At the end of a long week, most families are ready to unwind. Put the “fun” in “fundraiser,” and they’ll be happy to pay to play for a good cause!

You’ll need to borrow the school’s athletic field or gym. Outdoor events can be cancelled if it rains; indoor crowds may need to be cleared with the fire marshall. You’ll need to borrow tables and chairs and clean up afterwards.

Throw a Carnival

While the kids in “Grease” went all out with ferris wheels and fun houses, the non-Hollywood set will have a blast with a simpler set-up.

  • Line up volunteers. You’ll need someone to make and distribute flyers, cooks to prepare and package carnie fare like candy apples and popcorn, decorators, and parents or older kids willing to man game, ticket, and prize booths. A designated shopper can haggle for discounted or donated tickets, decorations, and toy prizes.
  • Set up games. With a little creativity, you should be able to keep kids happy using things you already have on hand. Some to try: ring toss (kids throw bangle bracelets at glass bottles and win a prize if it lands over the top), ball throw (stack painted cardboard blocks or boxes and try to knock them down with tennis balls), bean bag toss (Cut a few holes in a posterboard, then try to throw a bag through), the lollipop tree (color the bottom of a few lollipop sticks and insert them all in Styrofoam – those who pick colored sticks win a prize, but everyone walks away with a lolly), go fishing (glue magnets to ping pong ball fish and set them afloat in a bucket. Fishermen armed with a toy rod and a paperclip hook angle for fish.) Then there’s the frugal version of a dunking booth: hang a sheet with a face-level hole cut out, have a brave teacher stand behind it, and arm kids with wet sponges to throw.
  • Plan entertainment. Know a local band looking for exposure? Would the class clown enjoy putting on a costume and getting some laughs? Are there budding artists at the high school who could paint faces? How about a decorate-your-own-cookie booth, homemade ball pit or a borrowed jumpy tent?

Old-fashioned Day of Play

This fundraiser works best when you charge each child an “unlimited use” entry fee. You won’t need prizes, but you may want to hand out plastic medals from the local party store or make your own with cardboard circles covered in tin foil and strung on a colorful cord.

  • Set up game stations with plenty of equipment and volunteers to explain the rules. Some to try: jump rope, hula hoop, corn hole, four square, hop scotch (use chalk or masking tape to make a court), basketball free throw, ping pong, walking the balance beam, and rope climb.
  • Stock the refreshment table with healthy treats like bottled water, granola bars, cheese sticks and apple slices … the parents will thank you!

Parents' Prom

  • Volunteers can sell tickets and provide decorations (think paper tablecloths, helium balloons, and crepe paper) and refreshments. If a local florist is willing to donate corsages, they can be sold at the door.
  • Live music is wonderful, but if there are no rocker-volunteers in your community an MP3 player stocked with 80’s hits is the next best thing.
  • It can be fun to dress up, but for parents bored with the wedding and work dress code offer another option: 80’s prom. Offer prizes for best costumes, and be prepared for the return of ‘80’s hair.
  • If budget allows, a rented photo booth will add to the time-warp vibe and provide great mementos.

No matter which option you choose, the right fundraiser is fun for everyone. The money provides a needed boost to the school budget, but fun with friends and family is the true prize!