Question: Playground fundraising goals too big?

This is my first year as president. We’re trying to put in a $40,000 playground this year. We have raised $10,000 already to put toward it. I’m just a little jittery now looking at our real budget and what we need to operate and pull off events. We’re a small school. Typically, we only get about 25 percent of our student body to participate in fundraisers. We have two main fundraisers, but I just don’t think we can do this and still carry out our other events. This has me all in knots. Do you think we’re biting off more than we can chew?

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Advice from PTO Today

Elly writes:

Congratulations on your new position. While some new presidents get to ease into the job, you’re starting off with a classic leadership challenge. The good news is that you and the executive board don’t have to bear all the weight of this decision. Your job is to present the options and summarize the possible outcomes, both good and bad, as accurately as you can. Then work toward consensus. Because if parents aren’t behind it, a large-scale project like a new playground is unlikely to succeed.

Soliciting feedback from parents can help you gauge their priorities. This information can help give your group direction for the whole year. While a playground seems like a great project for your group to undertake, do the majority of families at school view it as important? Would they rather see some or all of the money allocated to school assemblies or field trips, classroom supplies, or even computer lab equipment? Perhaps they would like to see your group build the playground in phases vs. spending $40,000 for the equipment all at once. And maybe, just maybe, they have ideas for a more successful fundraiser this year that might make it all happen. The point is, you’ll need to ask them. A survey to parents at the start of the year can be an invaluable tool to your group. Just be sure to get them back quickly and use what you find out.

Even if your goals are far bigger than your fundraising budget, though, there are ways to make them happen—for example, by seeking grants and other alternative sources of funding rather than raising the money in-house. The Desert Marigold School Parent Council in Phoenix created a community garden that’s used as part of the curriculum; most of the $200,000 spent came from grants. Lowe’s Toolbox for Education is one program that gives grants to parent groups.

As far as the percentage of families that participate in your fundraisers, Elly is more concerned about the number of folks connected to the school by your group’s programs and fun events. That’s the true marker of success in any parent group. By concentrating on building relationships with families through a variety of fun events and programs at school, your group will be able to reach its goals—large and small—much more quickly.

Community Advice

Inez writes:
Great response

Community Advice

monkeyinadryer writes:
My Son's school is trying to do the same thing as what you are doing now. Since we do t shirt printing and stuff like that, we do a lot of donating and low prices to get them the most money to go toward the fundraiser. I would also think if you could get local businesses to donate services, Salons, medi and pedi's. Restaurants, home depot, etc. Best time to ask the business's is at the beginning of the year. Some of the bigger companies have you fill out paperwork to apply for help. Locals Best Buy, General Mills, Target.

Advice from PTO Today

Rose H writes:
A playground project is about as big as it can get for a PTO. It's normal to feel a little overwhelmed, but it can be done. Take a look at this article on playground projects. It gives you a step-by-step on how to approach this, including the fundraising aspect. A key point: Consider multiple fundraising sources, including grants, such as the Lowe's Toolbox for Education Grant.

Community Advice

clayboggess writes:
Your purpose is probably the single most important factor that determines the success of your fundraiser. Regardless of the size of the project, it’s paramount that you have strong support. Larger projects require a broader vision and a well-developed step-by-step plan. If it’s going to take 2 or even 3 years to raise “x” amount of money, you can break your fundraising down into shorter-term goals. It’s also important to continue to promote your plan and to be transparent about the progress. This also helps get more people on board over time. The key though is constant communication and staying steadfast as you work towards the end goal. See

Your should also work towards having fewer larger producing fundraisers than a lot of small sales. There are things that you can do to improve the quality of each sale. Also check out

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