Raising money for the school you love? Here are 33 fun, effective fundraising ideas for all grades and ages.
We recommend starting with the first four ideas, which are tried, true, and sure to build your school’s support. Most importantly, these ideas are designed to help your school build out its tech toolkit. With so many fundraising tools and resources out there for schools these days, your fundraising team can get set up in no time. Getting your fundraising technology in order is much easier than it sounds, and it’s also essential as the bedrock to build all of your later fundraising campaigns on.
Starting with this core set of tools and ideas—online donations, text-to-give, silent auctions, and social media—and then pursuing these other fundraising ideas will set your school up for success! Use this list jump to a particular section, or follow along with us from the top:
Looking for more general ideas for your church or nonprofit? Check out our full fundraising ideas directory.
Consider your online donation page to be the foundation for all school fundraising initiatives. Once it’s on your school’s website, it becomes the central place for your school’s supporters to make donations.
It’s free and easy to set up online giving using a donations platform like what we have here at Snowball. We built Snowball to unleash generosity so great organizations can do great things. That includes your school!
Your school’s supporters need a place to give money quickly and effortlessly. And your school needs a way to accept recurring donations, building momentum in an exciting snowball effect.
While there are plenty of free online donations tools to choose from, we definitely recommend using donation technology that takes just a few minutes to install, with no programming necessary. It should be very user-friendly, so one-time and recurring donations can be made in a few quick clicks. And it should be just as easy to share among donors’ friends, families, and social networks. Your school’s online giving campaigns have the potential to go viral!
Plus, Snowball’s tools make it easy to track all your important fundraising data and keep a record of all the supporters who’ve recently donated.
Frankly, this one’s a no-brainer. Free, easy, effective. Check out our guide to creating the perfect donation page for more tips to get started.
Students, parents, teachers—everyone at your school loves their cell phone. Cell phones are everywhere, so why not use them to do something great?
Text-to-give fundraising lets anyone quickly make a donation from their phone. They just text a keyword (like “give”) to your school’s text-to-give phone number, then confirm the amount. First-time donors fill out a brief online form; repeat donors click twice, and their donations are complete.
Shout your text-to-give number from the rooftops! From sports games to any of the following fundraising events, encourage folks to take out their phones and show their love for your school with a few quick clicks.
Get started with text-to-give today!
We’ve seen how remarkable silent auctions can be when it comes to inspiring generosity. That’s why silent auctions are our favorite event-based fundraiser. A silent auction is a fantastic opportunity to bring your community together and support the school you love.
Discover what your community has to give. You never know—someone may have a vacation house they might be willing to auction off for a week. Or a local business leader may be able to offer irresistible goods or services. Of course, you’ll need your technology in place to run the silent auction, but once you do, expect great things.
Tailor your auction to your unique school and project. No matter what kind of silent auction you host, make it easy for everyone—not just the auction winners—to give. Hand out flyers with your online donation page URL and text-to-give number, and feature them on posters around the auction space.
When it comes to inspiring donations, social media is tough to beat. Millennial and Gen X donors are most inspired to give by social media, even ahead of emails, websites, and direct mail.
Social media is all about connections. Build lasting relationships with the followers of your school’s social media pages. Spotlight your school’s amazing educational initiatives and let followers know how they can support them.
Feature your school’s online donation page and text-to-give number front and center of your social media pages and posts. Once people make online donations, they can use your donation page’s social media sharing buttons to tell their friends! Here’s an example.
Is your online donation page set up? If so, read on for more fundraising ideas. If not, we recommend taking a few minutes to set it up!
Email is a classic, instant way to keep in touch. By including email donation buttons in parent and student e-newsletters and dedicated fundraising emails, you can spread the word about your fundraising campaigns. Link those buttons to your online donation page so recipients can click to give.
Supporters can easily forward your school’s emails along to their address books too. They can share in the act of giving.
Have fun with your emails. Include plenty of visuals showcasing how wonderful your school is, interspersed among calls-to-action, that is, donation buttons.
Crowdfunding is a popular school fundraising idea for any grade. With crowdfunding, your school sets up an online fundraising page where anyone can donate and get updated on your progress. People can post supportive comments and share your fundraising page with friends through social media or email.
The most successful crowdfunding campaigns are fueled by social media, so make sure parents and students are actively sharing your page.
Everyone wears t-shirts, so why not use them to raise funds for your school? T-shirt fundraising platforms let you design a shirt, then sell it to raise money during a scheduled timeframe. Look for a platform that doesn’t require payment upfront, like Bonfire.
