As a parent of three children in public schools, I know the importance of raising funds for classroom materials and enrichment programs. Yet too often fundraisers like bake sales and McTeacher Nights promote unhealthy eating or turn students into competitive sales reps for big brands.
The good news is you don’t have to compromise. There are ways to fund education with education, creating a win-win situation for students by choosing fundraisers that promote healthy living, art, reading and writing. We’ve all heard of the book fair, a great way to promote children literacy while raising money from book sales and read-a-thons, but let’s explore some lesser known fundraisers that promote health education, enrichment and writing.
Educational Fundraiser #1 – Fun Exercise Stations
Add a big twist to the usual Walk-A-Thon by having students complete five health stations in one day. For example, have a hip-hop dance station, a Kung-Fu station, a yoga station, juggling station or GoNoodle station. Find local teachers interested in donating their time to get their name out and find new students. Not only will this raise money for your school through pledges, kids may be introduced to a new sport they had not considered before and become more active.
Educational Fundraiser #2 – Personalized Art
Use creations made by students during art lessons to create personalized products for parents to purchase: greeting cards, mugs, plates, tote bags, ornaments… the sky’s the limit! This is a great fundraiser before the holidays, when families are looking for special gifts for grandparents and loved ones. Kids work harder on their art when they know it may be printed on Mom’s favorite coffee mug. They’ll also feel real pride in their accomplishment when seeing the final product.
Education Fundraiser #3 – Student Publishing
The Classroom Book was our answer to an educational fundraiser that empowers each child in the classroom. Students create a book in class based on what they are studying, be it poetry, short stories, non-fiction or any lesson plan that lends itself to project-based, creative work. Each child participates with a written page and a page of artwork. The final product is a hardcover book that turns every student in the classroom into a published author and illustrator. Book purchases support the school while encouraging the child, as they champion their writing and efforts. The books make a wonderful keepsake, showcasing work done in school, and motivating parents to stay involved in other fundraising efforts.
This highlights another benefit of educational fundraisers – parent involvement. Parents of school-age children, especially those who have more than one child, often suffer from fundraiser burnout, dreading the next cookie sale or silent auction. Educational fundraisers bring into light the direct link between money raised for the school and the benefit to their children, so they continue to stay involved and care.
Creating personalized products from student work increases arts-integrated project-based learning in the classroom. This brings added educational value, not just as a teaching tool, but because kids learn differently when they work towards creating something tangible. Their level of commitment and engagement changes. Like Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
Still not sure what the best fundraiser is for your school? This winter, as you look for fresh fundraising ideas, try testing each possibility with these three questions:
- Does it create value for the student and parent?
- Does it go against parent’s values or youth education in general?
- Can I double the impact of my fundraiser by making it educational in nature?
After all, school fundraising is there to benefit our children’s education.
If you’re wondering if educational fundraisers are really the way to go, consider this surprising statistic: schools raise $1.5 billion every year for education, yet two thirds of the nation’s 4th graders cannot read at grade level.
It’s not just about how much. It’s also about how.
Alexandra Swenson is a published writer and “parentpreneur”. She started Picture It! Kids with her husband, a veteran middle-school teacher, to inspire children to read and write. Picture It! Kids turns classroom creations into hardcover books for school fundraisers, empowering students K-12 as published authors and illustrators.