Brainstorming school fundraising
December 18, 2013 6:32 PM   Subscribe

So at the last minute (today) I got "volunteered" to be the parent rep. for my daughter's classroom at a parent's association brainstorming session tomorrow for fundraising. I am a little out of my depth here, and I would like to show up with at least one idea, but I can't think of anything that hasn't already been done at her school. Help?

What does your kid's school do for fundraising? Her school has done (or has scheduled) chocolate sales, kids' art stuff (on xmas decorations, fridge magnets and whatnot), raffles at PTA meetings, the school fair, a clown show, and I think that's it so far. What is successful?

For reference, just in case it's relevant: it's a high-poverty school in Queens, NY.
posted by gaspode to Grab Bag (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Are there any local grocery stores in your area that do the discount/loyalty card program? Here's an example.

I've done work for non-profit groups as part of an event. For example, at a recent air show, our group worked one of the concession stands in return for so many dollars donated straight back to the group. I've actually done that for a couple of non-profits. You'd probably have to get adults involved in that one, though.

Bands and teams around here seem to gravitate towards car washes and those Entertainer coupon books.
posted by jquinby at 6:43 PM on December 18, 2013

Get everyone signed up on eScrip and Target's TCoE plan/RED card at the very least.

On stuff like candy, cookie dough and gift wrap sales, take a close look at the percentage the merchandise organization is holding back from the school. 30% of sales to the school is considered a 'good' percentage which blows in reality because it means for every dollar a parent spends, 70 cents or more is leaving the school community. If you must engage in these kinds of fundraisers, tell the parents that a direct cash contribution* will not only 100% go to school programs benefiting their kids but is (assuming your PTA/PTO has a non profit tax ID) tax deductible. *By this I mean if a parent would normally spend $15 to buy a roll of gift wrap, they skip the stupid gift wrap and write a $10 check made out to the school's PTA/PTO. The parent pays less and the school still comes out way ahead.

Better is home-grown fundraisers: they take a lot more volunteer help than a canned fundraiser but your school keeps all the money: walk-a-thons, car washes, carnivals etc.

I recently set my son's HS up with their own Amazon affiliate link. We're pulling in a several hundred/month on that alone because the parents were really good about getting their friends/extended family members/coworkers to change their Amazon bookmark.
posted by jamaro at 7:01 PM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: jamaro, is that Amazon smile?
posted by gaspode at 7:06 PM on December 18, 2013

My daughter's and son's grade school did really well with a fun fair, with a DJ and games and the best event was a cake walk.

But the latest thing from my daughter's daughter's school, which was wicked easy, was an online ordering system for magazine subscriptions. I got Women's Day and Prevention for $20. So much better than expensive wrapping paper or high priced chocolates! So easy to do! And I loved the feeling that I was both getting a deal and contributing at the same time. The place they used was Great American Fundraising.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:07 PM on December 18, 2013

I am not sure how this would work in a school. But my office recently had great success with a "penny wars" campaign to raise money for charity.

Each department decorated a shoe box. The boxes were set up in the kitchen. Then we brought in pennies for our own boxes, and other coins for competing boxes.

So, pennies in your box are good. Silver in your box is bad. If I put 25 pennies in my box, we are +25. If someone puts a quarter in my box, we get -25. If I put a quarter in your box, I just negated 25 of your pennies.

Fill the other boxes with silver or dollar bills. Fill your own with pennies. The boxes got emptied every night but we'd go shake the other department's boxes sometimes to see whose felt heaviest.

The finance department won, as you might imagine. They got a pizza lunch. And our organization raised a surprising amount of money for a good cause.
posted by Kangaroo at 7:10 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sorry, this program. It's the same sort of affiliate link that gets tagged onto Amazon links via Metafilter (where I got the idea).
posted by jamaro at 7:14 PM on December 18, 2013

Came in to suggest a penny war. They're a fun way to raise a surprising amount of money, and they're great for schools because you can make a big deal of posting the totals everyday, counting the money, stuff like that. You can give the winning class a pizza party or something, or you can make the teacher in the winning class do something silly, like kiss a pig (if the teachers are good sports). The drawback is that all the money will be originating in the homes of the kids at the school, unlike, say wrapping paper, where parents will often sell on behalf of their kids at work or something.
posted by itsamermaid at 7:18 PM on December 18, 2013

How much are you trying to raise? What is the money for?

Various corporations are often generous to the community they reside in. I bash Wal-Mart as much as the next guy, but they do kick in cash to local charities and projects.

People love to support things that have a narrative. My suggestion would be to have kids create a craft and eBay these as part of an over-all project. Or set up a site when people can buy a kid something they need. So if it's school supplies ask Staples. Or set up a "buy a kid a school kit," type thing.

People might have better answers if they knew the goals (financial and purpose).

Do an indigogo or kickstarter project.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:25 PM on December 18, 2013

Response by poster: The specific fundraising is to upgrade the science classroom.

