As a fundraiser with over 20 years of experience, I know a thing or two about fundraisers that work and those that do not. I’ve worked mainly in the non-profit sector and also volunteered many hours raising money for my daughter’s cheerleading squads. I have tried a lot of different things to raise money at her schools, and here are a few things I have learned over the years that work.
Raffles can be a good way to raise money if you can get an item or two donated that people are willing to try and win. Get creative and think of items like tickets to a concert or sporting event, dinner at a nice restaurant, or something popular in your community to do.
Once you’ve gotten your prizes, you need to decide on a raffle ticket price. Remember that it helps to give a break at a higher price point. Say you are selling tickets for $5 each or 5 for $20 to give people an incentive to spend more.
Assign each team member a specific number of tickets to sell to their friends and family. You can also promote your raffle online and offer a link where people can buy a ticket, which you can then mail to them.
As long as you are already out asking businesses for prizes, why don’t you take it a step further and have a silent auction? Assign each team member with different businesses to approach to ask for the following:
- Restaurant gift cards
- Salon gift cards
- Sporting equipment
- Tickets to the movies or plays
- Baskets from businesses
You can set up an area at school where parents can bid on these items or set up the auction online to offer it to a broader audience. This type of fundraiser can be time-consuming but they have the potential to raise a lot of money.
Ice Cream Sales
Whether your cheerleading squad is still in elementary school or they are in high school, ice cream sales work. Find a distributor that will sell you ice cream lower than retail or hit up Costco if you can’t find a distributor. Pick a day to sell ice cream and make sure you price the ice cream so that you make a profit. Make sure you advertise when the sales will happen and remind all the kids to bring a couple of dollars to buy your tasty ice cream treats.
Don’t forget to create a schedule for parents to sign up and take turns coming in to sell the ice cream, and make sure you work with the school ahead of time to find a place to store the ice cream, so you can easily access it on Ice Cream Day. This is a great way for the kids to end the week and for the cheerleading team to raise money.
There are many really tasty candy bars out there that want to be sold. Candy bar sales are very effective, especially when you are dealing with children. Find a candy bar company that will provide candy bars for your team to sell where they will invoice you for the product and let you pay for it after the sale is over.
Team members can sell candy bars in front of grocery stores (make sure to ask permission first), ask businesses to put the candy bars out for sale at their cash registers, and sell to friends and neighbors. This is an effective sales tool that many everyone will enjoy. This idea can also be used with cookies, popcorn, or whatever food item your team enjoys.
T-shirt fundraisers have been amazingly popular lately. All you have to do is design the t-shirt and watch the sales come in. You can either do the sales in person or through a site online.
Benefiting both the seller, who raises money for their cause, and the buyer, who gets a memorable item in exchange for their donation, an online t-shirt campaign will take care of all the printing, shipping, and selling. They will then send you your half of the funds right to your organization.
One way to involve the community is to run a design campaign before the t-shirt sales. This way you’ll get extra marketing for your cause, a lot of creative input, and a unique design that will help sell t-shirts.
This type of community support is invaluable when it comes to supporting a cheerleading team. Make sure to spread the word through social media, press releases with your local news stations and new papers, and offer an easy to use website to print the t-shirts.
Keep in mind that it is easier to use the print on demand t-shirt sites than to front the money before the sale to print the shirts and hope you will sell them all. These sites make it easy to come up with a design or use something you already have. Then, buyers can go onto the site and order what they want so that you don’t end up with a bunch of shirts afterward that you never sold.
Many local restaurants will offer to do fundraising for your organization through spirit nights. Do some research online and find what restaurants will offer schools a percentage of sales on what would otherwise be a slow night of the week for them.
The idea is that you will promote the fundraiser at your school and drive sales to their restaurant, which will benefit them. They will then give you a certain percentage of their sales that evening, which will benefit your cheerleading team.
Many chains offer this type of fundraiser and expect you to invite other students, parents, family, friends, and community members to participate in the exchange. Depending on your ability to generate a crowd, you can actually end up making several hundred dollars out of a one-night event.
