School fundraisers have a reputation for being repetitive and predictable. Everyone’s sick of peddling tins of popcorn door to door, hawking cupcakes at a folding table and enduring yet another walk-a-thon. Switch it up this year by doing something new. Check out these 10 fresh ideas:
1) Online flea market
Flea markets have historically been a popular, but inefficient school fundraiser. Parents and teachers collect all their dusty, unwanted belongings, haul them down to a parking lot, and meticulously price and tag each item. After precious few sales, all the leftover goods are schlepped back to garages, basements and attics until the next flea market.
Why do all that work for such a small reward? The Online Flea Market can be the answer to this problem.
Find someone who is experienced selling used goods online on sites like eBay. (Trust me, these people are everywhere – just ask around!) Put the word out that you’re looking for great, high-quality, unwanted items to be donated to the fundraiser. Then, it’s just a matter of picking the cream of the crop, creating listings and selling at competitive prices.
2) Board game tournament
Looking for a great wintertime fundraiser? Board and card game tournaments appeal to our competitive nature and are very cheap and easy to organize. Charge an entry fee and be sure to have a prize ready to hand to the champion. (But don’t spend much money on the prize!)
Choose an engaging, yet simple game for a fun, inclusive tournament. The game shouldn’t be too difficult, long or convoluted, yet it also shouldn’t rely on blind luck. Finding the balance is key.
Here are some great games that everyone can play, but only the best will win:
Bananagrams - A fast-paced, free-form version of Scrabble. The game prizes vocabulary and quick thinking - ages 7+
Set - A card game where you match shapes quicker than your opponent. Easy to understand, nearly impossible to master - ages 6+
Cranium - Charades, clay sculpting, trivia, humming and more - this team-based game elicits lots of laughter - ages 8+
Pass the Pigs - If participants insist on a game of chance, try Pass the Pigs. You throw little rubber pigs like dice, and it’s blast for all ages! (We love playing Pass the Pigs here at Bonfire HQ.)
3) T-shirt coupon
How do you get local businesses to help raise money without hassling them for donations? One great way is the ingenious idea of a T-shirt coupon!
Here’s the premise: local businesses pledge to offer discounts for a limited time. The catch? In order to qualify for the discount, the customer must be wearing a unique T-shirt that you’ve sold them.
Start a T-shirt fundraiser featuring a simplistic yet striking design. For sure-fire winner, try using only the school’s name and mascot, printing on just one side of the shirt, using only one o r two colors. Remember - you’re going for mass appeal, so don’t clutter it up with unnecessary text or URLs.
This fundraiser is a win-win-win situation. Your supporters get an awesome shirt, local businesses attract new customers and funds are raised all at the same time.
4) Bacon Festival
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “bacon festival?” You’re probably salivating too heavily to answer that question.
For many of us, bacon is a forbidden fruit – not regularly purchased and difficult to justify as a part of our everyday diet. However, the idea of a temporary reprieve from these rules of pleasant society can be enticing, even irresistible.
In reality, the bacon festival can be whatever you want it to be – so long as it prominently features those fresh crispy strips of cured pork belly. Google “bacon recipes” and be as creative as you want. Add a bean bag toss, some live music and a petting zoo, and you’ve got a real festival cookin.
Whatever you decide to do, the key to this fundraiser is promoting the bacon festival beforehand. When members of the community hear of your hedonistic celebration of saturated fat, many will be unable to contain their curiosity.
Hang posters around town, in local businesses and on every bulletin board in sight. Write up a description of the festival and send to your local paper while promoting it on social media. But be coy about the specifics – let the salty swine sell itself.
You’ll no doubt encounter resistance from health-food advocates who decry this as a school-sanctioned junk food orgy. But hey, you catch more flies with honey!
5) Principal Stunt
Your school’s principal normally exudes a sense of quiet dignity and respect. Because of this, people take notice when he breaks character and does something zaney. If your school’s head honcho has a sense of humor (and a bit of humility), a wacky stunt might be a perfect fundraising solution.
Principals across the country have done crazy things to encourage fundraising goals. Some have come to work dressed in silly costumes or moved their offices to the roof of the school. Others have had their heads shaved or their bodies duct taped to walls. A few brave souls have even eaten bugs!
However, the central problem of the Principal Stunt is that it isn’t truly a fundraising idea by itself. Instead, it’s usually a mere reward for successful door-to-door fundraisers.
