School Fundraising Ideas

Updated on August 15, 2012
L.T. asks from West Hartford, CT
20 answers

I have just agreed to help my children's elementary school PTA with fundraising next year. As this is something I have no experience with, I was hoping to get some advice from those who 'have been there'. This past year the school did a bulb sale in the fall as well as gift cards (which was not really successful). There is also a program where you can purchase school spirit wear as well as get gift cards to the local grocery store that you buy with a check (and the school receives the 4% that would have been lost to the store if a credit card had been used). Does anyone have any thoughts or ideas of successful fundraisers that their schools have done in the past? There is some talk of trying a silent auction this coming year, but we are unsure how to proceed to make it really successful. Thanks!

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answers from Boston on

my sons school does activities throughout the year. they have eat out for education - local resteraunts donate so much (usually about 5%) of the proceeds to the school on a specific night. usually a pizza parlor, Friendly's and sometimes a place like Texas Road House or Boston Market will be involved. they are also doing a mother son event and a father daughter dance. this weekend we have a fun fair from 10-3 and they have a bunch of stuff going on for that. then they have the send home fundraisers like wrapping paper sales at the holidays. I also have a home based business that offers fundraisers, if you are interested you can message me privately and I can give you the details.



answers from Boston on

Fundraising just can't happen with one thing .. but you should look to do a whole calendar for the school year!

I know my school uses: and I think the school receives 50% of the profit and from what I remember it is one of the largest fundraisers they have.

Square 1 Art is another one that they host and I know most schools use this ...

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answers from Boston on

Ahhh, the perpetual fund raiser! As with other schools, our school does seem to have one fundraiser or another going on. These projects have been less successful this year simply due to the state of the economy, but some projects are generally more successful then others.

I do not like to solicit my friends and neighbors to buy overpriced trinkets which ultimately clutter their homes or end up in a landfill. The bulbs are nice, but very expensive. Frequently I think I'd rather just make a donation.

Personally, I support fundraisers which provide something people already need or are likely to buy. For instance, one of our most popular fundraisers is just before Thanksgiving and we sell pies from Hoff bakery in Medford, MA. Very good quality pies which any one would be proud to serve at the holidays. The markup is not much and people have the convenience of picking them up at the school. We also sell Christmas wreaths at the same time.

We do have a silent auction type fundraiser as well and solicit donations from the community of goods and services. We get good participation because the auction is a great source of advertising for the company. Each class also puts together their own designer gift basket each with a different theme to be auctioned.

Another popular fundraiser is a family night at the school where a popular children's entertainer is hired and tickets are sold. Family's enjoy a great night together with their friends. This can be combined with a bake sale.

One fundraiser we do is with Square One Art. In this program, students produce a picture during art class and then it is sent to the company and parents are given options to purchase different items with the childs art on it. I think these items are cute, but the project is time consuming and the products are expensive.

A school cookbook is a great fundraiser. Each family is encouraged to provided a recipe or two. The recipes are published into a school cookbook. The recipes are tried and true and the kids get a kick out of the momento of using a friends recipe. It is also affordable to most.

I think sales where prizes are offered to the child based on how much they sell are one of the worst fundraisers. Generally the products are not something anyone needs. The family may feel pressured to buy even if they cannot afford it and children are burdened with the distraction of becoming junior salesmen.

Anyway, kudos to you for participating. Hope you get some great ideas.


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answers from Springfield on

My son's 6th grade class has done a lot of fundraising this year to pay for all of the things they are doing.

Pancake breakfast at Applebees. We set this up with the manager. The restaurant opened early, before they normally do. They had 2 cooks who made the pancakes. Tickets were sold for $5 each. If the person who bought the ticket showed up that morning the class got $3 of the $5. The class kept all $5 if the person didn't come. The kids were the waiters and busboys and they served the pancakes, coffee and juice. We made around $1300 that morning.

Second fundraiser was a skating night. The local ice rink donated 2 hours of ice time to us. We sold tickets for $10 per family of 4 and $2 per person after that. They played music and everyone skated. We also sold baked goods, coffee, hot cocoa and cider. It was a really fun night and promoted exercise as well. We made around $600 that night.

