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Fundraising for Schools: 7 Stress-Free Strategies

By Clay Boggess on Oct 16, 2021
Fundraising for Schools: 7 Stress-Free Strategies

Simple ways to keep the money coming in all year long

School fundraisers are necessary, fun, and sometimes a bit stressful. From coordinating event logistics to composing community outreach materials, it may sometimes feel like you’re spending more time planning than actually hosting your fundraiser.

Fortunately, there are fundraising strategies out there that are designed to be easy and convenient for both your school’s staff and your supporters. This doesn’t mean you should remove your big, more complex fundraisers from your calendar completely. Instead, supplement your normal fundraising activities with a few easy-to-run fundraisers to keep revenue coming in year-round.

Fundraisers for schools take all forms, from ways to earn extra with fundraising events you’re already running, to new, smaller events that can be hosted between more involved projects. Here are seven of our favorite stress-free fundraising strategies and activities your school can run this year:

  1. Online Shopping Fundraisers
  2. Walk-a-Thons
  3. Talent Shows
  4. Car Wash
  5. Shoe Drive
  6. Trivia and Game Nights
  7. Matching Gifts

Not every fundraising strategy is a perfect match for every school from the get-go. Assess your school’s strengths and resources, then choose a strategy that builds off of what you’re already doing well or makes use of supplies you already have. Let’s get started!

1. Online Shopping Fundraisers

Online shopping has been steadily growing in popularity for years, and it’s likely that many members of your school’s community make online purchases regularly. With an online shopping fundraiser, your school can leverage the purchases that your supporters are already making to earn additional revenue, at no cost to you or your supporters.

ShopRaise’s guide to shopping for a cause outlines how schools can get started with this unique, easy fundraising method:

  • Download the app. Your online shopping program will create a branded page just for your school. Once this page is set up, you’ll just need to direct your supporters to download your app and browser extension. Then, when they make online purchases at participating retailers, the retailer that they are buying from will give a percentage of their total to your school, without charging your supporters extra.
  • Marketing your program. Shopping fundraisers allow your supporters to contribute to your school all year long. However, to make your program a success, you’ll need to promote your program regularly. Don’t forget to remind your supporters to sign up for your program, and get in touch with new community members about how they can get involved.
  • Monitor your incoming funds. While some retailers will contribute as much as 10% on each purchase to your cause, others will vary, sometimes even offering different percentages for different items. This means that funds will accumulate slowly over time as large numbers of supporters make online purchases throughout the year.

Ultimately, online shopping fundraisers are essentially a free virtual fundraiser for your school. Think of online shopping fundraisers as an additional revenue stream for your school rather than a large-scale fundraising event such as an auction or carnival. Instead of being a big, one-time fundraiser, online shopping programs are an easy, stress-free way to raise funds continuously between fundraising events.

2. Walk-a-Thons

If your school has a track, you can raise funds and encourage your students to get a little exercise with a walk-a-thon. In addition to a track or other place for your students to walk laps on the day of your event, you’ll need only limited supplies, including:

  • Pledge sheets. Before your walk-a-thon, hand out pledge sheets to all of your participating students. Then, they’ll go out into the community, collecting pledges based on how many laps they run or walk.
  • Water stations. Walk-a-thons are exercise, so make sure your students have a way to stay hydrated by providing them with a place they can pause to get water during the event.
  • Volunteers. Like most school events, you’ll need a few volunteers to help supervise your students and ensure everything runs smoothly. Volunteers can help with basic responsibilities such as checking students in, manning the water table, and generally supervising your event.

If your school doesn’t have a track or other space to hold a walk-a-thon, consider reaching out to a nearby gym, community center, or even another school to rent a space for the event. While some may say no, others will be happy to help support your fundraiser and draw community attention to their good deed.

3. Talent Shows

When planning a fundraiser for your school, make sure to also consider what your students can get out of the event in addition to added revenue for their programs. Some fundraisers can help students develop life skills or give them an opportunity to have fun and show off to their friends and family.

For example, talent shows give students the chance to showcase developing skills they’re passionate about. Plus, you can host a memorable night for your students and their families with minimal setup. For many schools, all you’ll need to host your talent show is:

  • A stage. If your school has an auditorium or a gym, you likely have the space to host a talent show. If not, consider reaching out to a local community center to borrow a space for the night of your talent show.
  • A group of students ready to perform. Hold auditions before your talent show to generate interest in your upcoming event and give students a chance to practice ahead of time.
  • Tickets and concessions to sell. Your talent show is a fundraiser, and you can earn revenue through ticket sales. Snack food and branded t-shirts and other merchandise can be sold at the event itself to earn a little extra.

