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  • Public School Fundraisers: 6 Community Favorites

If you’ve ever been a student, teacher, or parent at one, you know that public schools are notoriously underfunded. That’s why these individuals tend to spend a lot of time on school fundraisers to supplement their limited finances. 

And if you fall into one of these groups, you’re likely looking for new and exciting ways to raise money (i.e., you’re tired of hosting the same old boring fundraisers year after year). 

Whether you’re looking for a safe face-to-face fundraiser to host this school year, or seeking an exciting virtual alternative, we surely have one on our list of favorites that will suit your needs! 

Are you ready to dive into our tried-and-true, impactful and fan-favorite fundraising ideas for schools? Let’s get started:


public school fundraisers - mask fundraiser, online auction, shoes, walkathon, discount cards


School Fundraiser #1: Face Mask Fundraiser

One of the most popular fundraisers this year has been the face mask fundraiser, and for good reason. With this unique idea, you’ll sell custom face masks branded with your school logo and color scheme to students, parents, and community members who want to support your school.


Here are the basic steps to follow to get started with this kind of campaign:


  1. Choose a product fundraising company to partner with.
  2. Send or submit your school logo and color scheme.
  3. Start selling masks in-person or online.
  4. Wait for fundraising partner to print and distribute masks.


Since most schools (and other public places, for that matter) now require facial coverings, hosting a face mask fundraiser is a great way to make the most out of a negative situation. Plus, branded face masks give you the chance to promote public health and safety as well as school spirit.

School Fundraiser #2: Shoe Drive

A shoe drive is a unique and exciting way for schools to raise money without ever asking for monetary donations. Instead, you’ll call on students, parents, friends, and family members to donate their gently worn, used and new shoes which you will trade for a check to your school.

Even if you’ve never heard of this type of fundraiser, it’s quite simple to get started with. Here’s a basic overview of the process:


  1. Partner with a shoe drive coordinator.
  2. Receive and distribute collection materials throughout your community.
  3. Encourage your students and community members to collect and donate shoes.
  4. Contact your shoe drive coordinator to pick up the shoes.
  5. Receive a check corresponding to the shoes collected.


While a shoe drive can function as a standalone event, it also works well in league with other powerful school fundraising ideas. For example, you might want to choose to host a shoe drive alongside your event-a-thon fundraiser (which we’ll cover in more detail later).

School Fundraiser #3: Charity Auction

Charity auctions are popular events for any fundraising organizations, and schools are no different. These fundraisers allow families and communities to support your school, participate in an exciting event, and, hopefully, receive an appealing item in exchange for their winning bid.


There are essentially three types of fundraising auctions to choose from:


  • Live auctions: Live auctions typically encompass a high-energy event with a personable auctioneer who encourages guests to bid on a single item in real-time. For school auctions, you might want to have a beloved teacher or principal function as auctioneer to really drive engagement and bids through the roof.

  • Silent auctions: At a silent auction, items are placed on display for attendees to browse and bid at their own leisure. Guests bid anonymously via a bid sheet placed by each item, and the individual with the highest bid at the conclusion of the event gets to purchase the item for their bid amount. You can also add a technological element to the event by leveraging mobile bidding software rather than the traditional pen and paper. 


  • Virtual auctions: Virtual auctions transfer the main components of a traditional auction (live or silent) to the digital realm so that supporters can partake from wherever they are. Alternatively, some auctions leverage a combination of in-person and virtual features to provide maximum engagement and accessibility, which are known as hybrid events.


Here’s a money-saving tip for any charity auction: be sure to solicit donated or discounted auction items from local businesses and major donors. When you secure items at low or no cost, you can save significantly and keep more of the profit from the event for your school.

School Fundraiser #4: Matching Gift Drive

A matching gift drive leverages corporate philanthropy practices to essentially make any donation you receive go twice as far

According to Double the Donation’s matching gift statistics, more than 18 million individuals are employed by companies with matching gift programs. That means that more than likely, some of your school’s parents, colleagues, families, and community members are eligible to have their donations to your school matched by their employer. 

