13 Fundraising Ideas For Schools That Really Work

13 Fundraising Ideas For Schools That Really Work

Educating our children is expensive, so schools – no matter how rich or poor – have always relied on community support to give their students and staff the resources needed to truly excel.

In some areas, schools even rely on community goodwill simply to furnish basic tools to students and teachers, making fundraising even more vital to the health of the community and to our collective future.

However, some schools and Parents and Citizens’ Associations get mired in the same old tired ideas, repeated endlessly.

For many parents and community members, the site of the annual school fete or chocolate box makes them pull the curtains and pretend to not be home.

We think a little creativity is in order, so we’ve put together some fundraising ideas for schools that are fresh, exciting and easy to implement.

1. Garage sale

Hold a neighbourhood garage sale. It’s likely that most families in your neighbourhood are in the same school area, so if everyone contributes their profits to the school, you can raise a lot of money in just one fun day – while decluttering at the same time.

Do you have a room or three filled with junk? Sell it. Schools always have old hardware, old library books, furniture and sports equipment that isn’t being used. Sell it all!

The best thing about this idea is that there is zero cost and it takes no time at all. One day to set up a space with tables and pull everything out of storage. One day to hold the actual sale.

Fundraising Ideas For Schools - Garage Sale

2. Street party

Hold a neighbourhood party! Instead of a sale, turn your street into an open-air party for one day. To raise money, charge admission to outsiders, hold a raffle, sell cupcakes or have a sausage sizzle. Let’s put the fun back into FUNdraising!

3. Online appeal

Set up a simple donation web page and email everyone you know. It doesn’t matter if they live in another country – a personal appeal with a convenient link to a secure donation site is one of the simplest ideas and will no doubt get you plenty of donations. 

Fundraising Ideas For Schools - Online Donations

4. Cash raffle

The raffle is often the most derided fundraising idea out there, but rather than spend ages trying to find prizes (who can be bothered?), run a cash raffle instead.

All you have to do is buy a roll or book of simple tickets from a $2 shop or a party supply store. Decide on a percentage for 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes then sell them for a modest price. Schedule a drawing, with the winner getting some percentage of the money collected.

You might even find the winner donates their winnings back to the cause! That said, be sure to set the pot at a comfortable level so the winner feels like one and you still make a healthy profit.

5. Big Canvas Love

UPDATE: Our Big Hearted Canvas fundraising program is now launched!

We’re about to launch an easy fundraising program that will raise funds and lift spirits.

Soon, you’ll have the amazing opportunity to sell canvas photo prints through your networks. Best thing is that your cause will receive a massive 20% of the proceeds.

You will receive a dedicated Big Hearted Canvas fundraising page that is completely free which means all proceeds go to supporting your cause. That’s a 100% return on investment.

Express your interest in Big Hearted Canvas and we’ll let you know as soon as it’s launched!

Fundraising Ideas For Schools - Big Canvas Love

6. Swop board

Swop Board, created by Natalie Angelillo in Fresno, California, is a service is modelled on websites like Gumtree, Craigslist or eBay where people put up items for sale.

The difference is that schools can join and people can put up their old unwanted stuff for sale while giving the school some percentage of the profits – from 10% to 100%.

All a school has to do is join and organise people in the community to get rid of their old stuff in this way instead of the usual garage sales or their own eBay accounts. Schools can quickly raise thousands of dollars and the best part is that it’s an ongoing, self-sustaining fundraiser. Every time someone cleans out their basement or attic, more money rolls in.

7. Relay race

One of the most tragically overlooked aspects of our kids’ education is their physical fitness. Some children dread sports classes, but as a nation we’re pretty out of shape, and the warning bells have been going off for a while now.

We need to teach our kids to eat healthy and get more exercise. So why do our efforts to raise money for our schools focus on chocolates more often than fitness?

A relay race is a simple concept: teams of six people sign up to run a course, with each member of the team agreeing to run a certain distance. The other team members drive to their personal finishing line, where a baton is handed off from one team member to the next.

Every team has to pay an entry fee as the fundraising component. Bonus: people can ‘sponsor’ teams and provide team T-shirts or other equipment, with a portion of the money going to the school as well.

You could even make things more exciting for the kids and make it an overnight relay similar to Relay For Life.

Fundraising Ideas For Schools - Relay Race

8. Naming rights

There’s a reason banks and corporations are happy to pay millions of dollars to have a stadium named after them: It’s good advertising and cements their presence in a community. Similarly, your school is an important building in town and, while you might not have the right to legally change a school name, you can still auction off the ‘unofficial’ naming rights of not just the school, but different buildings within the campus.

In fact, an annual ‘naming rights’ auction will see the highest bidder get their business name or the name of a family member enshrined as the name of your cafeteria, gym, multi-purpose room – or any other building under your jurisdiction.

It’s a fun way to both benefit a local citizen or business and raise some money. Just be sure to factor in costs for signage. It doesn’t have to be fancy signage – it’s only meant to last a year.

9. Workouts and classes

Contact your local gyms, personal trainers and massage therapists and ask them to volunteer once a term to give free classes, training sessions or massages in the school gym or other space. Parents (and students) can pay to take classes, with the money going to the school. Some businesses might even like to turn one of their own normal classes into a fundraiser.

The businesses ought to get on board because it will mean a whole new local customer base may join their full course of classes. It’s also a great promotional tool for them.

