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Four Fundraisers to Avoid At All Costs

Your time as a PTO volunteer is pretty precious.  

There’s only so much time in a day and you want to ensure you’re spending your time wisely.  

So it doesn’t make sense to waste time on fundraisers that won’t serve your group in the long run.  

Read on to discover four fundraisers to avoid at all costs!

When picking the right school fundraiser for your PTO, there are a ton of factors to consider!  

But one of the best things you can do to set yourself up for fundraising success is to avoid the bad fundraisers.  

You know, the ones that don’t reach the fundraising goals or those that are a huge hassle and simple not worth it, no matter how much they bring in!  

Smart fundraising chairs know exactly what types of fundraisers to avoid.  

Soon, you will too!

Low profit margin

A note before we dive into the details of what types of fundraisers PTOs should avoid…  just as not all fundraisers aren’t created equal, PTOs and schools aren’t created equal either.  

What works or doesn’t work for one PTO or school may be a huge success for another.  

But you have to look at the all of the factors involved in fundraising:

  • the fundraising products,
  • the timing of the fundraiser, and
  • how the local and national economies are doing, just to name a few…  

but one thing remains universally true!  

There are a bunch of fundraising opportunities out there, but a bunch aren’t worth your time…

The first type is any fundraiser with a low profit margin.  

There’s a ton of these types of fundraisers and they come in many forms.  

Some of the allure of these low profit margin fundraisers is that there’s the opportunity for high volume of sales.  

But the thing is, if you’re going to devote a ton of time to a project, you want to make the most money possible.  

And for me, anything below a 40% profit margin isn’t cutting it.

Even if your PTO is running a concession stand during school sporting events, you should know the profit margin of each item you’re offering.

Push the products with the higher margins so you’ll make more in the end!

More money, less effort.

That’s a no-brainer.

Junk Products

Maybe this should’ve been the number one type of fundraiser to avoid at all costs: fundraisers with crappy products.  

When I was first Fundraising Chair for my PTA, I was open to considering all types of fundraisers.  I even met with the fundraising company we had used in the Fall.

But when I looked through the company’s catalog offerings, I didn’t really see anything I wanted to buy.  

And if I was having trouble finding something, then I knew the same would be true for other parents, and fundraising efforts would fall flat.  

So I passed on re-signing with this company and went in another direction altogether (it turned out to be a great decision!).

So before choosing a fundraiser, make sure you look at the products.  

Are they something you would actually buy?  

Are you excited about the products?  

If you’re altogether unsure, ask other parents in your school or even friends and family.  

After all, they’ll be the ones you look to support the fundraiser!

Too Many Volunteers

Fundraisers that require too many volunteers are also another type of fundraiser to avoid.  

What’s too many, you ask?  

That totally depends on your group’s volunteer base.

If you have a lot of volunteers, then it’s ok to choose a fundraiser that will take a bunch of hands to pull off.  

However, if you have a small, but mighty PTO, then maybe it’s not the smartest to choose a fundraiser that requires a ton of helpers.  

With a small group, volunteers are already maxed out!  

This point really goes back to knowing your group and doing what’s best for you personally as the Fundraising Chair, but also for your PTO as a whole.

Logistical Issues

Just say no to fundraisers that create a logistical nightmare for your PTO to deal with!

One of my earliest experiences with a PTO fundraiser was during the first year I was involved in PTA.  

The Fundraising Chair had opted to do a fun-shaped pasta fundraiser.

 Turns out, families LOVED the products and we had sold a ton of football shaped pasta, ballerina pasta, etc.

Well, as it turned out, there was one catch to this particular fundraiser: all of the orders came unsorted.  

Yes, PTA volunteers had to sort each and every order before it could be picked up.  I think we had about 30 or 40 different types of pasta varieties to sort through.  

Each variety came in its own box.

The only space we had at the school to sort the orders was in the teacher’s lounge.  

So the Fundraising Chair laid out the boxes on the floor, in and among all of the other stuff that was in the teacher’s lounge: rolls of bulletin board paper, extra bookcases, a huge stash of copier paper and more.  

But it wasn’t enough space.


Not even close.

Because of the sheer enormity of all of the different pasta varieties, it left almost no free floor space.

We had to carefully step over groups of boxes as we sorted the orders in a very tight space.

At the time, it was frustrating because it was hard to move in the space to sort the orders.  

Hundreds of bags of pasta laid before us to be sorted and it was a ton of work to get it all done.  

We were literally hopping in between boxes, trying not to land the wrong way and crush the pasta bags.  

Now I can look back and laugh.  

But I’ll never forget that experience and will avoid fundraisers like this one from here on out!

Past Under Performers

It’s only natural to keep doing that’s worked in the past as a matter of habit.  

It’s easy to just keep repeating and you know what’s expected so it seems like less work.

But what happens when a fundraiser has flopped in the past?  

Should you try it again to see if you can improve on the results?  


This type of fundraiser is one that I think should be passed over in favor of a fresh approach.

Even more guidance

Here’s a video where I dive into these four fundraisers that your PTO should avoid at all costs!  

Here’s to successful fundraising!

Bad PTO Fundraisers to Avoid At All Cost | PTA Fundraising Best Practices

Recommended Reading

How to Pick the Best School Fundraiser

Quick and Easy Fundraisers for PTAs and PTOs

Questions to Ask Before Signing the Fundraiser Contract

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Resources You’ll Love

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