Planning a Spring or Fall School Fundraiser
For many years
I was involved in the PTO at my children's school and one of our major
fundraisers was a Spring Carnival. This event was always the highlight
of the year for the kids. This is an event that can be done for a
school, church, club or any other type of organization as well. It does
require a great deal of effort and it will take organizers months of
planning. In order to keep everything organized it is necessary to set
up a variety of committees and you will need many volunteers. Facts
below are based on things that we did for an elementary school carnival.
Selecting a Chairperson
foremost the chairperson for this event must be someone that is very
organized, can easily delegate and will set clear goals and objectives.
It is their job to coordinate a chairperson for each committee, set
timelines, assign tasks and keep an open line of communication through
emails and meetings. It is their responsibility to work with the
treasurer to determine a budget. The first thing to be done is to set
up a general meeting where you seek committee coordinators, select a
date, and determine a theme for the event. The chairperson should
recruit a co-chair(s) for the event to help keep things organized.
Committees should include ticket sales, food, games, entertainment,
silent auction, bake table, basket raffles, publicity, decorating,
donations, volunteer, kids corner, prizes, setup/cleanup and parking.
Deciding on a Theme
theme for the event is key so that you to move forward with your
brainstorming in other areas. Theme ideas include: Beach Party, Mardi
Gras, Harry Potter World, Disney Comes to School, A Trip Around the
World, The Academy Awards, Good Old USA, Under the Sea, Mexican Fiesta,
Texas Hoedown, Step into the Future, Storybook Land, Christmas in the
Spring, International Day, Raffle Tickets, Fabulous 50's, Music Mania,
School Knights and Castles, Pirates of the School.
should be designated to keep track of spending and profits. This person
will monitor all spending, manage and be responsible for all cash
received the day of the event and will generate reports on profits and
expenses after the event. Keep in mind when the budget is
created that you may be required to purchase a permit; security and/or
custodial services may be required; there may be rental fees for games
or equipment; advertising and/or printing costs must be budgeted for;
food cost must be taken into consideration; you may need to budget for
decorations; entertainment and prize costs need to be considered.
The treasurer is also the keeper of carnival money. Packets should be
created and given to each game volunteer at the beginning of the day.
They should be told to keep the extra packets out of sight until needed.
If they run out they need to get more from the treasurer.
the day of the event I would recommend designating two or three people
as floaters that will be available to resolve any problems that may
occur or to fill in a spot if someone fails to show up. It is
important that they carry radios so that they can be easily contacted if
of a committee coordinator is to organize all the tasks necessary to
provide what is needed for their committee to provide a finished product
for the day of the event. For instance, the committee coordinator would
need to get volunteers to help, determine tasks and assign jobs,
coordinate with other committee chairs (volunteer, donations and
treasurer), make sure everything is properly set up for the day of the
event. They will send out emails or letters to remind volunteers
of their duties for the day of the event.
- The volunteer
coordinator works with all committee chairs to determine the number
of overall volunteers needed in each designated area. They will
help to fill spots that the committee chair is unable to fill and
they will have a master schedule and check in volunteers as they
arrive on the day of the event.
A person should be
designated as the coordinator of donations. It will be their
responsibility to work along with all committee chairs to determine
what type of donations will be needed and how they will get them.
Some donations will come from those involved within the organization
and others will come from the community. This person and their
committee will contact potential donors via flyers, letters or phone
calls, arrange the acquisition of donations, make sure all donors
are acknowledged and will send out thank you letters after the
Tickets - Tickets must be printed and ready to be sold at least
6 weeks in advance. In our case we sent home a designate number
with the oldest in the family and requested that they sell them. In
addition, they were sold the day of the event in the lobby area with
ticket sales. At the end of the day the tickets were drawn for the
Prizes are important because the kids always want to win, so you
may have instant prizes as well as redemption prizes. Instant
prizes are when the player gets an instant prize at the game. This
should be a very inexpensive item like a piece of candy or
lollipop. Redemption prizes are where players earn "carnival
money" for playing the game. The "carnival money" can be
saved and then prizes can be redeemed at the redemption table. We
always did a combination of both types of prizes.
The redemption table is the area that will most interest the kids.
You will find that they will stop by to look at the prizes and the
amount of "carnival money" needed to buy it and then take off to win
that much money. This again is an area that takes a great deal of
planning and preparation. We actually purchased prize items
throughout the year with the bulk being bought right after Christmas
when stores had clearance tables. Prizes can be anything at all
just make sure you have things that can be purchased with a small
amount of "carnival money" as well as a large amount. This area
should be flashy! Set it up with tables across the front and shelves
in the back with volunteers in the middle. This will allow all
items to be nicely displayed. The idea is to entice the kids to
spend more money to win terrific prizes.
- Decorating the school is a very important part of the whole
carnival atmosphere. Based on the theme for the carnival it is
important to come up with creative decorations. We always did the
main lobby, gym, cafeteria and at least the two main hallways
leading from the lobby. In addition, we asked homeroom parents to
decorate their classroom booth area. Decorating usually started a
week prior to the event because it took a great deal of time to
complete. The kids would get more and more excited with each area
that was completed. We always did a wall that included teachers and
staff pictures. For instance when we did a beach theme the wall was
decorated to look like an amusement pier and the
teachers/staff/principal's faces were the people on the rides. So
solicit the help of the parents in the school that are artists.
