Fundraising Help Please!

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From: Susan

Dear Tawra & Jill, I enjoy the site very much and was hoping I could ask for some help. With school starting up, the fundraising will be too!

Could you post a request for unique, interesting, low-initial-investment fundraising ideas?

We’ve been through all the usual (i.e. cookbooks, selling cookies, pizza, candles, etc.) and, quite frankly, everyone is tired of them. Since you have readers from all over the country, I thought they might do something a little different than what we do up here in the "north".

For example, one idea that we had was to have the kids become "Singing Christmas Cards". For a $5 donation, 4-6 kids show up at your house or any house you’d like to send a "card" to and sing carols. No cost to us and the kids have fun too. Thanks and keep writing…

Thanks for writing! I would love to hear your ideas. I don’t allow the kids to sell fundraisers. We decided when they started school that we would not participate and we don’t.

One thing our old school did was have a carnival. We did go to that and supported it but it was huge amount of work for the volunteers!

So readers… any new ideas?




  1. Anonymous says

    Tawra, we too have given up on the fundraisers. For us they are too much of a hassle, and then one year after spending lots of time selling stuff and collecting money, my daughter forgot to turn in the fundraising packet and left it in her locker for months. We had to go back and give all these people their money back! I was so mad and said “no more!”. Plus, its such a hassel to distribute the stuff, one year it was frozen cookie dough and I had to fill a cooler with ice and lug this stuff around and pass it out.

    Anyway, sorry for the rant! I do have a fundraiser idea that worked at my son’s elementary school, and that was an “everything for a dollar” sale. People donated their old stuff and we sold it for a dollar or less. Because it was so cheap, people didn’t spend time agonizing over whether to buy something, they just grabbed. The school made money, and people cleaned out their closets. We gave people receipt for their donations.


  2. Marzerna says

    Ok this may sound very crazy but here I go. A few years back I coached a youth cheer leader squad and my husband coached football for the same team. Our organization was in need of alot of equipment but didn’t have much money so we came up with a fundraiser called chicken drop bingo. What we did was print up raffel tickets and had the kids sell them for $3.00 a piece and them each ticket was given a number. Then on a Saturday afternoon we maked off a large section of a parking lot assigning numbers to squares on the parking lot which coordinated with numbers on the raffel tickets. Then with everyone looking on and cheering we let go a chicken on the parking lot and in which ever square she “pooped” in first won a portion of the raffel ticket pot and then the remainder went to the team. It was a great sucess and a very funny day. As I said it is very strange but we are from Texas

  3. Jill Cooper says

    Marzena, I can’t stop laughing at this one. I don’t know which is funniest the chicken part or the part where you say “we’re from Texas”. Michael my son in law is from Texas and I have made it my goal in life to tease him unmercifully about it so I can’t hardly wait for him to read your post. :) :) :)

  4. Tawra Jean says

    Ha! I love the chicken poop idea.

    That would go over well in Kansas I’m sure! LOL

    I do have to say that everything for $1 is a WONDERFUL idea too!

    I always wanted to start a $1 thrift store. Everything would be $1 no matter what it was.


  5. Lisa says

    Ha, Ha. I’m from Tennessee and around here we do COW Drop Bingo. It’ takes a football field. It’s almost too much fun.

    Here’s a suggestion from my daughter’s middle school. At Valentine’s Day, select single roses and/or suckers. Allow parents to send to their kids and students to send them to their classmates for $2 per rose or $1 per sucker. Let the purchaser fill out the “note card” which is a pre-made tag and then cut it out, punch a hole in it and tie it to the rose/sucker with ribbon. Have those trustworthy kids deliver them to home rooms on Valentine’s Day.

  6. Bugtheteacher says

    My son’s school does a plant sale. This last year it was not a very good one but other years it has been great. We got most of the tomatoes we planted from it. They also sold lots of hanging baskets and everything came just before mothers day. It did take alot of work but it really goes over well.
    I love the one they did last year. A “No Stuff” fundraiser, ppl just supported the school all of it went to the school. Gotta love that.

