Creating Engaging School Fundraisers: 9 Ideas for Families

Creating Engaging School Fundraisers: 9 Ideas for Families

School fundraisers are at their most lucrative when teachers, parents, and students have fun working together. Get the whole family involved to raise money for your blossoming students’ school!

Not establishing solid goals early on when planning your fundraiser is an easy mistake many nonprofits make. Who do you want to invite? How much do you hope to raise? How much are you willing to spend? If you don’t know the answer to core questions like these, then chances are people in your network will be confused as well.

Raising money for the school is essentially raising money to better your students’ education. If you can make sure your school’s fundraising message is crafted to emphasize this with a concrete goal that everyone can work toward. In this guide, we’ll cover the top five afterschool program management best practices to keep in mind, including:

Table of Contents

  1. Set Goals
  2. Offer Multiple Participation Opportunities
  3. Fundraising Ideas for Parents
  4. Fundraising Ideas for Students

Set Goals

Set a goal that will encourage students to get involved. The goal should be specific, like building a new library, updating the science department textbooks, or funding the decorations for the upcoming school dance.

Supporters are more likely to respond to fundraisers with specific goals rather than ambiguous requests for money. Your school community’s network will be more willing to participate if they know where their donations are going.

Once your whole community is working toward a goal, the fundraiser should feel like a team effort. Prizes are fun to work for, but the connections your community builds when they come together to support your school can be their own reward. With the right fundraiser for your school community, you may even have parents asking for more opportunities to volunteer.

Offer Multiple Participation Opportunities

While some parents and teachers may love serving at the water station at a run-a-thon, others might prefer a behind-the-scenes role like making fliers for the event.

To engage all of your volunteers, offer an array of volunteer opportunities within your fundraisers. Try sending out a survey with a variety of different volunteer tasks to see who may be interested in tackling different jobs for the events.

Common volunteer positions include:

  • Making registration or event webpages. For every teacher that isn’t familiar with web design, there is bound to be a parent with experience in this field. Offer this role to streamline the marketing process and get your fundraiser up and running.
  • Sending invitations and making marketing materials. Many parents struggle to find time to return to the school in the evenings to help out, so allow parents who sign up to create marketing materials to help out on their own time.
  • Collecting donated goods. If you have a fundraiser based on collecting used clothes or shoes, inquire if any parents would be able to drive around town to drop them off.
  • Selling concessions. Parents who are natural salespeople may jump at the chance to sell concessions at your next fundraiser.
  • Chaperoning. Parents looking for opportunities to spend time with their children will enjoy getting to watch over their student’s class at events like a dance or fun run.
  • Decorating and setup. For parents who want to be in the thick of it, let them take charge of decorating the event, whether it be with posters for a fair or setting up chairs for a food truck event.

Teachers may be happy to take a break from watching children and help out with your fundraiser instead by trying their hand at painting posters or planning activities. Parents may be excited to spend more time with their kids and want to watch over the class during an outdoor event. And students might just be eager for more responsibility and want to try ushering attendees or selling concessions.

You may be surprised by the hidden talents of teachers, parents, and even students when you give them the opportunity to step up to the plate in different ways.

Fundraising Ideas for Parents

Here are some of our favorite fundraisers where your entire community can get involved by donating to the cause:

Shop for a Cause

Who doesn’t love online shopping? Whether it’s buying school supplies, back-to-school outfits, or classroom decorations, all of these opportunities can be used to raise money for your school.

Sign your school up for ShopRaise, invite supporters to download the link, and then encourage them to start shopping! By partnering with retailers, ShopRaise enables your school to earn up to 10% on each purchase your supporters make through the app.

ShopRaise partners with a variety of popular retailers, meaning that parents won’t need to change their online shopping habits at all to support your school. Plus, the funds raised through ShopRaise are unrestricted, meaning your school can spend them on vital but often overlooked operational expenses.

Product Fundraisers

Traditionally product fundraisers encourage students to ask friends, family, and neighbors—with parental supervision—to buy items that the school has provided. However, the work usually falls on parents to submit order forms and later deliver the products.

