Canadian School Fundraiser


Why it’s good: “We hold it outdoors in the school playground area, which gives it a carnival flavour,” says Sue Kocaurek, who helps organize the fall fair at the Princess Margaret Junior School in Toronto. In case of rain, Kocaurek says many of the activities can be moved into the school rooms. Families from the whole community flock to the event, which combines a variety of games, a barbecue and a silent auction. “It’s the auction that lures the parents,” says Kocaurek.  Source: Today’s Parent (Toronto, Ontario)

How it’s organized: Volunteers arrange the activities, which can run from bouncing tents and bowling to face painting and magnetic fishing. A local restaurant can provide food such as barbecued burgers and dogs. Parents also solicit local businesses to donate items to the silent auction — garden tools, board games, gift certificates for massages.

Volunteer hours: 300 or more.

The take: $10,000 to $12,000, if it’s open to the general community.


Why it’s good: “It’s a semi-formal event with fancy hors d’oeuvres,” says Tamara Elliott, organizer of last year’s live auction for the families at the Beaches Alternative School in Toronto. Held in a local community centre, the fundraiser “has an element of glamour that gets parents psyched up,” says Elliott.

How it’s organized: The key to this type of fundraiser is to find a good auctioneer to donate her services. “One of the parents in our group happened to have the right type of outgoing, crowd-pleasing personality,” says Elliott. Beyond that, parents have to solicit prizes (such as theatre tickets, dinners for two, spa visits) from local businesses. A $2 admission charge includes hors d’oeuvres and non-alcoholic beverages. [Alcoholic beverages can be sold separately if you get a liquor licence.]

Volunteer hours: 200 or more.

The take: $6,000 to $8,000.

Lollipops 970×90


Why it’s good: Sarah Doucette, co-chair of the parent council at Swansea Public School in Toronto, puts it succinctly: “Everybody loves crafts.”

How it’s organized: Parents send out letters to local craftspeople letting them know they can purchase a craft table for a set fee — $45 at Swansea. On the day of the widely publicized event, they set up the tables for the craftspeople to display and sell their wares. The crafters keep the money they earn, while the school keeps the proceeds from the presold tables.

Volunteer hours: about 50 ahead of time, 20 to 30 during the event.

The take: $2,000 or more.


Why it’s good: “It’s held in the school and open only to school families, so parents feel safe letting their kids run around,” says Denbigh Dean of Elizabeth Simcoe School in Toronto. “The kids come for the games, the parents come for the raffle.”

How it’s organized: Parents plan the games and activities — various ball tosses, volleyball, ball hockey, chess, make-and-take ceramics, mad science — and solicit donations such as gift certificates and theatre tickets for the raffle. A $6 family admission pass covers most of the games, though special activities such as the mad science show cost a few dollars extra. Some of the older students volunteer to help at the booths. Parents and children pay either one or two dollars for raffle tickets (depending on the prize they’re aiming for); the raffle caps off the evening.

Volunteer hours: 200-plus hours ahead of time, 40 hours during the event.

The take: $1,600 to $2,000.

Selling Points

There’s no limit to what you can sell to raise funds — just make sure you choose things that people either need or can’t resist.


Why it’s good: It’s hard to pass up the ten-dollar buckets of frozen dough that kids can shape and bake themselves, says Sue Kocaurek of Princess Margaret Junior School — especially with flavours such as pecan chocolate chunk.

How it’s organized: Companies provide the forms, and students and parents take orders from family, friends, neighbours and colleagues. Then they compile a master order form and send it to the company. Purchasers pick up the dough at the school.

Volunteer hours: ten to 12.

Percentage of sales the school keeps: 30.

The take: $2,000.


Why it’s good: Magazines are a perennially popular item, says Swansea’s Doucette. Supporters can choose from close to 300 popular publications. People can often transfer a pre-existing subscription to help out the school.”

How it’s organized: During a school assembly, a parent and/or company representative explain how the program works. Children take home a catalogue and collect subscription orders (with help from their parents). Prizes are awarded for reaching certain targets. At some schools, volunteers liaise between subscribers and the company, handling such mishaps as magazines that don’t arrive, NSF cheques or broken prizes.