Wear your school pride on your sleeve. T-shirts are also great places to feature your text-to-give number in a fun, artsy way.
Want a way to push your unique school fundraiser to the next level? Promote matching gifts programs to your supporters!
Include a matching gifts search tool on your donation page so your donors can check if they’re eligible for matching gifts through their employers. Using the database, donors can easily ask their companies to increase (or double!) their donations to your school.
What’s something that every student in your school will outgrow within the next year? Shoes! Turn those shoes into money for your school.
With Funds2Orgs, students can donate their new or gently used shoes to those in need—and your school gets a check in return. Funds2Orgs picks up the shoes themselves, so you don’t have to worry about the logistics. You just focus on getting your students together for a good cause.
An “event-a-thon” fundraiser, such as a walk-a-thon, bike-a-thon, or read-a-thon, always makes for an inspiring school fundraiser.
Using fundraising software with unlimited donations pages, students receive customizable donation pages that they (or, for younger students, their parents) can share with friends and family via text, email, and social media. The pages come ready to share, so spreading the word is a cinch!
How do you know which of your students and their families are most likely to give?
With prospect research, you don’t have to guess who’s most likely to donate to your cause. By taking into account philanthropic interest and wealth indicators, prospect research shows you where to focus your marketing efforts. It might be most useful for institutions of higher education, especially when focusing on alumni outreach.
Learn more about prospect research with this guide from DonorSearch.
Break out the classic state fair games and attractions. A carnival is a perfect way to have some family fun while raising money.
You can charge for general admission or per game. Don’t forget to sell concessions—the only thing better than a funnel cake is a funnel cake for a good cause!
Nothing beats the simplicity of a pajama day fundraiser. Your school will raise money, and kids can sleep in.
Charge students $1 or $2 to wear pajamas for a full school day. You can amp up the fun by serving breakfast for lunch in the cafeteria.
What’s better than watching a good movie with friends? Watching one during the school day and raising some money while you’re at it!
Elementary students will love donating a few dollars to get out of class and watch a favorite film. Don’t forget to bring the popcorn and juice.
By the time spring rolls around, there’s nothing kids want more than to go outside and play. That’s why field days are amazing fundraising opportunities for elementary schools.
You can charge for general admission or for participation in individual games. Invite parents and set up merchandise and concessions stands, as well as a general donation booth. Decorate the donations booth with fun thematic signage that highlights the link to your online donation page.
Your school’s students can be fantastic fundraisers, but let’s not leave out the parents! A parents’ party is a fun event that brings parents together to rally for a good cause.
Host your event at a local restaurant to get the community involved in school fundraising too. Use event software to get a headcount before the shindig.
Most importantly, don’t forget to offer childcare!
Sometimes principals get a reputation for being serious and authoritative. This elementary school fundraising idea will change your students’ minds and raise money for your school.
Students donate to see their principal do something silly, like getting pied in the face. Set a reasonable fundraising goal, so students will see the payoff.
Middle school students might be hiding a multitude of talents, from comedic chops to Broadway-style belting.
Give these kids their chance to shine by hosting a talent show fundraiser. Charge a small fee to participate, as well as an admission fee for spectators.
A school picnic fundraiser is a fantastic way to get kids out of the cafeteria and into the sunshine on a nice spring day.
Students can donate a small fee to attend the picnic during an extended lunch period. Make sure to offer plenty of snacks and games.
Combining education with a little friendly competition is sure to spell success for your middle school fundraiser.
For a spelling bee fundraiser, have students find sponsors to donate for each word they spell correctly. Put up a fundraising thermometer to show the students how much money they’re raising with their sheer brainpower! Add a twist by having a teachers’ bonus bee at the end.
When it comes to seasonal middle school fundraising ideas, almost nothing outranks (or out-spooks!) a haunted house around Halloween.
Work with parents and teachers to build a haunted house, and have students pay a small fee to walk through. You can keep the haunted house open during school hours, or host a nighttime event during the weekend.
A guaranteed way to make reading cool for middle school students? Add a competitive element by turning reading into a fundraiser.
Students can get sponsors to donate based on the number of pages they read throughout a quarter, semester, or even for a full year. Don’t forget to offer prizes for each milestone the students hit.
Scavenger hunts are easy to organize and fun for all ages. Make the clues a little more challenging, and middle schoolers are sure to participate.
