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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 home 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. The market has a glut 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 are from the end of August to the beginning of October. The numbers tell us that school groups raise the most money in this window. After the second week of October, sales dropped by 30%. And by the fourth week, sales are down by a whopping 55%.

To back up these findings, a sponsor informed us that her sale didn't go as expected last year. She decided to change things up and pushed her sale closer to the holidays. She discovered her parents didn't want to sell this late in their season. For her, 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 challenging 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 get students best back to school safely. Fundraising is not the highest priority for schools right now. This will create an even greater need for money over time, especially as things open up.

With that said, every group has its own set of unique circumstances. Knowing the best time to start your school fundraiser is crucial. Before considering any campaign, you should consult with other group members. Everyone must be 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 briefly, 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, 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 can manage the extra task. Every situation is different.

4 School Fundraiser Examples

Some groups have built-in advantages when 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 can have booster club fundraisers. These organizations are separate entities not 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 participate 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 right at the beginning of the school year, bands must be ready. Raising money is a way of life for a band student, and late summer is when these events start to kick off.

These groups do well compared to other high school fundraiser groups on campus. The only question is whether the community can buy during the summer break. Many are not into school activities yet. 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 don't favor it, but your school may be an exception. There are two 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 challenging 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 aren't.

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

2. More Buyer Motivation

There are two good reasons why schools wait for their fundraiser until later in the fall.

  1. Buyer Distractions: Many parents complain they're still trying to buy school supplies. How can they also support a fundraiser at the same time? Some will argue 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 any way 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 much to consider when deciding the correct start date for your school fundraiser. Although the pandemic may have something to say, you can rely on the numbers or trust your gut. 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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Author Bio Clay Boggess, Author

Clay Boggess has been designing fundraising programs for schools and various nonprofit organizations throughout the US since 1999. He’s helped administrators, teachers, and outside support entities such as PTAs and PTOs raise millions of dollars. Clay is an owner and partner at Big Fundraising Ideas.

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