school fundraising event

Fundraising makes up a crucial part of every school’s spending plan. It provides the money needed to fund sports teams, field trips, new supplies, and many other important things that improve the student experience.


We understand that it’s not always easy to come up with ideas to raise money for your school, so in this post, we’ve highlighted 7 creative fundraising ideas for primary and secondary schools!

1. Read-a-Thon


With a school read-a-thon, students are encouraged to get pledges from parents, family members, family friends, or anyone else in their immediate community. Those who pledge will then agree to pay based on the number of books, pages, or words read by the participating student.


Read-a-thons can be an extremely effective way to raise funds for field trips, school supplies, renovations, and other causes. They work so well because they take advantage of an activity students are already doing – reading.


This fundraising strategy is most effective when used by elementary school-aged students.


But how much revenue can your school generate from a read-a-thon?


It will depend on the number of students that attend your school and how many of them participate. However, according to, the average school should be able to raise in the neighbourhood of $10,000 with a read-a-thon.

2. Local Discount Cards


Local discount cards are one of the most successful fundraising tools schools can use. In order to implement this strategy, you need to approach local businesses (preferably businesses that are in close proximity to your school) and see if they are willing to provide a discount.


In most cases, businesses will jump at the opportunity to be featured on your discount card. Not only will it help attract more visitors to their store, but it also creates a sense of goodwill within the community.


The discounts provided will depend on what the business owners are willing to give. Here are some of the most popular discounts.

      • Percent discount – the business owner provides a storewide discount – eg. 10% off the entire store!

      • By one get one free discount

      • Percent discount (specific items) – store owner provides a percent discount on specific items – 50% of all (item name).

      • Dollar discount – eg. $15 off every purchase over $100

The options for discounts are endless and it’s up to the business owner to decide which discounts they’re willing to give.


Unlike other fundraising methods where you’re asking for money for the sole purpose of supporting students, local discount cards offer the community the opportunity to purchase something valuable while also helping out your school.

Discount cards provide the best results when they’re sold for $10-$20. The average return on a discount card fundraiser is $8,500.

3. Art Cards

Art cards are a creative way to drum-up donations for elementary schools. If you’re not familiar with this strategy, here’s how it works:

The first step is getting in touch with a print company that sends out special paper to schools.

Then, within the defined borders of this paper, students can create their own designs. The artwork can then be repurposed by the print company to be printed on a variety of materials (calendars, postcards, plaques, etc.). Parents can buy these items and display their child’s original artwork in their homes!

This unique approach to fundraising can be very profitable and helps provide a creative alternative to classic fundraising strategies like bake sales and bottle drives.

ION has helped several schools with their art card fundraisers. In many cases, these schools have earned as much as 50% profit on each sale!

If you’re interested in learning more about how your school can take advantage of art card fundraisers, see this page.

4. Direct Mail Postcards

If you haven’t already considered a direct mail fundraiser for your school, there’s no time like the present. With more people spending time on their smartphones, research is actually beginning to show that people have a greater appreciation for physical mail.

This is evident in the fact that the average response rate for direct mail is 4.4% while the average email response rate is just 0.12%.

This means that you’re up to 36 times more likely to get a reply from direct mail compared to email!

When using direct mail to generate donations for your school, there are a few ways you can structure your campaign.

First off, you might want to base it around an upcoming event. For example, you can explain to the reader that your school has planned a field trip or activity for students, but in order to make it happen, they need donations.

You can also use direct mail indirectly. Instead of asking for money on the spot, you can use direct mail to invite people to fundraising events at your school. Once they arrive, then they’ll have the opportunity to donate.

But who should you send the direct mail to?

Direct mail is most effective when it ends up in front of the parents of students who attend your school. Thankfully, you have their addresses and can begin sending them mail right away.

What many schools don’t realize is that you can also send direct mail to specific postal codes. Even if people who live near your school don’t have kids that attend, they likely have neighbours with kids that do, or else they know other people with kids in your school.

That’s why targeting specific neighbourhoods close to your school can be an effective donation-generating strategy.

A properly executed direct mail campaign has the potential to bring in thousands of dollars to your school. However, that’s if it’s done right.

At ION, we specialize in creating measurable direct mail campaigns that generate results. If you would like to learn more about what we can do for you, please visit our website here.

5. Fun-Run


A fun-run is a fantastic way to promote physical activity while generating donations for your school.


This fundraising activity requires students to collect pledges from family members and family friends. There are a few different ways the pledges can be structured.


Laps ran – If the fun run takes place on a track or in a gymnasium, sponsors can choose to donate a certain amount of money for each lap the student runs.


Time – If the run is a set distance (eg. 5k), sponsors can set the amount they’ll pay based on the finishing time of the student. For example:

      • Less than 60 minutes – $10
      • Less than 50 minutes – $20
      • Less than 40 minutes – $30
      • Etc…

Lump-sum – finally, sponsors can choose to simply donate a lump sum to runners for their efforts.


One way to increase the revenue generated by your fun run is to open it up to the entire community. If you decide to go this route, you’ll need to plan it for a weekend. Doing so opens the door to even more fundraising opportunities – you can sell food or even create team t-shirts for runners to purchase!


