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9 PTA Fundraising Ideas That Parents Won’t Dread

This ain't your Mama's PTA. These ideas will infuse more fun into your school fundraisers -- and help you boost participation and profits!

First, you spot the SignUpGenius email. You quickly try to scroll away, pretending as though you never saw it.

Then, the school flyer comes home in the folder. You know the jig’s up, there’s no hiding from the truth…

It’s time for another dreaded school fundraiser.

Now, don’t get me wrong: School fundraisers are, without a doubt, an integral part of improving our kids’ schools — and, by extension, our communities. But, let’s face it: most of the time, they suck. No one wants to buy and/or sell cheap gift wrapping or seasonally-scented candles. Spending a family game night forcing an elementary-school child to play BINGO while he’s getting hopped up on cheap juice boxes makes most adults wonder, “Why can’t I just write a check and go home to catch up on Game of Thrones?”

But here’s the thing: School fundraisers don’t have to feel like a prison sentence. When done right, they actually have the potential to be both fun AND profitable, while also building that sense of community among the parents. With a little creativity — and willingness to buck tradition — you can help your own PTA/PTO host a fundraiser that not only helps you meet your goals, but also gives parents a chance to truly enjoy themselves.

We’ve broken down four types of fundraisers — The Meet and Greet, Annual Fundraiser and Kids’ Fun — into three categories: Classics (with a Twist), Modern and Cutting Edge.

Meet & Greet

Annual Fundraiser

Kids’ Fun

Classic (With a Twist)

Parent’s Date Night

Kid-Friendly Gala

Duck Race


Teachers vs. Parents Challenge

Decades Party

Around the World Carnival

Cutting Edge

“Spin and Sip”

Oktoberfest “Sausage Party”

Get Connected Block Party

Meet and Greet

Classic (With a Twist): Parent’s Date Night

Who couldn’t use a night out? Give your school’s parents the chance to have some adults-only time. To organize and profit from a Parents’ Date Night, approach two or three local restaurants that would be interested in getting more business from the parents at your school. Negotiate a deal where the restaurants give your PTA/PTO a percentage of the money they make off the parents on designated Date Night. In addition to the added revenue, parents can socialize by meeting up at the participating eateries or go off on their own.

Modern: Teachers vs. Parents Challenge

Not all meet and greet fundraisers need to be just for grown-ups. There are benefits to getting entire families together. To this end, a teachers vs. parents sporting event can be a lot of fun for all ages. Kids love to see their parents and teachers hard at play. Pitting their favorite adults against each other in a friendly game of volleyball, softball, bowling — or even something like a chili cook-off — will have them bursting with excitement. Your PTO/PTA can charge admission fees for the game. Besides the money you earn, these fundraisers encourage teamwork among staff and parents, and model the fun of engaging in physical fitness for your kids.

Cutting Edge: “Spin and Sip”

With after-school activities, careers and countless social commitments, parents are busier than ever. Why not combine two activities that many parents wish they had more time for: working out and happy hour. One idea is a “spin and sip.” Reach out to a nearby gym or spin studio and ask them if they will host a class for a reduced rate. You can charge $35 per person for a class that will only cost $12 per person. This approach can also work for yoga, cross fit or other group exercise class. Contact a pub or restaurant close to the studio and arrange for drink specials for your parents. You may not make money off of the bar tab, but the adding the opportunity to unwind post-workout for a good cause will boost attendance.

Annual Fundraiser

Classic (With a Twist): Kid-Friendly Gala

Black tie optional? Most of us would rather opt out of stuffy formal events altogether. Instead of expecting parents to get motivated to gussy up for a formal evening event, make your annual gala a more casual, family affair. Set up a red carpet and step-and-repeat at the entrance, as well as a photo booth with props inside. Hire local musicians and/or DJ who specialize in kids’ entertainment to get the party started. Centerpieces made of crayons and markers as well as treats such as gummy bears, cake pops are pretty and practical. While all of these child-friendly details will keep the little ones occupied, don’t forget this is a gala, after all. Remember to offer a signature cocktail and adult food.

Modern: Decades Party

The 90s are back. Or maybe your PTA/PTO crowd prefers the 80s or 00s. Whatever decade you choose, retro-themed parties are a hit. Formerly popular food, decorations, music and suggested attire will make this type of fundraising party an event parents will be excited to attend.

In addition to ticket sales, hold a silent auction of vintage goods, including electronics, toys and sports memorabilia. If you are unsure where to find these items, send out a call for donations to all the families in the school and reach out to local vintage and antique shops. You can also hit up eBay.

Hire a band or DJ make sure they play all genres of music from your decade of choice happy. And don’t forget a photo booth with vintage props.

With so many details, a decades party can be pricey. Be careful to price tickets so that your PTA/PTO gets maximum profits.

Cutting Edge: Oktoberfest “Sausage Party”

For a flat fee, say $50 per person, fundraiser guests attend an all-you-can-eat-and-drink bruats and beer dinner.

For the parents who want to really get their money’s worth, the ride-sharing service Über allows organizations to pay a percentage of the cost of a ride for using the service to and from your fundraiser.

Kids’ Fun

Classic (With a Twist): Duck Race

The concept is simple: race rubber ducks down a local waterway or across a pond. But as simple as it sounds, the excitement this type of event generates is exceptional. Participants pay anywhere between $10 and $30 for admission fees and a rubber duck. The participants then name and decorate their ducks.

Part of what makes this event so buzzworthy is the community promotion. Set up a Facebook or Instagram account and ask participants to submit pictures and “bios” of their ducks. Give participants yellow duck lawn signs. Ask local businesses to participate and promote by displaying their duck prominently for patrons. The prize for the winning duck’s team can be determined 50/50 style or by ask local businesses to donate prizes for baskets.

Modern: Around the World Carnival

Organize an “Around the World” themed carnival to bring international flavor — and fun — to your town. This fundraiser combines a culinary event with cultural awareness. Set up booths to represent countries from all over the globe and serve traditional dishes and treats. Charge attendees a flat fee to sample the food and give them a “passport” that can be stamped at each booth they visit.

Ask local restaurants to donate food and drinks or sponsor booths. Invite nearby cultural organizations and museums to participate. To make sure your carnival represents a diverse variety of cultures, ask parents to volunteer to host a booth by cooking an ethnic recipe and decorating with pictures of the represented country.

This event doesn’t have to be all about the food. Reach out to the high school music program and ask the students to perform songs from around the world. To keep the kids happy, include familiar carnival games, such as a dunk tank with the school principal and a bean bag toss, as well as games played by children in other parts of the world, such as the Korean game hunt the ring or the Greek game hoops. Face painters and jugglers are a nice touch, if your budget allows.

Cutting Edge: “Get Connected” Block Party

By the time any child is in 4th grade, they’ve amassed twice their body weight in Legos. Unless your kids build to scale, cleaning out the Lego supply to support your PTA/PTO and organize your play area is a win for all.

This fundraiser has a similar structure to a traditional family bingo night, without having to explain why bingo is fun to a 6 year-old. Activity stations with different projects utilizing the donated Legos will allow kids to play while parents enjoy cocktails, chat and help their little ones build projects. If you have some master builders in your organization, download project ideas and volunteers can man the stations. If you would rather to keep the event easy for the parents, you can hire a local Bricks4Kids or other Lego education franchise to lead the instruction.

After the event, ask volunteers to organize, bag and weigh the Legos. Place ads on Facebook marketplace, Craigslist and other free online listing services with the title “Bulk Legos for Sale.” If possible, place your ads locally to save on shipping.