This process doesn’t have to be stressful or complicated. With a little planning at the start of the school year, you should be fine.

First, decide whether you will do a one-time collection at the start of the school year or ask for donations throughout the year as each class party or event occurs. We suggest you talk to the teacher about this. She may have a better sense of the parents and what approach would work best with them.

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Per-event collection

How it works: Send a per-event donation request letter to parents a few weeks before each event and ask for a small donation. As you collect funds, record who is giving what in an Excel spreadsheet (or use a record-keeping system you’re comfortable with). When you make purchases (craft materials, snacks, and drinks, for example), keep the receipts and record on your ledger what was spent.

Pro: It’s a simple process, and you’ll most likely be handling $100 or less for each event.

Con: You need to ask parents for money a handful of times each year; some may get a little tired of you having your hand out.

Up-front collection

How it works: Send a one-time donation request letter at back-to-school time asking for a one-time donation to cover all expenses for parties and crafts during the school year. You will need to determine what is a fair amount for a suggested donation. Also, you will need to track and record who donated what and then track and record expenses throughout the year.

Also, you will need to determine where the money will be kept. If you end up with several hundred dollars, you probably don’t want to keep it in a lockbox, but the idea of creating a bank account for this seems over the top. One option: Check with your PTO. In some cases, the parent group will deposit your funds and designate it for your classroom. You would then make purchases and request reimbursements from the PTO throughout the year.

Pro: You only ask for money once.

Con: There’s more tracking and money management than some folks may like to do.