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  • Let The Games Begin: A Carnival Fundraiser

Want to raise money, have lots of fun, and get everyone in your organization involved all at the same time? Hold a carnival fundraiser! A carnival fundraiser doesn’t have to include expensive rides, as long as you have plenty of fun games to offer. Besides booth games, consider sure hits like a dunk tank and inflatable games, which usually aren’t very expensive to rent.

There are lots of ways to make a carnival successful as a fundraiser, which is why many schools and organizations do it on an annual basis. The key is to mix it up every year, so people look forward to coming back, but are continually surprised at the new booths, vendors, or games. Some of the best ways to keep things running smoothly are included below.


Carnival ball pit


Put someone in charge

This may seem obvious, but is often overlooked when deciding who does which job. This person doesn’t have to be the one that does everything, but he or she needs to be the one to delegate everything. You need somebody (maybe it will be you) who can ask Mrs. A to be in charge of recruiting vendors for the food booths, Mrs. B in charge of organizing all the games, and Mr. C to bring in the volunteers. However you work it, there’s no getting around the need for someone to follow up with everyone on a regular basis and make sure the job is getting done.

Meet at least a few times

Some folks will tell you that you need to meet every week for six months prior to the event, while others will tell you that their organization only met once the week before. It really depends on how much experience you and your group have doing this sort of thing. If everyone knows the drill and understands what they need to do, you probably only need to have a few meetings. On the other hand, if you have never held anything like this before and this will be your first event together, you probably should meet every week for six months before.

Ensure everyone’s safety

Once upon a time, schools and organizations could hold a carnival without having to worry about what bad things might happen. Tragically, that time is gone. Be sure to put someone in charge of security at your carnival, who has the build of a club bouncer, the eye of a paranoid parent, and the wisdom of the ages! Anticipate junior-high antics like firecrackers in the bathroom, post plenty of security where parents can see it, and have a prominent “Meeting Place” where lost children can go and wait for their parents. That way, you—as well as the parents at your carnival—can rest easy, knowing that whatever happens will be handled promptly and with class.

Sell more than just a hamburger

In business, putting several products together and selling them as one package is called “product bundling.” For example, few people buy just a cheeseburger at McDonald’s anymore—they get a #3, with fries and a coke. You can work the same principle to much advantage at your carnival. Have food booths with various types of food in one area, different kinds of games in another, and vendors selling various items appropriate for a kids’ carnival in another. A side note here: if you can arrange it ahead of time, vendor placement in booths at your carnival is a win-win situation: the vendor gets great advertising and a chance to sell some of their wares, and you get the vendor fee with almost no overhead (just a table with a “reserved” sign is usually sufficient).

Make sure you have enough volunteers

You’ll need lots of volunteers to run your carnival. Examples of jobs are:

  • Creating fliers, signs, and ‘ads’ for school newspapers
  • Selling tickets before and during your carnival
  • Setting up booths, games and decorations
  • Running the booths and games and handing out prizes
  • Running the PA system for announcements if necessary
  • If you decide to have music, assign a ‘DJ’ that is familiar with working the sound system
  • Setting up and manning a lost and found station
  • Food sales, unless you allow outside vendors to sell their food. When you have outside vendors, you’ll need a liaison that works closely with them and monitors set up, and that the agreed upon food and drinks are offered, etc.
  • Setting up trash and recycling cans. Cleaning up during and after the carnival
  • Tearing down booths, games and decorations after the carnival
  • Have several volunteers on ‘standby’ who could jump in at any time
  • Have several volunteers available at the carnival for odd jobs that come up
  • Make a budget

    Be sure you get any needed licenses and reserve a spot for your carnival well in advance of the event. You’ll also need to plan for potential vendors, insurance, table and booth rentals, prizes, decorations, advertising, the actual tickets, the games themselves and security.

    To make planning easier for a larger group, it may work for you to set a date and see how many tickets you can pre-sell. That way you might be able to better estimate how many people will come, which will make it easier to plan for how many games to set up, the amount you have available for spending on prizes etc. Don’t forget to plan for a healthy profit for your group!

    If you make sure you have all the basics covered, security, fun games and prizes and lots of helpers, you’ll have an event that’s not just fun, but also adds to your group’s bottom line!

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