Volunteer hours: 20 to 25.

Percentage of sales the school keeps: varies; about 33 percent on average.

The take: $8,000 to $10,000 (in a school of about 700 kids).


Why it’s good: Everybody likes to have a spare pie or two in the freezer for special occasions, says Nadine Smillie, a mom at Westmount Elementary in Halifax. Pies (think mixed berry, pumpkin and other scrumptious flavours) cost four dollars each. “It’s so popular at our school that we hold it twice a year,” she says.

How it’s organized: As with most other selling drives, parents distribute flyers and order forms for children to bring home, then gather and tally up the numbers. The company that makes the pies delivers the orders to the school, where people pick them up.

Volunteer hours: about 20.

Percentage of sales school keeps: 25.

The take: $2,000 or more.


Why it’s good: Everybody loves a discount, and entertainment booklets are packed with them. The logistics are also easy, says Colleen Stoeckleine, chair of the fundraising committee at Georges Vanier School in Saskatoon. “Everybody’s ordering exactly the same thing, so there’s no sorting or compiling to do.”

How it’s organized: Volunteers distribute sample booklets to students to show to their parents, who can order the $25 booklets for themselves or other people. Organizers add up the prepaid orders and send them to the company. Students pick up the booklets at the school.

Volunteer hours: four to five.

Percentage of sales school keeps: 20.

The take: $2,000.


Why it’s good: “There’s nothing like the taste of a steaming hot pierogi to melt a buyer’s resistance,” says Saskatoon’s Stoeckleine. This fundraiser combines a dinner with a traditional selling drive.

How it’s organized: Volunteers prepare and invite parents to a school dinner, where they can sample several flavours of pierogi. Parents have a few days to order cases of eight dozen pierogies, at $25 per case. Coordinators fax the order forms to the company, and parents pick up the goods at the school.

Volunteer hours: 20 for the meal, about five for the rest.

Percentage of sales school keeps: 20.

The take: $600 to $1,000.


Why it’s good: Many adults will gladly shell out money to encourage children to read. Rick Macdonald, who used to help organize this fundraiser at St. Peter’s Catholic Elementary School in Tecumseh, Ontario, says, “The principal would generate excitement by promising to do goofy things like kiss a live pig or shave his head if the kids met their collective target.”

How it’s organized: Children solicit pledges on forms prepared by parents. The kids are given books or passages to read within a certain time frame, either at home or at school. Parents collect and tally up the proceeds.

Volunteer hours: 15 to 20.

The take: $10,000 to $15,000 in a school of almost 400 children.


Why it’s good: “Walking in a group is fun,” says Wendy Graham, chairperson of the parent advisory council at Vancouver’s General Wolfe Elementary School. “Awards such as bicycles and portable CD players give the kids extra incentive to go for it.”

How it’s organized: Children gather either fixed or per-lap pledges. During the event, kids walk around the school as many times as they can, refueling at a “grub and glub” station and getting a card punched for each lap. Parents collect the money and help set up the award ceremony.

Volunteer hours: 25 on the day of the event, 35 before and after.

The take: $10,000 to $12,000.


Why it’s good: As Sandra Gruber, parent-council member at Brookside Elementary School in Edmonton, says, “The format allows kids to compete against themselves rather than each other.”

How it’s organized: Children receive pledge sheets as well as a list of 25 to 30 words (geared to their grade level), and have several days to learn the words and collect pledges. Parents and/or teachers administer and mark the test and collect the money.

Volunteer hours: ten to 30.

The take: $2,000 to $3,000.


Why it’s good: There’s no solicitation involved and it’s easy to organize, says Rose Darosa, a mom at St. Pius Elementary School in Thunder Bay, Ontario. “Everything is priced under $2. It’s like a giant yard sale.”

How it’s organized: With lots of advance notice, kids gather used items in their homes — such as toys, CDs or mugs — and bring them to school. Volunteers set up display tables in the gym. During the all-morning event, children purchase items that strike their fancy. Volunteers total up the earnings.

