With the economy in a tailspin, schools need supplementary funds more than ever, but it’s increasingly difficult to persuade friends and family to buy expensive wrapping paper and chocolates, even for a good cause. The solution? Family fundraising ideas that are both frugal and fun!

1. Stage a campus-wide yard sale.

The school throws open its doors on a Saturday, sellers pay $20 per table to display their merchandise, and shoppers pay a $5 fee for admission. At the end of the event, sellers have cleaned out their closets and made some money, shoppers have snapped up bargains, and the school should have a nice cash donation. If you can round up volunteers to prepare and sell refreshments and baked goods, you’ll earn even more!

2. Involve everyone in a gift certificate auction.

Auctions for expensive goods and services can be divisive, but there’s no one who can’t contribute something to a coupon auction.

  • Parents can donate certificates based on their professional or personal skills: an estate planning package, an in-home wine tasting class, a catered meal or cake decorating class, a batch of homemade cookies, a massage, a guided nature walk or design consultation, a family portrait or musical performance at a child’s birthday party.
  • Teachers and administrators can kick in by auctioning off the honorary title of “principal for the day,” a session of board games with a teacher during recess, the right to make an announcement over the loudspeaker, or an hour of one-on-one tutoring.
  • Even kids can get into the program, supporting the school by auctioning off certificates for babysitting, weeding, a car wash, taking the dog for a walk or leading games at a younger child’s birthday party.
  • And, of course, everyone can shop! One site that hosts online fundraising auctions is http://www.biddingforgood.com/auction/BiddingForGood.action • Go out for a good cause. Restaurants are usually slow during the week, so some are willing to participate in school fundraisers in exchange for the extra business. Families go out to eat at the participating restaurant on the specified day, tell the server they’re with that school, and drop their receipts in a basket at the front desk on the way out. At the end of the night, the restaurant donates a portion of the proceeds to the school.

3. Go out for a good cause … without the kids.

If the school is willing to let you use the space (for liability reasons, they may require a certain number of teachers on site in addition to the parent volunteers), you’ve got the perfect setting for a “dash and dine” fundraiser. Parents pay a set fee to drop their children off for a set period of time. They go out while the kids play with their friends, eat pizza, and participate in age-appropriate games and projects. Since the space and sitters are free, the overall cost is a bargain for date-night-deprived parents but pure profit for the school!

When everyone contributes time and energy, it’s easy to raise funds without going broke in the process. So get started today!