It’s official. Summer is over! And that means it’s time to dig right into the many joys and challenges the school year brings, not only for kids and teachers, but also for parents.
Whether you send your kids to private school or public school, you know that school budgets are always tight, especially in these tricky economic times … just as all of ours are! And you’ve probably been asked to pitch in with fundraising activities to help create more opportunities and a richer learning experience for your kids. But as I personally know, it can be a real balancing act handling everything you already have on your plate as a busy mom or dad, including getting your kids to and from school, spending quality time with them at home and keeping up with your own career. With all this going on, how can you also find the time to support your favorite school?
I recently read an article in Family Circle entitled “Cold, Hard Cash” that addresses the challenges parents face when trying to chip in with educational fundraising. It also offers up some creative fundraising ideas that have worked for schools throughout the country and can actually be fun and rewarding for all involved in the process.
There are a number of really wonderful foundations throughout the country that have offered up help to struggling schools. This article highlights a few fundraising success stories. One specifically involved the school district in Mount Vernon, NY that was facing cuts of all its high school sports teams, which had always been crucial to keeping kids in school. A few years before this crisis, parents had founded The Mount Vernon Educational Foundation to raise money for specifically these types of programs. Coaches and administrators asked for their help, and, after a long campaign and a lot of work they managed to raise nearly $1 million and restore all the teams to the district.
While this is a wonderful success story, and one of many throughout the nation, the article points out that it tends to be fairly easy to build excitement and get support for a one-time fundraising campaign. The hardest part for a lot of schools is getting big donations on an ongoing basis. People can be amazingly generous, but asking the same people to give money every time isn’t necessarily realistic and can be pretty stressful for teachers, school boards and the parents that are helping with ongoing initiatives. Results of professional studies have determined that about 35% of principals surveyed reported that their annual fundraising efforts bring in $10,000-$25,000. Only 3% of them bring in over $75,000 … and the rest bring in much less than $10,000.
While selling candy, gift baskets, entertainment/coupon books and other items have been some typical ways schools have parents and kids help raise money over the years, some schools have come up with some cool “outside the box” ideas. Here are just a couple of them. (You can find some more examples at fundraising-ideas.org/DIY/index.html!)
- “Rappin’ Teachers.” About one week before a pep rally or assembly, set up a table with jars, each with a teacher’s name on it. Have students buy tickets for $1 apiece, which they put in the jar of which ever teacher they would like. The teacher with the most tickets has to lip-sync a rap song at the assembly/rally. This could be done with any type of music and is also a great way to encourage kids to give to their own school in an amount that is manageable for them.
- “Adult Spelling Bee.” Spelling bees are something we all remember from school … and they continue to be part of our kids’ experience. For this idea, hold a spelling bee in the school auditorium one night and get an administrator to give the words, chosen and downloaded from the Internet. Each class can select three parents to represent them and have them either participate individually or as a team. Figure out a manageable entrance fee per person/team and then enlist the help of a local business, like a restaurant or a boutique to donate a gift certificate to give to the winner or winners.
And here are some other suggestions Family Circle presents for those that want to sell goods, but don’t want alternatives to candy, etc.:
- Fair Trade Fundraising. Have your kids support unique fair trade products like wallets made from recycled billboards, banana leaf greeting cards and other items hand made by Guatemalan, Rwandan and Ugandan communities. Schools are offered a discount when they buy in bulk, then kids can sell at a markup and keep the difference for the school. More information is available on the website.
- Greenraising. This organization was started by a mom who was passionate about environmentalism and frustrated that schools were encouraging kids to sell wrapping paper and other items made from nonrecyclables as part of fundraising campaigns. Schools can find eco-friendly items like totes and water bottles as well as fair-trade products like coffee and jewelry here.
- Naumes Fruit Gifts. This is another great idea that also benefits other community programs. This company has fruit baskets to pre-sell. Schools get 20% of the profits. Then, the company donates the amount of fruit your school sells (pound for pound!) to a local food bank.
You can check out some more creative fundraising ideas at http://familycircle.com/fundraising
And as you settle into the new school year, check out our song “Teacher Teacher,” about encouraging our kids to express their many unique talents!