Our biggest fundraiser was called a Reverse Raffle. It was a dinner with a raffle. We sold tickets for 2 people for $40. For that people got dinner (buffett made by us parents) and the chance to win $1500. Each ticket holding couple received a number on a ball. All the balls were put into one of those bingo spinners. Balls were taken out 25 at a time. Those people were no longer eligible for the grand prize. Consolation prizes were awarded though. (Donations from local business and parents.) The last 3 people (balls) could negotiate the ending. They could split the grand prize or try their luck. If they went on then the last 2 could split the pot or go on. We had 3 winners since they decided to split it. The class made $2500 that night (minus taxes).

That was a really fun night and a great money making raffle. You can probably Google it to get better instructions. The hall was donated and we made all the food so it worked out great. Now the PTO wants to take it over for next year.

Tomorrow night we'll be holding a movie night. We're playing "Horton Hears a Who" to get everyone geared up for the June performance of the 6th graders in Seussical Jr. (My son is the Cat in the Hat!) We'll sell popcorn and candy and drinks, and have the donation bucket out. There's no set charge to watch the movie. At my other kids school they ask for a donation of 3 dollars per family. It's $1 for a bag of popcorn plus a bottle water. If you give more than the $3 you get raffle tickets. They raffle off the movie after they play it that night.

There's also the basket raffle every year. Each grade makes a huge themed basket with donated items. These get raffled off on Arts night. Some of these baskets are amazing. Ours this year and last is a Pampered Chef basket. Someone had a Pampered Chef party and for every item we bought one item was donated to make the basket. We had enough donated items to make 2 baskets. It was a great idea and we didn't need to do the leg work this year.

Other baskets ideas are a chocolate basket, an art supply basket, a movie/entertainment basket, a summer fun basket. You get the idea.

For the 6th grade musical we will be selling ad spots in the playbill and well wishes. People can also buy telegrams that will be delivered backstage to the performing kids during intermission. There's a concession stand also that sells food, drink and small items (Seuss stuff this year-pencils etc.)

It was great this year to come up with new ideas instead of selling the same old wrapping paper and stuff we don't need. I am so ready for the fundraising to be over though!

Good luck!

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answers from Boston on

Our schools do several things that are successful. One is a book fair in November (use Scholastic or other well known company) and people will buy for the holidays. Our schools combine it with an ice cream social where people pay to make their own sundaes. It's a cheap social night out.

Another option is a shoebox auction - even in a tough economy, companies/merchants will give away tickets (movies, Duck tours, museums), gift baskets, gift certificates to restaurants, services at salons (which cost them nothing but their time), and so on. Parents/kids can buy raffle tickets at $1 each and just put them in the shoebox in front of the item they are interested in. It's better than a raffle because people are only buying tickets for items they want. You need to collect a ton of shoeboxes ahead of time, and collecting donations involves legwork, but it can be done.

Some schools do gift bazaars in which crafters and other vendors pay a fee for a table to display their wares, and then they get the proceeds from all their sales. You collect table fees, and they are responsible for setting up their space the way they want. They have a certain square footage and that's it. You have to allow for electricity needs for some but if you put that on the form, the vendor will tell you whether they need it or not. In many such bazaars, each vendor is required to donate an item (set a value such as $15 to $25) for a raffle, then sell raffle tickets for $2 each or whatever. You keep that money. The only problem with this idea is if your community already has a lot of gift fairs. The best time to do this is November before the holidays but if it's "overkill" in your community, then there may be too much competition.

In a tough economy, the gift cards to area supermarkets are successful because that is money that parents are spending anyway - they just buy the cards thru the schools at face value so it doesn't cost them any more. The stores do it because it channels shoppers into their market vs. a competitor, and because some people tend to spend a little more when they have a gift card in their wallet (even though they already paid for it!). This program requires tremendous accuracy in accounting, but it can run all year. If parents tend to use credit cards for their groceries in order to accumulate airline miles, your PTA would have to have the ability to accept these cards.

Another option is to have parents (and grandparents and friends of friends) access key shopping sites through your school's website. For example, Vistaprint (business cards and many printing needs), LL Bean, Staples, Amazon, and many other sites let you put their logos on your web page, and then people do their regular shopping through you, and you get a percentage of their purchase amount. People are not spending anything more than they normally would, and it capitalizes on the fact that SO many people shop on line these days. Again, it is ongoing and year-round, and it requires a lot of ongoing publicity to get people in the habit of using it. It lets anyone participate (including Grandma 4 states away) as well as people who live in town but don't have kids in the system, and it lets them support the program without having kids ring their doorbells selling candy bars.