  7. Anonymous says

    I’m with you all on being tired of the fundraisers. The part I hate the most is the pep rally they hold for the last hour of school on the start day. A rep from the fundraising company comes out and fills the stage with all of the “fantastic” prizes the kids can win for selling what is basically overpriced junk and gets them all hyped up. The biggest prize is a Wii. Needless to say, all these children from an economically depressed area walk out that day thinking that they will have a Wii and all sorts of wonderful things in a month. I won’t go as far as putting a no fundraising rule down but this year, I’ve scheduled a dentist appointment for my son for the time of the pep rally. My parents are usually the only “buyers” for these kinds of things and we talk long and hard with our son about being happy that he even gets the smaller prize as its an extra gift he wouldn’t normally receive.

    I do tons of volunteer work for the school including working the spring carnival. Because of my orginizational skills, they’ve asked me to head up the Christmas Holiday Shoppe. Some of us mom’s go out after Christmas (and all year around too…we all get our tax exempt slips from the district) and purchase whatever we can get our hands on at clearance prices. The kids get time in mid December to shop for their families. Most items are in the $1-2 dollar range. The kids fill out gift tags attatched to the items and all of the volunteers wrap them so they are ready to go home at the end of the day. We usually make a decent profit for the school but like many others have said, its a LOT of work. I’d rather do something like this or the chicken poop dealy a few times a year than walk around with those slick designer looking fundraiser brochures because at least a sale of work gets families out together and involved with their children’s school life.

  8. Anonymous says

    When my kids were little our schools did a one-time fundraiser every year. They asked that every family give $10 (went to $20 in the later years). That was so much easier – NO SELLING!! And I am from Texas – laughed so hard at the “chicken drop”!!

  9. Anonymous says

    The neatest thing we did last year was a jump-rope-athon. The kids got sponsors for the number of jumps they did, they were in teams,and the event lasted two hours during school time. Our school is multi-track year round with a total capacity of around 700for elementary. So if every kid who is on track (500 or so) could get $10.00 in pledges, the school get’s $5,000. Of course, some kids are not able to get sponsors, and som get very generous ones. Our oldest daughter approached only family members and asked for a flat $5, $10, or $20 pledge just for her to participate. She raised $115! A number of kids did this, and our school made $8237! And no one had to sell candy they didn’t want or need, buy junk they could just do without, distribute the garbage/items sold (cookie dough anyone?) and the school got just about every dime (with the exception of about $450.00 for a DJ, a few simple prizes, and some extra jump ropes)! And our kids got excited about physical activity. It was by far the most effective fundraiser that allowed everyone who particpated, regardless of sponsorship level, to feel like they contributed and have a great time. We even had “modified” jumping for participants with different abilities. And quite a few sponsors felt better about donating this way rather than purchasing stuff they didn’t need or want. NT, Reno NV

  10. Margaret2 says

    I’ve seen a handmade friendship-patch quilt raffled here for fundraising, pony or horse rides if you have one that is gentle enough, and bluegrass concerts to raise money for all kinds of things. Of course, it doesn’t have to be bluegrass, it can be gospel or even a teenage garage band. I’ve also seen 4H project animals raffled for freezer meat.

  11. Anonymous says

    I am a mom of three school and college age children and a teacher’s wife. I am so tired of fund raisers I could cry when the packets come home. The secret is that the promoter takes a huge cut of the sales. If the kids make 20% of what they sold it is a good cut. We have decided to offer the organization ie.PTO a donation directly. This cuts out the promoter. Most are happy for $10 which would be equal to $50 in sales. It makes me angry that not only the stuff is very over priced but that our kids are being exploited.

  12. Jill Cooper says

    I’m afraid I have to agree. I have always been shocked that parents and schools allow such things because it is just exploiting the kids. I use to get frustrated because when I would holler about it everyone would look at me as if I had grown to heads and would say “but it was for the school” I don’t care if it was for the Queen of Sheba it was wrong.

  13. Anonymous says

    I banned fundraisers from our house 7 years ago. The catholic school my son attended had a fundraiser and if the kid raised so much money, they got to jump on a blow up jumpy thing (like a moon walk). That was all fine and dandy but we didn’t work very hard to sell stuff. It is exploiting the children for money, yuk. The final straw was when my son came home from school crying. He told me that the kids who did not reach a certain level had to sit on the sideline of the gym while the kids who did got jump for 2 hours. I am still mad. Never again did we fundraise.

