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12 Creative PTO Fundraisers

These fun and offbeat fundraising ideas won't always raise a barrel of cash, but they will raise community spirit and get people talking about your group.

by Patty Catalano
Creative PTO Fundraisers

Looking to shake things up at your next fundraiser? Or think perhaps it’s time to show your lighter side to families at school? Traditional product sales are a tried-and-true way to make money for your group, but we’ve collected some less common ideas that real PTOs and PTAs have used. From creative and witty to downright wacky, here are a few fun ways to raise a few dollars.

Just Ducky

The St. Mary-St. Michael School HSA in Derby, Conn., held a “duck race” along with a duck-decorating contest. Leaders sold more than 2,000 10-inch rubber ducks, which buyers could choose to include in the river race downstream or decorate for a contest at a local art gallery. In the weeks leading up to the event, parent leaders donned bright yellow Duck Patrol T-shirts as they marched in the town’s Memorial Day parade; children and parents riding on the school float handed out flyers promoting the upcoming race. A $3,000 profit from the events gave the HSA plenty to quack about.

Profiting on Pork Bellies

Chances are you’re not going to leave hungry when you come to the annual Sausage Supper fundraiser put on each November by the New Douglas PTO in Highland, Ill. A community tradition for more than 30 years, the supper includes homemade pork sausages, mashed potatoes and milk gravy (made with sausage), sauerkraut (with ham and sausage), green beans, applesauce, bread, pie, and plenty to drink. Says principal Carla Grapperhaus, “The secret recipe used is from the local farmer that began the fundraiser.” On average, some 240 PTO and community volunteers serve 2,000-plus attendees, who eat about 8,000 to 13,000 pounds of pork (approximately 40 to 65 hogs). The first year, the group took in $321; in recent years, the sausage supper typically raises about $10,000.

Hit It With Your Best Shot

Here’s a smashing idea from the Berlin (Pa.) Brothersvalley High School that you can try at your next carnival. To raise funds for activities at the school, club organizers planned a “car smash”: A junk car, with fluids and glass removed, is set up in the school’s parking lot; smashers pay $5 for a ticket that allows them one minute to hit the car. Weapons of choice include a sledgehammer, aluminum baseball bat, crow bar, or ax. Rules are spelled out in advance: Participants must wear a safety helmet with a face shield, heavy-duty gloves, and a welding-style coat for protection. Only one patron at a time is permitted inside the zone. For an extra splash, contact your local rescue squad to see whether they would be willing to give a Jaws of Life demonstration.

Winging It

The PTO at the Holy Mother of Sorrows church in Dupont, Pa., holds an annual Super Bowl chicken wing fundraiser each year. Orders are called in before the event and can be picked up on the day of the big game, with menu offerings including mild, hot, BBQ, honey mustard, and plain versions.

Big, Fat Wedding Fun

Not sure what this year’s theme will be for your PTO auction or gala fundraiser? How about some wedded bliss? PTO leaders at Prestwood Elementary in Sonoma, Calif., held a benefit ball dubbed “My Big, Fat, Fun Wedding.” “Brides” and “grooms” (parents and other guests) were invited to dress according to the nuptial styles popular in various eras from the ’50s through the ’80s. One attended as a corpse bride with spiders in her hair. More than 200 guests bought tickets and bid on silent and live auction items to raise money to fund computer labs as well as arts and other programs at the school. There were also raffles and entertainment such as a “not-so-newlywed” game modeled after the classic TV game show.

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Pucker Up With a Pig

The Girls’ Water Polo Team at Monte Vista High School in Spring Valley, Calif., held a “Kiss a Pig” fundraiser (made possible by one of the girls, who just happened to have a 500-pound pet pig!). Teammates recruited teachers and school staff members who would be willing to participate. Volunteers then manned several lunch periods over two weeks and collected $1 per vote from students who wished to see their favorite staff member pucker up. Voting containers were displayed in the office, each one decorated with a photo of the staff member. Daily updates about the voting tallies were announced over the PA system to keep everyone excited. In the end, the principal and two wrestling coaches won the most votes and the chance to steal a smooch from the pig on Valentine’s Day. Apparently, the pig played hard to get; one of the coaches had to chase it around to get his kiss. And in case you were wondering, event organizers did bathe it before any puckering took place. They managed to add $450 to their piggy bank.