Also, talk to the art teachers to see if they can work it into their
curriculum to have the art students do some decorations for you. In
addition, we always came up with a project that the entire student
body could do and sent out a memo to all teachers asking for their
- To be successful decorate the table elegantly and beautifully display the baked goods. The
chairperson must spend the time to place items in baskets, trays,
dishes, ceramic loaf pans, and decorated boxes that should be
included in the sale price. You can ask for display items to be
donated or they can be purchased at dollar stores and from sale
racks. Baked goods should be tied with beautiful ribbons or bows
and/or covered with cellophane. Display the items in a multi-level
fashion with a cloth table covering. This beautiful display will be
so appealing that people will not be able to resist a purchase.
Request upscale baked goods like cakes. pies, breads, and muffins
rather than brownies and chocolate chip cookies. Specifically,
include items like apple pie, banana bread, non-brownie bar cookies,
biscotti, bundt cake, container of caramel corn, carrot cake, cherry
pie, chocolate cake, chocolate covered pretzels, coffee cake,
specialty cupcakes, fruit cobblers, fudge, muffins, white chocolate
dipped candy canes, and specialty cookies. All items must be home
made -- no store bought items!
advertising 4-6 weeks prior to the event. Make a large sign,
advertising the carnival, and place it in a high traffic location.
If it is a fundraiser for a school then contact your "feeder"
schools, whether it be pre-school, elementary or middle school, and
ask them to hand out flyers. This is a good way for kids to do get
a sneak peak of the school they will be attending the next year.
Advertise in local newspapers or church bulletins. Put an ad on the
organization's website and/or face book page as well as the local
township or community website. Place large banners identifying your
sponsors. Create maps of the carnival space and the location of all
is always a big project and should have a very organized person as
the chairperson. At our school this was the responsibility of the
entire fourth grade. Parents in this grade handled all aspects of
soliciting donations, purchasing needed items, pricing, setting up,
selling the food and clean up. Again, keep a folder with good
records to pass on for the next year so that you know what worked
and what needs to be improved. If you can tie the theme into the
food that would be great but you also need to stick with the
favorites: pizza, hot dogs, Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches, salads,
fruit and hoagies. Snacks should include soft pretzels, cotton
candy, ice cream and candy. We set up an old time general store
that sold all types of candy.
Ticket Sales -
Once you decide on how much you are going to charge for tickets
offer a discount for purchasing a multi pack. In addition, set up a
few days prior to the event where tickets can be purchased at a
discount. You may want to pick two items that apply to the theme of
the event and sell them in advance as well. For instance, for a
Mardi Gras theme sell feather masks, crazy hats and beads in advance
that the kids can wear for the day of the carnival. Cash should not
be handled at any of the game or food booths. Tickets should be
sold in a designated area and should be used for everything.
Remember to price your tickets so that a typical family can afford
it. Also, consider selling a fixed price wrist band that can be
used for everything but food items.
Silent Auction -
This should be set up in a secluded area away from all of the games.
Again, the way you display the items is very important. Group items
based on a theme: sports, family outings, health/fitness etc...
Give as much information as possible about the item and use clear
picture frames to display the item detail sheets. Cover the tables
in cloth table covers so that it has an elegant feel to it. Try not
to cram too many items on one table to avoid confusion for the
potential purchasers. Many times, with school events, parents can
not stay until the end but they really want a specific item. A
solution is to offer a "Buy Now" price. This pre-determined price
will allow the person to purchase the item before they leave. You
simply take their payment, put a sold sign on the item and make
arrangements with them for pick up. Ask teachers to be
creative and come up with something that can be auctioned.
Examples, the class can make something or the teacher can offer "
Lunch with Mrs. Smith" or " A movie with Mr. Jones and a friend".
Teacher and classroom items raise a lot of money because each child
wants whatever it is that their class donated.
Parking - Set up needs to be done the day before. So be sure
that all committees have representatives that are available to set
up their area/booth. Volunteer sheets should have an extra hour at
the end of the day for clean up detail. It takes time to break down
Parking may or may not be an issue for you. If you are dealing with
a small area for parking then you will need to have parking
attendants outside to keep things organized. Consider also, off
site parking and using shuttle buses to bring people to the event.
Kids Corner -
This should be a craft area for the kids that includes such
things as theme related crafts, spin art, nail painting, fake
tattoos, face painting, and/or hair glitter. This is usually a
great area to use older students, girl scouts, or boy scouts who
need service hours as volunteers.
Community Row -
Invite community vendors to set up a booth to sell their goods.
Charge a fee for table rental and then a percentage of their
It is important to
have something for everyone. Attractions selected should be
attention grabbing for your audience and should take a minimal
amount of time to set up. At our elementary school once games were
selected we held a meeting with homeroom parents and assigned
classes a game/booth. It was then the responsibility of the home
room parents to set up, decorate and coordinate volunteers from
their classroom for their class game. It is beneficial to create a
folder for each game that includes a picture of the game, set up
details, required items needed to play the game, playing
instructions, ticket requirements, and a volunteer sign-up sheet
broken down in1/2 hour slots. Most of our games were self-made so
find a few dad's that are handy with building. Remember that when
you are setting up a game you should have two or three starting
lines based on age. The little ones should be able to get real
close to the game so that they have a shot at winning while older
kids should be challenged. Each game coordinator needs to
bring in a shoe box with a slot in the top to hold used tickets.
Consider bringing in outside entertainment that ties in with your
theme. For instance, an International Day may warrant having Irish
Dancers join the festivities. The family and friends of this group
will help to enlarge the patrons visiting the event. Other ideas
include a magician, band, chorus, puppet show, clown, bagpipe
player, sports figure, or a representative from local historical
We have used the following games over the years and found
them to be very successful.
Although a carnival
takes a great deal of planning and effort it is well worth the effort.
It is a great day for the kids and it is normally raises a good amount