woman coin ting cash at computer desk

6 Ways to Pick a Better PTO Fundraiser

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the PTO fundraising choices out there. 

There are so many good options that it may leave you a bit frozen, since no one likes to make mistakes

And choosing the wrong fundraiser has serious implications on your PTO’s bottom line.

But just like so many other things in life, the goal for your PTO’s fundraising target is not to pick the most perfect option, just the one that’ll help you reach your goal.

Now that we’ve taken down the stakes just a bit, let’s dive into six ways to pick a better PTO fundraiser!

What’s Worked Before?

First and foremost, get as much information as possible about what’s worked in the recent past. 

This can give you a good idea of what will work for your school and PTO right now, as well as going forward, at least in the short term. 

Look back over the past few years to see what drew lots of interest, participation and orders. 

It’s not necessary to always go with a new fundraising option since there are some fundraisers that work well year over year.  

Certain fundraisers, like Penny Wars or Walk-a-thons tend to go over pretty well each year, whereas product fundraisers (think candles or tote bags) maybe work for a year (or two), but then need to be waitlisted for a bit. 

After all, how many candles do people really want or need?

Avoid stale fundraisers by doing the research before committing.

What Hasn’t Worked?

Next, be aware of what fundraisers did not garner much attention or sales. 

This is even more important than knowing recent winners. 

But just because a fundraiser flopped in the past isn’t entirely a reason to rule it out of consideration for running with it now. 

There are a bunch of different reasons why fundraisers flop, like a bad product, poor timing, bad communication, and a checked out Fundraising Chair. 

Any one of these reasons may not hold true from year to year.

What’s the Competition?

Another factor to consider while sifting through fundraiser options is whether you’ve got any competition for the discretionary income you’re ultimately asking for. 

Will another group, within the school or outside, be asking families for financial support when your PTO plans to hold its fundraiser? 

For example, is the school collecting donations for soldiers? 

Are the 8th graders going on an overnight state capital trip that requires families to pay?

If your fundraiser is planned for right before, during or after any of those other asks for money, you might just find that your fundraiser isn’t going to succeed very well.

It’s similar to how smart PTOs schedule fundraisers to avoid holiday times since school families’ attention and money are directed elsewhere during those times.

Coordinating with your school on a master calendar to avoid conflicts for events and fundraisers is so important, so let that be your first place to check for potential competition.

How’s the Economy?

Another huge factor to consider when you’re choosing what fundraiser to have is the economy, especially what’s going on in your area in particular. 

If the general economy is recovering, but the rebound has yet to be felt locally, it might be a smart time to pivot your PTO’s fundraising strategy, just a bit. 

Offer fundraisers for products that are things families would buy anyway, turn to businesses, or look for grant opportunities for donations and financial support.

Once families are on better economic footing and have disposable income, you can add a fundraiser that relies on their participation for success.

On the flipside, if the general economy is in a recession, but your area is relatively recession proof, don’t use that as a reason to not run a fundraiser. 

It’s okay to ask for what your PTO needs to provide all the great events, programs and things for the school since all the money you raise gets funneled directly back into the school community.

What are Others Doing?

Getting ideas from other PTO leaders is a fantastic way to discover new fundraising concepts.

And there’s no shame in taking an idea another PTO has had success with and adapting it for your own community.

That’s actually a really smart way to vet a new idea since the risk is lower with a proven concept than with a fundraiser that is brand new.

Where to get ideas?

Take a look at what other PTOs in your school district and neighboring communities are doing to raise money. 

What could you adapt and make your own? Where could you collaborate?

Good ideas can come from everywhere, so be open to the possibilities. 

Also connect with the volunteers and leaders inside the Super Star PTO leaders Facebook Group.

Members are always sharing ideas about fundraising!

Request to join here.

How to Order and Pay?

One last consideration to make when choosing a fundraiser is how participants will place and pay for orders. 

Does the fundraiser require a paper order form to be sent in? 

First ugh, because this is more work for everyone involved- both the parents and Fundraising Chair will have more work than if orders can be placed online.

Is online payment an option?

Many parents now prefer the convenience of submitting and paying for fundraising orders online versus filling out a paper order form and sending a check into school. 

An online payment feature eliminates the risk of backpack mail going undelivered and payment envelopes going missing, so for sure look for this fundraiser feature. 

fundraising guide for PTO PTA

Recommended Resources

Ready to dive more into the work of PTO and school fundraising, but wish you could have a plan of action ready at your fingertips?

Time to learn more about the Fundraising Success Kit!

This resource is guidance plus a complete plan walking through the entire process of fundraising for your school, including a publicity plan, templates, forms and a planner kit to help you get outrageously organized in a snap!

Over to You

Don’t get stuck in decision mode, trying to pick the very best fundraiser of all time. 

Literally no one is expecting that of you or your PTO. 

Instead, use these tips to help choose a fundraiser that’ll help you meet, and possibly exceed, your PTO’s income needs for the year! 

Scroll to top