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Fifteen Ideas for Fundraising Fun

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Need to raise money to fund a school trip, buy new uniforms, or for needed classroom supplies? In cash-strapped schools, the need for good fundraising ideas is always there. This week, Education World offers 15 fun ideas for school fundraising. Included: Idol competition, Penny Challenge, poster sale, Anti-Dance, more.

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  • These are desperate times for many schools. And desperate times require creative measures. In an effort to raise money to renovate a middle school, one school district recently offered to sell naming rights to the school auditorium, gymnasium, or library. Other districts have set up foundations to raise big bucks.

    The stakes aren't quite that high for most schools where principals, PTOs, and student councils have found new, fun ways to raise money for band uniforms, field trips, and school playground equipment. While those efforts might not be on the grand scale of venue-naming rights, they are no less creative or serious.

    Education World has been monitoring the fundraising innovations being used in school to raise bucks -- big or small. You might have heard of or considered some of these ideas, but others might be just the ticket to raising funds to reach grade-level or school-wide goals.

    Most of these fundraising ideas would also work very well as community-service projects. Students could raise money to supply a guide dog to a blind person in the community; a representative might being a dog and teach students about the program as part of the build-up to the activity. Or perhaps students will raise money for a local food kitchen or another charitable organization. Raising money to do good teaches many valuable and lifelong lessons.

    PUT THE FUN INTO FUNDRAISING

    Local Idol Competition. Mine the talents of your students. Select ten students to be part of a competition similar to "American Idol." (All your judges might be nice though -- no Simons among them!) The kids don't all need to be singers. Why not included musical instrument players, comedians, and other talented kids? You might begin the process by having after-school tryouts. The tryout stage -- in front of the judges only, no live audience -- serves to narrow down the list of competitors. Charge admission to the final evening of competition.

    Penny Challenge. This fundraiser works best at the upper grade levels. It's a popular idea among high school Student Councils and sports teams. The Penny Challenge is set up as a competition among homerooms. Each homeroom has a bucket. Students drop pennies into the bucket. At the end of a set time period, the homeroom that collects the most pennies receives special recognition and a prize. The proceeds go to the organization that runs the competition.

    To make things even more fun, some school groups add a twist: They allow students from other homerooms to add silver coins to the bucket of any other homeroom. For each silver coin added, the value of that coin is subtracted from the homeroom's penny total. This works well in some schools if done in the spirit of fun. Others think that allowing students to sabotage the challenge in this way sends a negative message. Whatever approach you might take, a Penny Challenge can raise hundreds, even thousands, of dollars.

    Go Fish, Go! Place two rain gutters -- capped on each end -- side by side. (A 10-foot long section of gutter works well.) Fill the gutters with water. Place a goldfish at the "start gate" of each gutter. Remove the gate and see which fish is first to swim to the other end of the gutter. Students pay $1 per goldfish. The student whose fish wins gets to keep the fish!

    Garage sale. Hold a school-wide garage sale on the playground or in the gym. Invite parents to dig into their closets for new or barely used toys, games, and books. (Most parents will be very willing to unload some of their "clutter.") Price the items to sell! Use the proceeds to fund the painting of a playground map or to achieve another school-wide goal. Donate leftover items to a worthy organization such as a nearby shelter for families or an after-school program.

    Parking for Sale. Sell parking spaces in the student parking lot. Spaces closest to the building go for a higher price than spaces in the rows that are farther away. Or sell all spaces for the same amount. Place the parking space numbers in a hat. Then let each student who pays the fee to draw from the hat his or her assigned space number.

    MORE FUNDRAISING FUN

    Bottle and Can Drive. This fundraiser is as old as the hills. But there's gold in them thar' hills! Once a month or once a year, hold a bottle and can drive. Announce the date and promote the event. Let community members know that they can drop off clean bottles and cans at school on that date. The profits from the event can be used to fund school programs while students learn valuable lessons about recycling.

    Join the Conversation

    What's the best -- most profitable or most fun -- fundraising idea you've used or seen used to raise money for school programs? It can be a "homemade" idea or one that involves a vendor or third party. Join the conversation to share your idea and to read others' ideas.

    Poetry Slam. Cure the midwinter blahs by holding a Poetry Slam. To raise money, charge each participant an entry fee or charge admission to the event.

    Cake Decorating Contest. This is a fun add-on to a family reading night. Have families decorate a cake with scenes from or the cover of a favorite book. Families can draw with colored decorating gels (available in any supermarket) or decorate with other edible ingredients. Sell the cakes to raise funds for new books for the library.

    Read-a-Thon. For this event, students collect pledges from family, friends, and neighbors. The pledges might be a penny a page or a set amount for each book read during the Read-a-Thon period.

    THE FINAL FIVE

    Poster Sale. Argus posters are popular with kids. They are full of fun, motivational messages. You might make available on your school Web site a selection of posters. The large posters sell for $2.99. Take orders for the posters -- which you can sell at $5 a pop -- and keep the profits for school programs.

    Community Calendar. Create and sell a calendar for the coming year. For a fee, businesses in the community might sponsor different months on the calendar. You might even sell "notices" for the dated squares on the calendar. For example, a local organization might pay $10 to "advertise" their upcoming event in one square, and grandparents might pay $5 for a "Happy Birthday, [Grandchild's Name goes here]" announcement in another.

    "Pound and Yard" Auction. Invite local organizations to donate products that can be weighed or measured in pounds or yards. Older students can solicit the products from local businesses and serve as auctioneers too. For extra fun, include some "Mystery Packages" that are specially wrapped. For younger students, teachers might create sheets of math word problems to reinforce students' measurement skills based on the items in the auction.

    Anti-Dance. Dances are always fun. But some kids are uncomfortable in such settings, and some schools prefer to plan other social events that they feel are more appropriate for students. For the Anti-Dance, each classroom plans a special activity. One classroom might be transformed into a dance floor while others might offer bowling or a cartoon movie or a fun game. Let students choose where to go for 30-minute periods. Ring a bell to signal students to move to the next venue.

    Pizza to Go. This is a great fundraiser for any time of year -- especially for Super Bowl time in January. Pack up all the ingredients needed for a great-tasting pizza and sell them for a profit. This can be done by students or parents; or you could opt to go with a quality product from a commercial outfit such as Joe Corbi's Pizza Kits.

    Coming soon: Fifteen More Fun Fundraising Ideas

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