Everyone loves to save money and coupon books are one of those classic fundraising programs, particularly for school-based groups. There are several online sites that will have coupon books ready to go for your businesses in your area, or you can contact businesses on your own to find out what discounts they will offer and have a local printer put together a coupon book for you.
Not only is this cheerleader fundraising idea an awesome way to strengthen your school’s ties with the community, but it’s a popular way for our team to make some extra money. Plus, businesses love the exposure they get through the promotion.
If you are printing the books yourself, make sure to consider the cost of the printing when decided on the price. You want to make sure that all your effort will raise money for your team in the end.
Crowdfunding is a relatively new way to raise money in the nonprofit world. There are several crowdfunding sites to choose from that allow you to create a website for your fundraising event, offer donation tiers with incentives, and provide a place for donors to make their gifts. After this site is created, all your team members can promote the link on their personal social media webpages to help and spread the word.
The crowdfunding site will also list your fundraising page on their website allowing more donors to find your cause and donate to it. This type of fundraising is completely done online, but it will take some work from your team members to make sure the link to donate to your cause is out there.
The incentives for the different levels can be a huge part of the success of your fundraiser. The more unique and interesting they are, the better. If you can offer a unique t-shirt or item for a higher level, the more likely you can get a donor to increase their gift, which will increase your overall donations.
Another relatively new type of fundraising, peer to peer fundraising has been very trendy over the last few years. Essentially, this type of fundraiser requires volunteers that will volunteer on your behalf and create their very own fundraising page. They will use their own unique pages to promote your cause to their family and friends online.
This is a great way to expand your online donor community in a completely organic way. The peer-to-peer fundraising method is a pretty flexible way to raise support online, and it can benefit from an investment in software that is dedicated to this campaign.
If you choose to do a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, your team will definitely have to get creative. However, you can benefit from the many team members and their circle of friends and family. Just make sure that if you do choose to use a fundraising platform to do your research to find the best site for your fundraiser.
Another way to run a fundraiser is through pledge challenges. This involves asking for pledges to complete a particular challenge. Most of us can remember the Jump Rope for Heart pledges we did as children, that’s exactly what this is.
This technique is not a bad idea if your cheerleading squad is willing to take on a challenge like jumping rope, shooting hoops, or running laps. Other ideas include a long-distance cycling trip, mowing lawns, or completing another community-oriented task.
Remember that there is a lot of planning required for this type of campaign. After you decide on the activity, you need to think about the following:
- Promoting the pledge challenge
- Going out and getting the pledges
- Collecting the pledges
An age-old fundraising tactic, moms everywhere have baked or bought items for a school bake sale. Arguably, this is a great way to make money since you don’t have to invest in a product, it is all donated by the loving mothers of your cheerleading squad. You can always try to find a creative spin to this otherwise classic fundraiser (think cake pops), but ultimately other hungry students will help you raise money for your team.
Industry professionals call this fundraiser an annual appeal that is typically sent out at the end of the year to take advantage of donor’s interest in tax breaks. However, a fundraising letter can be done at any time of the year. Although many people may think a good old fashioned letter won’t hold any weight in today’s world of the internet and email, a good old fashioned letter still holds some weight with many donors.
When you reach out to your donors with a personalized letter, you are showing them that they are worth your time and interest, which can generate a lot of positive responses. Depending on your team, this can be a cost-effective way to raise a lot of money in a really short time. This is particularly true if your team has a specific project or upcoming trip that has a deadline and can generate a lot of interest from community members that would be interested in making a donation to help the team out.
Make sure your appeal is explained in just one page, you don’t want your letter to extend beyond that. Compile a mailing list from your team and make sure you have an easy way for donors to make a donation either with a return envelope or an online link. If you are having a hard time getting started, you can always look u online templates that can help to inspire you.
When you are considering fast and easy fundraisers, the classic 50/50 raffle often comes to mind. Best paired with an event, a 50/50 raffle can be done without much of an investment in money or time when you consider the results. Popular also with donors, it is most effective when you have crowd that you can sell the concept to. A 50/50 is a raffle that allows the winner to receive half the winnings from the raffle while your team gets the other half.