Volunteer hours: 20 to 25.

The take: $800 to $1,200.


Why it’s good: “It serves the triple purpose of raising funds, providing books for the library and solving the holiday-baking problem for busy parents,” says Tony Roziere, a dad at Glenelm Elementary School in Winnipeg.

How it’s organized: Before the event, children and parents bring used books and holiday baking to the school. The school librarian has first dibs on the books. Volunteers set up the display tables. During the event, which takes place in the evening, parents purchase books and baked goods.

Volunteer hours: 25 to 30.

The take: $600 plus library books (worth up to $2,000 if new).


Why it’s good: It’s about kids connecting with kids, says Derek Burke, a teacher at W.J. Fricker Senior Public School in North Bay, Ontario, where the student parliament helps run the event.

How it’s organized: The school purchases candy canes in bulk. Volunteers prepare photocopied gift cards and attach a candy cane to each card. Over a five-day period, students buy these “candygrams” for 25 cents apiece and address them to other students. Student parliament members sort the candy grams into class bins and bags for each recipient. “This year we challenged people to send candy grams to kids who might not get as many, so nobody would feel left out,” says Burke.

Volunteer hours: ten (plus 50 student hours for sorting).

The take: $700 plus.


Why it’s good: “Many people will gamble a dollar on the chance of a windfall,” says Kathleen Cook, parent council treasurer at Westwood Elementary School in Thompson, Manitoba.

How it’s organized: Volunteers make up 250 or more booklets of ten numbered tickets. With parents’ help, students sell tickets for $1 each and bring the money to the school. The draw takes place in the school, and the purchaser of the winning ticket receives half the proceeds, with the school getting the other half. (Note: You may need to obtain a licence from City Hall to sell tickets.)

Volunteer hours: 15 to 20.

The take: $600 to $1,000.


Why it’s good: “Kids love the break from routine,” says Walter Turchyn, principal of Pierre Elliot Trudeau Elementary School in Montreal. “It’s so popular at our school that we do it four or five times a year.”

How it’s organized: Students bring a dollar to school for the privilege of wearing whatever they want. Volunteers or teachers collect the money. Variations on the idea include pajama day, crazy-hair day and pop-star day.

Volunteer hours: zero to five.

The take: As many dollars as the number of children in the school.


Why it’s good: Donna McCreadie, president of the parent council at West Langley Elementary School in Langley, BC, says most parents don’t mind parting with the loose change in their house.

How it’s organized: Parents put up posters announcing the drive and place five buckets in each classroom. On the Monday starting off the week-long event, kids bring pennies to school; Tuesday, nickels; Wednesday, dimes; Thursday, quarters; and Friday, anything goes. The top-earning class gets a group prize like a pool pass in a community centre. Volunteers put the coins in paper rolls and tally up the proceeds.

Volunteer hours: 20 to 25.

The take: $1,300 to $1,800.


Why it’s good: Small, spread-out communities may not have the population base needed to raise funds the traditional way, says Kathy Milberry, whose kids attend St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Stevensville, Ontario, a town of about 10,000 people.

How it’s organized: Volunteers prepare and send out a letter proposing that, in lieu of buying or selling products, parents make a tax-deductible donation of $40 to the school. Says Milberry: “The majority of parents went for the idea, and we haven’t had any complaints.”

Volunteer hours: five.

The take: varies; $2,000 if 50 parents donate.

We have included a number of do-it-yourself fundraising ideas in this section that offer a break from traditional product sales.  They were developed by groups just like yours in an attempt have a little fun with their fundraiser. Some of them are tried and true while others show a lot of creativity … and even wackiness in some cases.  All of them are obviously not appropriate for every group, but sometimes, with only a little modification, your might find some fund raising ideas that are perfect for your group. If you have an idea for a do-it-yourself fund raiser you are willing to share with others, please send it to us via email. Include anything and everything you would want to know if you were hearing the idea for the first time.