August and September can be costly months for parents and kids, who must buy school supplies and clothes for the new school year, only to be “hit up” for funds by cash-strapped schools. 

As an involved parent who cares about supporting your kids’ school and its programs, how do you launch best school fundraisers and bring in much-needed funds without alienating fellow parents who may be tired of opening up their pocketbooks?

One key is to make sure parents understand the purpose of the fundraiser and how it will benefit their own kids. Are you raising funds to keep a beloved art program that’s at risk of being cut by the school district? Or maybe it’s to upgrade playground equipment that all kids enjoy during recess? Whatever the goal, make sure the “why” is clearly addressed in all fundraising communication. To get parents to buy, you need their buy-in.

You’ll also need volunteer support to organize an effective fundraiser. For tips on pulling together a dedicated team and planning lucrative fundraisers, check out these school fundraising ideas from ABCFundaising.

As far as which fall fundraiser to organize, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Here are some tried-and-true fundraisers that other parent volunteer groups have held. 

Back-to-School Pancake Breakfast — If your school has a commercial-sized kitchen and a few aspiring cooks, consider hosting a pancake breakfast to launch the school year and raise some funds. To keep costs down, check with local grocery stores to see if they’ll contribute ingredients. Be sure to sell tickets in advance so you get the right quantity of supplies and volunteer support.

T-Shirt Sale — Tie in “back-to-school” clothes shopping with a school-themed T-shirt that allows kids to show off their school spirit while bringing in funds for a school program. It’s easy to find online companies that walk you through the process of customizing and ordering T-shirts. 

Fall Trivia Night — All you need for this is a sound system, an emcee to ask the questions and your school’s community room. Fun fall-related questions can include “what’s the origin of Halloween?” and “what is a harvest moon?” Here are some more trivia questions you can include. 

Sport-a-Thon — Celebrate a fall sport and encourage healthy living by hosting a sport-related fundraiser. Ideas include a “hoop-a-thon” (basketball shooting contest), “score-a-thon” (soccer penalty shot contest), and  or “football-a-thon” (farthest throw contest). 

Fall Carnival — Fall carnivals serve a dual purpose in raising funds for school programs and fostering family fun. These do take considerable planning, organization and school-wide support from teachers, parents and students to be successful. But done right, they can be a highlight of the school year. For guidance planning yours, see this helpful guide

Oktoberfest Pub Crawl — While this is an adult-only outing, it can be a great way for parents to get to know each other while raising funds for their kids’ activities. Coordinate pub visits with your local pubs/breweries, and sell tickets through sites like Eventbrite. Of course, be sure to set up designated drivers or other safe transportation for participants.

Back-to-school time is stressful for parents and kids, but it’s also an exciting fresh start. Fall fundraisers can help reconnect the school community while raising critical funds for important activities and programs for your kids.