I guess I’m not the only one who doesn’t want my first grader being a door-to-door cookie dough salesman. From the comments last week, it’s pretty clear that there are some pretty strong feelings about school fundraisers. Understandably, the least popular are the ones that require peddling overpriced, unnecessary junk.
I promised I would share some fundraiser ideas that aren’t icky. These ideas are tried and true, from our own experience. Either my husband or I have taken part in each of these ideas.
I would love to hear your ideas of successful, non-icky fundraisers in the comments!
Everyone has things they would be more than happy to donate to a sale. Decluttering is all the rage!
Organizing a yard sale or rummage sale on a large scale is not for the faint of heart. It will take more work than selling popcorn or wrapping paper. You will also make much more money than in “pre-fab” fundraisers. Besides some advertising costs, the rest will be profit!
Putting on a big event like a rummage sale gives parents and kids the opportunity to volunteer their time. Kids will feel the satisfaction of contributing to a cause and parents can rid themselves of the guilt and pressure put on them in standard fundraising. Your neighbors will love that you are asking to take their junk instead of sell them more of it!
Make a rummage sale an annual event. People will collect items for your sale all year long or plan their spring cleaning with the sale in mind. The logistics of organizing and running a sale will get easier each year. Check out my Ultimate List of Yard Sale Tips to get started planning.
Think outside of the 6th grade class field trip or the band camp fundraiser. Rummage sales are great for scout, church, or adoption fundraisers.
Grow and Sell Produce
When my husband was a kid, he and his siblings would sell garden produce to neighbors. I ran with that idea when my kids and I sold pumpkins that we bought in bulk at a produce auction.
When we lived in the Midwest, the local boy scout troop planted a field of sweet corn that they harvested and sold by the dozen. We lived in an area where sweet corn grows well, but you could grow and sell produce that thrives in your area and is low maintenance.
While this is still a “selling” fundraiser, it’s quite a contrast from selling wrapping paper and cookies for several reasons. First, vegetables are things people are buying (or should be buying) anyway. No junk food or expensive clutter. Second, it is teaching kids skills in the process. Those kids may not have had a garden at home, but they learned about sowing and reaping though their creative fundraiser. Third, there is no middleman profiting off of pint-size salespeople.
Collect Used Clothing
If the idea of a rummage sale is overwhelming, there are other ways you can make money for your cause by collecting used clothing. A couple of years ago my kids’ elementary school had a used clothing drive. Families brought in large trash bags of clothes that were stored in the gym during the week of the collection. At the end of the used clothing drive, a big truck came to pick up the bags of clothing. The school was paid by the pound for the clothes and shoes they collected.
Because of the shipping costs involved, you will want to find a local company to work with. Most of them that I have seen are near the coast, either east or west in the US, since about half of the clothing is shipped overseas. Clothing that is unwearable is used as rags or shredded and recycled into carpet padding or insulation.
I recently saw an adoption fundraiser for a friend of a friend of a friend who was collecting shoes. They would earn something like $.70 per pound of paired shoes. They collected thousands and thousands of pairs by rallying friends, family, neighbors and community.
A low-key school fundraiser involving used clothing can be done through Schoola. Schoola sells used clothes online and gives 40% back to schools. They will send you a bag that you can fill up with your gently used clothes and send back (they cover shipping). They do all the work (pictures, pricing, etc) but send the 40% commission back to the school of your choice. (You can also get a $15 credit on your first order if you want to shop.)
In California, there is a five or ten cent charge on every beverage can or bottle purchased (besides milk, 100% juice, and a few other exceptions). You get that money back when you recycle the bottles and cans. Collecting and turning in cans and bottles is a great way that kids can earn money.
On a large scale, recycling is an easy fundraiser. When my husband was in grade school, there was an ongoing recycling fundraiser (that went toward the second grade field trip). Students, teachers, and community members would drop off garbage bags of cans in a designated pile at the school.
Recycling is an easy way for families to contribute to causes without spending any money out of pocket or putting yourself in awkward sales situations.
Provide a Service
Of course there is the classic car wash fundraiser. It’s not really suited for elementary school, but it’s great for middle school and high school. Car washes can either be run for donations or for a set prices. Either way, it gets the kids doing something (as opposed to just selling something) to earn the money for their cause.
A creative service that a local Boy Scout troop did was a flag service. The boys put full-size flags on PVC poles in front of home for special holidays (Veteran’s Day, Independence Day, Flag Day, Labor Day and Memorial Day). They sold annual subscriptions to this service. Yes, they did go door-to-door (in pairs), which isn’t anyone’s favorite thing to do, but the plan was to get all their clients in the same (nice) neighborhood.
What I loved about the flag service was that it fit so well. Putting flags out was a very Boy-Scout-y thing to do. Much better than selling popcorn, right? It required the boys to get up before the sun on these holidays to put flags out and then gather them before the sun set. Not only were they working, but they were hopefully thinking more about the meaning of each of these holidays.