Fundraising Ideas For Schools - Classes

10. Old school micro-donations

When it comes to fundraising, we all have a tendency to ‘think big’ and go for the big events that will see a lot of money pour in all at once. But don’t be afraid to roll out something smaller-scale: Ask everyone for their change.

The idea is simple enough: Set up a jar at checkout lines all over town and ask people to dump their change into it. All those five, ten and twenty cent pieces will add up fast – and no one will even notice the money’s gone from their pockets.

You can encourage kids and families to bring their jars of silver coins and just add them all to the pot, too. The world is becoming more and more digital and debit-card based every day, but there are plenty of cash opportunities out there, and simply by asking people to pay for their groceries in cash and to donate the change they receive back, you can raise a lot of money in a short period of time! 

11. Social entrepreneurship

For many students university is in their future, but others may opt to go straight into business when they graduate high school. To raise money for the school while teaching kids about running a business or social enterprise, open and maintain a second-hand store.

All that’s needed is some space open to the street, a cash register and donated items. A donation campaign can be held every year or a few times a year where students bring items from home that their families no longer need – clothing, appliances, toys, computers. The school second-hand shop then sells these items very cheaply because the sale price is all profit for the school’s coffers. You might even find clothing manufacturers who want to get rid of the factory seconds. A phone call from a student may very well be the soft touch they need to give generously.

Students can be appointed manager, bookkeeper and other roles, with a staff advisor guiding them to learn how to run a successful business while improving the school’s financial picture.

Fundraising Ideas For Schools - Business

12. Sport charity match

Some of the best ideas for schools combine three basic elements: low set-up costs, student involvement and fun.

Getting the kids involved is a no-brainer: Not only will their efforts directly benefit themselves, but the energy and enthusiasm the kids will bring to the endeavour will, in turn, inspire the community to rally behind the cause. The idea of hosting a sport charity match seamlessly integrates these elements into a spectacular event that’s sure to succeed.

If your school has sports teams in cricket, football, basketball, netball etc, a charity game can be organised with another local school. The schools can donate the venue and ticket sales would be split evenly between the schools.

Additionally, team-branded ‘swag’ could be sold at the games to attendees looking to support their team, and halftime events can be organised around entertainment like races against the fastest runners in the school.

Not only does the scale of these events offer the potential for a large amount of money to be raised, the epic nature of sports rivalries guarantees this event will be incredibly popular year in and year out.

13. Just Ask

Just make some calls.

An evening spent calling all other parents and simply asking them to write out a cheque for whatever amount they’re comfortable with can have a huge impact.

Sometimes we make things more complicated than we have to. When it comes to raising money, we always think we have to put on a show and have a genius idea to inspire giving – and it’s true that you tend to raise more money when you have a plan and some entertainment value.

However, in an emergency when you need funds fast, the simplest and most basic idea often wins the day: Just ask.

  • Send kids home with a letter and an envelope asking for donations. Explain the emergency and the consequences – and just ask parents to donate whatever they can. If the letter comes from a parent, even better. Put your hand up to be that parent.
  • Send out email blasts, social media posts and other communications asking local businesses, organisations, and leading citizens to donate whatever they can. A Paypal account can be set up in moments to accept donations.

People get weary of being asked for simple donations, but if you haven’t done it in a while (or at all) you’ll be surprised at the response.

Fundraising Ideas For Schools - Just Ask

Time to take action

Inspired? Well, it’s time to take action! Unfortunately, many parents wait for an organisation to either be formed or to start taking action.

It’s natural enough. If there’s already a fundraising committee, you often wait to see what they come up with. If there isn’t, it’s natural for parents to shy away because – while they’re willing to help – they don’t want to or can’t take on the responsibility of organising everything themselves.

It’s a natural instinct to wait for someone ‘appropriate’ to tell us what to do. When a school is in a budget crisis, you wait to be contacted about fundraising. But what if no one steps up? Who says you have to wait for an ‘official’ campaign?

Granted, a group action with a centrally coordinated management team will likely do better and be more effective. But if you’re not willing or able to be that organising force, does that mean you twiddle your thumbs until someone finally stands up and takes it on?

These days, there are plenty of ways an individual can fundraise on their own and, if a bunch of individuals all get tired of waiting, their combined impact can be almost as powerful as a committee – sometimes even more so.

In an ideal world, we all have unlimited time to complete everything we take on. We plan properly; carry out the task in a relaxed, thoughtful manner; tweak our plans and make certain our volunteers are well supported. Yeah right … !

If this was the case, our school fundraising events would be the result of months of planning, would go off without a hitch, and would bring in more money than we need to keep going throughout the school year.

That’s why we’ve only included fundraising ideas for schools that you can implement yourself, at whatever level you can manage.

Time to take action now!

Why wait? It’s time to take action now! Stop waiting to be given instructions and just do whatever you can. It may not be much, but if everyone did that little bit, it would add up to a lot without a single meeting being held.

Don’t let your motivation go stale. Children are our future, afterall.


Eli is Canvas Factory's resident blogger and social media buff. She has a passion for art, craft, design, fashion and photography. She loves to explore the joys and challenges of family life, relationships, motherhood and pet ownership. Eli finds it's more funny to poke fun at herself than others. She's travelled extensively and considers herself a citizen of the world.

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