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Low-Cost Fundraisers Can Mean Big Fun

Fun fundraisers that have the added benefit of involving kids and getting them excited to participate.

by Caitlin Tobin


If your child could have any behind-the-scene job at school, which job would she choose? My daughter dreamed of being the school receptionist for the day. Her dream came true due to a clever (and low-cost) parents council fundraiser.

Our parents group sponsored a Brown Bag Surprise Fundraiser. Families purchased sealed brown paper bags for $10 each. Every bag had a prize of some kind. Most bags contained a school pencil, school sticker, or small pieces of candy. In a few select bags, there were coupons for special prizes. If your bag contained a special coupon, it was like finding a golden ticket!

The parents council coordinated with our school principal for possible Grand Prize ideas. The parent group created an order form and distributed a paper copy of the form through our weekly student folders as well as posted an online version that was linked through our school e-newsletter.

Once orders were collected, volunteers stuffed the bags, sealed them, and then placed stickers on each bag to match the order forms. Since every sack had a prize of some kind, all bags were a similar weight so as not to give away the brown bags with the secret coupons! The bags were distributed to students through the classroom teachers. The students took the bags home to open and share with their families.

Holiday shop how-to! Choosing a vendor, getting organized, and lots of promotional tools

Depending on the ages at your school, school location, and resources, there are a wide variety of no-cost prizes you could offer. Here are some ideas based on our school’s Brown Bag Fundraiser:

Principal for the day: A student makes announcements in the morning, lets the student body have one special activity like extra recess during the day, eats a special lunch with the principal, etc.

Receptionist for the day: A student answers the phone, takes attendance, greets visitors and makes visitor badges, run notes to classrooms, etc.

Pajama day: A student’s class gets to come to school in pajamas.

Flip flop day: A student’s class gets to wear flip flops for the day—weather permitting.

Pull the fire alarm: A student stands with the principal to pull the fire alarm during a monthly fire drill.

Premier parking place: One lucky family has a dedicated parking place for the school year near the front entrance of the school.

School sleepover: A student gets to invite friends to spend the night at the school. The student’s family supplies supervision overnight, and the principal stays late and comes back early the next morning—with doughnuts.

Jeans day: If you attend a school with a dress code, a student’s class wears jeans for the day in place of the uniform.

School store or ice cream coupons: If your school has a school store or sells ice cream at lunch, provide coupons for items in the school store, a dollar amount in the school store, or a free ice cream at lunch. There were coupons like this in many brown bags—not just one winner.

We raised quite a bit of money to help with school programs. The best part about this fundraiser is that the school keeps almost all of the proceeds since it is organized by school volunteers and the supply costs are minimal. I have no doubt that my daughter’s experience as the receptionist will be one of her favorite memories from elementary school, and I was thrilled that I did not have to beg the grandparents to order wrapping paper (again).

For additional resources on quick, creative, and fun fundraising ideas, check out:

How To Run a School Penny War Fundraiser
Duct-Taping the Principal
12 Creative PTO Fundraisers
6 Fun Fundraisers

Caitlin Tobin is a mom to two elementary aged children and a teacher. She currently teaches 4th grade but has experience working with children from nursery school up through freshmen in high school. She loves snack foods, crafty projects, and spreadsheets. She is on a mission to help the world choose the perfect teacher gift and writes about many of her ideas at

Originally posted in 2015 and updated regularly.

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