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While many of us have participated in school fundraisers in the past, schools are not generally the first organizations we consider when we think about fundraising initiatives. Nonprofit organizations are generally better known for their prowess at launching impactful fundraisers. 

Nonprofit organizations raise money for their initiatives by planning various fundraising events and activities throughout the year, then promoting them to large networks of people. These opportunities can range from virtual giving events to large in-person events, and schools can easily follow suit, learning from these organizations overflowing with fundraising expertise. 

The five tips we’ll cover in this guide for launching innovative and lucrative school fundraisers will help you integrate effective nonprofit fundraising techniques into your own development strategy:

  1. Tie fundraising into educational activities.
  2. Leverage online fundraising tools. 
  3. Set clear goals for your campaigns. 
  4. Offer prizes for top fundraisers. 
  5. Consider the top fundraising ideas. 

Large nonprofits like The Red Cross or St. Jude have a large base of support and brand recognition to help their fundraising efforts succeed. However, schools may need to spice up their fundraisers to create campaigns that are engaging to teachers, parents, families, and students alike. 

1. Tie fundraising into educational activities. 

Tying your fundraiser into your mission of education reinforces your purpose to everyone involved, from your donors to your students. Plus, you get to accomplish more than just raising money. Your fundraising activities will help you continue educating students at your school and will surely be more enticing for parents and community members who want education to be the top priority. 

As you prepare your fundraiser, be sure any educational activity you prepare is directly relevant to your audience or age group of fundraisers. For example, here’s how you might adapt some of the fundraisers listed in Read-a-thon’s list of elementary school fundraising ideas to better suit the ages of fundraisers: 

  • Pick age appropriate books for a read-a-thon or require students to choose books at their reading level to participate in the fundraiser. Fifth graders won’t learn much if they choose to read books at a second grade reading level! 
  • Launch a spelling bee with age-appropriate words. If you choose to conduct a spelling bee, you might decide to host different competitions for different grades, ensuring equal competition at the event. 
  • Encourage fitness activities with the appropriate level of challenges. Asking kindergarteners to run a 5k may not result in many sign-ups, but offering runs at different lengths within one event would give all students the opportunity to participate. 

When you host these fundraisers, you may find that the activities you use also lead to great stories about your organization that you can write, use, and share as marketing materials to get others involved in the future. When the community can see how hard your school works to provide an excellent educational environment for your students, you’ll encourage them to be a part of that great impact. 

2. Leverage online fundraising tools.

Online resources make your fundraising campaign accessible, so people can give or pledge from the comfort of their homes. According to Statista, 56.89% of global internet traffic is from mobile usage. This means you should be sure to have mobile responsive emails and web tools, so you don’t miss potential donors who view your fundraiser marketing through their mobile devices. 

When you host your fundraiser, expand your use of digital tools past your marketing campaign to your fundraising campaign itself. Using the right online resources to collect donations and set goals for participants allows more people to participate in your activities. By choosing the most intuitive platforms, even your youngest students can participate with just a few clicks. 

An online fundraising tool will be best used when integrated with or frequently synced with your other online platforms. This way, data can be shared among platforms and used for any of your strategies. For instance, you’ll be able to identify your first-time supporters, save their contact information, and reach out to them for better retention rates. 

For example, the other assortment of online tools you may connect with your fundraising software include: 

  • A donor management system can save data about supporters, so you can follow up about donations or learn more about your donor demographics. 
  • A payment processor for donations you receive can streamline the collection process.
  • Marketing tools to spread the word about your campaign and connect with your supporters. 

Saving information from your fundraiser frequently will ensure you have data about your donors, marketing efforts, and fundraiser as a whole. This data can be used to improve upon future campaigns.

Because your school will likely be looking for education-style fundraising campaigns, you’ll want to find software that easily enables that tool. For example, a read-a-thon fundraiser could use a free online school fundraiser program for students to log their reading hours online, and teachers to follow reading time and donor pledge progress all in one place. 

3. Set clear goals for your campaigns. 

To increase enthusiasm for your fundraiser and define what success looks like for the campaign, always tie in a concrete goal for your fundraiser. Doing this gives supporters and staff members something to work toward.

School-wide fundraising campaigns in which students and supporters raise money from their friends and families should have two types of fundraising goals: 

  • Campaign-wide fundraising goals
  • Individual fundraising goals for each participant

People will be more excited to help raise funds when there is a finish line in sight and they know what part they’re playing in reaching the overarching goal. Some solutions allow you to automatically increase the goal for individual fundraisers when they reach their initial one. 

Your overall campaign goal should be tied to the amount of funding you need to accomplish a specific task. For example, your goal might correspond to the supplies needed to paint a mural outside the school or new tables for the cafeteria. 

4. Offer prizes for top fundraisers. 

If your students are involved in fundraising for the school, offer prizes to encourage them to reach individual benchmarks and help the school’s overall goal. The prizes may be branded school spiritwear from your student store or even leftover merchandise from product fundraisers

Prizes should be age appropriate and appealing to students, so make sure there is a range of prizes available. For example prizes could include:

  • School spirit t-shirts. If you have limited or vintage school spirit t-shirts, students may be intrigued by the exclusive merchandise. 
  • Stuffed animals. Children often collect stuffed animals, so if you have interesting animals like giraffes or alligators, they’ll be excited to expand their collections.
  • Children’s scooters. Promote outside-time with this children’s item that also gets them moving. 
  • The newest children’s books. Reading is the basis of learning, and having new books will encourage young readers to strive for their fundraising goals. 

