It’s easy to tire of the same old fundraisers, year after year. It’s hard to bring life back into your fundraising program when you all have a lifetime supply of the product you sold for the product fundraiser last year in storage in your garage. There are types of fundraisers that are more popular, successful, or profitable than others. Sometimes you just crave the novelty of doing something unique.
In today’s economic climate, more than ever, financial pressure on schools is intense. Parent-teacher organizations have to come up with more money and stretch their dollars further than ever before. It is difficult to judge which fundraisers to continue as a cherished tradition and which to drop in favor of a new one. With technology and a little creativity, the sky’s the limit as far as the scope of a fundraiser these days.
School fundraising provides monies for things like school supplies, extracurricular activities, sports teams, and academic programs. Our PTO raises funds for teacher appreciation week, technology equipment, books, and classroom supplies. Often, an after-school activity owes its existence to tireless fundraising in the background. Fundraising helps fill in the many gaps in publicly funded budgets.
Fundraising events can provide valuable learning opportunities for students. Depending on the age of the student, fundraising can provide real-world skills they can carry forth into life. Skills such as teamwork, project management, and entrepreneurship are all taught by fundraising. Students can play an active role in planning and implementing a fundraiser. By having more responsibility for the fundraiser, students will also be more invested in the outcome.
Students, parents, teachers, and members of the local community come together during fundraisers for a common cause. This fosters a sense of community involvement and school spirit. Parents and community members donate their time, expertise, and efforts to the fundraiser, while teachers provide guidance and support to students. Schools and communities work together toward a common goal and gain a sense of accomplishment from their collective efforts.
What Makes a Fundraiser Successful?
Everyone involved in a fundraiser wants it to be successful. A good fundraiser meets or exceeds its financial goals and leaves participants feeling positive about themselves and the event. Making sure participants are engaged and motivated to do well is crucial. Even if your fundraiser doesn’t quite meet its financial goals, if participants feel proud of their efforts, you can consider it a win because they will answer the call for the next fundraiser that much more readily.
There are several facets involved in making sure your fundraiser succeeds:
- Determine Your Goals – how much money do you need to raise? How much participation do you need? How much time do you have? What time of year will you be fundraising? Who will be in charge of what? Where will you hold the fundraiser?
- Choose the Right Event – don’t choose a sales event right after the holidays while everyone is paying their bills! What resources are involved? Do you have a large enough volunteer base? For example, a couple of people can organize a read-a-thon and run it seamlessly with a fundraising platform like Read-A-Fun, whereas a jog-a-thon usually requires many volunteers.
- Secure Sponsors – gaining community sponsors is an enormous help and takes the pressure off of individuals. Sponsors matching donations is a great way to motivate participants. Nurturing a good relationship with sponsors will pay off for years to come.
- Create an Engaging Experience – use social media to create the most engaging experience for participants. Are people happy with how the fundraiser is? Do you have the desired amount of participation? Most importantly, is it fun?
- Market, Market, Market – use posters, flyers, email, texts, social media, the local news, whatever it takes to get the word out!
- Assess Your Results – always evaluate your fundraiser and plan for the next one to make it easier next time! Thank old supporters and cultivate new ones. Ask yourself if you met your goals. Did you stay under budget? Did your marketing work? Did more people participate than expected? Who signed up/donated online versus in person?
What Makes a Unique School Fundraiser?
Although the school year might seem like an endless round of fundraisers, it’s really not. Fundraisers are unique to one another in purpose, target audience, methods used, timing, and incentives offered. What makes one fundraiser stand out from another is creativity.
Each fundraiser has a unique purpose, such as raising funds for a specific cause, organization, or event. Sometimes our PTO raises funds for school supplies, and sometimes it’s for teacher appreciation week. One purpose will appeal more to people than another. Remind people of past fundraising successes for those purposes and get them excited to support them again.
Fundraisers may target different audiences, such as donors who are interested in a specific cause or event, or businesses who want to support a particular organization. Fundraisers for the football team are going to appeal to people who like football and support school sports. It may be much more tricky to raise funds for an after-school knitting club, which involves far fewer students and specialized interests.
Fundraisers can use different methods to raise funds, such as online school fundraisers, campaigns, direct mail, events, door-to-door, or auctions. The specific methods used can make one fundraiser stand out from another. Our Junior Civitan club in high school used to go door to door, asking for one neighbor to donate an egg and selling it to the next. A big fundraiser for our local youth orchestra is selling and putting together farolitos, paper bags with sand and candles in them, to light up walkways for the holidays.
The creative elements of a fundraiser can make it unique, such as a catchy slogan, a creative theme, or an interesting promotional video. Fundraisers need a theme to rally behind. A strong theme resonates with donors and participants. A good theme can give a fundraiser a unique identity and help distinguish it from other fundraising efforts. Catchy slogans are memorable and help people remember the fundraiser. Just like merchandise, creative advertising for your fundraiser will make it stand out.
People appreciate unique donor incentives, such as exclusive merchandise, access to special events, or recognition in a program or on a donor wall. Creative participation incentives can also increase engagement. One year, the top four fundraisers earned a limo ride to school, which really excited the students. For another fundraiser, parents purchased commemorative student-made tiles in the school’s entryway, which are still a source of pride years later.
The timing of a fundraiser can also make it unique, such as holding a fundraising event during a specific holiday or season. Selling holiday wrapping paper would logically be a good fundraiser before the holidays. Try to make your fundraiser the only one of its kind during a specific time period. By taking advantage of seasonal trends, current events, and the timing of other similar events, you can maximize your chances of getting those donations.
Here Are the Top Five Most Unique School Fundraiser Ideas We’ve Found
- “Parent-Student Cook-Off”: Host a cooking competition between parents and students where each team creates a unique dish. Participants can ask for donations from friends and family to support their team, and the winning team can receive a prize. The event can also feature food tastings, a silent auction, and other fundraising activities.
- “Auction of Promises”: This is a unique idea where people can bid on promises made by volunteers. For example, a volunteer can promise to cook dinner for the highest bidder or offer a weekend of babysitting. All the money raised can go towards the school’s fundraising goal. This fundraiser promotes community and parent participation and can be held virtually.
- “Junkyard Wars”: This is a creative fundraiser where students and teachers can create art sculptures out of recycled materials. The sculptures can then be displayed and auctioned off to raise money for the school. Promoting art in the community as well as fundraising, is a win-win.
- “Wax Museum”: This fundraiser involves students and teachers dressing up as historical figures and giving a brief presentation about their life and accomplishments. Visitors can make a donation to see the presentations, and all the money raised can go towards the school’s fundraising goal. This is a terrific way to integrate social studies with school fundraising. This fundraiser can be in person or virtual with a little maneuvering.
- “Trivia Night”: This is a fun and engaging fundraiser where students, parents, and teachers can take part in a trivia competition. Participants pay an entry fee, and all the money raised can go towards the school’s fundraising goal. It promotes learning and family participation. You can hold this fundraiser virtually.
There are many creative ways to fundraise for schools beyond the traditional bake sales and car washes. By engaging students, parents, and community members in fun and exciting activities, schools can raise money for important programs and initiatives while building a sense of community and school spirit. Whether it’s a parent-student cook-off, an auction of promises, junkyard art wars, a wax museum, or trivia night, there are many options available to schools looking to raise funds in unique and memorable ways.
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.