It takes money to make money. Isn’t that what we always hear? At least that’s what’s been ingrained into our minds. And when it comes to fundraising, if you want to improve results, you need to motivate your group. 

You might think it’s time to spend some money. Schools often offer an extra incentive to the student with the most sales. Or, the teacher whose class has the highest participation wins an online store gift card.

But not every organization has extra money to invest in tangible prizes. It’s definitely easier for some schools than others. If you’re able to invest financially in your fundraiser, more power to you. Still, the majority of schools are trying to raise money, not spend it. So what can you do if your budget is tight but are looking for ideas to enhance your outcome?

Believe it or not, some schools actually raise more money without expensive incentives. How? You just need to have a little know-how and creativity. It’s going to require some work, but the extra effort will be worth it. You can get more students and their parents involved and improve your results.

Here are 3 free ways that you can increase your school’s sales without spending any extra money.

1. Get the Principal Engaged

Successful school fundraising is a team sport. And there’s nothing like adding the principal as a key player. For instance, you could convince them to announce your sale each day. Most students will pay a little more attention to someone in a position of authority. Mentioning your sale during the morning announcements is helpful. But we’re talking about asking them to do more. 

Set a powerful tone by getting the principal involved in your fundraiser. We recommend scheduling an appointment to meet with them. This way, you’ll have a little time to outline your plan. Your goal is for them to be an active participant.

Before you share your ideas, make sure they’ve bought into your fundraiser. Why are you raising money, and how will it benefit the school? Answering those questions will most likely set the tone for the next step.

Here are 3 ideas other successful schools have implemented:

  • Ask them to introduce your sale at the kickoff rally. If they believe in the purpose, they’ll be able to speak with conviction. Make sure the principal also wraps up the assembly with some powerful closing remarks. You may want to prepare an outline.
  • Get them involved in the daily announcements. But be sure to think outside the box. For instance, you may be using prize drawings. One of your incentives can be for winners to have lunch with the principal. Hearing it from the principal first-hand may add some excitement. Have them describe to the students what this involves.
  • If they’re the outgoing type, ask them to do something fun, or even a bit crazy or outrageous. Consider using this technique if the school reaches a higher preset goal. A ‘super seller’ goal can also be set for individual students. For instance, students who achieve a bigger goal get to do something unique and fun with, or to the principal. Here are some ideas:
    • Kiss a pig, frog, goat, or giant lizard.
    • Ride a tricycle everywhere they go around campus for a day.
    • Color their hair some outrageous color.
    • Spend a day camped out on the roof.
    • Dress up in a funny costume or wear their pajamas to school.

Learn how to create excitement and meet your goals.

2. Develop a Comprehensive Promotion Plan

To get the results you’re looking for, marketing to students is an ongoing process. It begins before the campaign even starts. This is where sharing your financial goals and purpose help set the stage. Create some curiosity and excitement by giving them a ‘sneak peek’ of your incentive plan. Start establishing a proper mindset by sharing what it’s going to take to qualify. 

Timing is everything. Consider asking the school administrator if you can get on the ‘back to school night’ or open house agenda. This opportunity would be a great way to introduce your fundraiser to your parents. You’ll have a ready-made and attentive audience.

You don’t have to spend money on costly prizes. During your campaign, consider offering school fundraiser privileges instead. Use periodic drawings to announce the winners for meeting specific goals. Some ideas include:

  • ‘Line Leader for the Day’
  • Get a ‘Free Dress Day’
  • ‘No Homework Pass’

Once your campaign is over, have an awards ceremony. Make it as inclusive as possible but give special acknowledgment to top performers. For best results, promote this closeout event from the beginning. 

3. Use Free Sales Motivators

So how do you inspire more students to volunteer? You may think you have to spend money to get their attention and motivate them to sell. But as it turns out, you may not need to win them over with expensive prizes. All it takes is a little creativity, time, and effort.

Here are some free motivational school fundraising ideas:

  • Incorporate a themed party into your fundraiser. Throw a DJ dance party for every student who sells at least 10 items. By the way, be sure and ask the principal to be the DJ.
  • Ask local business owners to donate items, like pizza for a party. Some may even donate actual prizes for the top seller or grand prize drawings. Businesses may be looking for a little publicity and will do this because it’s good PR. Let them know that you’ll talk about them to your parents at ‘back to school night.’ 
  • Redeemable or discount coupons can also be useful. Businesses will enjoy the increase in foot traffic.

The key to a successful fundraising campaign is finding ways to improve participation. If you don’t have to spend extra money to get your students excited, you’ll realize even higher profits.

Author: Clay Boggess

Clay Boggess has been designing fundraising programs for schools and various nonprofit organizations throughout the US since 1999. He works with administrators, teachers, as well as outside support entities such as PTA’s and PTO’s. Clay is a Senior Consultant at Big Fundraising Ideas.


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The Kid-Friendly "No Sell" Way


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