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Top 4 Most Profitable Fundraisers for Your School

When planning your fundraising calendar to raise money for your team or club, one of the first questions you might have is, “what are the most profitable fundraisers?”

The simple answer is the most profitable school fundraisers are those which require the least amount of investment and have the highest return. The more complicated answer is that the most profitable fundraising activities are dependent on a number of factors. 

Four Questions to Ask Before You Decide on the Most Profitable Fundraising Idea

How much money do you need to raise? 

Your financial goals are critical when considering what kind of fundraiser will be most profitable for your organization. Are you planning to raise $500,000 to help fund extracurricular activities at your child’s private school, or are you looking for ways to help support your school’s track and field team? The scale of your goals needs to be considered.

What resources are available? 

Can you use school facilities and save on rental costs of space, tables, and chairs? Do you have a team of 50 people ready to pitch in and help, or are you a team of you and your family? How much cash do you have available for the planning stages? Make a list of your assets, big and small to know where you can save money. Also think about insurance—are you covered through the school’s policy or would your event need a separate policy?

Is this a one-time school fundraiser or is it an ongoing or annual event? 

A one-time fundraiser can be a quicker “pass the hat” or “A-thon” fundraiser, but an annual event can be built for growth.

After answering four key questions, you are ready to begin vetting fundraising ideas, keeping in mind these four most profitable fundraisers for your school.

Four Profitable Fundraisers to Consider

Acts of service

Raising money through work is one way to have a profitable fundraiser without spending a lot of money. Think “read-a-thons”, “jump-a-thons”, all things “a-thon”. These are popular because they raise funds without requiring a lot of cash upfront, and involve and feature your students.

Clean-up days or odd-job days are a great way to raise money without spending money and get your students out into the community.

Partnering with sporting complexes to clean up after games, or running concession stands is a way to raise money without spending more cash than your gas to get there.

Long-term projects that involve some up-front investment in supplies would be yard decorations for birthdays or holidays, or flags to be put out at local businesses on federal and state holidays. Donors pay for the service, the organization provides the service and the clean-up, and stores the items waiting for the next use.

All of these fundraisers are great ways to connect to your community while also raising money for your team.

Gather donations to resell

Think bake sales, garage or yard sales, or donated items for a silent auction. These are low-cost to your organization but do require lots of volunteers to be successful. One example from my local area is that our school band does a spring garage sale every year that funds its fall marching band travel. After the garage sale day, a local charity takes any leftover items to distribute or sell for their cause, leaving the band with the profit and nothing to store.

Another successful fundraising event like this is selling tickets to a meal served in your parking lot before a football game or other sporting event. Have all the food donated by members of your organization or group and have your group serve the meal. Get your name and good cause out there via social media and other local outlets to raise money for your event. An event like this can also grow from year to year, becoming a large-scale fundraising event.

Large-Scale Gatherings

There are many ways to raise money via large-scale gatherings. Sell tickets to in-person events involving food and entertainment. Some examples include dances, galas, auctions, and carnivals.

Without a doubt, large-scale gatherings come with the most potential cost, but can also yield high-dollar returns. The more you can have donated, from event venue to food to entertainment to auction items, the higher your profit.

The type of large-scale gathering that is right for you really depends on your community and who your potential donors are.

A high ticket price black-tie gala at the fanciest spot in town with a full meal and open bar will appeal to a different audience than a “blue jeans ball” set out at the county fairgrounds featuring a pig roast before a live auction and country music entertainment.

These gatherings generally make their money from ticket sales and from the proceeds of auctioning donated items. A catalog of auction items along with information about the program can make a souvenir of the evening as well as being useful during the event.

These events can also be made hybrid to be inclusive to more people who want to support your school community.

Personally, I’m a sucker for a school carnival. I remember the carnivals my mom took me to as a child, and, wanting my children to have the same kinds of memories, means I’m willing to hand out dollar bills for them to do cake walks and fishing booths. 

If nostalgia appeals to you, lean into that with an adult or family prom, make a throwback theme and attach it to a reunion or homecoming weekend to attract alumni to your fundraising event.

These kinds of large-scale events are absolutely meant to grow. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t start out with a full-scale swanky bash. Focus on throwing the best event you can on your budget for this year, and look to ways to expand and improve each year.

Cash Donations

The next step from large-scale gatherings (and ideally large-scale donations) are cash donations to your organization’s annual fund, recurring donations, matching gifts, and endowments. This is among one of the most profitable fundraisers.

This level of donation is usually managed by the school district. Some organizations like school districts or even sports teams also have foundations set up to manage significant donations. 

These kinds of donations are typically reserved for non-profit organizations (like schools) that can give tax breaks to the person donating the money.

Setting up these kinds of profitable fundraising ideas requires a solid and legal framework for raising money for an annual fund. The benefit is that once these systems are in place, you are set up to continually have a set income from your fundraising.

Remembering that every event is an opportunity to get out and connect with your school community, any of these 4 types of fundraisers will benefit your school and help meet your fundraising goals.

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