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Fund-Raising Ideas: Raise Money Without Selling Door-to-Door


How far would you go to raise needed funds? Would you kiss a pig? Organize a game of cow chip bingo? Paint Pepsi on your school roof? As school budgets seem to buy less and less of what educators and parents believe students need, money from fund-raising is becoming more and more important. Some school districts are discovering -- or creating -- new ways to raise money.

Whether it is selling candy and wrapping paper or such items as T-shirts, candles, pizza kits, posters, cookies, collectibles, or magazines, fund-raising is not new. Each year, schools and nonprofit groups make about $2 billion through fund-raising activities!

Until recently, many schools asked students to sell door-to-door to finance everything from band uniforms to trips abroad: things not ordinarily covered by school budgets. But after the murder of a sixth grader selling wrapping paper and candy and the rape of another student selling newspaper subscriptions, many school districts discourage door-to-door fund-raising. If children do go door-to-door, adults or older siblings are urged to accompany them when they sell or deliver the products. And schools are now suggesting that children sell only during the day and request that children's parents pick up the items being sold and turn in the money so youngsters are not walking the streets with merchandise or cash. School districts would also like to see students sell primarily to relatives, friends, close neighbors, and their parents' co-workers.


Safety is a big issue, but parents still want their children to have the extras that typical school budgets do not cover. Many parents have mixed feelings about raising funds door-to-door.

"When my kid sells things to my friends and neighbors, it puts them on the spot," Monica Stillwagon told Education World. "If I let my kids sell to friends and neighbors, I have to buy from their kids, and some of them have a lot of kids! I'd feel obligated."

For a working parent, it's hard to pick up and drop off money and merchandise during the day, added Nancy Calhoun, "but you hate for your kid to feel bad and not participate."

Understanding how hard it is for parents to carry out some of their suggestions, schools are not only modifying how students sell products to raise needed cash, they are also investigating alternate ways to raise it. Many schools still sell products and hold the ubiquitous car washes, bake sales, raffles, auctions, school-sponsored dances, and faculty versus student sports events that schools have historically used to raise cash. But some schools are discovering -- or creating -- innovative, new ways to raise funds for all those extras.

Join Education World as we take a look at 15 fund-raising ideas that are working in communities around the block and around the world.


1. Every October, school officials at Del Oro High School in Loomis, California, mark off their football field into 1-yard squares. Then they let out three cows onto the field. The school sells chances to community members. Each chance buys into one of the squares marked on the grid. The people on whose squares the cows deposit droppings are the winners! True, this is not a fund-raising method for everyone, but with cow chip bingo, Del Oro High raises about $20,000 each year, enough money to fund its 37 sports teams.


2. Not quite cow chip bingo, but not that very different either, some schools organize donkey-basketball games to raise needed funds. Student athletes or club members play basketball against the faculty while riding on the backs of donkeys! Again, this is not a fund-raiser for everyone. (There are some animal rights issues with this kind of activity; the activity could result in unwanted controversy in some school districts.)


3. Singing telegrams are a method some other schools choose to raise funds. For a $1 charge, on someone's birthday or another occasion, a group shows up in the celebrant's classroom and sings "Happy Birthday" while carrying a hand-made sign and a crown that can be used to mark the occasion (and the celebrant).


4. One Ohio school held a rent-a-wrestler fund-raiser. Students on the wrestling team rented themselves out on several weekends to do odd jobs, such as raking leaves, mowing lawns, and shoveling snow; the $10 an hour fee aided the team.


5. Some supermarkets and other businesses offer special programs to schools. Schools sell gift certificates for the local businesses and keep a percentage of the total sales.


One school vice principal agreed to kiss a pig if the school made more than $2,000 from such a program. In this case, the added incentive really worked! School officials and community members could not believe the amount of money they collected!

In some other cases, grocery stores encourage community members to save cash register tapes to earn points that can be used to purchase computers and other equipment.


6. The Educational Enrichment Foundation in Tucson, Arizona, auctioned off items left unclaimed at area dry cleaners to fund school activities. The foundation sold everything from wedding gowns to military uniforms and chefs' outfits to drapes. This is now an ongoing fund-raiser.