Talent shows are also a great opportunity to take photos that capture what makes your students unique. These can be shared with parents in fundraising appeals, posted to your website and social media accounts, and used to promote your next talent show.

4. Car Wash

The best fundraisers take your community’s needs into account, helping to provide a service while earning your school funds. This is why car washes are popular spring and summer fundraisers for schools and school sports teams.

Assemble a group of willing volunteers ready to spend the day cleaning cars in your school’s parking lot or another designated area. Arm them with basic cleaning supplies, including sponges, buckets and soapy water. Then, assign a responsible adult volunteer to oversee and collect payments and any additional donations.

When running a car wash, consider both what days and what times are likely to get the most traffic. For example, it might make sense to run your fundraiser between 4-6 PM to catch the attention of people coming home from work, who have a minute to stop and get their car washed. Make sure you have some student and parent volunteers holding signs by the road to draw in customers!

5. Shoe Drive

Easy school fundraisers incorporate the resources schools already have and make the most of their natural advantages. This is why many schools find success with a shoe drive—students tend to quickly outgrow their shoes.

Shoes are simple fundraisers that require your school to take three basic steps to earn funds:

  1. Partner with a shoe fundraising program. Before you can collect your student’s new and lightly used running shoes, you’ll need to find a shoe drive program. Get in touch with them to learn more about the specific shoes they’ll accept, how much they’ll donate in exchange for shoes, and receive pre-paid mailable bags to eventually send your collected shoes in.
  2. Collect running shoes. Start promoting your fundraiser and encourage students to donate new and lightly used shoes. Set a timeline for your fundraiser to create a sense of urgency, while still providing your students and other supporters plenty of time to contribute.
  3. Send your shoes, As mentioned, your shoe drive fundraising partner should send you pre-paid bags to ship your shoes back in. After sending them, you’ll receive a check that corresponds to the number of shoes you sent in.

Shoe drives can be paired with other fundraisers, such as walk-a-thons and sporting activities that already bring running shoes to mind. Shoe drives can also help fund specific sports teams, encouraging their members to stay active and also consider donating their lightly used shoes as they grow out of them.

6. Trivia and Game Nights

Schools are about learning, and your fundraisers can be too with trivia and game nights. Many schools conduct spelling and geography bees to give students an opportunity to showcase their academic talents, but you can also expand these fundraisers to include your staff and community members.

Sell tickets or charge a small entry fee to earn revenue. Then, host a series of rounds or games, asking guests questions about academics, pop culture, or any other trivia.

You can also easily take your event online. Provide teams with virtual breakout rooms to discuss their answers and have them share with the group aloud or through a survey.

7. Matching Gifts

Your school can earn more from each donation by partnering with a matching gift program. Matching gifts are supplementary, dollar-for-dollar donations that your supporters’ employers make when they give to your school, providing additional revenue with no extra effort on your part.

360MatchPro’s guide to matching gifts outlines how the process works in five steps:

  1. A supporter donates.
  2. The supporter checks their eligibility for a matching gift.
  3. The supporter fills out and submits their employers’ matching gift request form.
  4. Their company reviews the matching gift request.
  5. The company matches the donation, providing your school with additional funds.

While you can encourage your donors to check their eligibility on their own, investing in a matching gift database can significantly increase your ability to earn matching gifts. A matching gift database allows your donors to check their eligibility by quickly searching for their employer.

If your supporters qualify for a matching gift, they’ll be provided with their employers’ matching gift request form. From there, all your supporters need to do is fill out the form, making increasing their donation fast and easy.


A stress-free fundraiser works with what your school already has, minimizes the amount of work your staff will need to do, and will be easy to host repeatedly throughout the year. This will be true whether you’re looking to host a stress-free event or run a continuous stress-free fundraising program like a shopping fundraiser.

To decide which strategies fit best with your school’s needs, take inventory of your current resources and choose a strategy that requires only a few more steps to get started. Good luck!

Guest Author Bio Korri Piper, Author

Korri Piper, Sales and Marketing Consultant & Director of Vendor Relationships - Bio

Relationship director, project manager, writer and general life enthusiast. Let me tell you how online shopping can solve the world's problems.

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