  14. carol says

    I enjoy all the tips your site!
    I’m not a fan of fundraisers but I had a child ask me to buy Rada knives as a fund raiser (by the way I already have some of these knives and love them) so for $4.00 I got something I will use.
    so check out the Rada website

  15. Deedee says

    I am on the side of the “I hate fundraisers crowd”. My main beef is the tacky companies selling tacky stuff that nobody would normally buy who convince a school that they can raise money by USING the cute children to go out and sell it. And the company makes a bunch of money off the children’s efforts because the community is not able to say no to a cute kid selling some junky merchandise or candy. And only a small percentage of the proceeds ends up in the school’s coffers. Or the “thons”. Jump-a-thon, Walk-a-thon, jog-a-thon, etc. Slightly less exploitative than the “selling stuff” fundraisers, but still requiring kids and their families to put a lot of time and effort into it, and again the element of using the adorable kids to convince friends and family to pony up. Or what’s even more annoying is the parents hitting up their coworkers. :)

    I think schools that need to raise money should deal directly with the community without using the kids as shills. Send letters to community members requesting tax deductible donations? Maybe a fund raising dinner once or twice a year? Raffle off prizes at that dinner? I don’t have the answer but using kids to sell stuff for outside companies is just downright wrong in my opinion.

  16. says

    Our school used to have pizza day. kids brought in a couple dollars and got pizza for lunch as a way to make money.
    It was inexpensive and they did raise money.
    My problem was that my children were allergic to store bought pizza. How do you send a young child to school with a home packed meal when his friends and class mates get ooey gooey pizza.
    I usually let them stay home the pizza days.
    Being a stay at home mom this was an option but I felt sorry for children who’s parents worked and they were left out.
    The Catholic school has bottle drives where they go door to door collecting pop bottles and beer and wine bottles which they would return for the deposit.

  17. Jaime says

    I agree. Most of these so called “fund-raisers” are only raising funds for the company that sells the junk, not the school or the kids. I like the ideas of having the children participate in an activity and getting sponsors rather than having them selling junk that no one needs or even wants. The physical activity is also an added bonus. I wish more school administrators could read these posts.

  18. Deb Jackson says

    When my children were in 4th/5th grade, their school had a snack sale once a month at the end of the school day. The students in one classroom were asked to bring snacks (individually wrapped cookies, cupcakes, etc.) for each sale date, and they could be either purchased or homemade. The students could purchase a snack for 25 cents each and take them home with them after school. All of the money went toward purchasing items for the school–I believe at the time they were trying to buy playground equipment or books for the library. The kids loved it, and nobody had to sell “junk”.

  19. says

    I’m in the “I hate fundraisers!” bandwagon too. It is all junk or junkfood, with junky prizes. I’ve decided to focus on collecting box tops (and other labels) from everyone I know who doesn’t have school aged kids. I don’t actualy change my buying habbits,to get the tops, I just do my best to save them, and I pester my family, and my church to save them for me too. I have a little Box Top collection can in my kitchen and I might also make one for my church.

    I’ve also considered crocheting some quick items in my son’s school colors for the school to sell. I’m thinking that crocheted hair scrunchies might sell well. I’d also consider teaching a one hour crochet class (kids and adults alike) for a small donation to the school. Why give a man a fish when we can teach a man to fish?

    BTW, I LOVE the Singing Christmas Carol Card idea, and other, “stuff free” ideas. I try to teach my kids that…

    “The best things in life, aren’t things!”


  20. Shara says

    I am totally with all of you ” I hate fundraisers”. My problem is that i am very involved with the PTC (or some call PTA) I mentioned how awful i felt for my son, last year when we could not sell enough stuff, so he did not get a prize.The other moms could not believe that i would put a fundraiser down. I left feeling awful and my son feels awful when he can not sell enough. The experience is not worth the 20% you might take away!