Gone in 60 Seconds

If you have panty hose, tissues, straws, balloons, cupcakes, and a little imagination, then you have the makings for a great event! Students in a marketing club at Maple Shade (N.J.) High School sold tickets for their own version of TV’s Minute To Win It game show to raise money for travel expenses to a competition. Challenges included moving candy from one side of the stage to the other with a straw (no hands) and pulling tissues one at a time out of a box. Another activity featured players wearing panty hose on their heads; a softball inside the end of one leg was used to knock over a line of bowling pins. One of the sillier minutes of the evening had teachers try to stack six cupcakes on their heads. Even the superintendent got into the fun. His challenge: blowing plastic cups over with a balloon.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Every year in June, the Whittier International School PTA in Boulder, Colo., holds a garden tour fundraiser featuring nine private homes in an exclusive neighborhood. PTA organizers sell tickets for $12 each at various locations in the weeks leading up to the event, which coincides with a huge nearby rummage sale allowing for extra traffic. The day features knowledgeable garden hosts, designers, volunteer experts, and master gardeners from nearby Colorado State University. Ticket-holders are given online directions to each location along with information about the flowers, vegetables, and plants in each garden.

Freezin’ for a Reason

January 2011 marked the second annual polar bear plunge for staff members, students, parents, alumni, and clergy of the St. Rose of Lima School in Freehold, N.J. The school is one of several in the area that take to the chilly Atlantic in January to make a splash and raise some cash. Plungers must secure a minimum of $25 in pledges; dippers are led to the ocean by bagpipers and a starter’s gun. After braving the icy waters, the plungers thaw out at a party with food and live music for adults and children. The bad news: The Atlantic Ocean’s temperatures in January are typically in the chilly 40s. Better news: Participants can wear whatever they want into the water and are only required to go in ankle-deep without a time limit. The best news: The plunge typically raises a cool $57,000 in pledges for area Catholic schools, including St. Rose.

Lemon Aiders

Each October, 4th grade students at Lakeville Elementary in Great Neck, N.Y., operate a pink lemonade stand in front of the school at recess time. The stand has become an anticipated community event, and this year students raised $1,300 in just two hours. Proceeds from the annual sale are donated to a nonprofit organization that promotes breast cancer research.

Halloween Hounds

Last October, the Ocean City (N.J.) PTA put on a Halloween costume contest just for pups. Four judges presided—a local veterinarian, a representative from the Humane Society of Ocean City, and two pet shop owners. Pet owners paid a $10 entry fee, and each dog received a toy and a milk bone. The PTA, which serves the three district schools, sold Halloween treats, hot chocolate, cookies, and candy. Parent group leaders also  collected donations for a huge basket that was raffled off at the event. The day’s activities raised more than $500.

Whatever Floats Their Boats

The Portage (Ind.) High School holds a cardboard boat regatta with participation by both students and faculty members. Teams of two pay $15 to enter the race with a boat made only of cardboard and duct tape. (The boats can be decorated with flags, stuffed animals, and other items, however.) Three teams at a time race their homemade contraptions for two laps across a pool, paddling with everything from wooden sticks to frying pans. Tickets to watch cost $4; music and raffle giveaways entertain spectators during the race. Prizes go to winners for Fastest Boat and Most Creative Boat, which is judged on theme, boat shape, enthusiasm, costumes, and originality.

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Comments

  1. Posted by - Justin Rasmussen on Oct. 14, 2014

    We checked out 4ourschool. they look like copies of For the Schools, which we saw at the National PTA Convention.

    Similar models, except For the Schools has Browser Apps, Mobile Apps, and a far better system to manage users/cash back.

    (link is www.fortheschools.com)
  2. Posted by - Joseph Keith on Jul. 29, 2014

    Fundraisers don't have to be creative in order to be effective. A popular way to raise money is through on-line purchases at sites like http://www.4ourschool.com, which gives 5% of purchases (at amazon, itunes, starbucks, etc) to the PTO.

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