The Do’s and Don’ts of Running a School Fundraiser

In today’s economy, extracurricular activities and other school needs are often given short shrift in the budget. Instead, it is up to activity leaders, parents, and students to raise money. Things like materials, equipment, scholarships, or even new facilities all take money. School fundraisers often make up for budgetary shortfalls. Planners need to be aware of the do’s and don’ts of running a school fundraiser.

School fundraising is sponsored by a school or a school district for a specific purpose. Organizers will plan and execute activities or events to raise money. Fundraising labor is mostly provided by parents, PTO/PTA groups, and community volunteers. Fundraisers can be big events like dances, field trips, or things like merchandise sales. Fundraising also includes activities like a readathon or even a simple donation page on the school website. 

Whichever method you are going to use to raise money, running a successful school fundraiser has some important do’s and don’ts to follow

Do Set Clear Goals and Objectives 


One of the most important parts of running a school fundraiser is planning. Set clear goals and objectives for your school’s fundraiser. Defining the purpose of the fundraiser and the target amount will help you decide what kind of fundraiser you need. How are the funds going to be used? How much money do you need to raise? Building a new facility is a lot different than funding a classroom trip.

Goals need to be realistic. Mrs. Johnson’s kindergarten class can realistically raise money for new books, but probably not for a new school mini-gym. Align your school fundraiser’s goals with the needs of the school or program.

Do Plan Ahead


How long do you have to raise the money and what milestones will you look to achieve along the way? You’ll need to figure these things out, create a committee, and assign responsibilities. Many hands make light work, as they say, and spreading out responsibilities will prevent burnout.



Who are the stakeholders for this fundraiser? Involve as many people with a vested interest in the outcome of this fundraiser as possible. Teachers, staff, parents, and students. All of them have a different perspective and bring their own strengths to the table.

While you’re in the planning stages, find out if fundraising is allowed or if there is a limit on fundraising events. There are also local, state, and federal laws to consider. Make sure you are familiar with fundraising protocols for your area.


Do Choose the Right Fundraising Idea


In your planning sessions, make sure you consider the interests and preferences of the school community. Evaluate whether your fundraising idea is workable and how much profit it will make. Some fundraisers are just not a good fit and don’t do well. Raffling a surfboard in a landlocked state, say, might not garner much interest.

Some questions to start with in your discussion are:

  • How much do you need in funds?
  • What events can you have? 
  • What products, services, or activities can you use to raise money?
  • What funds are going to go where?

Some ideas for fundraising are:

  • Sell treats – everyone loves something yummy
  • Sell fun things or things people need, like gift cards
  • Have fun events

Sometimes, an online fundraiser is your best option. Use an online auction or a donation page. Crowdfunding is an option, too!


image of man using credit card to purchase something on his laptop


Using an online fundraising platform will streamline your process and make things easier for you to manage. For example, setting up a readathon through ReadaFun enables you to set up the fundraiser according to your needs. You choose dates, goals, incentives, and more to customize your experience. 

Another thing to consider is sending out a survey to find out what the school community would like to see in a fundraiser. There might be some great ideas out there!

Do Communicate Effectively


Once you’ve clarified your goals and methods, organized your team, and gotten the go-ahead, you’ll need to communicate. What is the fundraiser’s purpose? How will funds be used? Getting this information to your team, volunteers, and school administrators is the next step. Use multiple communication channels. Text, email, social media, and project management apps are all different ways to get the word out effectively and efficiently.



When designing your communications, remember the basics. Include Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why. Use visuals when possible. Add testimonials and success stories to engage your audience and encourage participation.

Do Engage the School Community


A small group of parents and staff cannot pull off a large school fundraiser on their own. Involve parents, teachers, and students in the fundraising effort. Encourage active community participation and support. Use kick-off events to get interest started. Create fun volunteer opportunities. You’ll find you have a strong cadre of willing volunteers when you have a smoothly run and rewarding fundraiser. Remember, your fundraiser ultimately benefits the community.

The long-term benefits of building a supportive and active community through fundraising cannot be overstated. Look forward to increased engagement, stronger community relationships, a supportive network, sustained financial support, an increased volunteer pool, a positive reputation, and an enhanced student experience. 