Choose products parents may want to purchase for themselves, which will make the selling process easier for them. Consider product fundraisers that include commonly used items like cookie dough, candles, coffee beans, or wrapping paper.

Double the Donation’s product fundraising list shares a few unique items your school can sell during product fundraisers, like:

  • Calendars
  • Trash bags
  • Mattresses
  • Engraved bricks

Silent Auction

Community partners have the opportunity to showcase their new products at the event and may even earn new customers. Request auction items from your community partners to reduce the cost of your silent auction. by encouraging parents to ask their employers if there are any items they could donate for the cause as well.

When procuring items, consider prizes that your auction guests couldn’t easily purchase elsewhere such as:

  • Spa day package or one-hour massage
  • Antique dining ware
  • One night of babysitting from a reputable nanny service
  • Fine dining certificate
  • Jewelry

Parents will be excited to participate if there are exclusive items that will go toward improving their children’s education.

Silent auctions pair well with funfairs, talent shows, art shows, and student museums because they give parents an opportunity to contribute to the cause and win a unique prize at the same time.

Merchandise and product fundraisers are great for parents, teachers, and the community to participate in, but it may not always be the safest option to send your students out to request donations or purchases. Students will be more excited about your fundraiser if they have an active role, so be sure to find ways they can get involved.

Fundraising Ideas for Students

Here are some of our favorite fundraisers that students can safely participate in:


Whether it’s a year long, a few months or one week every school year, read-a-thons are great for stimulating learning and raising money for your school. You can start a fundraiser with a few clicks when hosting a read-a-thon.

Consider investing in a read-a-thon software to streamline the fundraiser and help you keep track of funds raised. A read-a-thon only requires teachers to track class reading times, and in turn watch their class’s collected donations grow.

Families can also get involved by tracking their student’s reading, sharing their fundraising campaign to their network, and requesting donations from extended family. This can also help encourage students as they can see how many people have donated on their behalf.

Read-A-Thon’s list of fundraising ideas highlights best practices for this type of fundraiser such as how to sign up for software, how to best promote your read-a-thon, and how to encourage your young readers.

Fun Run

Hosting a fun run is sure to get members of the community involved in your school’s fundraising efforts. Runners and non-runners alike can test their fitness while raising money for your school.

To encourage more people to sign up for your event, consider including several race options with varying distances. With safe and manageable routes, even the youngest students can participate in the run.

You can charge a small flat rate fee for runners to participate, or you can make it a pledge event and have runners reach out to their networks for sponsorships. Having each runner backed by a handful of sponsors can add up to exponential growth for the fundraiser.

Encourage people to run or walk at their own pace. Making people aware that your event is about fun and fundraising and not just a physical competition can make them less intimidated about joining the event.

Student Museum

Have students curate a museum exhibit based on a topic they are learning about in class. This helps foster creativity in the classroom, adds naturally to a student’s responsibilities, and helps teachers encourage their students’ learning.

Students can create exhibits for practically any course they’re taking by altering their presentation style. Encourage students to research topics they enjoy and create exhibits, like:

  • Speeches
  • Costume displays
  • Historical figures
  • Historical events scenes

Teachers can even integrate time into their teaching schedule for the fundraiser, then either assign topics or give students the freedom to choose.

To raise funds, students and parents can invite friends and family to enjoy a night of fun and learning. You can charge an admission fee to attend, sell spirit wear, and have a concession stand.

If teachers don’t have time in the classroom, then students can prepare for the museum in after-school programs or as homework.

Art Show

Display your budding young artists’ masterpieces at the end of every semester to show parents and family members what they have been learning. This is a great activity for all students to participate in because it will build confidence and garner enthusiasm for their art classes.

To fundraise, you can charge admission fees to the show or offer framing services onsite. Plus, you can also always set up a concession stand to earn extra revenue by selling snacks and branded merchandise.

Talent Show

Some students can’t wait to show off their newest skills whether it be dance, singing, magic tricks, or comedy routines. Talent shows offer students the opportunity to perform in front of their friends and family while also raising money for your school.