7. Some schools have found unique ways to make a profit. They allow students or faculty to wear special clothing. One school sponsored a hat day. Students who purchased a sticker for a dollar could wear a hat to school on that day. Students in that school ordinarily are not allowed to wear hats, so many kids jumped at this opportunity to have fun. In another school, one with a strict dress code, teachers paid $5 to wear jeans to school. (In this last example, the money raised supported breast cancer research.)
8. As part of its school-to-career program, one school opened a store that sold snacks, clothing, school supplies, and novelties before and after school and at lunchtime. Initially, faculty operated the store, but students are gradually taking over responsibility for selling, ordering, and restocking the store.


9. To raise funds, a school in Guam installed a video game room in its school building. The room is open to students with a GPA of 70 or better, which serves as an incentive to students to keep up their grades. And, of course, the school keeps the profits from the game room.


10. Rocky Run Middle School in Chantilly, Virginia, held a no-fuss fund-raiser. School officials simply asked parents for cash. Last year, they raised more than $10,000 that way. With more traditional fund-raisers, when a product is sold, only 30 to 50 percent of the product's retail price aids the school, and the rest is the business's profit. The parents seemed relieved that all -- not part -- of what they contributed went to help the school. And they didn't have any kids knocking on their doors!
11. In Florida, specialty automobile license plates help fund school activities. Of the license plates' $17 cost, $2 goes to the state and $15 to schools. The tags depicting a graduation cap and a diploma inside an apple are predicted to bring in as much as $3 million.
12. Some Pennsylvania schools tried to use a 1940s-era state law -- often referred to as the "tax-everything law" -- to impose parking taxes. This law has since been rescinded, but many communities have antiquated laws on the books that could be used to raise funds in a similar way.


13. District 11 in Colorado Springs sells advertising space on school buses, in hallways, on athletic uniforms, and just about anywhere else. The 32,000-student school district raised $59,000 last year, and calls have been pouring in from other school officials interested in trying similar methods of fund-raising.
14. Many schools sell commercial and personal ads in athletic event programs and then sell the programs at sporting events.


15. Through the Funding Factory, schools can collect recyclable empty printer cartridges and exchange them for top-quality computer equipment and printers. Rach year, more than 350 million inkjet and laser cartridges are thrown away. In addition, more than 35 million cell phones are discarded. The Funding Factory is alleviating the volume of waste in landfills while providing a beneficial fundtraiser -- hard cash -- for nonprofit organizations nationwide.

Collecting printer cartridges, advertising in schools, providing video game rooms in school buildings, holding auctions, riding donkeys on the gym floor, delivering singing telegrams, operating teacher- and student-run stores each fund-raising method has its own advantages and disadvantages, time commitments, and consequences.

And then there is another solution not yet mentioned -- and very rarely implemented. Community members could always push for PUBLIC financing of a school's needs or do without.


In some school districts, booster clubs made up of parents and patrons or the PTA raises money to supplement activities that are important to them. In other school districts, the student body and faculty are the primary fund-raisers. But the national PTA does not feel raising funds should be a primary part of their program, and many PTA officials question whether students and faculty should really be selling products or their time.

So how do we want students and faculties spending their time -- on schoolwork or on selling? That's one of the fundamental questions each school district and the people in it need to answer. But as long as school budgets buy less and less of what educators and parents believe students need, many school districts will continue to discover -- or create -- new ways of raising the needed funds.


Selling of Our Schools: Advertising in the Classroom
This October 1998 Education World article describes different ways in which schools have used corporate advertising to raise huge amounts of funds.

S&S Worldwide Grants and Funding Help
A free service where nonprofits can search for grants, recruit a grants writer, and even apply for grants offered by S&S Worldwide, a distributor of arts and crafts, sports, and educational supplies.


"Schools Take a Hard Look at Dangers of Student Selling," Seattle Times (11/03/98). This article describes Seattle schools' move from student solicitation to organized district-level efforts to raise funds.

Related Article from Education World


Article by by Glori Chaika
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Last updated 7/13/2018