Brainstorming fundraising ideas

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Establish your school's priorities for the coming year and how much you need to raise to deliver them. Now agree how to set about achieving your goals.

With your fundraising strategy complete, the next step is to address how you might achieve the target amount in the timeframe required.

Do some pre-brainstorming research – what pure fundraising activities has your school run in the past and were they successful? What seasonal initiatives are staff running that could be leveraged to provide a revenue opportunity? Are there facilities or resources you can expoit?

Working as a group is the best way to spread the workload, get the creative juices flowing, and build excitement. As well as your SLT, extend invitations to staff related to the project, the PTA Chair (if you have one), governors, and even members of the student council.

Not every idea will be realistic or achievable but everybody needs to feel able to voice their thoughts, otherwise you risk missing out on an absolute gem! Once you have lots of ideas, a smaller team can then evaluate those that have the most potential.

Assess the merits

As well as raising money, what other issues might your fundraising activities help you address, such as building links with the local community, or engaging hard-to-reach parents? Once you’ve factored in any additional benefits a certain initiative might offer, consider the return on investment, i.e. does the potential income generated make the effort required, and any costs involved, worthwhile?

Look at your support base. Are you approaching the same people for money time and time again? Can you engage a wider circle or approach new audiences? Seek advice from other local schools to find out what works for them.

Schools often turn to grants for additional funding, but adding a mix of fundraising activities will raise awareness of your goal among a wider donor base, spread your risk, and increase your chances of success.

Once you’ve drawn up a schedule of activity, circulate it! Communication is king and the more people know what you are trying to achieve, the more they will want to be involved. The more people involved, the more successful your fundraising will be.

What to consider

Aim for a range of solutions and keep reminding everyone what it is you’re raising funds for. Not every fundraising activity works for every school, so treat each activity as a learning opportunity. Start with a mix of options and ‘try and test’ over time until you have a suite of proven fundraisers, and by keeping records, you will learn what works for your school. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Grants – There are many grants available for schools, however, finding the right one can take time, and with funders receiving more applications than they can fulfil, success isn’t guaranteed. Search our database and read expert advice at
  • Special events – Fundraisers for adults such as bollywood nights are fun and great for community engagement. Events for children or families, such as talent shows, tend to be well attended. Find ideas, step-by-step guides, and read case studies at
  • Fairs – These events are wonderful community-builders, but also require a lot of planning and an army of volunteers over an extended period. But done well, they have the potential to bring in a great deal of money.
  • Crowdfunding – A well planned crowdfunding campaign can give you access to a wide audience – parents, staff, suppliers, local companies and community groups – and enables people to pledge the amount they feel comfortable with. Success relies on regular and engaging communications. Maintain radio silence on all other fundraising activities while your campaign is live, otherwise you risk diluting your message.
  • Order-form fundraising – Schemes such as Christmas cards, calendars or tea towels are low risk: you only order what you have pre-sold. But they require meticulous administration.
  • Affiliate schemes – Online shopping affiliate schemes reward your not-for-profit group with a percentage of sales each time your supporters shop online.
  • A-thons – Sponsored activities challenge participants to collect sponsorship for their efforts. Popular a-thons include spell-a-thons and fun runs, but your options are endless.
  • Sponsorship – Local businesses thrive on the support of their community and are often willing to offer support in return. Schools also boast an effective marketing route to a targeted audience, so think about what amount to ask for and what you can offer in exchange.
  • Raffles and auctions – Securing a substantial prize (such as an iPad) that people will be eager to win will boost ticket sales. Run your raffle to coincide with an event such as a fair (licensing requirements apply). Silent auctions are a great alternative to a raffle, allowing people to only bid on the prizes in which they are interested.

Brainstorming tips

  1. Refer to your goal. Set the amount that needs to be raised and consider a range of activities that are aligned to the project, i.e. to improve your library, you might consider applying for a Foyle Foundation grant, run a sponsored read, hold a bedtime stories event, etc.
  2. Put a figure next to each activity. If past results are available, let these guide your targets, but don’t be afraid to aim higher. Factor in up-front costs and expenses.
  3. Go for tried and true (most of the time!). Start with what you know works, but there’s a fine line between ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and ‘variety is the spice of life’.
  4. Spread it out! If you’re planning to run some major fundraising events, limit these to one per term with smaller activities dotted in around them. Try to appeal to different audiences.
  5. Find a supplier. Researching supplier options is an important part of planning. For a list of companies offering fundraising schemes and services to schools, go to the FundEd suppliers directory.
  6. Always leverage. Look for opportunities to generate income from activities you’re already doing as a school. Running silent auctions at gala nights or running a read-a-thon around World Book Day are obvious ways to maximise profits. Be creative!
  7. Check timings. Mapping out your plan on a calendar will help you to identify the optimum timing for your activities. It will also help you see where you might need to nudge things to avoid volunteer and supporter burn-out. For events in particular, check that there are no sport fixtures or other major events happening on that day.
  8. Best laid plans. No matter how well calculated your plans are, something out of your control may interfere. Likewise there are times when opportunities come up unexpectedly. By having a plan, you can quickly assess whether you have the capacity to seize these opportunities.

Find inspiration, read case studies, search the grants database, and get expert advice on all aspects of school fundraising and income generation throughout this site or by reading FundEd Magazine. Want to discuss fundraising solutions with our team? Drop us an email and one of the FundEd team will be in touch.