8 Innovative Fundraising Ideas Your School Should Try

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Hosting a profitable fundraiser can be a big challenge for elementary, middle, and high schools. With so many tired school fundraising ideas floating around, your school may need a bit of inspiration to engage your students and donors.

That’s why we’ve compiled the top 8 innovative fundraising ideas for schools:

  1. Text-to-give
  2. Custom t-shirts
  3. Giant sundae
  4. Read-a-thon
  5. Corporate sponsors
  6. Prospect screenings
  7. School carnival
  8. Baked goods

Any one of these ideas can help your school raise more money. Let’s get started with the first!

Text-to-give is a great school fundraising idea!

1. Text-to-give

The Basics

Cell phones are wildly popular with students. They’re incredibly convenient devices that students can take with them anywhere — and of course, they’re fun, too!

All of these benefits are reasons that text-to-give is a great fundraising idea for your school.

When students and families can easily donate from their personal mobile devices, they may be more likely to follow through with the donation process. With their phones, they can give whenever, wherever.

With text-to-give, your school can capitalize on the cell phone hype. Since students and supporters are already familiar with their phones, your biggest challenge will be spreading awareness about your campaign.

To do so, you can incorporate tex-to-give into fundraising events and sporting games, where you’ll be able to reach a large portion of your student body at once!

Text-to-give is an incredibly useful tool for events because:

  • Most people will be carrying their mobile devices.
  • You can use a live appeal to inspire donors to give right then and there.
  • Donors can control how they make a donation by using their preferred debit or credit card (which is particularly useful, since many supporters may not carry much cash with them).

Of course, you can also advertise text-to-give through more traditional avenues (fliers in high-traffic areas, for example).

Get Started

To host a text-to-give fundraiser, you’ll need to use a text giving platform.

@Pay allows donors to give in two simple steps. First, they text their donation amount to your school’s designated number. Then, they confirm their donation by clicking on the link in the text response and sending an email.

This easy process prioritizes the convenience of text giving. Plus, @Pay saves your donors’ information so that they don’t have to re-enter their info every time they give.

Your loyal alumni, parents, and supporters will be grateful for such a simple giving process.

@Pay's text-to-give platform is a great school fundraising idea.


 

Custom t-shirts are one of the best school fundraising ideas to help you raise more.

2. Custom t-shirts

The Basics

Fashion trends may come and go, but classic t-shirts are always in style.

T-shirts are casual and comfortable attire that can be worn for all sorts of occasions, which makes them one of the most profitable school fundraising ideas you can choose.

When creating a design, it’s important that your t-shirts represent your school. Your school’s name, colors, and mascot are all important features that you’ll need to emphasize.

To really amp up your custom t-shirt sales, you can create hype by hosting:

  • School spirit weeks.
  • Tie-dye days.
  • Dress down days (for schools with uniforms).

Anything that will get your students excited about wearing their t-shirts is perfect. Excitement is the means to more donations and an engaged student body and donor base!

Plus, when students wear their t-shirts in unison, they’re banding together as a student body.

Get started

To pull off this fundraiser, you’ll need to enlist the help of a custom t-shirt platform.

School-friendly platforms like Booster only charge a fee per shirt sold. That means that it’s free to create your fundraising campaign, and you’re guaranteed to make a profit!

Booster is a custom t-shirt platform, and a very profitable school fundraising idea.


A giant sundae is a creative school fundraising idea that's perfect for nonprofits.

3. Giant sundae

The Basics

Despite the name, a giant sundae fundraiser isn’t about eating delicious ice cream.

Instead, your principal (or another respected authority figure) literally becomes a giant sundae. They’ll volunteer themselves to be covered in ice cream, chocolate syrup, sprinkles, whipped cream, and any other messy topping that you’d like.

But first, your school has to reach a fundraising goal!

The best way to conduct the giant sundae fundraiser is to host a crowdfunding campaign.

In a crowdfunding campaign, students and supporters can make small to medium sized donations. Because donations to crowdfunding campaigns are typically smaller, more people can participate without feeling like they’re shortchanging your school.

Create tiers for your fundraiser so that each dollar amount raised represents another topping to be added to the sundae. For example, $500 may add chocolate syrup to the mix, while $1,000 includes thousands of sprinkles.

Get started

Crowdfunding platforms should allow your school to easily track your fundraising progress with a thermometer. Additionally, social sharing features can encourage students to spread your fundraiser around to their friends and family members on social media.

Platforms like Fundly allow your school to easily create a crowdfunding campaign and customize your donation page.

Fundly as a crowdfunding platform is great as a school fundraising idea.


A read-a-thon is an educational and fun school fundraising idea.

4. Read-a-thon

The Basics

One of the best fundraising ideas for elementary and middle school students is a read-a-thon. Not only can you raise money for your school, but you’re also emphasizing the joy and value of reading onto your student body.

Here’s how it works: students get family members, neighbors, and members of their community to sponsor them. Each sponsor will donate a certain amount of money per pages read. For example, a donor may give $10 for every 50 pages a student reads.

Once the student has collected their sponsors, the student will spend a week or two reading as many pages as they can.

With an avid reader, donations can quickly multiply!

Read-a-thons are also great because any incentives that you offer to your top student fundraisers will be motivating your students to read more. It really is a win-win!

