Fundraising ideas for your school
It’s been 20 years since I’ve sat on the parents’ committee of my children’s elementary school and brainstormed ideas to raise money for computers, field trips and supplementary programs. The group would carefully evaluate the return on our investment of time, as well as how arduous the fundraising would be on the children and their parents.
After two decades, the need for extra funds has not changed and neither has the process. Schools can either create fundraisers themselves (such as a bingo night) or they can work with companies that offer various fundraising programs (be it selling chocolates or cards that offer discounts at local retailers).
Betty Skagkos, the mother of two boys aged 6 and 13, is somewhat of a fundraising maven. For the last seven years, she has been involved in the fundraising activities at Gardenview Elementary school in Ville St. Laurent and is the co-chair of the fundraising committee. From pizza lunches and book sales to bingo nights and hawking chocolates, Skagkos has seen it all.
Gardenview’s major yearly fundraiser is a chocolate sale that brings in $25,000, an amount made possible by the school’s large student population of approximately 800. The company they use is Sunsweet, which supplies them with boxes that contain 24 chocolate bars. Families are asked to sell one box each. Each bar has a price tag of $3 and the school keeps $43 per box. The chocolate-selling campaign begins at the end of September and runs for two weeks.
Skagkos admits that with nutrition becoming a growing concern among parents and educators, selling chocolate isn’t always seen in a positive light. One alternative to chocolate is Fundbec Fundraising, which offers more than 70 products (from pasta to first-aid kits) for schools to sell.
The company owner, Mario Montuoro, says the schools choose the items they want and receive them free of charge for a month. “We don’t charge them for 30 days and we don’t charge them for what they don’t sell unless they customize something” explains Montuoro. Fundbec charges a base price and the school decides the price at which to sell the item. “We give them a suggested retail price, but they can sell it for less.”
At Gardenview, smaller fundraisers held throughout the year bring in still more money. Special lunches featuring pizza or food from Subway or TCBY bring in $15,000 annually, says Skagkos. The meals are welcomed by parents as a break from supplying lunch. Other fundraising initiatives include a bingo night, two musicals, a second-hand book sale and a corporate-sponsored jog-a-thon.
Money raised goes to sponsor various school projects and enhancements, such as a choir director, a math teacher who works with the grade 6 students to prepare them for a national math competition, a resource department, special events (plays and musical productions for the kids) and a new, seven-foot fence around the schoolyard. Skagkos notes that fundraisers targeting specific projects tend to work better than those where the money is simply put into the general pot.
At the Foundation School of the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue in Westmount, parents have opted for the Mummy card as a fundraising activity. The cards cost $45, $15 of which is given to the school. Mothers then benefit from discounts by shopping at a list of retailers that honour the card. So far, the Foundation School has raised $250.
“The Mummy card fundraiser is usually used for preschools or elementary schools,” explains owner Andrea Rich. “The whole purpose of the Mummy card is to help raise funds for children’s schools and charities….while getting moms more than $2,000 worth of discounts.”
With such an assortment of options out there, how is a school to choose? Skagkos says she gets bombarded every year with appeals from various companies. “They know that schools need money,” she says with a cautionary tone. “You have to tread lightly and ask, ‘do we really need more fundraisers and what’s the purpose of it.’”
Where to find fundraising products and ideas
The Internet is a great place to search for companies that specialize in helping schools and organizations raise much-needed funds. Most provide turn-key operations, offering everything from food products or discount cards to holiday catalogues or a percentage from the sale of magazines. Some have no-risk fundraising where schools don’t pay for 30 days, and only pay for what they sell, while others provide helpful hints, local sales representatives, tips on how to get started, e-newsletters, nut-free products and prizes for top sellers.
The Entertainment Book – www.entertainment.com
This fundraising company has been around for almost 50 years, offering people an Entertainment book that contains 50 per cent off and two-for-one discount coupons on everything from dining, movie tickets and travel, to dry cleaning and local family attractions. Schools and organizations only pay for the books that they sell.
Lamontagne Chocolates – www.lamontagne.ca
The company specializes in chocolates, although they do offer fair trade coffee, cookie dough, Canadian cheese, and anti-bacterial glycerin soaps. Their site offers a profit calculator as well as online catalogues and email invitations participants can send to let friends know about a fundraising campaign.
The Mummy Card – www.mummieslist.com
Schools sell Mummy Cards to parents and retain $15 for each card sold. Showing the card at participating retailers gives the shopper discounts at dozens of children-and parent-related supplies and service stores from arts and crafts to clothing, photography, food, skin care, toys, camps, preschools, furniture and home accessories.
FundScrip – www.fundscrip.com
This fundraiser allows schools to raise income by retaining a percentage of supporters’ shopping dollars. A school registers for free with FundScrip and orders gift cards for parents to use in their everyday shopping. Hundreds of retailers, such as Metro, Provigo, Maxi, Canadian Tire, Esso, Best Buy, Home Depot, Zellers, Winners and Petro Canada offer a rebate through the program.
E-Fundraising – www.efundraising.com
This is a website that covers many aspects of fundraising with a variety of tips and resources. It offers many choices including chocolates, scratch cards (up to 90 per cent profit), cookie dough, (up to 50 per cent profit) lollipops (50 per cent profit) and Beef Jerky (45 per cent profit). It takes a lot of navigating to get through it all, with a special site for Canadian fundraising. Offers promotions as well.
Sunsweet Fundraising – www.sunsweetfundraising.com
Sunsweet offers a variety of products including Cadbury chocolates, citrus fruit and frozen delights such as muffins, croissants and cookies. Food items come with nutritional and allergy information. Groups can opt for the “pre-sold” program where they take orders and then have them filled by Sunsweet, or use the “on-site” method where they order an amount they think they can sell (full cases of the product may be returned).