15 Fundraising Tips for Schools

If you’re a school – public, private, co-op, charter, you name it – then you need money. Most schools address this need by running at least a few fundraisers throughout the year. And it generally falls to you, the highly involved parents, to take an active role in organizing these efforts and bringing in the dough!

Here are 15 tips for successful fundraising to get the money you need while maintaining good relationships with the school community.

1. Be proactive about staying in touch. Not just when you need something from parents, but all the time. Think about it – don’t you get annoyed with that one friend who only calls or emails when a favor is needed?

Well, that’s how your school’s parents feel when you hit them up for money at fundraiser time but fall off the grid the rest of the year. (MemberHub, we should add, is a great tool for these staying-in-touch communications. But you already knew that.)

2. Don’t get scammed. Look into fundraising opportunities carefully – some put the bulk of the money back into the vendor’s pockets, leaving little for your school. By the same token…

3. Look at your total return. Even some very honorable fundraisers may just not be worth it for your school if they bring in nickel-and-dime amounts of money – especially if they’re time-intensive or effort-intensive.

4. Work with community businesses and organizations. Many are happy to help you out in exchange for some publicity and a sincere thank-you – do your very best by them, and you’ll make a friend (and possibly a donor) for life.

5. Take it to the top. Principal buy-in and involvement make your fundraising efforts far more effective. If he or she is willing to really go all in (for example, take a pie in the face or a dip in the dunk tank), by all means say yes!

6. Think outside the box. Most parents have enough wrapping paper, chocolate bars, and decorative candles. What they don’t have is enough leisure time.

Consider a fundraiser that capitalizes on this – something that takes an unpleasant task off their hands, or streamlines their life (such as an auction for a primo parking space at school for the whole year), or gives them a fun family experience to share.

We’ve even seen some very effective “do nothing” fundraisers – parents get a bottle of bubble bath, for example, or some nice tea bags, and are told to take some time for themselves and relax. In turn, they are not asked to go anywhere or buy things they don’t need – sounds pretty appealing, doesn’t it?

7. Tie it in to your school. If you’re the Centerville Cougars, for example, consider a fundraiser that incorporates a safari theme, or a trip to the local zoo.

8. Join forces schoolwide. If you can, plan large fundraisers that benefit the entire school rather than smaller ones that serve only a particular grade or classroom. This will help you…

9. Avoid “Fundraiser Fatigue.” Even the most willing, most generous, most involved parents can get tapped out after multiple fundraisers in a single school year. Plan on doing just a few, and be upfront with parents about what they can expect throughout the year; they will be much more likely to donate generously if they know they will only be asked to do so once or twice.

10. Focus on the end goal. Be very clear about what you’re raising money for, and why. For example: “We’re looking to buy 4 new computers for Mrs. Smith’s 5th Grade classroom so that the kids can effectively research their ancestry and write their papers for our ‘Who Am I?’ unit.”

11. Make it personal. International non-profits have you “adopt” a specific child, or “buy” a certain number of cows or chickens for a deserving family because it’s easier for people to think charitably when they are given specific details about whom their donations will help.

Use this principle in your school fundraisers as well – maybe have a few specific kids talk about what the new classroom computers (or whatever you’re raising money for) will mean to them and their academic success.

12. Publicize your fundraiser early and often. And in different mediums – mail, MemberHub, an evening Q&A session, you name it. Get knowledgeable, enthusiastic parents on board to champion the event. The more the fundraiser gets into the fabric of your school community, the more primed – and excited – people will be when it finally arrives.

13. Get the kids involved. Assuming your kids are old enough, they should be directly involved in their own fundraising efforts – it makes fundraisers both more meaningful and more successful. Additionally, kids also learn about goal-setting, customer service, and the value of money.

14. Think experiences, not things. All things being equal, people tend to get more excited about contributing to – and/or participating in – a fun experience rather than simply accumulating more stuff.

15. Keep it fun. When you get mired in the depths of fundraising frustration, remember to focus on the fun aspects rather than the niggling, less-fun details that are required to make it all come together.


Do you have any fundraising tips for schools? If so, please leave a comment below!