I like the idea of a Thanksgiving pie sale - a local church makes a fortune doing that. They actually bake all their own pies and it takes a real organized assembly line of dough-rollers and apple-slicers to make it happen, but they don't have the charge to the bakery company.

I think a combination of fundraising programs that combines ongoing sales and some special social events is a good mix.

I absolutely agree that giving prizes to kids who sell the most puts a lot of pressure on kids and creates unhealthy competition. Most of the big prize winners are kids whose parents took the order forms to big offices - so the kids aren't doing the work anyway. It sets up ridiculous one-upsmanship and penalizes the kids whose parents work in small companies or at home.

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answers from Boston on

Our school does 2 fundraisers a year. My favorite is the family donation....basically they ask each family to make a $25-$35 donation in lieu of having a fundraiser. Much less effort for all involved and I love it because I don't end up with $50.00-$100.00 worth of some sales product so my school can see a "percentage" of it. The schools gets 100% of the profits. Plus I don't have to hit up friends and neighbors!

Another idea that my son's hockey program does is similar except each player is required to sell $100.00 worth of raffle tickets (there are 10 - $10 tickets) Whether you sell them to others or purchase them yourselves is up to you. The point is - it is REQUIRED everyone is in the same boat (you could lower the ticket cost to $5.00 is that is more comfortable). The prizes are 1st prize $7500 - 2nd prize $2500 - 3rd prize $1500 - 4th prize $500 and 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th prize is $100 - obviously this can be adjusted depending on the number of students selling and the amount you want to raise. They also give a prize to the person who sells the winning ticket (good because everyone has a chance - it is not necessarily the top seller) and a prize to the top seller on each team (or in each class). They may also do something for the top seller in the program too, can't recall. We raise about $15,000.00 with this one

Good luck



answers from Boston on

I've been fundraising for 6 years at my kid's schools.. Here are some ideas and thoughts for you.. Right now, it's really hard to raise money.. Everyone is feeling the economy so you have to get really creative and find what people want.. Cold hard cash is usually it.. do a cash calendar.. It's a lot of work, but it can be very profitable.. You set it up as a month calendar page with different amounts for each day for specific days.. You can always solicit companies for prizes for specific days too.. Set one or two really big wins ($500) and that will motivate people to buy.. Charge $10 a calendar or 3 for $25.. whatever money you make selling will be less your cash days, so you may have to have a mandatory sell (each child must sell 5 or whatever you need to make a profit). If you do choose to do prizes, you need a letter on school letterhead stating that you are doing a fundraiser, include your pto's tax id # and any pertinant info.. Soliciting this way takes time so allow yourself a lot of time to do this. Most companies, esp local ones, make all their donations at the beginning of each month, so get a team together and target restaurants and other businesses then. For the larger companies, go to their corporate websites and look for "Company Info" or Charitable Giving or something close like that - all the info on how to solicit donations will be there..

If you do a silent auction, you will need big ticket items, like tickets to major events or other big items.. again, a lot of footwork..

don't forget, you will need to send thank you's to every business who contributes too..

Selling $1 candy bars is quick and profitable.

Local restaurants (Chuck E Cheese, Papa Gino's etc) do "school nights".. it's quick and easy and will earn a few bucks.. not usually alot, but maybe a couple hundred.. call your local one and ask the manager about it.. it usually consists of setting up a night for people to come and everything they buy, the school gets a percentage back from the sales. CEC is great for that since they will send Chuck E to the school to promote it and give you stickers for everyone and free tokens.

if you want more info, let me know..



answers from Salt Lake City on

Every year that we sale school spirit wear our fundraisers go quite well. It brings the crowd in and then they also buy other things. Also we have sold cookie dough and that seems to do pretty good as well. Make sure you advertise the fundraising well too, good luck!



answers from New York on

movie nite/pajama nite/ etc... very low cost, not hard to arrange, and brings parents/community together,,, you can do as many as you want, plus it gives families a low cost activity they can do in these tough times, which is a lot of the reason people arent buying overpriced candy, candles, wrapping paper etc...



answers from Los Angeles on

First of all, congrats on getting your fundraising started! Raising support for a worthy cause can be super rewarding. But obviously, if you're not an official non-profit, it can be really tricky finding a good way to build support for your cause.

