Whether you’re investing in resources for your student organizations, sending one of your clubs or teams on a trip, or partnering with a local charitable organization, it’s almost certain that your school is used to getting students and parents involved in fundraising efforts. The best school fundraisers are creative, fun to host, and easy to participate in.
If your past fundraising efforts and events haven’t always resonated with participants and attendees, this may be because you haven’t chosen the type of fundraiser that is engaging to both student participants and adult supporters. Today, we’ll take a look at some of the ways in which your school can plan and carry out a fundraising event that’s unique, fun for kids and adults alike, and that raises a significant amount of money in the process!
To get started planning a fun and effective fundraising event for your school, we’ll show you how you can:
- Get students involved in an “a-thon” fundraiser.
- Boost school spirit with a fun and successful event.
- Use your school website to draw attention to your fundraiser.
- Expand your networks of supporters via social media.
- Sell merchandise to boost school spirit.
- Keep student fundraisers motivated with competitive elements.
- Offer free school fundraising prizes.
The first and often the most important step in creating the perfect school fundraiser is choosing the right type of event to host. An “a-thon” fundraiser is adaptable to a wide variety of school causes and different student age groups.
1. Get students involved in an “a-thon” fundraiser.
Looking for a style of fundraiser that gets students excited, makes it easy for supporters to donate, and culminates in a fun anchor event? Consider the a-thon fundraiser, a customizable type of fundraiser that’s probably most familiar from the popular walk-a-thon.
In an a-thon fundraiser, participants collect pledges from supporters, who agree to donate a fixed amount for every mile the participant walks (or any other unit of activity that they complete) at the event. Want to encourage a little friendly competition? Your school can choose to set up the fundraiser so that students raise more in donations the more laps they walk, books they read, or other units of activity they complete.
The success of an a-thon fundraiser is dependent upon the number of supporters that participants can get to pledge their donations before the event. Fundraising software designed especially for a-thon fundraising automatically creates customizable pages that student participants (or, for elementary-school students, their parents) can share with friends, family, and social media connections online as well as via email and text.
While the walk-a-thon is the most familiar fundraiser of this type and one of the easiest to set up—all your school needs for the event itself is a designated area to serve as the participants’ walking course—there are plenty of other ways to raise money with an a-thon that are easy to tailor to specific school causes. For your school’s next fundraiser, consider hosting a bike-a-thon, read-a-thon, or volunteer-a-thon.
Not every a-thon fundraiser has to conclude in an event: read-a-thons, for instance, gather donations based on how many books, pages, or chapters participants read and can thus be ongoing throughout the school year. However, an event presents the perfect opportunity to come together as a school community in support of a good cause.
2. Boost school spirit with a fun and successful event.
Your student participants (and their parents) have worked hard to share online donation pages with friends and family to raise money in support of your school fundraiser. The arrival of the event itself should be a time to celebrate everyone’s good work. Be sure to plan ahead so that your anchor event goes smoothly and encourages further giving.
Whether they’re teachers and administrators, parents, or older students, the organizers of the fundraiser should work together to plan the anchor event well in advance. Your team of organizers will be able to avoid or minimize most of the common event planning challenges by getting an early start. To help ensure your event’s success, consider:
- Your attendees. Ensure that your student participants have the space they need to complete their walk, bike, or other activity. You’ll also want to make sure that they—and anyone you invite to cheer them on—have fun participating for a good cause.
- Your purpose. Whether or not all of your attendees are the participants who have raised the donations beforehand, you’ll want to reinforce the good cause your fundraiser is supporting. Provide additional information wherever possible, and you may even want to encourage additional giving at the event.
- Your resources. Start planning early to make sure that you have all of the resources you need before the event is scheduled to begin. You can minimize spending by using your school’s facilities as the location for your event.
Your school fundraiser will be more successful when you have more participants! Use your school website to spread the word about your fundraiser and any events attached to it so that all of your students and their families have a chance to get involved.
