How to Start a Successful School Fundraiser – Tips and Tricks All Pros Use

how to start a successful school fundraiser

School fundraising is important to the survival of many school programs and activities. In some schools, fundraising supports students and classrooms directly. A successful fundraiser can keep a program going for another year and provide a beneficial experience for students. 


School fundraising is more nuanced than just supplementing a school budget. Fundraising also builds connections between the school and the community. Participating in a school fundraiser is beneficial to students, volunteers, and the community. Students learn responsibility, how to work with others, and business skills. Sometimes, all it takes is finding a way to encourage student participation in school fundraising. Don’t worry; we have a whole separate article written on that topic! Now, let’s talk about tips for starting a successful school fundraiser.

Set the Foundation


Setting the foundation for your school fundraiser is the most important step. Just like building a house, you want to make sure you’re on solid ground. 


Make sure you understand the specific needs of the school. Why are you raising funds? Work with school and program administrators to find out what their needs are. 


how to start a school fundraiser


Set realistic and achievable targets–it isn’t likely that one fundraiser will fund a new mini-gym for your elementary school, but it can help work towards achieving that goal. 


Form a dedicated fundraising committee from school personnel, teachers, PTO members, parents and even students! Members of this committee will need to be dedicated and passionate.  Assign roles and responsibilities within the committee. Sharing the load equitably is important to prevent burnout.


Choose the right fundraising idea by exploring various fundraising options. Do you want to go with traditional sorts of fundraisers, like school fairs, bake sales, and car washes? Or do you want to take a more modern approach with online crowdfunding and virtual events? Brainstorm ideas with your committee, canvass the school for student opinions, and plan it out.


Here is a list of some of the most profitable fundraising ideas, as well as the most unique fundraisers:


  1. Sell gift cards
  2. Pancake breakfast
  3. Car wash–an oldie but goodie!
  4. Bake sale
  5. Raffles
  6. Art Auction
  7. Talent Show
  8. School fair with booths for individual school clubs
  9. Pajama Day
  10. Parent’s Night Out
  11. Shoe Drive
  12. Backpack Drive
  13. Selling School Merchandise
  14. Selling Popcorn
  15. Selling Tickets for a Fun Event
  16. Jogathon
  17. Book Fairs
  18. On-site fundraising at school events
  19. Match or in-kind donation
  20. And our favorite, Read-A-Thons!


Assess your target audience and community. Tailor the fundraiser to match the interests and preferences of the community. Another big point to consider is the timing and seasonality of the fundraiser. A winter fun-run might not be the best option, given the weather constraints. A Read-A-Thon, on the other hand, can be done any time of year! If you would like to learn more about other Read-A-Thon benefits, make sure to check out our other article


tips on how to start a successful school fundraiser


Plan, Plan, Plan!


Plan your fundraiser. Develop a comprehensive fundraising plan with a timeline with key milestones. Develop SMART–Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely–goals. SMART goals are more likely to be met. By following SMART guidelines, you ensure that your fundraising goals are realistic. 


  • be specific and detailed about your goal.


  • make sure you can measure your goal – x amount of money, x amount of new donors, x amount of engagement on communications, etc.


  • The sky’s the limit is not the approach to take here. Make sure your goal is something your organization can achieve. Knowing past performance is helpful here.


  • make sure your fundraising goal relates to your organization’s overall goal.


  • make sure your goal is fundraising for the right thing at the right time of year. Fundraise for activities that are coming up, not past.


Read more about the importance of setting realistic fundraising goals.


This is also the budgeting and financial planning stage. Make sure your fundraiser doesn’t cost more to run than it will make! Evaluate the cost of materials, marketing, venue space and so on. Many times businesses will donate a lot of the necessities as their contribution so factor that in. 


The Legalities


Many people do not consider the legal requirements when they plan a fundraiser. Start out right by securing the necessary approvals and permissions. Coordinate with school administrators and relevant authorities and familiarize yourself with legal requirements. Ensure compliance with school policies and regulations as well as local, state and national laws, if applicable.


For more on planning a successful fundraiser, check out How to Plan a Successful School Fundraiser from Start to Finish.


tricks for starting a successful fundraiser


Marketing and Promotion


One of the most fun parts of running a fundraiser is marketing and promotion. You might be wondering, what are the best ways to promote your school fundraiser? The answer is simple! Use the creativity of your committee members and school community to come up with ideas. Utilize multiple channels for promotion. Word of mouth, social media campaigns, mailers, emails, flyers, posters, announcements within the school community are all good ways to get the word out. Organize informational meetings or presentations. Send student ambassadors to classrooms to talk about the fundraiser. Enlist your local paper or news if you can.


Engage the community by involving students, parents, and teachers. Organize volunteer opportunities. Encourage active participation and support. Keeping the community involved will foster a sense of involvement and ownership. By collaborating with local businesses and sponsors, you will build partnerships for additional support both in time and effort and financially.


Whenever you discuss the fundraiser, highlight the cause you’re raising money for and its impact on the school and community. It’s not just about the money. Communicate the purpose of the fundraiser and show the benefits for the school.  


Good planning will help prepare you for the actual fundraising event. Communication and planning will ensure smooth logistics and operations. Just remember, even the best laid plans go awry. Have contingency plans in place for small emergencies.


Provide ongoing communication and updates between volunteers and the school community. Keep interest going by sharing progress with participants and the community at large. Seeing progress can be very motivating.

Wrapping It Up


Don’t forget to express gratitude and acknowledge contributors. A successful event takes the effort of every single volunteer and they should feel appreciated. Send thank-you notes and recognize individuals and companies for their contributions. Share the impact and outcomes of the fundraiser as well, so contributors know what they accomplished.


tips and tricks for successful school fundraiser


Another very important part of running a successful fundraiser is conducting a post-event evaluation. Analyze your successes and areas that could be improved. Document lessons learned for future reference. Make sure there is a binder (or electronic files) with all the necessary information, as well as spreadsheets and other tools for next time.


In Conclusion


Starting up a successful fundraiser does not have to be mysterious or overly difficult. What it does have to have is good planning and participation. Set the stage for your fundraiser by laying a good foundation. Create a committee of people who are actively interested in your fundraiser to help you plan and execute it. Together, explore your options for fundraising, keeping your specific community and school in mind. Play to the strengths of the individuals you have helping you and set attainable targets. Together, you can do it!


At ReadaFun, we are dedicated to making fundraising using Read-A-Thons 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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