One route you might want to consider: setting up a homepage for your group on a fundraising website. Having a group homepage online makes organizing and fundraising infinitely easier ... And though the majority of fundraising sites require you have official non-profit status, many good ones only require that you are a group - and will give you plenty of the tools you need.

For example, one good site is Meet Up (, who allow you to fundraise directly to your account, and register a group without having an official non-profit status - and they cover groups around the world, while giving you some tools to do event management. But the tools they offer are a little limited outside of fundraising.

Another good option would be (, a platform that also helps small groups fundraise and organize (regardless of non-profit status). They also work for international groups - and offer a fair amount of useful tools, like the ability to organize your group or to create volunteer activities and fundraising campaigns for more targeted ways to raise support.

Or you could always try to send up your own PayPal account to link to you directly to help you fundraise, but this is a little trickier and a bit inflexible.

Good luck getting started moving forward! Hope that helped.



answers from Raleigh on

Hey here is a great idea that my daughter's school used. They took an original piece of artwork and sent it to a company called Art to Remember. They turn the artwork into a keepsake and specialize in fundraising. I just did a blog post on them over at Sprout Reviews.



answers from Phoenix on

boxtops for education

try asking local resturants like red robbin, pappa johns, macayos, etc.. to host a school night, the school prints flyers and for each family that brings the flyer into the resturant they donate a percent of the proffits from each order that evening to your school

chuck e cheese has a fundraiser for schools

bake sales, have parents donate baked goods to be sold after school

art auctions, have parents donate art, such as quilts, chrochet blankets, pottery, hand made jewlery, paintings etc... have a silent auction night

host a small buisness night... Mary K, Avon, Cookie Lee, Tuperware ask that a percent of their sales get donated to your school.

Host a dinner night at school, get a resturant to donate food (such as Olive Garden) ask for a donation for each family that attends.

For holidays have candy grahms notes, a student or parent can purchace note with a lolly pop, sell them for a $1.00 to be sent to the student on the holiday, have the PTA pass them out to the kids

Have school dances, Mother Son, Father Daughter, sell tickets to the dance, get donations for the punch and snacks.

Hope these help.



answers from Boston on

I suggest trying direct sales companies, for e.g. The Pampered Chef, Lia Sophia, Avon etc...

I am a Pampered Chef consultant and Pampered Chef offers up to 15% of the sales (which may not be as much as some of the other companies), however, 80% of our catalog is under 20.00, therefore, it is a budget for everyone. As a consultant I offer the organization an additional profit from my personal commission. I had a fundraiser last Fall with the local high school Music Boosters. 16 parents participated (which is not much) and the sales were over 3000.00. Imagine if it is an entire elementary school participating. If you would be interested in more information, contact me at [email protected] luck with your endeavors.



answers from Chicago on

This is not the most fun fundraiser, but contacting someone who does magazine sales may really benefit you. It's one of the greatest profit margin items and it's something almost all households use. The school I used to work at has been doing it for years and if you find the right person, it can be a very easy fundraiser since there is no distribution of product for the school. Good luck.


answers from Austin on

The 3 schools (elem, middle, HS) our daughter attended all did the grocery cards. it was easy money. It is amazing how much can be made for every 50 families that participate. If you have a good chairperson you can make $10,000 with very little work..

Our elementary school does an Adult only Live and silent auction away from Campus. It makes at least $30,000 per year.This is a large committee of parent volunteers that begins planning in the spring for the fall event. Usually we had a parent that owned a club or restaurant that donated the space on a Sunday and the event was held beginning in the early evening.Usually early November.

They would provide a buffet dinner at a discounted price and a cash bar was available.
We sold tickets for $10. per person and had the silent Auction all set up for viewing as people arrived. We also accepted pre-bids through a website for those that could not attend.

The Live Auction was always a hit.. The largest bids always seemed to go for Weekend or week long vacations at Vacation homes owned by parents.Some families would bid together for the larger vacation homes. A couple of years some parents built a playhouse in front of the school and then it was Auctioned off. The supplies and building were all donated. The students loved watching it being built and it was great advertising..