Fun runs have the potential to generate thousands of dollars for your school. The best part is that it’s easy to make them an annual event, so you can count on this revenue coming in every year.

6. Silent Auction


Silent auctions can be a stand-alone affair or part of a larger event like a gala dinner or awards ceremony.


What You’ll Need


A promotion strategy – there’s such a thing as a silent auction that’s, well, too silent. This happens when no one comes. To avoid this, it’s a good idea to have a pre-auction promotion strategy.


Consider sending students home with flyers advertising the auction, posting about it on your school’s social media accounts, or targeting parents directly with direct mail.


Location – depending on the number of items you have, you’re going to need a large space to display them. Most schools elect to host their silent auctions in a gym or library.


Items – the most important part. The items you choose to auction off need to be things that people actually want to bid on. Popular items include sports tickets, travel packages, household items, the latest tech, wine bundles, movie tickets, and other similar things.


There are two main ways to get items for a silent auction – ask local businesses to donate items or buy them yourself. Most schools use a combination of both strategies.


Bidding system – In order to collect bids from attendees, it’s important that you have a bidding sheet for each item. Remember, this is a silent auction, so discretion is paramount. Consider assigning each person a bidding number so that they do not need to use their real name on the bidding sheet.


There are even silent auction apps you can use to make the process easier.


The amount of money you can generate from a silent auction really depends on how many people you get to attend and the value of the items you’re auctioning off. Some silent auctions generate tens of thousands of dollars.


Keep in mind, you’ll need to subtract the cost of the items you purchase from the total revenue generated.


You can also set up an online silent auction, which is a great way to fundraise when public gatherings are limited.


How to Set Up an Online Silent Auction

    1. Choose an auction host – there are many online auction vendors available for you to choose from, including Onecause, Silent Auction PRO, 24 Fundraiser, Auction Event Solutions, and others.

    2. Round up items – approach local businesses and ask if they would like to donate items for your auction. If they’re not willing to give these items aways for free, ask if they’d consider accepting a discount price.

    3. Take photos – next, take some photos (or videos) of your items. Make sure these photos are decent quality and are taken in good lighting. The better your items look, the higher people will bid! After you take the photos, upload them to your silent auction vendor.

    4. Decide on a starting bid – you don’t want to auction off items for less than what they’re worth. Find out the value of each item and set that as the starting bid.

    5. Pick a date – advertise the date of your online silent auction to those who are most likely to attend.

Ship items to winning bidders – after the auction has concluded, pack and ship items to the participants who had the highest bids!

7. Scratch Card Fundraiser


Based on the idea of lottery scratch tickets, scratch card fundraisers are a new and exciting way to generate donations for your school.


How do they work?


Hand out scratch cards for students to take home to parents. Each card will have a certain number of areas to scratch off. These areas will be assigned a small value – usually $0.50-$3.00. Parents can then scratch their card and tally up the value of the uncovered squares to see how much to donate.


Of course, donations are optional but most parents participate in the game because it’s fun and can be an activity they do together with their children.


You can also hand out these scratch cards at other fundraising events. For example, if your school has a gala dinner, you might consider using scratch cards as placemats or else leaving a stack in the center of the table.


Scratch cards can generate thousands of dollars in donations for your school.


In fact, one soccer team raised over $4,000 in just two weeks with their scratch card fundraiser!

Bonus – Covid Fundraising Ideas for Schools 


Due to limited in-person gatherings, many schools have been forced to reimagine their fundraising strategies. Here are a few ways to raise money when in-person gatherings are limited.

1. Mask Sale


Right now, masks are in high demand. And what better way to raise funds for your school than to sell something people actually need?


With print on demand, you can even order custom masks with your school logo or a specific quote or design.


People are already buying masks so it’s likely that they won’t mind paying a small markup to purchase these masks from your school to help support your fundraising efforts.

2. Virtual Events


Just because you can’t get together in person doesn’t mean that you can’t host fundraising events. Here are two great ideas for virtual fundraisers:


Movie Night – choose a movie and advertise to parents and students. Then, in order for them to participate in the movie night, request a small donation. Of course, you can choose to make the donation optional or mandatory, it’s really up to you.


When the movie night arrives, set up a live stream for the movie you have chosen. Parents and students can log in and watch together from the comfort of their own homes! You can even take this one step further by selling treat baskets with popcorn and snacks on the days leading up to the event.


Virtual Class – hire an expert to teach a class and then sell tickets to parents. This class can be about anything, as long as it provides some level of value. For example, you could arrange for a local chef to help teach parents how to make a certain dish. Or you could hire a yoga instructor to run a virtual fitness class. The possibilities are endless!

Looking for more covid fundraising tips? Check out this post: Nonprofit Fundraising: What to Do When Public Gatherings are Limited.

Recap – Creative Fundraising Ideas for Primary and Secondary Schools 


Fundraising is necessary to provide the best experience for your students, however, it’s not always easy. In this post we shared some of the best fundraising ideas for primary and secondary schools:

      1. Read-A-Thon

      2. Local Discount Cards

      3. Art Cards

      4. Direct Mail Postcards

      5. Fun Run

      6. Talent Show

      7. Silent Auction

      8. Scratch Card Fundraiser

      9. Mask Sale

      10. Virtual Events

So go ahead, give some of these a try and let us know how they work for your school!


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