  21. Donna B. says

    My DIL owns a hair salon and we were inundated with advertising every fundraiser the school had for grades K-8 and high school. My DIL will still post the fundraiser, but our family only participates if the benefit goes to my granddaughter’s class. We’d love to help all the kids, but there’s just a limit to what everyone can afford. This seemed to be a fair compromise for us — We also contribute a flat rate for activities and don’t do the “can” drive anymore (you know, outside a grocery store standing with a can)

  22. says

    I have learned of a wonderful fundraising opportunity called This is an interactive language arts website that teaches children (of all ages) a foreign language through the use of songs and interactive games. It can either supplement a class curriculum or work as a stand-alone program and the lessons are fun and taught by native-speakers. It is a great fundraiser for schools. For every 6 month subscription (just $60. per family), Hello-World gives $10. to the school. Therefore, they just distribute the flyers – and Hello-World does the rest. It has been successful here! Julie

  23. Sheri says

    The best fundraiser we have done, was for Awana. The church we were going to always has some sort of meal for sale after church. I ask the man in charge of the food to let me know when he wanted a break and our club would supply the meal. The church already expects to see a meal there, but is our club members, leaders and parents supply the food. We have done chili and salad bars with all the fixings. We just leave a basket out for donations. We usually end up with a good amount of cash and better than if we had charged a set amount. We also got good exposure for recruiting new leaders.

    Yes, we did some cooking, but it wasn’t any more than I would have done for my family! Here we were supplying a service that they were used to expecting.

    I have wanted to do a marathon day. The Preschoolers have a trike-a-thon, the K-6th could do a bike-a-thon, the teens could do a Hoop-a-thon and everyone could do a Scripture verse-a-thon. With a picnic or food sale on the side. It would be a fun family day for everyone in club! Of course, the donations could be done as per lap/hoop/verse or for just participating.

    Supplying snacks for special events earns a pretty penny!

    Asking people with businesses if they would like to donate service in the form of a gift certificate, then selling the certificate might work well.

    I do like the signing Christmas Card idea the best though! I think I want to pass that one on!

    Thank you for the ideas!

  24. Jaime says

    I think Morning Dove’s idea of volunteer teaching crafts is excellent. The kids as well as their parents could learn a craft and this also teaches the children the value of community service. Furthermore, it gets parents involved in the school functions rather than just paying money aimlessly. This would be a great idea for the schools. This could be a once a month community activity / fund raiser. Imagine children and parents learning together while simultaneously raising money for the school. It also raises school spirit by using the school colors. This could easily be expanded beyond crafts as well. Anyone who could teach any type of skill or provide a service could participate. For example, an accountant could volunteer to help people with their taxes. Even a child could teach. The child could teach people about using the Internet or a Ipod. I’m sure more people would love to support this type of fund raising rather making the kids sell “junk”.

  25. says

    I don’t think “lame fundraisers” will ever go away, but we can certianly work with our PTAs and offer other ideas. We can also refuse to participate in them, and be honest and vocal about why we hate them so much. I think PTAs fall back on them because they are so easy to implement. If more people were involved maybe they would disapear gradualy.

  26. says

    I have told teachers and organizers that I would volunteer to teach crafts to students that could then be sold at raffles to raise money.
    Answer given was
    Kids don’t like to do stuff like that. So no thanks.

    If the kids don’t want to work for the treat then stop giving it.

    no money for the class field trip. Sorry kids you didn’t earn it.

    we tell our own children no so why can’t we tell the class the same thing.
    say no often enough and they will get the idea they have to work for the rewards.

  27. Irene says

    Grocery stores in our area donate back to schools – from 1-4% of grocery purchases made with a “Club Card” or shopper card. Safeway, Vons, Genuardi’s, Schnucks, Spencers, Ralphs & Food 4 Less (in CA) all participate. Doesn’t cost to participate (other than buy your usual groceries).

    I still buy magazines through the magazine drives – I have several I renew each year and the school earns even from a renewal.

    One of the best fundraisers with no selling and no committees – ask families to donate or gift a certain amount. In our district, there would be no library aides, no arts or science programs and no health aides were it not for fundraising efforts by the PTAs and PTOs.