Since it happens over a short amount of time, this is a fun and quick way to raise quite a bit of money. Since your donors can also win money, there is motivation for them to purchase more raffle tickets and then encourage family and friends to do the same. And it’s the icing on the cake if your winning donor ends up letting the organization keep their winnings as well.
A 50/50 can be used as a stand-alone fundraiser, but it tends to be more effective when used along with another that generates a large crowd. You can also use an online platform if you have a lot of followers to participate in your raffle, which will also allow you to promote your cheerleading team more in-depth.
Coffee Bean Sale
My church has had a lot of success with the coffee bean sale. All your team has to do is find a wholesaler that will sell you coffee beans at a wholesale price. This allows you to make a profit when you sell the beans at their retail price.
This is a great way to partner with a company in your community, which will also give them some positive PR. Remember to market the coffee bean sale by posting flyers at grocery stores, promoting the sale on social media, and even set up an online store to sell the coffee beans. Coffee fundraising in general will always appeal to a lot of people
Another easy to use tool that is still relatively new is a Text to Give Tool. This is a super-easy way for a donor to give using their smartphone. It’s important to find the right Text to Give Tool for your organization, and always check out for fees and how much that will impact your overall donation revenue. Once you have this tool set up, it is an easy and fast way to boost your donations for any event or fundraiser that you may have.
Penny drives are also a classic fundraiser that allows you to get creative and customize it to your organization. Plus, it’s a way you can get the whole cheerleading team involved.
First, you need to be creative and design donation jars. This can be a fun project that allows you to incorporate your school mascot and school colors in the design.
Second, break up into teams of two and head out into the community. Ask local businesses to allow your donation jars to sit by the register along with a sign that informs prospective donors about your team and what you are raising money towards.
Make sure your team members return to the businesses frequently to empty the donation jars and record how much has been raised.
Holiday candygrams work really well in school settings and have been a favorite of cheerleading teams for years. This is a pretty easy fundraiser that allows students to send candy and a personalized message to a friend. This is a fundraiser everyone in the school enjoys.
All you need to do is choose candy appropriate for the holiday and creative message cards where senders can write a message. Make sure to keep good track of all the sales to ensure you don’t miss anyone.
Then choose a time day when the candygrams will be delivered and work with the school office to find out where the recipients will be during that period. Involve the whole team to make sure all the deliveries are made.
Another classic fundraiser is the garage sale. Everyone has a few things they want to give rid of, and, if everyone on the team participates, you should have no problem gathering more than enough items for a garage sale. You can also ask for donations from the community to help bolster up the items you have for sale.
This is a great last-minute fundraiser if you need to raise money for something quickly. It’s important to find a good central spot for your garage sale, if you can hold the sale at your school that is the best choice.
Make sure to post signs in your community and promote the garage sale on your social media sites. The key here is to get the word out because the more people that attend the better your sales will be.
Discount cards are another classic school fundraiser, probably because it’s inexpensive and popular. People love to save money when they go out to eat or even on things that they do every day like dry cleaning or getting their car washed.
The key to the discount card is to reach as many popular businesses as possible in your area to set up unique promotions and discounts that potential buyers will get excited about. Your main expense to this fundraiser is the printing of the discount cards, which you can offset if you partner with a local printer.
If you have a lot of creative members on your cheerleading team as well as some crafty parents, holding a craft fair can be a fun way to raise some funds. This can be particularly successful around the holidays when people are looking for gifts.
This is another fundraising event that can benefit from being held at the school. Make sure you get the word out to the community and promote it on your social media sites to ensure you get a good crowd.
For a fun twist on the classic craft fair, the team could also create an Etsy account or any of those other eCommerce platforms that can put your craft fair idea to a larger audience.
Branded Merch Sales
So, we’ve already talked about t-shirt sales, but branded merch can extend beyond just shirts. You can also print car magnets, water bottles, mousepads, totes, and coffee mugs that can increase ways that donors can support you. If you have room to store the items, you can have them printed by a local shop or one of the many sites online.
