Most established fundraisers—whether they're sales fundraisers or events like a carnival, fun run, or auction—can earn a decent amount of money for your school. They’ve all been used successfully many times at many schools.

That’s one reason it’s difficult to answer one common question from PTOs and PTAs: What’s the best fundraiser? Some products are a bit easier to sell than others. Some events are easier to organize than others. But there's no one-size-fits-all approach to spring fundraising. What works for one group or school—even at your school at different times—depends on many factors.

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

A spring fundraiser can provide an important opportunity for parent groups. In spring, you already have a leg up—you have a track record from fall, and you have a better sense of your expenses for the year. In other words, you know how much you need to raise to support the rest of the year’s activities. You should have a sense of what your community will and won’t support (and it’s not unusual for that to change from year to year). You might also have a fundraising company and a rep you’ve already worked with. You know whether that was a positive experience you’d like to repeat or a mediocre or negative one, meaning you need to look for a different partner.

Before you schedule a spring fundraiser, consider these questions first.

1. What do you need?

How did you do financially with your fall fundraiser? Is your budget still in good shape, or will you need significant cash to support the activities or purchases you’ve planned for the rest of the year? Making at least a guesstimate of how much money you’ll need to raise can help you narrow your choices.

2. What's actually doable?

Have you been gaining members or losing them since back-to-school? Many groups experience a midyear slump—will you have the support to run a fundraiser that requires a lot of volunteers, like a carnival or festival, or would it be better to choose something that a few key people can handle?

3. What do you think your school community will support?

Look back on what’s worked well and what hasn’t for your school. Are there any common threads? If you haven’t already, send out a questionnaire to parents asking what they would support. Surveys like this don’t give you an absolute answer, but they help you figure out what would work best.

4. What fundraising companies have you worked with in the past (and how did that go)?

Make a list of what you liked and didn’t like as you start to search for a new vendor. Reach out to companies you’ve had a positive experience with. Find out what else they have to offer that might work for your group.

5. What else is going on at school and in the community?

Be sure to check the school calendar and, if possible, coordinate with other local groups to make sure your fundraising events don’t duplicate or overlap. Also, will weather be a factor? If you’re planning a fun run, for example, you’d want to have a rain date planned.

6. What does your overall involvement picture look like?

No matter what the fundraiser, the more people who feel connected to your school community and your group, the better you’ll do. Have you had a year (so far) with fun events that had good participation? That makes it much more likely that you’ll have a successful fundraiser. It’s not the only or even the most important reason to focus on parent involvement, but it’s one that people often overlook.

Craig Bystrynski contributed to this article.

Originally posted in 2016 and updated regularly