Successful fundraising strategies that work in the classroom
Schools often need fundraising to give students access to the materials, resources, and opportunities they need to thrive academically. However, fundraising can be stressful and exhausting, especially if you feel you’re doing it alone. Getting students involved could be the key to holding a successful fundraiser. But how do you make sure your students want to get involved?
As you create your fundraising plan for the school year, keep your strategies student-centered to help teach them important social lessons. This firsthand learning experience allows them to see the power of philanthropy at work. Plus, you’ll raise the necessary revenue to help your school reach its fundraising goals with the extra help from students and parents.
In this guide, we will explore three major categories of school fundraising and offer specific fundraising ideas within each category:
- Donations and Drives
- Virtual and Hybrid Fundraisers
- Games and Competitions
While there are dozens of school fundraising ideas on the internet, not all are designed with students in mind. So, choose a fundraiser that balances student engagement, fundraising potential, and realistic expectations for your school’s fundraising team.
Donations and Drives
Fundraising drives are among the most common school fundraising ideas used to bring much-needed funds and supplies into classrooms. Drives are a great choice for increasing student involvement because they are typically easy to contribute to, meaning students make a visible difference. While classic fundraisers like bake sales are always promising, switching to a fundraising idea with a fresh new twist could yield higher engagement and revenue.
1. Shoe Drive Fundraiser
Shoe drive fundraisers are classroom-friendly, unique fundraisers that can help capture your students’ attention. Not only are shoe drive fundraisers effective at raising revenue for your cause, but they also help students and their families declutter their closets.
Most importantly, you can easily pull off when you work with a fundraising coordinator. For example, your school could partner with Funds2Orgs to give your students’ footwear new life by passing the shoes to small business owners in developing nations. With a dedicated team to help you, you won’t have to worry about logistical details like shipping the shoes or creating your collection materials.
Here’s how a shoe drive fundraiser works, broken down into five easy steps:
- Partner with a shoe drive fundraising coordinator.
- The fundraising coordinator provides collection materials to place around your school and community.
- Ask students and families to donate their gently worn, used and new shoes to your fundraiser.
- Notify the fundraising coordinator, who picks up the shoes.
- Receive a check in the mail after your shoe bags get processed.
It’s easy for kids to get involved in shoe drive fundraisers, making it perfect for sparking classroom involvement. Because students are in charge of bringing in the shoes for the fundraiser, they’ll feel they can take responsibility for the event’s success and impact. Be sure to make students aware that their shoes will also benefit people in developing countries so they understand the social impact they make!
2. Used Book Sale
While books are crucial to learning and development, there comes a time when students outgrow them. Chances are, your students have books they don’t read anymore, collecting dust on their shelves at home. Capitalize on these opportunities to both fundraise and rehome books that might otherwise get tossed.
Book sales are another fundraiser that helps get kids involved with giving at your school. Kids can bring in old books they don’t read anymore, and the school can pass them on to community members at a reduced cost.
You can promote a book drive to kids and community members. You could choose to:
- Congratulate kids for improving their reading levels, and encourage them to donate books they’ve outgrown for younger kids to enjoy.
- Let parents know they can attend your book sale to find copies of assigned reading books, so they can save money and support the school by purchasing a used copy.
- Tell community members why you’re raising money and explain the benefits of hosting the drive. For example, do you plan to purchase new textbooks with the funds?
Book sales are an easy and profitable way to fundraise, but the benefits for your school go beyond just increasing revenue. By selling books to students at a low cost, your school makes knowledge more accessible to kids, families, and other members of your community who may not otherwise have access. You can also indirectly increase abilities like language and critical thinking skills by encouraging more reading among your students.
3. Canned Food Drive
Canned food drives, sometimes called can-a-thons, are a great way for your supporters to clean out the pantry while collecting materials for your school’s food pantry. For your next canned food drive, ask for both financial donations and canned food items.
Accepting multiple ways of giving can encourage more donations overall. For example, some parents might find it more convenient to simply give money rather than make a trip to the grocery store to purchase canned goods. On the other hand, if a parent is financially unable to send in a monetary donation, their child won’t feel as if they’re missing out if they can contribute a can of food already in their pantry.
Try turning this fundraiser into a game or competition to ramp up support! Incentivize students to contribute by rewarding the class that donates the most cans with a pizza party. You’ll find that students are much more motivated to participate when free time, bragging rights, and a yummy meal are on the line.
Virtual and Hybrid Fundraisers
Although the pandemic brought virtual events into the mainstream, COVID-19 safety precautions don’t have to be the only reason your school hosts a virtual or hybrid event. OneCause’s guide to hosting a hybrid event highlights that “having strategies to reach donors both virtually and in-person is a fundraising necessity.” Whether your school is still navigating the health concerns of COVID-19 or simply looking for a way to save initial fundraising costs and reach more donors, virtual and hybrid fundraisers could be the perfect solution.
4. Hybrid Movie Night
This fundraiser combines streaming a movie for supporters at home, a popular online fundraising idea, with a traditional in-person movie screening to create a hybrid event. To set up this fundraiser, offer to stream the movie for viewers at home. Meanwhile, host a drive-in movie event at your school where participants can watch the film together while keeping safe distances from each other in their cars.