Like the t-shirts, there are print on demand branded merch sites, but the cost of these smaller items can be reduced if you have them printed in a large quantity. Before you go ahead and place an order, make sure you have a plan for where you will be selling the items to ensure that you don’t end up with a lot of stock collecting dust.
Branded merch can also work well with other fundraisers as a way to sell your stock. If you are doing a bake sale or garage sale, make sure you have a table with your merchandise for sale as well.
You can also create an online store with all your branded items. Make sure you promote the online store well and make it as easy as possible for people to get the items. Remember that you will end up having to ship the items if someone buys an item that does not live in your area.
Online Giving Sites
If you are looking for some easy ways to raise funds online or through social media, check out online giving sites like GoodSearch, AmazonSmile, and Facebook. These sites allow you to set up a fundraiser or search the internet like normal and raise money for your team at the same time.
It’s important to get the word out about these sites to parents, friends, and local community members so they are aware of an easy way to help your team. The more people you get involved the more donations your team will receive.
Matching Gifts – Corporate
Another way to receive easy money is to use corporate matching gifts programs. Ask your donors if the company that they work for has a matching gift program, and, if it does, their donation can be doubled.
A lot of people aren’t aware that their companies offer this type of program, or they don’t take advantage of it. The company requires some information from both you and the donor and then they will cut you a check. It’s that easy.
Matching Gift – Donor
Sometimes a donor will offer a matching gift to your team to help encourage others to donate. Here’s how it works. A donor pledges to match donations to your team dollar for dollar up to $500.
Once you have this pledge from the donor, you can promote it on social media and to all your other donors to encourage them to give to the team. People love when they make a donation, and it counts for twice as much as they gave.
Social Media Challenges
Ok, remember the bucket challenge? You know when the internet went nuts about the ALS campaign where people dumped ice water on themselves? This was an incredibly successful way to raise monetary support.
Think about your cheerleading team and come up with a fun challenge that they can all promote and challenge others to do. Remember to use an accompanying hashtag for your fundraising project, and try to make the challenge go viral, so you can reach even more potential donors. While you won’t raise as much money as ALS did, it is a fun way to get your community and school involved while receiving donations.
Similar to sending out appeal letters, email campaigns can also be effective at raising money for your cheerleading squad. It’s a cheap and direct way to ask your friends, family, and community for donations. Plus, these emails can be forwarded to others that may also be interested.
This is a good way to leverage your team’s online contacts including family members that don’t live in the area. These emails are effective since they offer donors a specific link for donations. Plus, it’s important to offer a suggested donation level as many donors will follow your suggestion instead of choosing a smaller amount on their own.
Team Donation Pages
Having a team donation page can not only help you raise money, but it can provide a way for your team to keep your donors updated on their progress. This is especially important if you raised money to go to a competition and want to let your donors know you won!
This type of landing page is also helpful when you have a prospective donor ask, “Where do I donate?” Having a page already designed is a handy way to direct donors ready to make a donation to your team.
Many foundations and corporations will provide grants to a qualifying organization if you submit an application. It’s worth doing some research to find foundations and corporations that offer grants that your team qualifies for. It does take a little time to write the grant, but once you have done one, you’ll have enough written information to use on others.
It can help if you have a parent or two from the team work on researching and writing grants in their spare time. They should be good writers and have enough time to dedicate to the project. You can also check out websites like Candid that help you figure out what grant opportunities your team can apply for.
Local Business Sponsorships
Getting a sponsorship from a local business can be a helpful way to raise a large chunk of money at one time. Depending on what you are raising money for, you may have promotional benefits or opportunities that a business would be interested in. Think about ways they can place their logo and get the visibility a local business would like in their community.
Local insurance companies, chiropractic offices, and other types of businesses appreciate having a positive association with their community. Also, businesses like sporting goods stores may like supporting a school team.
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About the Author:
is a fundraising expert and founder of Hour-A-Thon.
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