Scott McMaster
By Scott McMaster on June 01, 2022

Fall Fundraising Ideas to Improve Student Engagement

Good school fundraisers require more than good products. They need an excellent support system. Your input, the programs you use to manage the money and logistics, PTA organizations, and student and parent engagement all weigh in on the final revenue and success of a fundraiser.

According to Crowd101, "71% of parents have sold fundraising products to friends, family, and coworkers," and this nearly universal experience relies heavily on student engagement.

When your students or program participants aren't excited about the fundraiser, you won't see as much parental involvement or high participant energy throughout the fundraiser, and that can ruin your fundraising goals. As you start to develop your fall fundraising ideas for the next school year, set some time aside so you can strategize about raising student engagement levels.

Try these five approaches so students are invested, interested, and able to participate.

1. Tie Into a Theme — Or a Goal

Fall is a great time for fundraisers because there are so many different angles to choose from. Pepper your beef jerky fundraiser with booths at football tailgates. Center your candy bar fundraiser around Halloween and give it a spooky theme. If you're selling gourmet popcorn, give it a holiday or gift-giving twist for more sales of the pricier or bigger options. Your fundraiser's theme can tie into the season, the events you're selling at, or even the cause you're fundraising for.

These themes don't just add appeal to buyers. They make the fundraiser more interesting for students who want to 'get into the spirit of things.' 

At the same time, even interested students may have a jam-packed schedule. Fall fundraisers are extremely popular, but because there are so many, you'll need to help your student participants stay focused.

After all, a student in your theater program may be in the marching band and play soccer. Or maybe the AP student on your football team is also a speech and debate team member. To hold their attention and help them prioritize your program's fundraiser, tie the revenue to specific goals: state competition travel budgets, a piece of coveted new equipment, or even the ability to travel to a faraway event via plane instead of by van. Goals don't just help your students focus in the short term; they drive more participation and sales from the student's entire network.

2. Pick the Right Time

The best school fundraisers happen during the school year. Some programs see success during the spring, especially if their games, competitions, or performances occur in the spring. However, the spring can also be a waning season for fundraisers, as students start to focus on exams, their programs are beginning to wind down for the summer, and many of your high school student participants are already starting to focus on college.

We think the fall fundraising season is the prime time to sell. Engagement is high, there are plenty of seasonal holidays to fuel sales, and you can use your fundraiser dollars to plan out the rest of the school year instead of worrying about overspending at the end of the year. But it's important to narrow the 'fall fundraising season' down even further:

  • The first few weeks of school will focus on building routines. Unless your program primarily has returning students, fundraisers this close to the start of the year may overwhelm your students.
  • Football season: If you run the football or band programs — or you're selling products that are perfect for stadiums — set your schedule around popular home games. You can organize spirit nights that are big draws for a specific home game.
  • Holidays and holiday events: Winter concerts, fall festivals, and other school events are great occasions for fundraisers. Engage your students by planning either for the event or around the event if your students will be busy with the event itself. After all, the clarinet first chair can't run concessions at the winter concert, but the student who isn't in the band can.

3. Sell Popular Fall Items

Many of your donors, especially parents, teachers, and PTA members, will buy a cursory amount of fundraising items no matter what they are. But choosing the right products can make your fundraiser skyrocket and make your students excited about selling the items. Some popular fall fundraising items could be:

  • General snacks and drinks at sporting events
  • Discount cards
  • Beef jerky throughout the football season
  • Gourmet chocolates or popcorn before the holidays
  • Coffee and hot drinks at outdoor events during late fall

There's no limit to the possibilities for fall fundraisers. There's a lot of cheer in the air because of the new school year, a busy semester full of events, and lots of holidays in a concentrated time period. Choose themed products, popular fall foods, or anything that your students love.

4. Use Sporting Events and Other Activities Strategically

There are two popular ways to sell goods through most school fundraisers:

  1. Customers and donors pre-buy goods from a product catalog. The goods are delivered once the fundraiser is over.
  2. Donors can buy goods in the moment. Students have the discount cards, candy bars, or other fundraising products with them, and the cash transaction is completed immediately.

When you opt for the second style of fundraiser, timing is on your side. You and your students can set up a booth at football games, theater productions, band and orchestra performances, and everything in between. Have your students sign up for time slots when they run the booth with a couple of their friends.

Pro Tip:

Arrange the schedule to be no more than half the length of the event. This gives students the opportunity to sign up for multiple slots (especially if you set a minimum level of required participation throughout the fundraiser) or spend half the event fundraising and half of it having fun with their friends at the event itself.

5. Make it Fun for Everyone

Ultimately, participating in your fundraiser needs to be fun to hold students' interest. A few ways to do this could be:

  • Create a leaderboard that spurs a little bit of competition (without making things unfriendly).
  • Create realistic goals that students can reach without getting discouraged.
  • Accommodate their schedules: Students will eagerly participate in fundraising events for short blocks of time that don't bar them from the event entirely. Make sure the time blocks are short enough to hold their interest and encourage students to commit to slots with their friends.
  • Have students design marketing materials, choose the fundraiser theme, and even vote on the fundraiser product.
  • If you have to choose the product because you need admin approval early on, pick one the students are interested in.

Use Launch Fundraising to Manage Your Fundraiser 

Student engagement is an integral part of successful fundraisers, but it's not the only essential element. Our Launch Fundraising platform is designed to help you organize your fundraiser dates and obligations, track sales and transactions, and manage your online fundraising efforts. Contact us today to learn more about how our platform can make your next fall fundraiser more fun for you, not just your students.

Published by Scott McMaster June 1, 2022
Scott McMaster