Try doubling down on the Principal Stunt by starting an online fundraiser that promises to deliver a spectacle if a certain amount is raised. (A T-shirt fundraiser is a great option because of the endless possibilities for a humorous design poking fun at the principal.)
After raising an initial amount of money, alert local media of the impending stunt by sending them the link to the online fundraiser and offering an interview with the principal, herself. TV news stations are always eager to cover fun, humanizing stories about local schools, and this extra exposure can attract additional donors.
6) Internet Video Festival
There was a time when a film festival could only involve the few artsy students with access to proper equipment. In this day of smartphones and YouTube, it seems anyone is capable of shooting an entertaining video.
The Internet Video Festival should look like a regular film festival. Students, parents and teachers create videos (skits, etc.) which become the entertainment for the evening. Charge admission, sell popcorn and watch the fun begin.
For an additional fundraising bonus, ask entrants to monetize their videos on YouTube. In most cases, the video will not attract enough views to generate a significant amount of revenue, but you never know when one will go viral. If someone happens to create a nugget of internet gold, your school could stand to earn thousands!
7) Arcade Night
Video games are no longer the sole territory of school-aged children. Many of today’s 30-year-old parents grew up playing Super Nintendo and still harbor a soft spot for the retro games of their childhood. Capitalize on this shared enthusiasm and raise funds by holding an Arcade Night.
The key to a successful Arcade Night is striking a balance between fun and appropriateness. Although a huge swath of popular games have no place at a school-sponsored function due to violence, there are plenty of great options that would offend only the most puritanical sensibilities. Most any game from the Mario franchise is guaranteed to be a crowdpleaser, with Mario Kart games being particularly conducive to lively competition.
For best results, try organizing the Arcade Night into a tournament. Every entrant pays a few dollars for their slot in the competition, with the glory of a trophy at the end.
Retro titles like Ms. Pac Man, Galaga or Centipede are also great options for folks who might prefer simpler games. Try to get access to some old cabinet-style arcade games or even pinball machines and charge 25 cents per play. Reserve an award for whoever claims the high score for the evening on each machine.
8) Faculty Singing Competition
For a modern take on the traditional talent show, try emulating the tried and true formula of singing competitions that dominate television today. Shows like American Idol or The Voice use a panel of judges to keep the audience engaged throughout the show, providing a narrative and (sometimes harsh) feedback for the contestants.
For contestants, round up everyone’s favorite teachers and administrators to sing the night away. Parents and students will enjoy voting for the most melodious educator at this memorable event.
Find three or four of the biggest, funniest and most enthusiastic personalities to be your judges. For best results, designate one as the “mean” judge, who will provide comic relief throughout the show with her prickly, snarky critiques. The audience will have fun booing these rude criticisms – just make sure that the joke is obvious to avoid any hurt feelings!
Charge tickets for admission and sell concessions at the show.
9) “Raking” in the Cash
School fundraisers have long attempted to take business away from professional landscapers by raking leaves. However, the classic methods of promoting and running this “business” hamstrings your potential for success. You’ll only get so far on fliers and word-of-mouth.
Create a Facebook page for your fundraiser and give it a cute name. Post autumn-themed pictures and content there, and get your initial contacts (parents, friends, etc.) to like the page. As the leaves begin to turn, begin posting about your leaf-raking service, offering all sorts of “special deals,” etc.
When leaves have begun falling, you should also send information about the fundraiser and a link to the Facebook page to your small local paper or news website, who will often gladly spread the word.
Be sure to accept all forms of payment to increase the convenience for customers. PayPal will allow customers to purchase your leaf-raking services without being home to pay in person. Remember - the more streamlined the process, the more likely people will purchase.
10) Extreme Obstacle Course
Run, jump, crawl and even swim – attract strong and competitive men, women and youths to compete in an obstacle course that’s as insane as you want it to be.
Ever watch American Ninja Warrior? We love celebrating our physical prowess with great feats of strength. The harder the obstacles, the louder we cheer. Capitalize on that enthusiasm by building a course of your own and holding a local tournament to find the strongest among you.
Tires, balance beams, mud pits, ropes to scrabble under, walls to climb – the course can be as adventurous as you want. Create the course with donated or found materials and volunteered labor. Charge entrants, sell tickets to spectators and run a concession stand.
That’s our ten ideas – we hope they were a breath of fresh air! Raising money in innovative ways is what we’re all about at Bonfire, so whether you use one of these ideas or they simply help you brainstorm, thanks for reading.