The best school fundraisers are creative, fun to host, and easy to participate in. Whether you’re investing in resources for your student organizations or sending one of your clubs or teams on a trip, fundraising is an essential part of enriching students’ opportunities. However, it can be hard to develop fundraising ideas your students and their parents are excited about.
If your past fundraisers haven’t always resonated with participants and attendees, you may not have chosen the right fundraiser. Ideally, fundraising ideas for schools should be engaging for both student participants and adult supporters. This can be a hard line to walk, but it’s key to carrying out a fundraiser that excites participants and raises revenue.
To get started planning an effective fundraising event for your school, we’ll discuss how to:
- 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.
Whether you’re a teacher looking to raise funds for classroom supplies or a booster club campaigning on behalf of the school band, choosing the right type of event is a crucial first step. An “a-thon” fundraiser is adaptable to a wide variety of school causes and different student age groups, so let’s take a look at that first!
1. Get students involved in an “a-thon” fundraiser.
Looking for a fundraiser that gets students excited, makes donating easy, and culminates in a fun event? In an a-thon fundraiser, participants collect pledges from supporters who agree to donate a fixed amount for every unit of activity participants complete at the event. These customizable fundraisers include walk-a-thons, dance-a-thons, and fun runs.
The success of your a-thon fundraiser depends on how many pledges participants can get from supporters before the event. Fundraising software designed specifically for a-thon fundraising automatically creates customizable pages that student participants (or their parents) can share with friends, family, and social media connections. This makes it much easier for students to get the support that will keep them motivated to participate in the fundraiser.
While the walk-a-thon is one of the most common a-thon fundraisers, there are plenty of other ways to raise money with an a-thon fundraiser that you can tailor to specific school causes. For example, your school’s baseball team could hold a hit-a-thon fundraiser in which participants receive pledged donations based on the number of consecutive pitches they hit.
A-thon fundraisers are very flexible, and they don’t always have to conclude with an event. Read-a-thons, for instance, gather donations based on how many books, pages, or chapters participants read, meaning they can be ongoing throughout the school year. However, an event gives participants 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.
Before your event, students and parents work hard to support the campaign by securing donations. Your school’s fundraising event should celebrate participants’ hard work. Be sure to plan ahead so that your event goes smoothly and encourages further giving.
Set up a team of event organizers, such as teachers and administrators, parents, or older students. To minimize common event planning challenges, advise organizers to get an early start.
To help ensure your event’s success, consider:
- Your attendees. Give your student participants enough space to complete their walk, bike ride, or other activity. You’ll also want to make sure that they—and anyone you invite to cheer them on—have fun lending a hand to support a good cause.
- Your purpose. Reinforce the good cause your fundraiser is supporting. Provide additional information wherever possible, and encourage additional giving at the event.
- Your resources. Start planning early to make sure you have all of the resources you need before the event is slated to begin. Minimize spending by using your school’s facilities as the event venue.
The more participants you have, the more successful your fundraiser will be! Promoting your event across media channels like social media or your website is crucial to attracting lots of participants. Use your school’s website to spread the word about your fundraiser so all of your students and their families can choose to participate.
3. Use your school website to draw attention to your fundraiser.
Your school website is a powerful communication tool. Chances are, students and parents already use the site to find homework assignments, holiday schedules, and other relevant school updates. To motivate participants to spread the word to more supporters, post regular updates about your fundraiser on your school’s website.
When you post about your fundraiser on your school website, visitors should be able to find out:
- The cause your fundraiser will support. Website visitors won’t want to contribute to a fundraiser with an unclear cause! Clearly spell out your cause on the dedicated a-thon fundraising page. Supporters will also be more motivated to get involved if you incorporate multimedia elements like a picture of the team your fundraiser is supporting or a video of a club leader explaining how the funds will support their group.
- How they can get involved. If supporters who aren’t current students can sign up to participate in your fundraiser, provide information about 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 event. Events are more fun (and more successful) when they have more guests! Add registration information and details like the location and entry donation amount so website visitors can prepare to attend the event. To make the experience even more seamless for visitors, add an online event registration form.
If your school’s website already gets plenty of daily traffic from interested users, leverage that base of users to promote your fundraiser. Create an event page that’s accessible from your homepage to build awareness for the fundraiser. You can also use your school’s or PTO’s social media accounts, email lists, or text messaging systems to share information about the fundraiser on a large scale.