When you host a matching gift drive, here’s what the fundraiser will look like:


  1. Your supporter makes a donation to your school.
  2. You encourage them to research their eligibility for a match by searching their employer in a matching gift database.
  3. The supporter follows the next steps provided by the search tool to request a donation match from their employer.
  4. The employer confirms the original donation with your school.
  5. The employer sends in their own matching donation (typically at a 1:1 ratio).


Although every participating employer has its own unique matching gift guidelines (i.e. match ratios, minimums, maximums, and eligible organizations), most companies are willing to donate to public schools. That means you’ll likely receive a ton of match-eligible donations, so a matching gift drive provides the perfect opportunity to promote matching gifts to your supporters.

School Fundraiser #5: Event-a-Thon

The traditional walk-a-thon is the most common event for this type of fundraiser, although many organizers are turning to other engaging activities such as dance- and bike-a-thons as well. If you’re looking for a more educational twist for your school fundraiser, read- and spell-a-thons are great options, too.


Regardless of the activity chosen, the event-a-thon process remains largely the same:


  1. Students seek sponsorships in the form of pledges from family and friends, typically “$X per activity completed.” 
  2. Students participate in the activity (either on a particular day or over a set time period) and track their progress.
  3. Sponsors make their donations corresponding to their sponsee’s performance in the event.


Pledge fundraisers like these are popular choices because they can get the whole community involved, whether as a participant or a sponsor. You can even offer unique prizes and other incentives to motivate students to fundraise to their best ability. 

Plus, seemingly small donations (such as a dollar per lap walked or page read) can add up quickly—especially when each participant has multiple sponsors.

School Fundraiser #6: Discount Card Sales

This traditional fundraiser involves selling discount cards to students, parents, and other members of your community. Because this is such a popular idea for schools, fundraisers have developed a slew of different ways to make your fundraiser stand out. In fact, discount card fundraisers can make up to a 93% profit, making it one of the most profitable choices in the industry.


Here are three common types of discount card fundraisers:


  • Traditional discount card: Traditional discount cards are typically small, plastic, and durable—about the size and feel of a credit card. You might charge $20-$25 dollars per card, which likely includes hundreds of dollars in savings from around fifteen local businesses.

  • Scratch card or spinners:  Scratch cards and spinners add a unique gamification element to your traditional discount card fundraiser. Instead of purchasing a discount card for a set price, supporters get the chance to scratch a card or spin a wheel to determine the amount they owe. Then, they receive their coupons!

  • Digital savings: As a modern spin on the traditional fundraising idea, you can choose to sell digital savings memberships to your supporters. Companies like Entertainment® provide digital memberships with savings for stores like Books-A-Million, Claire’s, and IHOP. When you sell these virtual coupon books to donors, they get all the digital savings with the added convenience of managing their coupons from the mobile device they already carry around.


In a time like this, with looming economic uncertainty ahead, many families are having to pinch pennies. With this fundraiser, they can continue to do so while also supporting public education.

Any experienced fundraiser knows that fundraising success all starts with a stellar fundraising idea for schools—and sometimes that can be the hardest part.

Regardless of the idea you choose for your school, your fundraising this year is likely to look different than ever before. Be sure to incorporate virtual elements, practice social distancing, and keep your fundraisers and donors safe. Good luck! 

(More about underfunding of public schools.


About the Author:

Debbie Salat is the director of fundraising activities and product development at ABC Fundraising. Debbie joined ABC Fundraising in 2010 and is responsible for launching over 6500 fundraising campaigns for schools, churches, youth sports teams and non-profit organizations all across the USA. With over 20 years of fundraising experience, Debbie knows the path to success for fundraisers which she shares with groups on a daily basis so they can achieve their fundraising goals.

Debbie Salat at ABC Fundraising

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