3. Use your school website to draw attention to your fundraiser.
Your school website is a powerful communication tool. It’s where your school’s students and parents are already regularly looking for homework assignments, holiday schedules, and other important news relating to your school’s operations. Post updates about your fundraiser on your school’s website to motivate participants and spread the word to more supporters.
Wondering what to include that’s sure to catch your website visitors’ attention? When you post about your fundraiser on your school website, visitors should quickly and easily see:
- What cause the fundraiser is supporting. Website visitors won’t contribute to a fundraiser for an unclear cause! Make sure your cause is spelled out clearly on the dedicated a-thon fundraising page. Supporters will also be more motivated to get involved if you incorporate multimedia elements: a picture of the team your fundraiser is supporting in action, for instance, or a video of the president of a student organization explaining how the funds raised will support their group.
- How they can get involved. If older students or parents can still sign up to participate in your fundraiser and receive shareable donation pages, provide information as to how they can register to receive a link. If you want to direct visitors to student participants’ donation pages or to a school donation page, provide the necessary links on your website.
- Information about your anchor event. Events are more fun (and more successful fundraisers) when they have more guests! Provide registration information or details about the location and entry donation so that website visitors can attend.
Your school doesn’t need to spend the time and effort creating an event website for your fundraiser when your school website already gets plenty of interested visitors each day. Create a page for your event that visitors can access from your homepage, or provide a link to the event registration page there. You can also use your school’s or PTO’s social media accounts, email list, or text messaging system to share information about the fundraiser.
However you choose to incorporate your fundraiser on your website, ensure that all the relevant information is easy to find and access. Want to learn how the pros draw website visitors to their fundraising efforts? Check out these top nonprofit website templates to see how nonprofits use their websites to draw attention to the important causes for which they’re fundraising on a daily basis.
Want more people to be able to access your student participants’ donation pages or learn more about your fundraising event? Encourage older students or parents to share information about your school fundraiser on their social media accounts.
4. Expand your networks of supporters via social media.
It’s almost certain that your school’s parents, as well as any high-school-age students who may be involved in your fundraiser, spend at least a small part of their day on social media. Social media is a great way to spread the word about your school fundraiser, helping you reach more supporters and increasing attendance at your anchor event.
If you’ve chosen an a-thon fundraiser or another type of fundraiser that accepts online donations, encourage student participants or their parents to share their donation pages across the social media platforms on which they have profiles. The more students or parents participate, the larger the network of potential supporters for your school’s fundraiser!
Working with students who are happy to share their pages on social media but aren’t sure what to say to their friends and followers about the fundraiser? Students can model their posts on the contents of traditional mailed fundraising letters like these, updated to suit the preferred formats and post lengths of their favorite social media platforms.
Effectively written posts are one great strategy to turn students’ and parents’ social media followers into supporters. Participants can further encourage pledges, donations, and event attendance by incorporating multimedia elements into their social media communications, linking to the event registration page if applicable, and customizing their donation pages to express their personal involvement in the fundraiser.
Want to know how your students are doing? Look for online fundraising software that tracks and reports on their sharing so your school stays up-to-date on their progress. You can even incentivize sharing by providing students with small rewards (entry tickets to a raffle to win a prize, for instance) each time they share their pages.
Looking for another way to incentivize involvement in your fundraiser for both participants and supporters? Sell school merchandise to reward participants and boost school spirit.
5. Sell merchandise to boost school spirit.
Everyone loves receiving gifts! You can motivate participants, reward supporters, and even increase donations to your school fundraiser by adding a school spirit merchandise sale to your fundraiser. School merchandise makes a fun reward for supporting your fundraiser and spreads the word about the good cause your fundraiser is helping.
Design custom merchandise that features your school’s name, colors, logo, or mascot. The merchandise should also reflect the goal of your fundraiser by identifying the club, team, or division of the school the fundraiser is supporting. Partnering with a local charitable organization? Ask for permission to use their branding elements as well to illustrate the partnership on your merchandise.