Ongoing fundraising for the school is for more enrichment programs and a lot more outdoor education programs.
posted by gaspode at 7:32 PM on December 18, 2013

Well, since I already decided that the next time we have a capital project, we're stealing the idea, I'd recommend it here too. Name every beaker, flask, bunsen and petri dish. It gives both kids and adults ownership and it's a great way to connect the ask to the need.
posted by klangklangston at 7:45 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

In addition to all these great ideas, it is probably worth it to blast out some letters to local stores of big chains with deep pockets (Walmart, Target, etc.). I worked at a non-profit and IIRC we were able to get Walmart to donate some money to us just for asking. It might have been in the form of store gift cards but it may have been an actual check.
posted by radioamy at 7:47 PM on December 18, 2013

Best answer: You might also consider doing Donors Choose. Your science teachers can put together a request for donations to for the science classroom. As an example, here are two projects for PS 251 in Queens (designated as high poverty). And here's one in Astoria.
posted by nightwood at 8:23 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Definitely write to local businesses. Do you have access to an email list of parents? If you can, send out a short note to ask them to email you if their company would be interested in sponsoring the science lab as a great holiday community service gift, and note that your school can contribute photos and a press release if possible. You might get lucky and have a local business with some extra service money willing to donate for the feel-good PR.

Call the local businesses and ask to speak to senior management about this. Write a very short pitch (less than 1min) and practice with a friend, then make a cold call list. Rope in a couple of other parents to do that as their volunteer effort. A local school with a clear need (science lab! so kids can learn and become engineers! inspire them!) should be an easy thing to pitch this time of year. Put the least likely prospects at the start of your list, because by the 10th person you call, you'll be much more comfortable asking. Calls this time of year are much more effective than emails and letters, especially coming from a parent volunteer.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:24 PM on December 18, 2013

Best answer: I'll second DonorsChoose. We use it actively at our high poverty school. At our school, a parent volunteered after school to help teachers set up their accounts and write their first projects. The teachers then shared their writing to help speed the process along.

With matching funds using coupon codes (found on and emailed to teachers who have DC accounts) often a project can be funded really easily by the school community and outside donors. A $5 donation becomes $10 toward a project. DonorsChoose takes PayPal and Amazon payments -- it's really easy to use.

They uses some great vendors too, and I believe just added Amazon. Projects can be almost anything that would benefit the school/classrooms. Our librarian wrote several projects!

Groupon sometimes "sells" DC money, like $5/$10 for $20 toward a project of your choice. Those sell out super quickly.

Our school has raised something like $40K worth of DC projects over the past 3 years, only maybe half of that being money from our school community. The rest came from match codes, outside community members, and random people wanting to support a school. We posted our projects to our Facebook page and Twitter feed, as well as the school newsletter, etc.

For us, it was a lot of seed work to get teachers involved, but the payoff was just tremendous.
posted by mamabear at 8:39 PM on December 18, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks all. Please keep making suggestions, I'm just off to bed and off to school early in the morning.

I was thinking of Donors Choose, because I'm a big donor through it. It looks like no teacher in our school has ever put anything up on it. Maybe that's something I can spearhead.
posted by gaspode at 8:58 PM on December 18, 2013

How about a Cafe Press or Zazzle store? Hold contests for student created designs along with the school's official mascot.
posted by Sophont at 9:05 PM on December 18, 2013

Best answer: We do a PTA fundraiser called "Cook's Night Out" where we get local restaurants to donate a percentage of sales for one night.

We've found a lot of popular chains are able to support programs like this pretty easily. Chik-Fil-A and Noodles & Company give back 25%, our local Chipotle kicks back 50%, including gift card sales. Think about that for a sec.

Some parents do get huffy about promoting a fast-food chain to the school community, but most love the idea and we've raised thousands of dollars this way. You can usually pull off one or two of these a month before people burn out on it. This year we spiffed it up by letting the kids check in at the restaurant and the class with the highest participation gets a pajama day or something fun.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:34 PM on December 18, 2013

My mother won the parent-brainstorming sweepstakes on multiple occasions by cutting to the chase -- figure out how much each family would need to contribute and allow people to write a check if they so chose. It turned out that most parents would rather give $20 or more (30+ years ago, when $20 was a lot more money) than spend that much money AND the time and effort involved in a spaghetti dinner or garage sale or whatever. Nobody else ever suggested it, but they were all so relieved once my mom brought it up.
posted by katemonster at 11:04 PM on December 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

Seconding katemonster- my school (pretty urban, about 50% kids on free/reduced lunches) does a combination of eScrip signups with our local grocery store, a bake sale/cake auction for our music department and their patented "No-Sale Fundraiser" where they just ask parents for a $10-20 donation and promise they won't ask the kids to sell crap. The PTSA mans a table during registration and back-to-school night to make all this work.
posted by charmedimsure at 1:20 AM on December 19, 2013

Thirding katemonster. Most of the money for fundraisers ends up coming from the family and I would much rather send in the money than have to buy or sell overpriced popcorn or whatever. I happily sent 70 for the whole family to the elementary school this year.

That said: our school does a basket night (tied in with another school event) where each class has a volunteer parent collect and organize themed items (summer fun! spaghetti night! some with gift cards or sports themes etc) into a pretty basket that then the kids can buy raffle tickets for. The class with the basket that raised the most wins a pizza lunch or movie afternoon or something. I still think the sending in money is better since the basket night results in me donating something like 10 to the basket and 10 to buy tickets and only half of that goes to the school.
posted by RoadScholar at 4:56 AM on December 19, 2013

Sorry I can't make a proper link. I'm sure the people that run this would happily share data with you.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 5:50 AM on December 19, 2013

Response by poster: It worked too well. I'm now on the school fundraising committee.

Which is to say, thanks you guys - awesome stuff.
posted by gaspode at 7:14 PM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

And if you end up doing a donors choose, think about putting a link to it in your metafilter profile.
posted by nightwood at 4:48 AM on December 20, 2013

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