As a parent I dread the moment my child walks through the door with their most current fundraising. They of course are excited to reap the rewards that were shared with them at the kick-off assembly. Lets face it, the fundraising companies do a great job exciting the kids and helping them capture the vision of selling hundreds of items and reaping the incentive rewards that come with such success. As reality sets in our kids realize that it isn’t easy to reach those lofty benchmarks, and parents often end up getting “stuck” with purchasing some of the cookie dough, gift wrapping paper, magazine subscriptions, or peddling it to family and friends. Worse yet is the small profit margin that actually stays with the school. Would you believe that most groups are feeling good if they net 50%? As a parent and school superintendent I feel there has to be a better way.

Using our school has begun to branch out and use more “product-free” fundraisers. The online platform has facilitated the advertising, communication, and collection of monies related to these “product-free” fundraisers. Organizations who couple the use of the online fundraising platform with a product-free event or activity will often experience the greatest success. Donors like to see that kids are willing to work for the donation, but they also like to see that the donation is going to the organization they wish to support and not to a third party vendor.  

There are numerous Product-Free Fundraising Ideas available that could easily be integrated into the fundraising platform, resulting in higher fundraising returns, better tracking, and better organization. I thought I would share some of my favorites I have seen from experience or shared by others:

Product-Free Fundraising Ideas

1. Fashion Show

About 100 high school students are the models, each paying $50 to participate. In return, each student receives 10 tickets ($5 each) to sell to the event. It’s a sell-out every year. The clothing is provided by local boutiques and retail shops. The fundraiser is held in February so that students can model daily wear and the latest trends for prom.

2. Mr. (School Name)

Our high school recently started a Mr. Elkhorn contest. Basically it is a male version of a beauty pageant. Students get a kick out of the novelty of the event. The participants have a lot of fun and each year they have sold more tickets to the event as word has spread.

3. Car Wash

Hold a community car wash by selecting a location and time for maximum exposure. If you work with a local hardware store, they will typically provide all the materials needed for the car wash. You can invite mascots, popular radio DJs, or other identifiable community figures to participate. Advertise on social media, word of mouth, posting signs at nearby stores and by holding signs near the car wash to get traffic to drive to the wash. Setting it up as a “donation seeking wash” may bring in more revenue than setting a fixed price

4. Dance-a-Thon

Hold a dance-a-thon (some clubs make this an all night event!)! Get sponsored for the number of hours in a row that your organization can dance without stopping. The more that participate, the more money can be raised. As dance participants request money per hour or minute danced.

5. Service-a-Thon

Designate a day of service in the community. Often times I have found the fall to be a great time as their is a lot of yard/community clean up that needs to take place. Students commit to providing the service that day, and the club or organization seeks pledges in recognition of their group’s efforts.

6. Yard Sale

Ask for donations from friends, family, anyone you know. People ALWAYS have stuff they want to get rid of, and are happy to do so. Set a day and time for the yard sale (this can even be held in a school parking lot). All money made goes to your organization.

7. Bike-a-thon

Students participate in a bike rally where they seek a sponsorship or a pledge for each mile that they ride. A safe course is set up where students then complete laps on the course determining their distance and ultimately the pledged donation amount.

8. Walk/Run-a-thon

See Bike-a-thon, minus the bikes. You could also base it on how much time they spend on the activity.

9. Golf Challenge

Contact a local golf course to set up a day that they will allow each player to play for free. Each player gets a sponsorship for the the number of holes they can play in a set amount of time (typically 8 hours).  Depending on how many holes were played will determine how much each player raises. All monies go directly to your organization.

10. Chili/Soup Cook-off

One of my favorite fundraisers is our District’s annual Chili-Cookoff. Volunteers sign up to participate in the contest bringing in a crock pot of their favorite recipe. Participants in the event pay $10 for all you can eat chili and soup and the fun begins. People get to socialize and choose from dozens of different soups and chili’s. At the end while the judges are tabulating their scores, a pie auction is held where pies that are donated to the event are auctioned off. In some cases fetching insane prices. After all it’s for a great cause and the proceeds are going directly to benefit the children.

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