Education, News

School Fundraisers: Getting Started

As school budgets are cut across the country, fundraising to pay for certain expenses have become commonplace. With shortfalls and potential layoffs threatening the quality of the classroom and learning environment, teachers, parents and students are working together to raise money to fight off undesirable change. According to a recent survey of parents, 98 percent said their child’s school fundraises, and about 40 percent said they fundraise frequently.

Why fundraising?

While many parents support fundraising, it is a short-term solution. The money may be used to pay for a school trip, sports activities, new textbooks, or other supplies. Often, schools are fundraising not to pay for extras, but to make sure students and teachers have the necessities. At least 34 states allocated less money for the 2013-2014 school year per student than they did prior to the Great Recession.

This lack of funding affects all schools, but hits urban and rural schools harder because they tend to have a less wealthy parent base. These schools find themselves hard pressed to buy the basics as government funding drops, and are less able to replenish the coffers than schools in more affluent areas. This is true no matter what type of funding is done.

Types of fundraising

Funding is essentially divided into two basic types: traditional and online. Within these categories, there are endless approaches and products sold by schools. The items for sale may even vary according to the school philosophy or be limited to low calorie, nutritional items.

Traditional approaches and products

No matter what product you intend to sell, the important thing is to make sure it will maximize the profit margin for your school. Traditional products used to achieve this goal include:

  • Candy
  • Car washes
  • Coupon books
  • Discount cards
  • Magazine subscriptions
  • Wrapping paper
  • Candles

Variations on this theme are a little more innovative and include:

  • Recycling cell phones and printer cartridges
  • Various reclaimed paper products to make the approach an environmentally friendly one
  • Fair trade products – coffee, chocolate, bracelets and other items that are from other countries
  • Fruit baskets –a kind of revolt against candy

(For many more fundraising ideas and fundraising how-to articles, visit

Online Campaigns

There are many ways to raise money online through campaigns such as, which allows teachers to request specific items for their classrooms and work toward the cost. Donors are sometimes rewarded with personalized letters from students, thanking them for their donation, and updates on the classroom’s progress.

Other sites, such as eScrip allow users to earn rewards for specific schools or nonprofits at grocery stores and other local shops where they normally shop anyway. Local merchants then donate back to the schools selected by users.

Some sites are specifically designed with schools in mind, while others help you determine whether a specific product is right for your school to sell. It is a matter of being careful when selecting the site or host for your campaign.

The evolution of school fundraising

School fundraising has changed in its approach since the early days. Bake sales on small tables or rummage sales are no longer the norm. The entire process has gone high-tech and online in many cases.

Another visible change is in the suppliers. Mothers are no longer the major producers. Parents now purchase rather than create the products for sale. In fact, the entire fundraising procedure is part of another industry. This can result in better items to sell but it also depersonalizes the campaign.

However, in the long term, the more serious threat is overkill. Too many fundraisers can lead to a decline in interest, participants and funding. The key is striking a balance and holding a few effective fundraisers with concrete goals in mind versus many short-sighted fundraisers.

Photo credit: Brett Critchley /

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The Author

Mary Brown

Mary Brown

Mary Brown has enjoyed writing about education and finance related topics, such as scholarships, student loans, college, vocational degree choices, and adult education since the early 2000's. She also writes about school budgets, accreditation and fundraising.