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Fundraising 101: Mobilise the troops!

Roll up, roll up! It’s time to figure out your school fundraising options.

For most schools, while there will be a core group of fundraising stalwarts readily available to brainstorm ideas or reinvent last year’s fundraising wheel, most parents (and staff) will run for the hills. Organising a school fundraiser can be a tough gig, which is why schools increasingly seem to opt for outsourced support.

Finding fresh, fun ways to generate funds for the school ‘nice to haves’ isn’t easy. And easy is exactly what busy parents and school communities want and need. That’s why outsourcing your fundraising is an increasingly popular way to keep it simple and stress-free.

Commercial fundraising is big business, and the benefits can far outweigh the costs. It can prevent fundraising burnout among your core of good sorts and can help get the wider school community involved, with ease. 

One way to keep your fundraising simple and relevant to all is to sell everyday products to your local community. Everyone needs sunblock and plasters, for example, and buying these as fundraising items to sell for your school is an ongoing, all-year-round option. Fundraising companies can source products in bulk, saving any outlay and wastage, produce and maintain a product-based website and sales communications.

This article features in our School News NZ Term 1 magazine. Read it online here:

The old classic bake sale isn’t going to buy you a new playground, but it’s a tried and true element to add to a wider fundraising initiative. It’s easy, popular, and comes at no cost to the school. But beyond this, schools can make the most of fundraising opportunities offered by commercial food suppliers and drinks manufacturers. Wine sales, especially in the lead up to Christmas can contribute a nice chunk to the bigger fundraising picture. Think local and link in with nearby producers to team up with.

Most schools will have calendars, diaries and greeting cards featuring designs produced by students as standard, but how about adding tote bags, reusable cups or beeswax food wraps to the mix?

Keeping fundraising costs low is important but ensuring the cost to the environment is low should also be a priority.

On the sustainable theme, quality preloved clothing and accessories and furniture grow in popularity all the time. People are always keen to have a clear out, running a wine and cheese clothing evening, for example, can be a nice little earner for the school. Shoe drives can also be popular, with people from the school community donating good quality footwear, or sports gear, which can then be on-sold either through an event or online. If you have handy people in your midst, upcycling furniture can generate even more funds than clothing and footwear.

High energy, high reward events to come to the fundraising fore around Aotearoa of late include the colour run, where participants get doused in coloured powder paint at different stages of a race. The mud run-type events are also popular with kids and adults alike. Military style assault courses or wipeout style water-based courses make for a great day out and a lot of fu – especially if teachers and the school principal are game for a laugh!

Golf days can generate significant income, especially if sponsorship is gained from businesses keen to support your school and enter a team. You can go past the purely skill-based theme and add something for everyone with fun challenges such as driving a marshmallow, chipping out of a paddling pool and more.

If you decide to go with an external fundraising company, make sure that they align with your school’s culture, values and fundraising strategy. Be clear on expectations and responsibilities. It’s always powerful to involve students and running a competition with rewards for the best fundraising class, house or student can provide a great incentive to get stuck in.

Be aware that all fundraising activities have to abide by the strict rules set out in law and schools need to be clear on the requirements from the Ministry of Education before planning a fundraising initiative or event.

Industry advice for organising your school fundraiser

Melanie Madden from Annies Fruit Snacks is no stranger to school fundraising initiatives, having helped communities around the country stock theirs. She shares her top tips for organisers, noting that “a little bit of preparation ensures a smoother and stress-free fundraising campaign”.

“Set your goals: determine and fundraising target and calculate how many items you need to sell to reach it. Plan a timeline: have start and finish dates, and consider key calendar events to boost sales. Recruit your sellers: get parents, teachers, coaches, and anyone who is involved with your cause, on board.


“Clearly explain what you’re fundraising for, what the fundraising target is and what the timeline looks like. Advertise your fundraiser; track your team’s progress to encourage momentum; collect funds raised with accurate record-keeping; and don’t forget to celebrate your school’s fundraising success on social media or with rewards for your top sellers!”

Heather Barker Vermeer

Heather has worked as a journalist, writer and editor in England and Aotearoa New Zealand for over 20 years. She fell in love with words when she received a 'Speak & Spell' tech toy for Christmas in 1984.
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