  28. Wendy says

    I am involved with a Fund raising company that have sandals and sliders which can be branded with the school team on one strap and the name on the other in the school colors. These are well-made sandals, not your Wal-Mart flip-flops.
    They can also be used by churches with their name as well. This is a new idea
    that is taking off not just here, but globally. We also have a Haitian Relief Fund drive using the sandals. Many organizations are starting to use the sandals such as March of Dimes and Race for the Cure as well as others. This is just a new idea to think about.

  29. Jaime says

    Grandma, I think you make a great point.

    “Kids don’t like to do stuff like that.” – Real answer is that the teachers and organizers just don’t want to put in the extra effort.

    “If the kids don’t want to work for the treat then stop giving it.” – Amen to that!

    You could easily make items in the school colors to use for fund raisers. I think it’s the adults involved that simply don’t want to put in the work to help the children accomplish the crafts. Also, many people say that boys don’t want to do crafts. I think if you got the schools wood shop teacher involved more boys would be interested. Imagine bird houses and spice racks in the school colors. They could learn wood burning in class and sell wood plaques with a picture of the school’s mascot on them. Remember crafts can be made with more than just fabric and yarn.

  30. says

    A craft for either girls or boys is done in wood.
    Intartia’s SP is made from wood any type of scrap wood will do.
    you get a pattern and cut the wood out like a jig saw puzzle. then you sand the edges of each piece so it is sort of rounded. get a piece of 1/4″ plywood or panelling and cut it to the shape of the finished puzzle. you glue the puzzle to the plywood and varnish it.
    I went to school for a wood working class once my son came home with his finished project. It fascinated me so I learned how to do it.
    I was selling at craft fairs small 8″ X6″ bears for $50. some people in town do them and they sell upwards of $200.
    for a bit of scrap lumber schools could make a lot of money with no risk to children.

  31. Rachel says

    Amen Grandma! The new trend in my area is the kids standing in front of Wal-Mart or wherever with a jar and asking for money. I hate that! At least bake some cupcakes and sell them! I don’t give to these causes. Some of the high school cheerleaders will be at Winn-Dixie on Saturday and will bag your groceries for a tip. I will give to them. One that I didn’t see mentioned is when there is a special night held at a restaurant like Golden Corral. The teachers and principals are the “waiters” and fill everyones drinks. Of course the food is self serve, so that is all that is required. Whatever tips are left for the teachers are the donation. It is great fun, and the kids love seeing their teachers and principals waiting the table and bringing the drinks, napkins, etc.. Our Golden Corral has a room they can partition off for the school. It’s a relief to moms, you don’t have to cook that night!!

  32. says

    Our school does a weekly dollar per slice pizza fundraiser, and the kids love it. My son has to earn his dollar by doing one extra chore and by behaving in class. That’s worked pretty well for us and the school.

    I’m working on a presentation for our PTO to set up school photos as a fundraiser, with the goal of knocking out the overpriced gift-wrap thing.

  33. Jen says

    Our church is doing “Date Night Babysitting” to raise money for an upcoming youth mission trip. We are having parents drop their children off at the church gym from 6-9 pm on a Friday night and we have activities planned to keep them entertained and are asking for volunteers to donate snacks. We also had considered doing a 6 hour babysitting day on the first Saturday in December and advertising it as “Christmas Shopping Babysitting” but the time frame just didn’t work out for us.

  34. Jaime says

    Hey Jen, maybe your church should try the 6 hour babysitting day for the “Christmas Shopping Babysitting” on the Black Friday weekend. I think alot of people wouldn’t want their kids in the middle of all those crowds.

  35. Beth says

    The best fundraiser my kids ever did was artwork. They drew a couple pictures and we selected what we wanted the picture on. They put them on shirts, mugs, key chains, tote bags, etc. These made wonderful gifts and keepsakes.

  36. Jaime says

    How about instead of the children standing in front of stores begging for donations around the holidays have them set up a table and offer gift wrapping services. I see alot of this done in the Malls to benefit different organizations. I think people might like helping the school and getting a service done by the children, teachers, and/or parents. This could also be done for Valentine’s day. Just be sure to have a sign stating what the money is being raised for. I think more people would want to help buy new science books rather than fund yet another field trip.

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