Most established fundraisers—whether they are 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 overall, the main differences arise from school to school and parent group to parent group, not from one product to another or one event to another.

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

That’s also why spring fundraising provides 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 by the way, it’s not unusual for that to change from year to year. In addition, you probably 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, take these seven steps to set up your group for success.

1. Assess your needs

How did you do financially on your fall fundraiser? Is your budget still intact, or will you need a significant influx of money to support the activities you’ve planned for the rest of the year? Make at least a guesstimate of how much money you will need to raise.

2. Make a realistic assessment of your resources

Have you been gaining members or losing them since the back-to-school period? Interest tends to wane a bit in spring as the year wears on for parents and outdoor sports kick in for kids. Will you have the support to run a fundraiser that requires a lot of volunteers, or would it be wiser to choose something that can be executed by a handful of key people?

3. Gather information about what your school community is willing to support

Look back on what has 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. Note that surveys like this don’t give you an absolute answer, but they help as you develop your own solution.

4. Consider fundraising companies you have worked with in the past

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

5. Get to know your vendor

Before signing a contract, be sure to meet the rep you will be working with, examine the company’s products firsthand, and get references from schools like yours (preferably that have worked with the same rep).

6. Schedule carefully

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.

7. Continue to offer great involvement-building events

No matter what the fundraiser, the more people who feel connected to your school community and your group, the better you will do. The connections you build now lay the foundation for better sales or donations later. It’s not the only or even the most important reason to focus on parent involvement, but it’s one that people often overlook.