More people have the opportunity to participate in the movie night, regardless of any concern about the pandemic or because they find attending virtually more convenient. Additionally, your fundraising team can raise more by hosting a hybrid event. Because you can reach more people than you might with a traditional movie screening, you can bolster the funds you receive.
Other ways to maximize fundraising for this event include:
- Writing sponsorship letters to secure support from local businesses.
- Selling drinks, popcorn, candy, and other snacks during the in-person event.
- Putting together snack bags for online viewers that they can purchase in advance.
- Providing links to give to online participants.
- Showing two or three movies in a row so different age groups can attend the film they’re most interested in watching.
Try to get your students’ families involved. For instance, parents who own businesses might become event sponsors, and other parents may volunteer to hand out water or prizes. If students have family members who aren’t local to your area, encourage them to ask these relatives to tune in to the movie night.
5. Online Talent Show
Organize a talent show so your students can show off their hidden talents. While a talent show is an effective fundraiser that can be hosted in person, moving the talent show online can help you save time and money. With an online show, your fundraising team won’t need to worry about finding a venue, setting up a date and time, and purchasing decorations and other supplies.
To launch an online talent show, use a streaming tool to broadcast your student’s performances. You can choose to have performers demonstrate their talents from a single location (for example, the school cafeteria) or their homes. Remember that having students perform remotely might better suit older, more tech-savvy students.
No matter which method you choose, spectators from far and wide can attend the event virtually. Make the most of this expanded donor pool with the following fundraising strategies:
- Selling tickets to see the show. This is the most common way to make money with a talent show. Sell tickets well in advance so supporters can make room in their calendars for the event.
- Selling branded merchandise. At a traditional talent show, you can sell things like popcorn, drinks, and t-shirts. To adapt this to an online format, consider selling branded merchandise ahead of time that students can pick up at school.
- Recording the show and selling that video to families. Chances are your students’ parents treasure the memories they have of their children. Help them preserve the memory of their talent show with a recorded video.
During the talent show, students will have fun showing off their talents while raising money for your school, and parents will enjoy seeing their kids performing. Whether in-person or online, this fundraiser gets everyone involved!
6. Product Fundraiser
Product fundraisers tend to be highly profitable since supporters receive a tangible item in exchange for their generous contributions. Plus, these campaigns are incredibly easy to take to the digital space, provided your team has an effective fundraiser platform.
While there are many different types of product fundraisers, here are a couple of the most common (and easiest) ideas:
- Apparel fundraiser: Selling custom school t-shirts and other branded apparel to your students is a great way to raise money, encourage school spirit, and provide a souvenir of their time in school. Increase student involvement by hosting a t-shirt design competition. Then, sell the most eye-catching designs to your supporters.
- Food sales: Encourage students to take on the fundraising responsibility of a food sale. These product fundraisers are very cost-effective, and they have options ranging from popcorn and candy bars to beef jerky. Motivate students to work hard by turning the fundraiser into a competition and offering prizes to the students who sell the most.
To maximize fundraising revenue, pair this fundraiser with another event your school is holding. For instance, your school’s sports teams can host a food sale as an annual fundraiser or sell t-shirts to commemorate a big championship win.
Games and Competitions
If you struggle to encourage student involvement, try making the fundraising process more exciting with a competitive element. Nothing engages students more than a bit of friendly competition between them and other students and classes. Ramp up involvement and excitement with a more competitive fundraiser like a board game night or field day.
7. Board Game Nights
Host a board game night to inspire family fun and community connection. This tournament is easy to set up and entertaining for families with children of all ages.
To host one of these tournament fundraisers, all you need to do is:
- Encourage your students to bring their favorite board games to play with their friends.
- Sell tickets to families so they can enjoy the activity together.
- Set up tables and a scoreboard (if you want one).
- Start playing!
To increase revenue beyond ticket sales, try setting up a concession stand or a shoe drive fundraiser collection box at the tournament. Combining these fundraisers will make the event more engaging while helping your team earn some additional revenue.
8. Field Day
Field day fundraisers are a classic way to fundraise. It’s no wonder they’re so popular kids love getting to have fun outside and hang out with friends.
This fun outdoor activity involves setting up all sorts of physically challenging, yet entertaining, games for kids to play. It allows students to escape technology, stressful tests, and quizzes and get some fresh air.
As you plan your field day event, consider including a few of these activities:
- An obstacle race
- A water balloon toss
- Sack races
- A hula-hoop ring toss
To raise money for your cause, sell tickets to participate in these games in addition to spectator seats. Your students’ friends and families can come and cheer on participants, making it an afternoon for everyone to enjoy! To make the most out of these events, you can combine this event with a shoe drive fundraiser and encourage students to donate their gently worn, used and new shoes in exchange for a reduced entry fee.
If your school fundraising team is burned out, look for ways to get students involved to help lighten your load. Students are often excited to take on some of the fundraising responsibility, especially if they have the chance to prove themselves in a competition or win a fun prize. However, you choose to motivate students to participate in your school’s fundraisers, remember to reinforce lessons of social giving.
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Guest Author Bio
Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises (EE) and a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Funds2Orgs, which is a social enterprise that helps schools, churches, nonprofits, individuals and other organizations raise funds while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations.