser. Add the “how” with a fundraiser URL or link to an online order form. Make sure all information is as shareable as possible so that participants can share and promote it on their own social media pages.


Always ask followers to repost and share with their own followers. Follow as many parents as possible and like and share their pertinent posts. Always state the fundraising goal and post periodic updates about progress. Encourage parents to share the same. Ask parents to share across all of their social media channels to maximize exposure.


Use Hashtags. Hashtags help make topics, or keywords, easy to find. If your parent group does not have its own list of hashtags, take a look at Best Hashtags for ideas. Search for #schoolfundraiser to see what tags are the most popular. Make a list of hashtags to share with participants and ask them to tag their own posts with them.


Just like with the fliers, use a colorful image or video to illustrate the fundraiser. Show what you are selling. Post a picture of those delectable cookies you’re offering or a video of kids reading books for a read-a-thon. You might also include a picture of what the fundraising efforts are for, such as a new shelf of books for the library or playground equipment. A picture does indeed speak a thousand words.


Remember to share the fundraiser URL or order form link. Most programs have student pages parents can share every time they post about the fundraiser. Remind them to include the school’s goal and keep their friends and family posted with progress updates.


Most fundraising companies have sharing tools. They make it simple to share student fundraising pages. They will often have product photos, sample posts, and other handy aids. Tell parents where to find them and how to use them. 


Contests and giveaways are also fun. Posting a question and selecting a winner from the respondents is a great way to increase clicks and comments on your posts, which increases visibility. You might give away samples to creative students who post funny sales videos. Offer a prize for the five kids who raise the most money – like a limo ride or something else they wouldn’t ordinarily experience.


It gets a little tough to manage several social media accounts. Think about using a social media management tool. Buffer is free for up to three channels, while Hootsuite, Loomly and SocialOomph offer free trials. This enables you to write posts ahead of time and schedule when they will go out. There are optimal days and times to post on social media for maximum visibility.

wooden blocks that say thank you


Saying Thanks!


When all is said and done, remember to acknowledge and thank volunteers, donors, participants, and anyone else who helped with the fundraiser. Keep everyone posted on the progress of what the funds were for. This will leave everyone with a positive feeling and help make them want to participate in the future.


A successful fundraiser will nurture relationships within the community that last beyond the initial event, building a network for future activities. Sharing a common goal unites the community and the school.


Wrap It Up!


Last, it is important to have a wrap-up meeting with your committee to discuss how the event went and what could be changed for the next time.


  • Did you raise what you needed to?
  • Did you stay within budget?
  • Were promotions sufficient?
  • Were participation levels where you wanted them?


Keeping good records for volunteers going forward is important, make sure you are consistent and thorough.


ReadaFun has been running successful online Read-A-Thons since 2012.

We are dedicated to making Read-A-Thon a successful and enjoyable experience for both schools and students. Our user-friendly platform provides the tools and resources needed to streamline the fundraising process, track reading progress, and facilitate secure online donations. With ReadaFun, PTO and PTA leaders can confidently organize a profitable Read-A-Thon that inspires students, empowers literacy, and leaves their community feeling proud and fulfilled. If you are interested in running a successful Read-A-Thon this year, feel free to contact us today! We would be more than happy to guide you through the process.

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