Have students prepare their performance outside of school hours or during an afterschool program, so they don’t get distracted during the day.

You can charge an admission fee for guests and sell snacks to monetize your event. Be sure to encourage parents to reach out to their networks to rally an audience.

Art (or Recreational) Classes

Students are always looking for new experiences, and parents often want a bit of time to themselves. You can appeal to both these wants by offering a recreational class once a semester like watercolor, drawing, beginner coding, sports, or photography.

Ask a community member who may have relevant skills students would be interested in exploring to teach a class to a group of students. It may be helpful to ask a parent or school staff member to assist the guest teacher.

The class can be an hour or a day-long program. Charge admission to cover the costs of materials and the space. Try to use spaces that will not require extra funding to rent or use, such as a classroom.

If you need more students to join your school’s fundraiser after planning a fun event, try incentivizing them with specialized prizes. Gear them toward the activity you planned such as books or stickers for a read-a-thon or bracelets and headbands for a fun run.

If you want student learning to be at the forefront of your fundraisers, create activities students will want to participate in. This will help parents and donors remember that their student’s education is why they are contributing.

Be sure to follow up with donors and attendees to maintain engagement after your event. Email newsletters are a great place to update guests, thank donors for contributing, and let them know about your school’s next plans.

Fundraisers are crucial for schools to provide a good environment and education for students, and they can’t run without the help of their entire school community. The best way to rally your community engagement is to ask for help! Chances are there are people who are more than willing to help. Once they see how much they enjoy helping your fundraisers, then they'll be looking to work with you more in the future.

About the Author

Howard Gottlieb: Founder and CEO, Read-a-thon Fundraising Company

Howard Gottlieb has been a serial entrepreneur for more than 35 years. His latest venture, Read-a-thon, is a novel school fundraising concept that truly shifts the paradigm when it matters most. Read-a-thon replaces in-person bake sales, magazine drives and the like with a contactless method of raising much needed cash, one that can be used both in real classrooms and virtual learning spaces. The real bonus? It promotes literacy and gets kids excited about picking up a book.

Gottlieb has made Read-a-thon the fastest growing school fundraising platform in the country. It provides a no-upfront-cost way for schools to monetize a two-week reading push. To date, schools have collectively raised more than $100 million dollars, and kids, who get to choose their own reading material, have logged two billion reading minutes and counting through the program.

Prior to establishing Read-a-thon, Gottlieb was President and Founder of Easy Fundraising Ideas, which he established in 2002 during the early years of the web. During his time there, he developed strong skillsets in search engine and conversion optimization, and EFI became the busiest product fundraising site in the U.S. In addition, Gottlieb was always searching for innovative ways to impact the fundraising industry. He acquired the Read-a-thon domain and spent two years developing the idea before launching it six seasons ago. The concept got so much traction that he decided to sell Easy Fundraising and devote all his energy to Read-a-thon.

Before his deep dive into the fundraising industry, Gottlieb started, grew and/or revived a number of companies. He took Athletic Attic from three stores to fifteen, making it the largest independent athletic footwear retailer in Texas. He also turned around Adair Manufacturing, a virtually bankrupt fabricator of restaurant and kitchen equipment, bringing in Chili’s and Applebee’s as new customers. Under Gottlieb, the Spacer Company became the largest manufacturer of close tolerance spacers and bushings.

Gottlieb is a native of New York City who grew up in New Jersey and attended Stockton State College near Atlantic City. There, he also worked as a copy boy and sports reporter for the Atlantic City Press. He later moved to Arlington, TX and completed his degree at Stockton State College. His first job in business was as an assistant corporate sales manager with Classic Chemical.

Gottlieb now resides in Arlington, Texas where he founded BAGS ministry, a charitable organization that distributes essential items such as toiletries and healthy snacks to the area’s homeless population. He also serves as deacon at Christ Chapel Bible Church.

Gottlieb plays competitive racquetball and walks four to six miles to work everyday. Most of all, he enjoys spending time with his wife, adopted daughter, two grown sons and six grandchildren.

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