Do Offer Attractive Incentives


One of the biggest complaints children have about school fundraisers is the junky rewards they receive. Providing meaningful rewards for participants goes a long way toward motivating them. Each person is motivated differently, so providing a varied range of incentives is a good idea. Some people like recognition certificates and prizes; others like experiences like a limo ride or privileges like a special seat.

Recognition of donors and volunteers is also important. Make recognition tailored to who you are working with. Participation awards, as well as for achievement, are a nice touch.


Do Track and Manage Finances


Part of the planning phase was setting up a committee and assigning responsibilities. One of those tasks is to maintain accurate records of income and expenses. You absolutely must be transparent and accountable in order to prevent errors and misuse of funds.


raise money with a unique school fundraiser


One method of implementing accountability is to have more than one person sign off on the records. Never give only one person access to the finances.

Regular meetings where the financials are discussed are also a good idea. Performing regular audits will keep records accurate.


The Don’ts of Running a School Fundraiser


In addition to covering the essential “do’s” of running a school fundraiser, it is equally important to address the “don’ts” that should be avoided. By understanding and avoiding these pitfalls, organizers can ensure a smooth and successful fundraising experience for their school community. Let’s explore the key “don’ts” that will help you navigate your school fundraiser effectively.

Don’t Have Fundraisers Too Often


One thing which will tire the community out very quickly is excessive fundraising. You are asking parents, teachers, and community members to give their time, money, and effort. Strive for a balanced approach. You want to prevent donor fatigue and decreased volunteer participation.

Determine an appropriate frequency for fundraisers with a simple survey of the community at the beginning of the school year. Find out who is available and when. Ask for volunteer information to contact parents over the school year.

Make sure you are not running fundraisers at the same time as other groups in your community. Assign someone on your committee the task of coordinating with other groups to make sure this doesn’t happen.


Don’t Rely Solely on Traditional Methods


Let’s face it. We’ve all been to one bake sale too many. When you get together with your planning committee, explore new and innovative fundraising ideas. Try a new online trend or revamp an old one. Embracing technology will help streamline your process and increase your reach. Speaking of increasing your reach, make sure you know how to promote your school fundraiser efficiently without relying only on traditional methods.



Online platforms, virtual events, social media campaigns, and new partnerships with local businesses are all ways to breathe fresh air into a fundraiser.


Don’t Overlook Legal and Safety Considerations


Make sure you research local regulations and permits. Your city, county, state and federal governments all have policies on fundraising. Make it someone’s task to ensure your group is following them all. Ensure the safety of participants and volunteers and don’t take risks.

Provide a checklist or guidance on ensuring compliance with local, state, and federal laws. Discuss the potential consequences of disregarding legal and safety considerations, such as legal penalties or reputational damage. Ensure everyone is on the same page and understands.


Avoid Excessive Pressure or Coercion


No one likes a hard sell. Respect the boundaries of participants and potential donors. If someone says they cannot fit something in or aren’t comfortable with it, do not pressure or guilt them. 

Personalize your outreach and showcase the benefits of fundraisers as well as the importance of good participation. Choose some eager people within the organization to be “ambassadors” for the fundraiser. Make participation as convenient as possible.

Don’t beg donors. Make it easy for them to give but leave it up to them. Encourage voluntary participation and contributions.


Don’t Forget to Express Gratitude!


Regardless of the outcome of the fundraiser, thank donors and volunteers sincerely. Show appreciation for the collective effort of those involved as well as recognizing individual participation.


wooden blocks that say thank you


A well-planned and well-run fundraiser is a tremendous asset to any school program. Aside from financial benefits, your organization will earn community goodwill. Make your fundraiser innovative and fun, and make sure it isn’t impinging on other fundraising efforts. Gauge your participants and your donors. Reap the benefits of a motivated and enthusiastic participant population. Remember to always say thank you to both participants and donors.


Let’s Summarize 


In summary, running and planning a successful school fundraiser requires careful planning, effective communication, and engagement from the school community. By following the do’s and don’ts outlined in this article, you can confidently navigate the fundraising process and achieve your goals. Remember, the success of a fundraiser goes beyond financial gains — it builds a supportive community and enhances the student experience. If you’re interested in organizing a successful Read-A-Thon this year, ReadaFun is here to help

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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