Music is a hobby for many high school students, so give them the perfect venue to share their passion: a battle of the bands fundraiser.
Charge groups a fee to participate (or audition), as well as an admission fee on the big night. Give attendees the option to buy their tickets in advance through your online donations platform, if it has an integrated events system.
Have a great time and raise money. Students will cherish the memory of the car wash they held with their classmates, all for a good cause.
Set up a car wash in the high school parking lot during a late-spring weekend, and have students take shifts cleaning cars. If you have an online donation page set up, you can accept credit card payments in addition to cash. And if you have text-to-give set up, people can pay by text messaging too!
Shopping for the big dance can be intimidating. Instead, make it a blast!
Whether you plan this fundraiser around homecoming or prom season, you’re sure to get a big turnout. Ask members of your community to donate old formal dresses, which you’ll then sell at a discounted price to your students.
The classic walkathon can work for all ages, but high school students especially love this fundraiser when you add a competitive edge.
Students can invite friends, classmates, and relatives to sponsor them as they walk or jog a certain number of laps around the school track. Each student can use a unique online donation page to raise funds and build up pre-walk/jog buzz.
This high school fundraising idea is perfect for parents who have a hard time persuading their kids to get their chores done.
During a live chore auction, an audience will bid to have students complete errands or other mundane chores. Teachers can task students with cleaning classrooms, while classmates may enjoy seeing their friends clean their lockers—for a price!
Student athletes love to share their hard-earned skills and expertise with the community. A summer sports camp gives them the chance to do so for a good cause.
Have members of your high school sports teams donate their time to host a community sports camp during the summer. Children can pay a fee to learn from the greats, with all the money going back to your school. Before the camp, set up a text-to-give campaign with a camp-specific keyword, like “camp” or your school’s mascot. Participants and supporters will get into the spirit of fun and giving before the camp even officially starts!
Here’s a tip from us at Snowball Fundraising: Try to get into the frame of mind of your school’s supporters, whoever they are. Chances are, they’ll want a way to give that’s fast and convenient. That’s why before, during, and after events, it’s a great idea to offer online donations.
It’s hard to spruce up a cramped space, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try. A dorm decorating contest gives participants the chance to have their dorm decorated by their classmates.
Have residents pay a small fee to enter their dorm in the contest. You can also make this college fundraiser a holiday-themed competition.
Perfect for social clubs or fraternities, a beard challenge is a fun, silly way for guys on campus to raise money for their organizations.
Participants get sponsors to donate toward their beard-growing endeavor. The more money you raise, the bigger the beards!
For this fundraiser, students will have to get out of the dining hall and into their kitchens.
Charge students a fee to enter their best dish in a themed cook-off (think: chili, baked goods, or burgers). Guests can then judge the entries by making donations.
You might not actually be singing or playing instruments, but this fundraiser still requires a lot of talent!
Students pay to form teams to participate in a lip-sync showdown and “belt out” their favorite hits. Have the audience pick the winner by their applause, or ask esteemed members of your campus community to be the judges.
Great for students and alumni, legacy-style fundraising ideas for universities give individuals the chance to have a lasting impact on their alma mater.
Offer students the opportunity to have their name engraved on a brick, to be placed in a walkway or courtyard on campus. Time this fundraiser around graduation, so soon-to-be alumni have a way to leave their mark. Set up a text-to-give campaign in the weeks leading up to graduation, with a memorable text-to-give keyword such as “ClassOf[Year],” to build donations while you build your school’s legacy.
There’s no better fundraiser to get everyone on campus involved!
Students pay to have friends thrown in “jail” at the center of campus. To get out of jail, the individual must match the initial donation. Make this more fun by posting a “most wanted” list of notable campus figures, each with a bail amount that they must meet if caught.
Remember, take time to follow best practices before and after any school fundraising initiatives. That means laying a foundation for success before and then thanking donors for all of their support after.
Text-to-Give Software: Snowball’s Comprehensive Guide. You already know that text-to-give is an essential fundraising strategy. Read this thorough guide to learn how to get the most from your text-to-give campaign.
Recurring Donations: Building a Stronger Fundraising Model. Donors who set up recurring donations give 42% more annually. It’s important to get donations; it’s even more important to keep them coming.
What to Know about Nonprofit Email Newsletters. Email newsletters are a great way to keep parents, students, and alumni updated on your campaign progress. Learn how to create an effective newsletter.
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