Boredom is an enemy in fundraising.

And boring fundraising is a natural long-term outcome unless you and your group actively work to keep things interesting each year. You have to create freshness and excitement if you want to achieve fundraising success—and even more, if you want to maintain fundraising success.

You won’t create a signature fundraising effort by simply picking a company, sharing your flyers, and collecting your orders. You’ll make some money, but it can feel like forced labor—both for your volunteers and for the parents buying from your fundraiser.

Now, that doesn’t mean you should throw out all that you do now in a bid for newness. I’m actually a huge believer in sticking with a fundraising company or a fundraising model if you’ve had success and received great service. But there are tons of good habits to keep those old efforts, as well as your newest ones, fresh and interesting.

The biggest key is to start anew each year. Learn from last year’s experience, but do not—please—simply call last year’s volunteers, grab last year’s flyers, change some dates, and press repeat. Rather, work hard to bring at least one or two new volunteers into the project and take the time to change your messaging. Was last year about new iPads for the middle grades? Maybe this year can be about the updates to your playground and recess yard.

My favorite ideas for creating excitement are the most creative and the easiest to change from year to year. These are the high-profile incentives that get the kids and families talking and laughing and that even make the local paper. Yes, it’s the principal moving his office to the roof or kissing a pig, or the popular math teacher driving around the school on a Harley-Davidson or a gym teacher in a dunk tank. Whether it’s a pig or a motorcycle or a roof in year one, make sure it’s something wholly different in year two.

(This year, in conjunction with the national trade association for fundraising companies, the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers, we’ve actually been tracking a ton of these fun ideas. You can check them out at

Changing what you sell or how you fundraise can also be a way to stay fresh. If your auction is getting stale, it’s perfectly OK to change to a flower sale. While I’d be cautious about doing away with your most successful effort, there’s often a lot of room for experimenting with your second- or third-largest effort, if you conduct that many. This PTO Today Buyer’s Guide issue has literally hundreds of options for you to consider to add that touch of newness. And sometimes that new effort in the second slot proves so successful that you can move it up to replace the fundraiser in your primary slot down the road.

In the long run, parents support a cause. Assuming they’ll support your fundraiser just because they should or just because they did last year is a surefire recipe for a slow decline and frustration. On the other hand, if they feel good about your group, and if you effectively emphasize your cause and your good work (rather than the product and the pricing)...and then you add some pizzazz and refreshed spirit...that’s when you can maintain success for the long term.