You don’t have to be a graphic designer to create awesome merchandise that students, parents, and other participants and supporters will be happy to receive. A website such as Bonfire can help you design custom t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other merchandise to commemorate and spread the word about your fundraiser.
Once you’ve created the perfect merchandise, you can sell it at your fundraising event or offer it to supporters who pledge at certain levels. Additionally, if your student participants are older students doing most of the fundraising work themselves, you can offer merchandise as an incentive to motivate them.
Incentives don’t have to cost your school money, however: you can use the gamification elements included with your online fundraising software to keep student participants motivated.
6. Keep student fundraisers motivated with competitive elements.
If your school fundraiser involves high school students, it’s likely that they’re doing most of the fundraising work themselves. Their social media savvy makes them perfect participants for a-thon fundraisers and other online fundraising efforts. Your school can use your online fundraising software’s gamification elements to motivate student participants.
Look for online fundraising software that makes it easy to see how your students are progressing. One of the organizers of your fundraiser can use this reporting data to create a leaderboard on your school’s website or in a physical location at your school.
You’ll also want to choose software that allows you to group student participants into teams that can compete to raise the most in donations. See which homeroom, classroom, or club is capable of raising the most toward a school cause or a charitable organization before the day of the event arrives.
School merchandise or a pizza party makes a great prize for the winning student fundraiser or group of student fundraisers, but your school can also use forms of recognition that don’t cost anything at all. Offer homework passes or similar classroom benefits to leaders in your fundraising efforts.
Gamification elements keep student participants motivated throughout your school’s online fundraising efforts. You can visit 99Pledges to learn more about how reporting and gamification elements work together in online fundraising software to help your school fundraiser succeed.
In addition to the competitive aspects of an online fundraiser, you can further motivate students to reach your school’s goals by offering them free prizes.
7. Offer free school fundraising prizes.
Prizes and fundraiser incentives don’t always have to be costly. Here’s a list of 35 free or almost free incentives to help you reach your school fundraising goals.
- Wear your favorite hat to school
- Receive bonus points on the next test
- Be recognized during announcements
- Choose any class job for the week
- Be the first in line at recess or at the end of school
- Keep a favorite toy at your desk during class time
- Receive a free homework pass
- Get extra time at the computer or in the computer room
- Special hall pass to leave class early on a Friday
- Choose what assignment class does for homework
- Be a teacher’s helper for a day
- Grab bags with goodies
School-wide or Class Incentives
- Dunking contest for staff
- Throw water balloons at your favorite teacher
- Music/dance party in the classroom
- Free recess
- Eat lunch outdoors as a class or school
- Listen to music during recess or lunch
- Pizza day
- “Silly string” teachers at an assembly
- Earn a trophy or plaque to hang in a classroom
- Classroom can play a game of choice
- Can wear pajamas to school
- Extra art or gym time for class
- Teachers have a dance off at school assembly
- Chance to watch a movie during school
- Bounce house during recess
- Teacher will shave their head if the group meets their goal
- Principal banana split sundae
- Create some motivating competition between classes with a group reward for top selling class (music party, pizza party, etc.)
- Limo ride for top sellers to go to a local game, dance or event
- Laser tag party at a local gym
- Dance party with DJ after school
- iTunes gift cards
- Amazon gift cards
Prizes like these can encourage students to get involved and even take the lead in your school’s fundraising efforts!
After your fundraiser has concluded you’ll want to gather feedback from participants and supporters so that you can evaluate what went well and what will need updating to be ready for the next time around. This information will encourage your supporters to stay involved in your next event and ensure future success for your school’s fundraising efforts.
When you choose a style of fundraiser that engages students, parents, and other supporters, your efforts are sure to benefit your school. Helpful technology makes the process easier and allows your participants to reach out to larger networks of potential supporters.
Brad Dowhaniuk is the cofounder 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.