4 Interactive Fundraisers that Encourage Student Involvement

01 Dec 2023 By Guest Post

Picture your school’s ideal fundraising campaign. Perhaps you put in the work to organize an auction fundraiser, and your students are excited about the event. When the event rolls around, you have a great turnout from the community, participants are engaged in the event, and everyone is asking you when the next fundraiser will be. Plus, you manage to exceed your ambitious fundraising goals.

While no fundraising campaign will be perfect, your school can get that much closer by making an effort to engage students with the fundraising idea you choose. When students are motivated to participate, they’ll help you reach a wider audience of supporters and develop leadership and communication skills. Interactive fundraisers that require students to participate are great tools for boosting their involvement.

In this guide, we’ll walk through a few interactive fundraising ideas to use at your school:

  • Auction
  • Read-a-thon
  • Peer-to-Peer Campaign
  • Trivia Night

Teachers and students can often feel busy or stressed when managing curriculums and meeting educational standards. It can help to have extracurricular activities (like fundraisers) that lend a helping hand toward those responsibilities. Our first idea, read-a-thons, are perfect for these situations—let’s get started!

1. Auction

Auctions are a classic and popular way to raise money for schools. Your community members will enjoy participating in a fundraiser that allows them to get something out of donating (i.e., the auction item). Students will have fun attending the event, helping decorate the space, and nudging their parents and families to bid on the items they want.

If you’re considering having a school auction to raise money, keep these tips in mind:

  • Choose a format. Will you have a virtual auction where supporters shop and bid online? Or, will you organize an in-person, silent auction so attendees can use mobile bidding while enjoying the in-person event? Make sure to select the format up front (and with your audience’s preferences in mind) so you can plan accordingly and research the technology you’ll need.

  • Think about creating a website. No matter which format you choose for the auction, it’s a good idea to create a website or webpage dedicated to the event. This can serve as a helpful resource that has all of the logistical details about the event and a list of auction items that will drum up excitement. Consider choosing a software solution with built-in features such as pre-made templates and other fundraising capabilities like online stores or crowdfunding. This way, you’ll have your website up and running in no time and you’ll benefit from diversified revenue sources.

  • Look for partners or sponsors. It can quickly become expensive to purchase valuable, desirable auction items for the fundraiser. After all, you want things that participants want and will spark some competition among bidders. To offset these costs, reach out to your network of local businesses to see if they would be willing to sponsor your school with financial or in-kind donations (donations of items or services). For example, a local salon might donate a gift basket full of hair and skin care products in return for their name and logo being included in your marketing materials.

To get students even more involved with your auction, you might have them play a role in the items you are auctioning. For example, perhaps each classroom collaborates to paint or decorate a piece of furniture. Then, parents bid on the pieces, hoping to win the item their child contributed to.

2. Read-a-thon

Read-a-thons can help build your students’ reading skills while raising money for your school. They are also simple and cost-effective to organize, making them a great option for schools that are short on time or have a limited budget.

99Pledges’ guide to organizing a read-a-thon explains that during one of these fundraisers, “participants track their reading progress and collect donations based on the total minutes, pages, or chapters they read.” Ideally, you should also use a fundraising tool designed with schools in mind to streamline the process.

Here’s how to hold a read-a-thon in four basic steps:

  1. Set up individual pledge pages for each student—they’ll use these to collect donations.
  2. Encourage each student to collect pledged donations from their friends and family. They can either give a flat donation or pledge a certain amount per unit of time (e.g., $5 per hour spent reading).
  3. During this process, participants should be reading and tracking the time they spend reading in your fundraising tool’s reading tracker
  4. After the fundraiser’s deadline, the fundraising tool automatically calculates the total time spent reading by each student and charges the pledged donations. If a donor makes a $.50 cents per-minute pledge and the student reads 300 minutes, then the donor will be charged $150.

Read-a-thons are a great option for back-to-school fundraisers. Not only can they bring in much-needed funding to your school, but they’ll also get students back into reading with some extracurricular practice.

3. Peer-to-Peer Campaign

Peer-to-peer campaigns are extremely simple, versatile, and rely on students to be successful. These fundraisers work by encouraging students to fundraise on your school’s behalf, and they can be used alongside many different fundraising ideas (such as the read-a-thon fundraiser we covered previously).

Because this model can be used in so many different ways, there is an endless variety of fundraising themes, methods, and techniques you can pair with it. Depending on your school’s budget and other needs, you might incorporate peer-to-peer elements by:

  • Launching a text-to-give campaign that students can promote individually. For example, they might each have their own number or code supporters text to contribute.
  • Holding other “a-thon” fundraisers, such as dance-a-thons or walk-a-thons. These follow a similar structure to the read-a-thon but center around different activities.
  • Organizing a product sale or market in which students sell products from a catalog or even their own art to friends and family.
  • Encouraging support from your PTA, such as inviting other parents to contribute or manage online marketing efforts for the fundraiser.

Because there are so many options when it comes to using the peer-to-peer fundraising format, you can find a way to use it for elementary, middle school, and high-school-aged students.

4. Trivia Night

Trivia nights are entertaining as standalone events, and they can also make events like fundraising galas more fun. All you’ll need to do is plan out your questions and topics, set up the event space, gather drinks and refreshments, and share about the event.

Because the trivia will be the center of the fundraiser, make sure to put lots of time into planning the game. Ask students about their interests and test sample questions on them first. To kick off your brainstorming session, here are some topics you might include:

  • General knowledge, such as pop culture or history
  • School-related questions about your traditions, staff, and history
  • Literature and books
  • Movies and TV shows
  • Sports
  • Geography and travel

Depending on who will be participating in the event, you may want to create rounds with more tailored questions. For example, you might have a round with relatively easy questions for younger students, a more challenging round for the older students, and an adult round for the parents.

There can be a lot riding on your school’s fundraisers. Maybe your campaigns are raising the money you need to fund field trips, buy school supplies, or provide fun in-school activities. Getting extra help from students and parents on your next campaign can help alleviate this pressure for better, more sustainable results.