Ditch the Popcorn: 8 No-Sell Elementary School Fundraisers

Imagine your child announces an upcoming school fundraiser and then pulls out a dreaded sales catalog. Sales-based fundraisers can be frustrating for parents who usually end up as the ones selling to friends, neighbors, family, and coworkers. Not everyone is a natural salesperson, and it can be difficult to sell products you don’t particularly care for. 

However, non-sales based fundraisers can be a fun way to engage your entire school community and teach students responsibility. We’ve gathered eight no-sell school fundraisers that will help you raise more and ensure your school’s parents enjoy the process! 

1. Read-a-thon 

Read-a-thons are a classic fundraiser that increase literacy and are built around getting students involved in raising funds for your school. In a read-a-thon, students set a daily or event-based reading goal and request donations from friends and family. Students log the time they spend reading each day until the end of the event. To encourage participation, schools often give out prizes to students who reach their goals or read the most for the event. 

Schools can use software to streamline time tracking and donation requests. According to Read-A-Thon’s guide to school fundraising, some features to look for in a read-a-thon software are: 

  • Time tracking. Look for programs that allow teachers, parents, and students to time tracking quickly and remotely. 
  • Donation requests. Templates for donation requests can help younger students politely ask for donations and also add personal touches. 
  • Marketing and communication. Spreading the word about your fundraiser is crucial. Look for platforms that include email, social media, and brochure tools to promote your read-a-thon. 

Students already spend time throughout the day reading and read-a-thons can use that time to raise money for your school! Have teachers incorporate reading time into their schedule and encourage their students to read at home to start raising funds while fostering a love for reading. 

2. Matching Gifts 

If your school already has a substantial base of donors, matching gifts can help grow your funds without asking for increased donations! Companies that have social philanthropy initiatives often offer their employees incentives to donate to nonprofit organizations. When an employee donates money to a nonprofit, a company with a matching gift program will match their gift and donate to the same organization. 

Companies match their employees’ gifts at different rates like 1:1 or even 2:1. According to Double the Donation’s guide to the top matching gift companies, about 78% of matching gift eligible employees don’t know they can have their gift matched. 

Let your community know about matching gifts by creating a campaign to ask parents and to verify their matching gift status. Have your PTA or booster club make announcements at meetings to remind members to check their matching gift eligibility. Donors will be excited that their gifts can make even more of an impact and your school doesn’t have to request more donations. 

3.Walk-a-thon/Fun Runs 

Walk-a-thons and fun run/5Ks are a great way to include students in fundraising and get them active. Start your campaign by deciding whether just students will participate or if you’ll get your whole community involved. Participants should then request donations from their personal networks, so parents will likely have to help students ask their friends and extended family.

Often, donations for walk-a-thons are pledge donations. Supporters will pledge to give a certain amount based on how many total miles, minutes, or laps a participant walks. Participants can also collect flat donations, which won’t change whether they walk for five or 50 minutes. 

4. Book Clubs 

Book clubs can provide parents and community members with a fun outing with other members of your community and lead your school to create local partnerships. Create quarterly book clubs where members can meet once a week to discuss a book or reading selected by the club. Parents will be excited to connect with new people while giving back to their children’s school. 

You can raise funds for your book club by charging a registration fee. To make the experience even more worthwhile for members, you can partner with local restaurants and cafes to host meetings. Ask these businesses for their slowest days, and see if your group can meet then. 

5. Art Gallery 

Foster your students’ creativity by showcasing their artwork in an art gallery. Have your art teacher select projects to do with students throughout the school year that would create a unique gallery for a fundraiser. If your students don’t have art classes, try to incorporate art activities into their other classes, so there is work to showcase.

You can also partner with local artists to display their work. Whether you simply display their art or sell it at the gallery, the artists will be grateful for the exposure and possible commission. 

To monetize your event, you can charge an admission fee, have a concessions stand, or charge for framing services at the art gallery. At this event, parents can enjoy their students’ hard work while contributing to their education. 

6. Library Book Collection 

Library book collection can help parents and your library reorganize their books! By having students bring in their old books to donate to the library, your school and library fundraiser can raise money and restock the library all in one event. 

Tell parents a few weeks ahead of time so they can sort through their books. Your staff can sort through the students’ donated books to see if any are worth stocking the library with. 

Then, have librarians evaluate their shelves and identify books that haven’t been read, used, or have outdated information. Once you’ve gathered all the unused and donated books, your library can sell them to a third-party store. 

Because new books are always coming out, it can be hard to keep up with student interests, and this fundraiser helps solve that problem. Once the money is collected, your school can choose between contributing those funds to the library or reinvest in the school. 

7. Art Classes 

Parents are always looking for extra ways to entertain their children, and art classes can be a great way to teach students new skills. Ask if any parents or teachers have art knowledge and would like to volunteer to teach a class. You can also ask local artists to volunteer. If you do bring in an outside member of your community, you should also ask for parents or teacher volunteers to help monitor the class depending on the size or expertise of the art teacher. 

Charge an admission fee, and keep in mind this should cover more than the cost of the supplies. If you want to engage parents in the class, you can also make it a parent-student art class where they both create artwork or make something together.  

8. Auction 

Auctions are a lucrative event that can bring the entire community together. Use a school fundraising platform to help plan the auction and keep track of the auction items you acquire. Begin sourcing your auction items at least a few months in advance to give yourself time to procure a wide selection of prizes for a more successful event. Consider items parents will be interested in, like experiences or gifts for their children. 

Reach out to local businesses, artists, and restaurants to see if they could donate items or experiences for the auction. Some companies may also be willing to be a sponsor and fund catering, decorations, or provide items for the event. Here are some popular auction item ideas for school fundraisers: 

  • Dining experiences. Ask local restaurants if they would be willing to donate a fine dining voucher or gift card. 
  • Spa packages. Parents and teachers would be excited to rest and reset. Reach out to local spas or hotels to see if they can donate gift cards. 
  • Babysitting services. Find a reputable babysitting service that parents would be excited to use. 
  • Summer camp vouchers. Camps can be expensive and hard to snag registration for. Reach out to popular programs and request a week of summer camp vouchers. 
  • Jewelry. Parents and teachers will be excited to purchase luxury items for themselves they might not otherwise buy, while also giving back to their students. 

School fundraising events can raise even more funds when you include your entire community. Ask the businesses that donated, sponsored, or partnered with your school to promote the auction to help spread the word of your school fundraiser. 

School fundraisers are best when it’s a fun event or activity that everyone can participate in regardless of their sales experience or comfortability. By making fundraisers into fun events and activities, your PTA and students can all get involved and invite their personal networks to join in. This can help expand your events’ reach, increase giving, and create an overall positive experience for everyone involved. 

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