From a simple car wash to an all-out school fair, there are endless ways to raise money for your school. If you’re having trouble picking which fundraiser is best, then you'll need to ask yourself one question: "What goals do I want to accomplish?" Are you looking for the best way to earn some fast money, or do you want to do something that will get the kids and the community involved? Here’s a run-down of the different possibilities, and how to decide which is the best fit for you and your school.

Tried and True

If you’re looking for a fundraiser that will make money with little or no upfront cost, then most traditional fundraisers are a good fit. Some oldies but goodies are bake sales, car washes or fund-raising letters. In addition to being fairly simple to put on, another upside is that they usually don't cost anything, however these kinds of fundraisers do rely on a lot of volunteer participation. You need make sure you have enough people willing to bake some contributions, write letters, or spend a day washing cars.

Product sales are another popular and easy fundraiser. The school partners with a company and sells their products to the family and community. These fundraisers are relatively easy to set up, and you can find companies that will do most of the work for you. With all the companies out there, the product options are endless. You can go with easy and quick sellers like candy, cookies or holiday items, or you can go with wrapping paper, candles, green products, or even healthier food options. Sending kids door to door selling products has become a less popular option over the years, as parents have become more wary about the dangers of children going door to door. So the pressure usually falls on parents to either buy out their kids' supply, or pawn off the products at work. On top of that, the current economic situation has caused the revenue from these types fundraisers to plummet. People have become less likely to spend money on things that aren't entirely necessary. Selling discount cards or starting a scrip program to involve local retailers are just a couple ways you can combat this.

Involve the Community

If you want to involve the community and you have a little money to spend up front, then a big event is the way to go. Planning a carnival, silent auction, walk-a-thon, or an art show can be a little involved, but if done right, these kinds of events can really rake in the money. Not to mention, they're loads of fun! Kids and parents can help out with the set-up by making signs, donating items for a raffle, hosting booths, or making artwork to sell. These events definitely take a lot of planning, and need a lot of volunteers, but they're also lots of fun and they're usually the fundraisers that make the most money.

Involve the Kids

If you're doing a fundraiser anyway, why not kill two birds with one stone? Doing a fundraiser that involves the students can be a great educational experience. Kids take ownership of their contributions and really feel like they're helping out their school. There are a lot of companies that can make kids' art into products that can be sold - things like stamps or posters -  or you can use student art as inspiration to make a beautiful ceramic tile monument at the school. Companies like Shutterfly make it easy to make and sell custom calendars that students can help design, and there are even companies that will help you make your own custom CD to record and sell.

If you want to involve the kids in a simpler way, smaller in-school fundraisers are another option. For example, put a huge jar outside every classroom door and have a competition to see which classroom can collect the most coins. These fundraisers require little or no work and involve the kids, but be advised that they often yield less money than some of the others.

This is just a quick overview, and there are a lot more ideas out there. The first step is setting goals, and after you've narrowed the options down, the process of choosing a fundraiser becomes much more manageable. No matter what fundraiser you decide to do, here are a few tips to help guide you along the way:

Some Helpful Tips

  • Don’t reinvent the wheel. If your school has a method that works, don’t try and change it. What you can do is add in some new fundraisers on top of what you already have. Sometimes new ones will work and sometimes they won’t, but at least you’ll still have the tried and true back-ups to rely on.
  • Mix it up. Use a variety of fundraisers throughout the year, some that require more planning and some that require less planning. Different fundraisers appeal to different people and they all have their pros and cons.
  • Check references. If you decide to go with any sort of company, make sure you talk to a representative and check references. With the abundance of companies out there, there’s definitely varying levels of quality and service. It’s worth the extra time to make sure the company you choose will be reliable and supply quality products.
  • Plan ahead. With any fundraiser, it's important to be prepared. Look online or talk to people you know who have experience with your particular fundraiser.
  • Split up the work. Don't take everything on yourself. Make sure you split up the work so no one gets burnt out trying to do everything. If you're having trouble getting enough parent help, don't forget to check out our article on recruiting volunteers.
  • Have fun! Fundraisers can be a lot of work, but they're a lot of fun, too. The best way to make your fundraiser a success is to make it a priority to have a good time. The better your attitude, the more people who will want to get involved and help out your school.