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How School Fundraiser Start Dates Affect Profitability

By Clay Boggess on Aug 29, 2020
How School Fundraiser Start Dates Affect Profitability

Decide the best time to start your fall fundraiser

Everyone knows the ‘location, location, location’ mantra when discussing the housing market. In a nutshell, it means homes values are locale dependent.

Similarly, the success of your school fundraiser may depend on when you decide to start it. Many sponsors compete with other schools in their community to be the first sale on the block. The prevailing thought is people won’t buy after being approached 3 or 4 times.

Still others feel there are disadvantages to starting early. There’s a glut in the market with so many schools trying to be first out of the gate. This is where a fundraiser closer to Thanksgiving or Christmas may make more sense. People are more in the buying mood anyway.

But the data doesn’t quite bear this out. Statistics show that the best times to raise money is from the end of August to the beginning of October. The numbers tell us that this window is when school groups raise the most money. After the second week of October sales drop by 30%. And by the fourth week sales are down by a whopping 55%.

To back up these findings, we had a sponsor last year inform us that her sale didn’t go as expected. She decided to change things up and pushed her sale closer to the holidays. She discovered that her parents didn’t want to sell this late in their season. For her anyway, it was a gamble that didn’t pay off. As it turned out, this was a sports group and their parents were already moving on to other activities.

Granted, some groups have no choice but to fundraise at certain times of the year. For example, consider spring sports groups. Fundraising in the fall can be hard as players are often involved in other activities.

Yet even this hurdle can be overcome. We worked for years with a high school baseball coach who raised money in the fall. Focusing on games in the spring was his top priority. He was able to gather all his players together for a September fundraiser.

Amid the pandemic, things could be looking a lot different this fall. The onslaught of spring fundraiser cancellations has caused a cash crunch for nonprofits. One would think this would create an even greater demand for funds at the beginning of the school year.

But previous trends may not be a good predictor. There's still a lot of uncertainty about how to best get students back to school safely. Fundraising is clearly not the highest priority for schools right now. This will create an even greater need for money over time. Especially as things continue to open up.

With that said, every group has its own set up unique circumstances. Knowing the best time to start your school fundraiser is crucial. Before considering any type of campaign, you should consult with other group members. It’s important that everyone’s on the same page.

School Fundraising is Seasonal

One thing to consider is whether your group is only together for a season, or if it’s year-round. If you're only together for a short time, your best option is to start a sale at the beginning of your season. This is when people are usually excited, and eager.

But if your group is together throughout the year then you have more flexibility. Some high school sports teams attempt to raise money in the off season. This is so it doesn’t interfere with their competition. Yet some organizations can still juggle their fundraiser in season. This is the time when everyone is together and focused on their mission.

The best time to start a fundraiser is when you feel your members are able to manage the extra task. Every situation is different.

4 School Fundraiser Examples

Some groups have built-in advantages when it comes to starting early in the school year.

Sports Teams

Many sports teams start their sale as soon as practice starts. For example, football starts two-a-day practice in the latter part of summer. This allows them to get a jump on most other groups.

Booster Clubs

Some groups are able to have booster club fundraisers. These organizations are separate entities that aren't subject to school rules and restrictions. They can raise money anytime they want on behalf of the group they represent. During the off-season players may be more able to take part in fundraising events.


High school band fundraisers often take place before school starts. Preparation for marching contests and football games takes work and dedication. Since games start up right at the beginning of the school year, bands must be ready to go. Raising money is a way of life for a band student and late summer is when these events start to kick off.

Compared to other high school fundraiser groups on campus, these groups tend to do well. The only question is whether the community is ready to buy during the summer break. Many are not into school activities yet. In fact, one can argue that most are trying not to think about school yet.

Year Round Schools

Many school districts are on a different schedule. They don't have the traditional summer vacations. It's estimated that 10% of public schools incorporate a year round calendar. A lot of these schools start fundraising in July.

The Argument for Holiday Fundraising

You can also make an argument for putting off your fundraiser. The sales numbers as a whole don't favor it, but your school may be an exception. There are 2 main reasons schools decide to wait:

1. Less Fundraiser Competition

Most groups want to be first out of the block. This makes logical sense. People typically buy from the first few people who approach them.

But in a crowded market it's very difficult to be among the first groups out selling. Plus, schools that think they're getting a jump on the rest with an August or September sale really aren't.

Waiting for things to die down a little can have its merits.

2. More Buyer Motivation

There are 2 good reasons why schools wait to have their fundraiser until later in the fall.

  1. Buyer Distractions: Many parents complain that they're still trying to buy school supplies. How can they also support a fundraiser at the same time? Some will argue that they're still trying to switch gears from a long summer.
  2. Reasons to Buy: When do people do the most shopping? Before the holidays. Why not offer people what they're looking for anyway and raise money at the same time?

A wrapping paper fundraiser before Christmas, or Thanksgiving pies may be the answer.

As you can see, there’s a lot to think about when deciding on the right start date for your school fundraiser. You can rely on the numbers or trust your gut although the pandemic may have something to say about that. Most schools will be fundraising later this year out of necessity. But ultimately, you’ll need to decide what’s best for your school or group.

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