A Beginner’s School Fundraising Guide: Making every dollar count

If you’re a parent, teacher, or school leader, you know that fundraising isn’t just a cute bake sale on the weekends— it’s the lifeblood of many educational experiences that budget cuts often slash first. At Cheddar Up, we’re all about making your life easier when it comes to fundraising. We’ve got the data and pro tips in this fundraising guide that can help you raise more while stressing less.

Why Fundraising is Non-Negotiable

Cheddar Up conducted a nationwide survey and found that a staggering 96% of schools hold at least one fundraiser per year. And it’s not just for fancy extras; nearly half of schools depend on these funds for basic classroom supplies and projects. Additionally, public schools, which are most dependent on these funds, actually raise 75% less than private schools. When you’re fundraising, you’re not just hosting fun community events; you’re making sure that essential staff development, technology, and programs in arts and athletics don’t fall by the wayside.

*Data from the 2023 Cheddar Up School Fundraising Report.

How Much Do Schools Make from Fundraisers?

The amount varies widely depending on the type of school and the fundraising activities involved. Our survey indicated that schools in the northeast, midwest, and west raise an average of $36k-$39k per year, which is more than double what schools in the south raise ($16k annually).  However, a well-organized and efficiently-run fundraiser can significantly increase these numbers. Schools that opt for recurring donations and display transparent fundraising goals tend to raise more funds.

What Are the Best Fundraisers for Schools?

The most successful fundraisers marry fun with function. Here are a few that stand out:

Fun Runs:

These can be themed and involve the whole family, promoting wellness and community spirit.

Auctions nights:

A bit more high-end but a great way to involve local businesses and get valuable items to bid on.  Don’t want to plan an entire event?  Still include local businesses by having a raffle for their donated items.

Recurring Donations:

As our data shows, these are game-changers in school fundraising.

Flower and plant sales:

Whether you’re selling fall mums or spring geraniums, plant sales help schools nationwide grow their funds. Bulbs, hanging baskets, vegetables and more can be sold, but we found that spring flowers and plants tend to make the most money.  And if you have an agricultural group on campus, this could be a great way to get them involved and reduce costs!

Family nights:

Concerts, spaghetti dinners, or jazz in the park. Consider selling “marketplace” booths for local vendors to showcase their goods and services and leverage school groups to provide the entertainment.

Tips for a Fundraising Glow-Up

So, how do we make school fundraising less of a grind and more of a groove?

Ditch the Third-Party Sales

First things first—let’s say “no more” to third-party product sales (think gift wrap and popcorn).  29% of survey respondents say they are least likely to support third-party product sales. And while social events may require a little more coordination up front, parents are much more likely to support them and you’ll get a better return on your time investment.

Go Recurring, Go Big!

Consider introducing a recurring parent donation option. Our data shows that schools on Cheddar Up that implement auto-pay donations raise, on average, 7.2 times more than schools who don’t. A monthly auto-pay program could be a game-changer, with 50% of parents willing to participate.

Transparency is Golden

Here’s an effortless hack—just be transparent about where the money is going. Schools that clearly communicate how funds are used could raise up to 41% more per family per year. Use Cheddar Up to display a fundraising goal and the amount raised directly on the donation page.

Fundraising Guide Summary: The Future is Bright

The findings from our survey underline a desperate need for updated fundraising strategies. By embracing transparency and fundraising technology like Cheddar Up, schools and parent groups can not only meet but exceed their fundraising goals, without burning out their community.

Before you go

Ready to make your next fundraiser ridiculously easy and effective? With Cheddar Up and this fundraising guide, you’re just a click away from making a profound impact on the future of education.

Collect for FREE

Whether you’re collecting dues and fees, fundraising, managing an event, creating a sign up, or selling something online or in-person, you can do it with a Cheddar Up collection.

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