I’m a fan of bake sales. I would much rather buy something homemade than commercially produced. I also love being able to contribute to a cause by donating baked goods to be sold.
What’s a school event without a bake sale? You’ve got built-in customers, a good cause to support, and who doesn’t love a special homemade treat? A bake sale would make a nice addition to your rummage sale or car wash.
The rules for bake sales vary by location. Some places waive requirements for food handlers permits and business licenses for fundraising bake sales. Some counties are specific about what foods can and cannot be sold at a bake sale. Check the rules in your locality before planning a bake sale.
As you can see, the fundraisers that I appreciate and am likely to participate in (on both ends) are the ones that require work on the part of the fund-raiser, don’t make people feel awkward, and aren’t selling junk.
Like some of you shared in my other fundraising post, there’s always the good old fashioned donation. Or better yet, the new-fangled automatic electronic donation.
How About You?
- What fundraisers have you seen or taken part in that were awesome?
I recommend you turn your bake sales into bake auctions. We have an awesome non-professional person that is our auctioneer. It only takes a couple of hours to auction off about 100 items. People try to outdue each other on how much they make for the auction and then the bidders get into a fun competition driving the prices up. We have about forty people attend the auction and bring in about $1500.00 in that brief time period. It is a semi-annual fun time for our members.
L O says
We use restaurant & other business give back nights regularly. We raise anywhere from $40 to $220 each time. I like them because it’s no pressure to attend & the school only has to send home fliers or post it on their social media account to get people to attend. Not a lot of profit, but very low work.
We also sell Spirit Wear. If you find the right company to print your gear, you can make really good money. We sell at school registration, before Christmas & in the Spring. We started using a new company this year & earned $1000 on Spirit wear at school registration!
As a fundraising committee member, I LOVE the idea of growing produce and then selling it. What a great project to get kids involved in, too!
Ridley Fitzgerald says
These are some great tips for doing a fundraiser. I have never heard of growing and selling produce, but I really like that idea! Anything is better than the calendar or candy bar sale that my neighborhood always seems to do.
Sarah | Mommy's Budget says
Ugh, school fundraisers. I am always the mean mom because I won’t let my kids participate in selling overpriced stuff in hopes of earning a junky key chain and a sticker. I would much rather just donate to the school.
Sherry Brady says
Our daughter’s youth group put on a play and had a pasta dinner. It was easy to put together – just spaghetti (or pasta alfredo for vegetarians), salad and breadsticks. The Moms helped organize jobs in the kitchen, the Dads helped with the play and each family got one item for the silent auction. Every family knows at least one person who sells cosmetics, paints, has sports tickets or a store, etc. who will donate an item for the cause or has a skill of their own such as baby-sitting or gardening. This paid for over half the costs of summer camp for the group!
That’s a great idea Sherry!
Also a great idea! I’ll share this with my friend’s Camp Fire group and with my church.
What a great list! I am sharing this on pinterest.
Great ideas and tips. I am sharing this on Pinterest.
This past weekend I participated in a fundraiser for the preschool in my town. I paid $12 to the school to be part of the “town wide” yard sale, so I set it all up and took it all down on my own and people showed up to my house. WHat the PTO did was put the address of all participants in a logical, numerical order with a little blurb about what they were selling. People came from all over and could buy the “maps” for $1 which also went to the school. This was my first year but customers said they wait for this all year!
Wow! That actually sounds good! I’ll suggest that to my school. Thanks!
What a timely article, and on a subject that I thought we as a family were past (my youngest is a high school senior). We recently got an email from his school to be on the lookout for a fundraiser packet being sent home, with the proceeds to go towards their prom. My son hasn’t even taken it out of his backpack (everything is due Monday), and I’d forgotten about the email until I read this post. My niece asked me to buy some mini Bundt cakes for her drill team fundraiser last week, and I did only because I’ve had the cakes before (they really are good!), and they’re scheduled to be delivered for Thanksgiving, but the real reason is that the proceeds go directly into her ‘account’ rather than the drill team at large. And, next week the school where I teach is beginning their annual fundraiser. ‘Tis the season??
(I wish I lived in an area where fresh produce was the merchandise – I’d definitely be interested!)
I love that you put some positive ideas up. Because in reality our schools need our money. Which is a bummer. Let me add to your list a run-a-thon, a read-a-thon or just outright donating cash to the school. I have heard of just plain out asking for cash for a specific need or doing a penny fundraiser. I want to also say that if your school is doing a terrible fundraiser think about getting involved in the PTO and giving your 2 cents to that conversation. (pun intended)
Those are great ideas Teresa. And you’re right- joining the PTO and voicing your opinion and sharing suggestions is important. We shouldn’t just whine about what they are doing without posing a solution! 🙂