Youve just gotten the kids settled into the school routine, and youve managed to shoe-horn all the extracurriculars into the family calendar. Now a coach or teacher pulls you aside: Can you help with the fall fundraiser? If just the thought of raising money makes you want to head for the hills, dont panic. There are plenty of fresh ways to raise money and even have some fun along the way. 


Consider these 10 great ideas:


1 Go with a theme that links to your efforts. If you are raising money for the library, hold a used book sale or put on a reading challenge in which students get sponsors for reaching a monthly goal of reading minutes. If you are raising money for a cheer squad, sell links toward a paper chain in school colors that can be assembled and displayed at a team game. Make it a friendly competition to see which grade can sell the most links.


2 Have a garage sale. If you time your event with a neighborhood garage sale, you may attract more customers and reduce advertising costs. While gently-used items are your main feature, remember food. Garage sale shoppers work up an appetite and are happy to buy snacks at your stop. Coffee, donuts, breakfast tacos, hot dogs, soda and chips are standard fare, but candy, cookies and other sweet treats can be just as popular with shoppers.


3 Build school spirit with spirit days. You can host this regularly, say once a month or a few times a year. Declare silly themes such as: crazy hair day, backwards day or come as your favorite author or animal. Have students and staff donate money to attend school in their get-up. At my son’s school, the class who raises the most money receives an ice cream party.


4 Reach out to your community. Partner with a local business, such as an ice cream shop or restaurant and establish a special day when a portion of sales goes to your school. Then promote the event to your school community, friends and family.


5 Put children’s art to lasting use. Use student paintings to create durable art that parents or grandparents can purchase. Images can be used for designs on mugs, aprons, tote bags, greeting cards and more. You can ask the teachers to set aside time for creating the artwork, or you can coordinate a creative event to get the process started.


6 Organize a cake walk. This works as part of a larger fundraiser (such as a school carnival) or as a stand-alone event. Begin with yummy, donated cakes or other sweets. You’ll get more mileage out of the occasion if you divide the donations into smaller-sized prizes. For example, you can divide a batch of 24 cupcakes into six 4-packs or put half a dozen cookies together on one plate.


7 Get fit while raising funds. At my children’s former school, they hosted a “Fit-tastic” program. Using the school gym after hours, local fitness teachers offered classes such as boot camp, zumba and yoga. The fees were split between the instructors and the school. Classes could be tailored to students, adults or both.


8 Arrange a used sports equipment sale. Families donate their gently-used gear to the cause, with all proceeds directly benefitting your organization. With growing kids needing new gear regularly, this event can help families clear their clutter, improve their budget and boost your bottom line. The sale could be a physical event or a digital one. If you have multiple high-dollar donations, consider running a silent auction for those items.


9 Sell useful products. There are companies who will help you sell almost anything. Think about items your family already uses, such as family calendars, gift wrap or toothbrushes. One functional fundraiser that many families welcome is customized labels for clothing, sporting, household or personal items.


10 Host an international food fest. Have families bring food representing their heritage and charge admission. People will enjoy trying the variety of food and having a chance to learn more about others. Be sure to coordinate donations to ensure a balance among the various dishes (for example, assign certain grades to bring main courses, side dishes or desserts).


Sue LeBreton is a freelance writer who loves easy, functional fundraisers.

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