People were very clever about donating. Parents would donate homemade meals. Teachers would donate an afternoon of putt-putt and baking brownies for students. Some of the teachers would put together classroom cookbooks that each child would send in a recipe to participate. The Principal would Auction off Principal for a day for a 4th or 5th grader to help "run the school". This student would attend meetings, have lunch with the Principal and hand out popsicles to every student in the school at the end of the day.. The Principal would also allow us to auction off parking spaces for Parents or teachers in prime spots. Many times parents paid big bucks for the spaces and gave them to their child's teacher!

Of course they would also solicit the community for donations it is always a ton of fun. The teachers and their spouses attend and it is a great way for the parents to really get to know each other.

The more you do these events, the easier it becomes. The folders and files are passed down to each new committee so that things do not have to reinvented every year. Also things can be tweeked to change out what has gotten old and tired..

Our Art dept made great money from this program. All you do is have the students do the art and the parents can order the items.. The quality is excellent. We tried to do this early Oct. so that the art work would arrive by Thanksgiving.This way these art pieces could be given as Holiday gifts to relatives.



answers from Honolulu on

1) Collect Box Tops...
2) in our State, certain grocery stores support the schools... and shoppers can designate a school, in which they want to donate to. When a shopper pays for their purchases... they say what school they want to designate, and a certain percentage like 10%, goes directly to the school.

3) Do a fun-run... around the school campus. And send home "sponsor" envelopes with the kids... and the kids 'compete' for donations... and prizes per grade level or per age etc. EVEN getting local businesses involved and to Sponsor (donate to) the race. And, of course, put up a banner to give acknowledgment to the Corporate sponsors or big donors.

4) bake sales and small item sales do not work... nor accrue much for the man-power and help it needs.

These are the kinds of successful things my daughter's school PTA does... and it is a tradition. They have earned LOTS of donations... and it pays for all of their many enrichment programs and even some of the teacher's salaries and computers and library books etc.

All the best,


answers from Boston on

Hi L., I do have one thought for a fundraiser that would continue year after year; however, your PTA would have to be an official non-profit "C" to participate. Can you let me know if it is? I will send you a private message with the details.

E. Taft ###-###-#### [email protected]



answers from Burlington on

My favorite fundraiser that my kids did, was the art one mentioned by a couple other posters. The art teacher at the school would pick a subject for the kids in each class to draw - the 2nd graders would do a sunflower, the 3rd graders would draw a tree with autumn foliage, etc. - and she would send the artwork in to the company. A little later, magnets with each kids' artwork would go home with the kid, along with a small catalog and an order form. The parent could choose to pay $5 for the magnet and stop there or order additional products or send the magnet back and get other things instead or get nothing. Whatever they wanted. The magnets were a great way to get the artwork into the parents hands and I don't believe there were a lot of returned ones. I always bought them. I also bought sets of note cards from each of my daughters and then mixed them so that I could give a set containing each girls' artwork to each of their grandmothers. Another item they had was a fabric quilt square. I ordered one every year and was planning on finding someone to turn all of them into a quilt someday and give it to each daughter later, like when she entered or graduated from high school. Unfortunately, we've moved and their current school doesn't do this fundraiser, so it might end up being a pillow now! :) Anyway, I really liked this fundraiser because I got a lot of gifts out of it (they came in in time for Christmas) and I'd much rather buy something with my child's artwork on it than another candle or over-priced wrapping paper. Every item is unique and special and they just make great gifts for family.

Let us know what you end up doing. I'd like to know what you decide (and the outcome!). Good luck!



answers from Providence on


Instead of a silent auction, try a vendor raffle. You would have local vendors and direct sales companies (Pampered Chef, Avon, tupperware etc) purchase table space (typically $25 for the space. Additional $10 donation for 8' table and 2 chairs rental). At these events, vendors must also donate an item for the raffle table (set a reasonable value $25-$50). Put small buckets in front of each item on the raffle table and sell tickets where the purchaser can place their tickets in the buckets to determine what items they want a chance to win. If you can use the school for the event, then you'd really have no overhead and all the profits are for the PTA! If you have to use a hall, you may be able to get a local VFW or similar donate the use to your fundraiser as well.

Good luck to you :)



answers from New York on

I recently did a fundraising event with the parents of the children that go to my kids pre-school. I did a spa /relaxation pampering afternoon for everyone who could attend and I donated back 10% of the sales. I would love to help you out with this it works out great and easy to do you can email me at [email protected] or check out my website

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