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5 Effective School Fundraising Ideas for Older Students

By Clay Boggess on Dec 18, 2021
5 Effective School Fundraising Ideas for Older Students

How to overcome the teen fundraiser enthusiasm gap

Fundraising for your school is important to you, but it’s not always top-of-mind for everyone else in your community, especially the teens in your community. This can be very frustrating. When it comes to older students, there can be a marked lack of enthusiasm that’s difficult to overcome.

Fortunately, you don’t have to resign yourself quite yet. There are ways to get even some of your more reluctant students involved in fundraising. Many of the best fundraisers for older students will be paired with an activity they are already likely to be interested in.

We’ll cover these ideas in more detail to get you started:

  1. Talent Show
  2. School Dance
  3. Social Media Fundraiser
  4. Summer Sports Camp
  5. Art Auction

With any fundraiser you choose to run for your older students, finding a hook to pique their interest is crucial. Whether it’s a cash prize, an opportunity to show off their talents, a resume-building opportunity, or just great marketing, make sure you think like a teen as you formulate your fundraising plans.

Keep that in mind and these five exciting school fundraising ideas will be sure to engage your students and help you run your most successful fundraiser yet. Let’s dive in!

1. A-thon Fundraisers

“A-thon” fundraisers like walk-a-thons, bike-a-thons, hoop-a-thons, and more, have been a staple in school fundraising for years because they are a tried-and-true, effective way of raising money. This engaging fundraiser idea allows students to be the driving force behind the fundraiser and have a role in supporting their own program. These are great fundraisers to do with your sports teams or other activity-based clubs!

If you are unfamiliar with how A-thon fundraisers work, the process is simple. Let’s take a look at a walk-a-thon example:

  • Step 1: The school plans where and when the event will take place. This can be all in one place, together, or you could adopt a hybrid or virtual format.
  • Step 2: Students promote the event.
  • Step 3: Friends and family of the students donate or pledge money to the student’s individual fundraising campaign.
  • Step 4: The walk-a-thon occurs (Make sure to keep track of distances walked by each student).
  • Step 5: The event organizer determines how much the pledgors owe to each student’s campaign.
  • Step 6: Collect the money and put it toward your school program!

You may think a-thon fundraisers take a lot of expertise and organization to manage every student’s fundraising effort. Luckily, with the right software you do not have to worry about the small, tedious aspects of organizing the event. Even if you choose to do a hybrid or virtual a-thon fundraisers where students track their distance, hours, or whatever else from their own location, A-thon software, like 99Pledges, will allow you to easily manage your event so you can raise money but not your stress level.

2. School Dance

Going to their first school dance is an exciting moment in many young teenagers’ lives. It gives them the chance to get dressed up and have a special night going to dinner and dancing with their friends. Selling tickets to a school dance with a fun theme is a surefire way to raise money.

To plan a school dance fundraiser, get your booster club together to brainstorm themes that will get your students excited to attend. Including the student government in these conversations can also be a great way to further engage the student body.

A few key steps you’ll need to take include:

  1. Picking a theme. This is the first essential step to get started with your event. Some popular themes are Valentine’s Day, a “night under the stars,” or even something unique like an underwater theme!
  2. Establishing your budget. While the goal is to make money with ticket sales, there will be some up-front costs to make it a successful event. Establish what you will need and what you can afford in order to still raise funds.
  3. Gathering a decorations committee. Your students can be a big help in getting this event off the ground! Enlist them to help decorate before the event. Don’t forget to get volunteers for clean-up as well!
  4. Securing good music. What’s a dance without good music? While you can consider other options, many schools hire DJs for their dances. This can be one of your largest costs, so make sure to account for this in your budget.

Despite the higher start-up cost for this type of fundraising event, a well-planned school dance can be a great way to raise funds as your students get excited to attend.

3. Social Media Fundraiser

The teens you’re trying to engage are likely already spending a lot of time on social media — so why not use it to help you fundraise? Social media offers a lot of benefits for fundraising, from low initial costs to flexibility and extensive reach.

There are several different ways that you can take advantage of the many features for engagement and sharing on social media. You could get your students involved by doing:

  • A challenge. We all remember challenges like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. These kinds of viral challenges can be very helpful for spreading the word during a peer-to-peer fundraiser by getting many people to participate in a fun challenge while mentioning the fundraiser. Once your students have set up their personal peer-to-peer fundraising pages through 99Pledges, they can share about them while participating in the social media challenge.
  • “Scratch-off” donation cards. These types of fundraisers do great on features like Instagram Stories. Participants will simply post their “scratch-off” card on their story and for every donation they receive, they cross off the corresponding square and post the updated card. To make it more interactive, participants can do activities, like posting a funny or embarrassing picture, to incentivize their friends to donate.
  • A fundraising competition. This can take multiple forms, but the main purpose is to encourage your students to collect the most donations to win a prize like a gift card, a school sweatshirt, or other items.

Social media fundraising for your school may be new territory for you, but because of the prevalence of your students on social media and the potential for spreading your fundraiser to more people, it can be very effective.

4. Summer Sports Camp

Athletics teams are a big part of your school and important for building school spirit. What’s more, most of your athletes likely love sharing their skill and passion for their sport with others. This is why running a summer sports camp can be such a successful sports fundraising idea.

This can be an opportunity for kids who don’t participate in team sports during the school year to explore different sports and play with other kids. It also helps working parents with younger kids during the summer.

To run an effective sports camp fundraiser, make sure to:

  1. Recruit your best athletes to run your sports camps.
  2. Get all necessary forms and waivers to ensure safety and legality.
  3. Promote your sports camp so parents know about it.
  4. Start sign ups early!

With the correct planning and safety measures, this type of fundraiser can be a surefire way to build community, promote a good reputation for your school, and give your athletes a resume booster, all while raising money for your school!

5. Art Auction

Not every student is involved in athletics, so this fundraising idea is a perfect opportunity to get other students involved in fundraising at your school. Your arts department undoubtedly has some incredibly talented students who have been producing beautiful works of art in their classes.

Auctioning off the work your talented students create is a low-cost way to raise money that can also help your students gain confidence in their abilities. Here are some steps you should take to plan your own art auction:

  1. Pick the pieces. While it can be tempting to include all of the pieces your students make, having a curated selection can actually drive up prices as bidders see the available pieces dwindling.
  2. Create a catalog. Ideally, this should be virtual so that parents can see it beforehand. Enlist your photography students to create high-quality images to include with descriptions and the name of the artist.
  3. Decide on the format. Because there is now abundant guidance on how to host a virtual auction, you don’t necessarily have to do it in person. However, in-person auctions do give the bidders a chance to see the items for themselves.
  4. Market your auction. Don’t forget to advertise your auction well in advance of the event to get the maximum turnout! Give your attendees ample time to review your catalog and come ready to buy.

This fundraising idea from ReCharity can engage some of your students who may get left out of more traditional school fundraising activities while promoting the arts and raising funds. Take the time to put the proper planning and preparation into this event to ensure its success.


It may be more challenging to get older students involved in fundraising, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. With the right ideas and strategic planning, your fundraisers can be exciting for everyone in your community, regardless of their age.

As you begin the planning process for your exciting new fundraising idea, these tips for planning an engaging fundraiser from Double the Donation can help you make the most of the ideas we’ve shared with you. Good luck!

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Guest Author Bio Brad Dowhaniuk, Author

Brad Dowhaniuk is the co-founder of 99Pledges, which provides schools and teams with an easy-to-use, web-based fundraising solution to manage and drive success in Fun Runs, jog-a-thons, baseball hit-a-thons, and much more.

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