Unique School Fundraising Ideas

Because schools compete for dollars with clubs and organizations, they often seek to find unique school fundraising ideas. Teachers often joke that they are in the unusual position of stealing supplies from home to take to their job. And, parents are inundated, particularly at the start of the school year, with purchasing school supplies, contributing to the PTA, signing up for volunteer opportunities, and paying for school uniforms or physical education clothing, backpacks, school lunch programs, and other contributions to the classroom.

Parents are maxed out with fundraising requests from their children’s sports teams, churches, neighborhood children selling magazines and candy bars, and girl scouts, even if they love those delicious thin mint cookies. Finding unique school fundraising ideas adds variety and interest to the process and may pique the interest of otherwise overtaxed parents.

One clever idea is to ask for a donation from all parents at the beginning of the school year. While this may seem counter-intuitive and a huge turnoff, consider this approach described next.

The school could create a flyer with different dollar amounts and next to each have something such as “For $200 we will not ask for anything more all year long. No popcorn and wrapping paper sales. You don’t even have to volunteer for the book fair!” And, alternatively, “Or, for $50, you will not be bugged to volunteer and you won’t have to sell anything.”

Parents often get frustrated with purchasing things like overpriced candy, when just a minuscule amount of the purchase actually goes to the school. With this approach, the school could explain to parents the cost and profit, time and energy, of a school-wide fundraising effort where the kids have to sell a significant dollar amount to realize any real benefit to the school versus parents simply writing a check and the entire amount goes directly to the benefit of the school. 

Another low cost fundraising effort is a pancake breakfast or spaghetti dinner. Either meal can be prepared with little expense, minimal cooking and effort, and provides a fun, social opportunity to raise money for the school. Parents and children could enjoy pancakes as a substitute for breakfast that school day by arriving at school just a little bit early that day.

The spaghetti dinner could be in the evening and linked to back to school night or other school event that parents would already otherwise attend.  Parents have the benefit of not having to rush to cook dinner and get every fed prior to the event and the school realizes a modest monetary benefit.

Similarly, a spaghetti eating contest would be a fun fundraiser. It could be held at school, during the normal lunch hour, and contestants could pay a small amount to participate. There could also be a small monetary award or other donated award for the contest winner. The cost is low but the mess potential is high, so pairing the event with other activities like that annual water balloon contest may make sense versus having the spaghetti eating contest on the same day as the orchestra performance when students are wearing their best clothing. 

A cake walk is a fun fundraising event that just involves an entry fee, the game of musical chairs, and a prize of a donated cake. Potentially any item, such as a cupcake or brownie, could be substituted as a prize but typically the prize is reasonable in relation to the entry free.    

Bumper stickers and clothing such as t-shirts or sweatshirts are great, more traditional school fundraising ideas. To make the fundraiser more interesting and unique, students could compete in designing the items for sale.

A school calendar is a practical fundraising item. The school would generate a calendar or day timer with school events highlighted. This would be a useful items parents may not mind purchasing. All of these items can be marketed for students to show school pride.

T-shirts are especially great fundraising items if the school can really generate sales because teachers can have students wear the t-shirts for easy identification on school field trips. 

A cocktail hour with educators and education philanthropists is a unique school fundraising idea with huge monetary potential. A parent or educator would host the event, providing snacks and wine or other drink, and philanthropists would pay for a lovely evening to provide money for the school. Educators would attend and interact with guests. Community members participating in the event would have the opportunity to give input to the school representatives, ask questions, and engage in intellectual conversation. 

Another higher-dollar fundraising opportunity is for a school to sell commemorative bricks or tiles. The bricks would be part of a wall at the school and the tiles would either adorn a wall or create a walkway. The cost could be high but the result would be a permanent fixture that parents and local businesses may be willing to pay that high cost to acknowledge a child’s graduation, thank a teacher, or even advertise a local business. 

School fundraising efforts should extend to local businesses. School could acknowledge business contributions in the school newsletter or businesses could sponsor school events. Businesses in close proximity to the fundraising school could pay for advertising in the school newsletter.

Additionally, schools can employ businesses to assist in fundraising efforts by asking a restaurant to honor a school flyer asking students to eat dinner a specific night at that restaurant with a portion of the profits benefiting the school. Similarly, food trucks and other vendors could sell products in the school parking lot directly after school or in the evening with a portion of those proceeds donated back to the school.   

Never underestimate the unique fundraising ideas of the student population. Ask students what talents they have, such as artwork or calligraphy, and create note cards for sale or have a talent show that displays those unique talents and make sure it is so amazing that attendees are happy to make a donation to the school.