No matter how you choose to promote your fundraising on your website, the most important consideration is that all the relevant information is easy to find and access. If you’re looking into building a website for your school’s fundraising team, check out these recommendations from Morweb’s guide to website builders for schools. You can also look into examples of how nonprofits and other school fundraising teams organize their websites as inspiration.
4. Expand your networks of supporters via social media.
The majority of your school’s parents and any high-school-age students involved in your fundraiser spend at least a small part of their day on social media. Social media is a great way to boost awareness of your school fundraiser, helping you increase donations and attendance at your event.
If you’ve chosen a fundraiser that accepts online donations, encourage students or parents to share their donation pages across the social media platforms they use. With more people posting about your fundraiser online, you can grow the network of potential supporters.
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? Have your students base their posts on a basic fundraising letter with adjustments that adapt the letter’s format and language to social media. For younger students or busy parents, make posting convenient with a pre-made, copy-and-paste template.
Effective posts are one great strategy to increase attendance at your event. By incorporating multimedia elements (like videos) into social media posts, linking to the event registration page, and customizing donation appeals, students can encourage more support from their social network. With a good social media strategy, you could see increases in pledges, donations, and event attendance.
5. Sell merchandise to boost school spirit.
You can motivate participants to fundraise, reward supporters, and even increase donations to your school’s fundraiser by adding a school spirit merchandise sale to your fundraiser. School merchandise spreads the word about the cause your campaign is raising money for because participants end up wearing your fundraising message. For donors, the merchandise is almost like a bonus for supporting your cause.
Design custom merchandise for your fundraiser, incorporating your school’s name, colors, logo, or mascot into the design. The merchandise should also reflect your fundraiser’s goal by identifying the cause the fundraiser is supporting. If your school is partnering with a local nonprofit, ask for permission to use their branding elements and display the partnership on your merchandise.
Designing high-quality merchandise for your fundraiser can be challenging, especially if your team is short on time and graphic design experience. A graphic design tool or service can help you create custom t-shirts, stickers, table runners, and more. Hiring a team of graphic designers to create a quality design can take the pressure off of your team but still yield high profits from selling merchandise.
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. If you’re working with older students who are doing most of the fundraising work themselves, you can offer merchandise as an incentive to motivate them.
6. Keep student fundraisers motivated with competitive elements.
If your team is fundraising with high school students, it’s likely they’re doing most of the fundraising work without much help from their parents. Their knowledge of social media makes them the perfect participants for a-thon fundraisers and other online or highly social fundraising efforts. Your school can use your online fundraising software to motivate these student participants.
In particular, cultivating some competition will go a long way in motivating your students! Here are a few popular strategies to try that tap into students’ competitive streak:
- Gamify fundraising. With a school fundraising platform like 99Pledges, your school can track each student’s progress. Using this data, your school can create fundraising leaderboards that each student can check on.
- Stir up rivalries. Create a rivalry with another class, grade, or school. Reinforce how important it is that your team wins the fundraising rivalry with the promise of prizes to the winner.
- Give public recognition. Entice students to work hard on fundraising with a promise of public recognition. Offer to recognize them over morning announcements, in the school yearbook, or on a poster in your classroom.
Stirring up competition among your students is a great way to motivate them to fundraise. To encourage fundraising from students and parents, consider pairing these competitive elements with a prize or incentive program.
7. Offer free school fundraising prizes.
While incentives like public recognition are great options to encourage participation, there’s more you can do to encourage your team to fundraise. While not many school fundraising teams have the budget to spend on extravagant prizes, these incentives don’t always have to be costly. Tailoring prizes to a specific group makes them more meaningful to recipients.
These free (or low-cost) incentives can help you reach your school’s fundraising goals:
- Individual incentives: These incentives go to individual students who meet designated fundraising goals. Some things you could include in this category include a no-homework pass, being the line leader for a week, or getting bonus points on the next spelling test.
- School-wide or class incentives: Reward your entire class, grade, or even school when they meet fundraising goals to reward all students for their hard work. For example, you could offer a bounce house at recess, put on a dance party in the gym, or throw a pajama day event.
- Parent incentives: For many fundraisers, parents have to do a lot of the legwork when it comes to getting donations or pledges. Reward top-earning parents with gift cards to a restaurant or coffee shop or a small gift bag with items like t-shirts and candy.
After your fundraiser ends, run a survey to gather feedback from participants and supporters so you can evaluate what went well and what needs improvement. This information can help you optimize future fundraising events and drive your supporters to stay involved in your next event.
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 co-founder of 99Pledges, and a writer at WriterZone.net, 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.