Recession Friendly School Fundraising Ideas

Before fundraising catalogs with pricey products that only brought you a small percentage of the profits came along, schools and other organizations used to raise funds using simple ideas, donations from home, and elbow grease from the students or members. The big benefit to this type of fundraising is that there is no “middle man” catalog company, and your organization gets to keep all the money earned. Now…I’m not saying the fundraising companies are a bad thing, but lets face it, not many people these days are willing or able to spend $6 on a roll of wrapping paper, or $15 for a small candle.

Here are some of the most profitable school fundraising ideas that won’t break the bank for anyone.

Have a Bake Sale

Consider having several bake sales, or add a bake sale to other events that the school sponsors. Set up a table at the next game, or even at the next PTA meeting. Make sure to sell snack sized items as well as full-sized PTA fundraising ideas cakes, pies and loaves. Have parents volunteer to donate baked goods They can even include the recipes. Then pick a place and a time to set up a table.

Car Wash

Good during the warmer months, and a lot of fun for teens. A car wash is an easy way to make some fast cash for your group. The trick to having a successful fundraising car wash is advertising. Make sure you get the word out and pick a location that everyone can find with no problem. Put up fliers ahead of time in grocery stores and other local businesses. Inquire about a low cost or even free ad in your local newspaper. Being visible from a busy street, or holding up posters during the event can bring in impulse customers.

Cake Walk

Get donations of baked goods, much like a Bake Sale, then sell tickets for turns to participate in the game. Pick a theme and make tiles or markers you can tape to the floor in a circle with about foot between each tile. Ex: U.S. States, Countries of the World, even colors of the rainbow work. Create small paper markers representing each tile and toss them in a box. Each player stands on a tile of their choice. Music is played and players walk around the tiles. When the music stops everyone should be on a tile. The person running the game draws a marker from the box. The person standing on that tile wins their choice of one item off the cake table.

Silent Auction

This is always a big moneymaker, especially if you start planning really early. Get donations from local retailers, or if you’re fundraising for a school, have each classroom sponsor and create a themed gift basket using donations sent in from home. Set up tables to display these items during your festival, having a bid sheet in front of each item. Set a starting bid for each item then let bidders browse. Interested bidders simply write their bids on the sheets, each bidding higher until the end of the auction. At the announced close of the auction the highest bids win the items.

Used Book Sale

Get some donations of used books and sell them at the festival. Some school libraries do this to make space for new books coming in, and to help pay for the new books as well.

Seasonal Fairs and Festivals

Spring Fairs, Winter Carnivals, and Fall Festivals don’t have to cost much to hold if you start planning well in advance. Simple games like duck ponds, ring tosses, and football throws can all be homemade and are lots of fun. Invite some community organizations to come and promote their causes. See if they will offer a simple make-it-and-take-it craft, or carnival game in exchange for a free space. Have a school wide drive for donations to a Cake Walk, a Silent Auction and a Used Book Sale, all to take place during your festival, and you’ve got a fundraising event that’s fun for the entire family. Sell tickets for some events but keep some things free to make this a more inviting event that encourages families to participate.

Sponsor a Craft Fair

Invite local artisans to come in and set up their wares for sale, charging a small fee for the table space. This is great right before the holidays. Invest in some simple craft kits and set up make-it-and-take-it tables charging a small fee for each craft. Or charge one price for 3 projects then have several projects to choose from.

Another way to do this is to open a space to hobbyists and crafters to come in and work on their projects in a group setting. Charge a fee for entry and provide snacks, drinks, and the opportunity to sell to each other. Promote it as an opportunity for scrapbookers, needle workers, and other crafters to meet, connect, and just have a good time sharing an afternoon of creativity. A great idea for busy moms who want some “me time” to enjoy their favorite hobby and meet some new friends.


Walk-a-thons have been around forever, but as the weather gets colder consider a Read-a-thon, where students collect donations based on how many books they read during a set time period.Dance-Offs, Jump Rope Marathons, and Hula Hoop contests all follow this same idea. Plus, they promote physical fitness and get the kids directly involved in the fundraising.

All of these ideas can be done with very little money up front, yet offer something valuable to the people you’re raising funds from. Hold a few of these events over the span of the school year along with the book fairs and wrapping paper sales and you will find it easier than you think to earn the cash your organization needs.


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