Different ages will require variations of the prizes, so you can mix and match to make bundles that accommodate a range of ages. Entry level children’s books can be bundled with stuffed animals for preschoolers and kindergartens. Chapter books can be bundled with spirit wear or a scooter for older children. Just make sure the children who are gifted a scooter can safely ride the scooter!

5. Consider these top fundraising ideas. 

As you start building out your school fundraising strategy, you’ll probably incorporate several different types of fundraising ideas. Below, we’ve included several examples of the types of fundraisers you may choose from.


Read-a-thons allow students to ask sponsors to donate a certain amount of money for every hour spent reading throughout the duration of the campaign. You can hold this event over a week, month, or even a year. 

You can sign up for a free school fundraiser tracking tool to make data collection simple and a team effort. Students or teachers can input their reading times with just a few clicks, so even the youngest of students can participate. Be sure to share your fundraiser online so family and friends will know to sponsor your students. 


Crowdfunding makes it easy for students and parents to raise funds by requesting smaller donations from their broader online network to contribute to the school’s goal. Have teachers, students, and parents share your fundraiser on social channels, so your school can reach large numbers of donors in and outside of the local community.

Be sure to set and share your school’s fundraising goal. Post updates on the crowdfunding campaign’s progress to show how much of an impact supporters are making. According to Crowd101’s crowdfunding guide, crowdfunding campaigns raise 3x more when they update their supporters every 5 days. 

Create shareable graphics to feature on your fundraiser, enticing more people to repost about it. Then, encourage older students with social media to share as well. Their enthusiasm for the fundraiser can help reach their network of family, friends, and followers. 

Peer-to-peer or team fundraising

Similar to crowdfunding, peer-to-peer or team fundraising allows your school to collect many small donations from large crowds. However, instead of working from a single campaign page, each student or team of students will create their own fundraising pages with specific goals attached and share that page to raise funds from friends and family. 

School art show

Celebrate your school’s artists and showcase your students’ work at an art show. You could offer the artwork for sale, offer framing for a price, or ask for an entry fee to enter the gallery. With this option, friends and family get to donate to the school and walk away with a sentimental gift. 

Matching gifts 

Your school might be eligible to receive matching gifts from parents’ and community donors’ employers. Matching gifts are donations made by companies in support of their employees’ contributions to eligible organizations. 

The problem is that many individuals don’t realize their eligibility to increase the size of their contributions through these programs. According to some studies, 78% of employees working for matching gift companies don’t realize they are matching gift eligible under their companies’ program. Encourage parents and families to see if their company has a matching gift program.

Try some of these nonprofit fundraising techniques and ideas and watch your school’s fundraisers blossom into engaging and successful efforts. 

From leveraging educational fundraising missions to clear goal-setting, using any of these techniques will surely increase awareness of your fundraiser and get parents, teachers, and students engaged! 

About the Author

Howard Gottlieb

Founder and CEO, Read-a-thon Fundraising Company

Howard Gottlieb has been a serial entrepreneur for more than 35 years. His latest venture, Read-a-thon, is a novel school fundraising concept that truly shifts the paradigm when it matters most. Read-a-thon replaces in-person bake sales, magazine drives and the like with a contactless method of raising much needed cash, one that can be used both in real classrooms and virtual learning spaces. The real bonus? It promotes literacy and gets kids excited about picking up a book.

Gottlieb has made Read-a-thon the fastest growing school fundraising platform in the country. It provides a no-upfront-cost way for schools to monetize a two-week reading push. To date, schools have collectively raised more than $100 million dollars, and kids, who get to choose their own reading material, have logged two billion reading minutes and counting through the program.

Prior to establishing Read-a-thon, Gottlieb was President and Founder of Easy Fundraising Ideas, which he established in 2002 during the early years of the web. During his time there, he developed strong skillsets in search engine and conversion optimization, and EFI became the busiest product fundraising site in the U.S. In addition, Gottlieb was always searching for innovative ways to impact the fundraising industry. He acquired the Read-a-thon domain and spent two years developing the idea before launching it six seasons ago. The concept got so much traction that he decided to sell Easy Fundraising and devote all his energy to Read-a-thon.

Before his deep dive into the fundraising industry, Gottlieb started, grew and/or revived a number of companies. He took Athletic Attic from three stores to fifteen, making it the largest independent athletic footwear retailer in Texas. He also turned around Adair Manufacturing, a virtually bankrupt fabricator of restaurant and kitchen equipment, bringing in Chili’s and Applebee’s as new customers. Under Gottlieb, the Spacer Company became the largest manufacturer of close tolerance spacers and bushings. 

Gottlieb is a native of New York City who grew up in New Jersey and attended Stockton State College near Atlantic City. There, he also worked as a copy boy and sports reporter for the Atlantic City Press. He later moved to Arlington, TX and completed his degree at Stockton State College. His first job in business was as an assistant corporate sales manager with Classic Chemical.

Gottlieb now resides in Arlington, Texas where he founded BAGS ministry, a charitable organization that distributes essential items such as toiletries and healthy snacks to the area’s homeless population. He also serves as deacon at Christ Chapel Bible Church.

Gottlieb plays competitive racquetball and walks four to six miles to work everyday. Most of all, he enjoys spending time with his wife, adopted daughter, two grown sons and six grandchildren.

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