Get started

You can further increase funds by hosting a used book sale prior to the read-a-thon. A used book sale is a great opportunity for your students to purchase affordable books that they’ll be eager to start reading (which in turn will bring in more revenue).

As for the actual read-a-thon itself, there are several read-a-thon companies that can provide your school with support and materials, such as sponsor sheets.

Readathon, for example, is a company that uses funds raised from students to benefit children in hospitals by providing new books and readers.

A great school fundraising idea is a read-a-thon.


Corporate sponsors can supplement the cost of a school fundraiser.

5. Corporate sponsors

The Basics

One of the biggest challenges of a school fundraiser is offsetting the initial costs and/or reaching a profit margin that justifies all the time and resources that went into planning and executing the campaign.

That’s where corporate sponsors come in.

Corporations can provide all kinds of support that can benefit your school fundraiser. That’s why one of the best fundraising ideas you can implement is identifying opportunities for corporate philanthropy.

This is just a short list of the ways that corporate philanthropy can help your school:

  • Matching gifts
  • Fundraising matches
  • In-kind donations
  • Challenge grants

Each of these options has its own benefits, and their availability will vary from company to company.

Get Started

Your parents and alumni will have extensive corporate networks that can be leveraged for your school. The key to tapping into these networks is making your supporters aware of the opportunities their employers can offer your school.

Matching gift tools can be integrated into your school’s website. With these tools, donors can easily search for the matching-gift eligibility of their donations and find out what steps they need to take to make it happen. These tools can show donors just how easy the matching gift process can be!

360MatchPro provides a matching gift tool that does just that.

Corporate sponsors are a great school fundraising idea that can help your school raise more.


A prospect screening can help you identify major donors for your school fundraiser.

6. Prospect screenings

The Basics

A prospect screening can help you identify the donors who can most benefit your school. Prospect screenings are often used by private or independent schools, as well as colleges and universities.

Though not a traditional fundraising idea, a prospect screening can be used as a supplement to any fundraising campaign. Not only can it enhance your overall fundraising efforts, but it can provide you with the specific, targeted information you need to get your campaign off the ground.

After all, a large contribution at the beginning of your campaign can inspire others to give as well.

Performing a prospect screening before your campaign can help you find the donors who are most willing and able to make a large contribution — and a big impact on your school!

Get started

To perform a prospect screening, you can enlist the help of:

  • Prospect screening company. A prospect screening company can analyze mass quantities of donor data across multiple public and private databases. Then, the company can rank your prospects according to their giving potential. It’s important that you select a screening service that provides both wealth and philanthropic data (after all, a prospect could be the wealthiest person in town, but if they don’t want to donate, then your school won’t see a penny).
  • Fundraising consultant. A fundraising consultant who offers screening services can help your school craft a strategy for acting on the information that you learn about your prospects.

To get started with a prospect screening, you can check out DonorSearch!

Learn more about prospect research as a school fundraising idea.


A school carnival is one of the most profitable school fundraising ideas.

7. School carnival

The Basics

A school fair or carnival is a more extensive fundraising event, but it can reap big rewards for your school.

After all, a school carnival is its own kind of incentive. Students will be eager to attend this fun event, and you can fundraise in a multitude of ways.

For example, you can:

  • Charge for admission.
  • Sell rolls of tickets for the rides and games.
  • Sell concessions.

Of course, you can combine two or more of these ideas as well.

With so many opportunities to raise funds, your biggest challenge will be marketing your carnival so that as many students and community members as possible attend.

Providing age-appropriate activities is one way to do so, but offering a variety of fun for students and parents can be even more effective. You may, for example, include a silent auction in your fair so that adults can have some fun, too (plus, your school will raise more funds!).

Get started

To host a carnival, you can enlist different student groups and clubs to help run the event. Doing so gives your students a more direct stake in the fundraising!

You’ll also need to find a company that can provide the booths, games, rides, and attractions you’ll need. Local companies may be able to offer additional support and attendants.

Zebra Entertainment and Events, for example, is one of the largest providers in the greater Los Angeles area.

A school carnival is a profitable and fund school fundraising idea.


Baked goods are an effective and class school fundraising idea.

8. Baked goods

The Basics

Bake sales are a classic school fundraiser for a reason; everyone loves sweet treats! People will be eager to make a donation if they know that a delicious cheesecake or gourmet chocolate chip cookies will complement their good deed.

Even better, the classic bake sale has been revolutionized for the world of online fundraising. Students no longer have to trek door-to-door to sell fundraising products (though they still can do so, of course!).

Online baked goods sales are beneficial because students are no longer tied to physical catalogues, which in the past has limited the reach of their fundraising efforts. Now, they can share their fundraiser across their social media networks, and they can email their distant relatives with more information.

An online bake sale opens up your fundraiser to more potential donors!

Get started

Find a company that can supply baked goods for your online fundraiser.

There are plenty of companies to choose from, depending on the types of products that you want to sell and the prices you want to set.

Claire’s Gourmet streamlines the online fundraising process for your school by providing planning and communications materials. Additionally, they allow donors to track orders and have their goods delivered directly to their homes!

Selling baked goods online is a fantastic school fundraising idea.


Now that we’ve covered the top 8 fundraising ideas for your school, it’s time to choose the one that’s right for you! Now, learn how @Pay can support your school fundraisers with incredible text-to-give technology.

@Pay can help you raise money for your school with text-to-give!

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