On average, only 3-5% of a person’s yearly income after taxes is set aside for donations each year making online fundraising for schools a critical tool for raising money. With the average individual’s income in 2022 just under $54,000, this means that a person gives between $500-$2,700 per year to organizations raising funds including charities, churches and schools. And, with the thousands of organizations asking for money each year, competition is fierce.
So how do you set your school apart from the rest and appeal to parents to give to your programs? Create online school fundraisers. The most effective way to do this is to share emotional stories tied to specific causes so parents understand where their money is going and how it is going to be used.
There are many virtual fundraising ideas for schools including a giving day, matching gifts, peer-to-peer fundraising, selling spirt wear apparel and school spirit flags just to name a few. Keep reading to learn more about these ideas and the best practices for turning these ideas into successful online school fundraisers.
1. Create a Giving Day
When you take a time-sensitive approach to fundraising, people will take notice. That's why giving days have become a popular solution to address fundraising challenges. A giving day is a 24-hour, or sometimes longer, donation period that brings communities together to raise awareness, increase engagement and raise money for a cause. Giving days take a lot of planning but are worth the effort because they can bolster a school’s annual giving when integrated into overall fundraising strategies and not used as “one-off” online fundraising for schools.
It’s best to designate one day for donor giving and put your efforts into promoting the fundraiser a few weeks prior to giving day.
Build awareness of the giving day through email blasts, posters and blurbs on social media or websites. Share the information during an assembly or community gathering. A good awareness-building campaign will offer testimonials from students, alums and supporters.
Better yet, you may be able to attract attention beyond the scope of your school. Heartfelt testimonials and a strong social media campaign can make your school appeal to anyone in the spirit to give. If you're looking for some help getting started with a your Giving Day, we built a series of fundraising letter templates and messages you could use to request gifts through mail, email or social media.
2. Use Matching Gifts
Do you know an organization that can offer a substantial donation? If so, they could be an ideal participant in a matching gift campaign. With this type of fundraising, a donor will pledge to donate a set amount as long as you can match that amount in other donations.
The donor could be a local organization or philanthropist that's willing to give $5,000, for instance. You'll need to agree to a timeframe during which you can receive donations to hit that target. If you do reach $5,000, then you'll end up with $10,000 in donations because of the pledged amount.
For one of these campaigns to work, you'll need to publicize the target amount. Donors may feel inspired to dig deeper into their pockets knowing that the net amount could be matched. Use your marketing campaign to showcase your mission statement and causes that you are raising funds for potential donors know that you're sincere.
3. Use Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
Another idea for online fundraising for schools is to have each student or class create their own fundraising page. With this approach to virtual fundraising, you'll be able to tap into the social networks of each student in the class. If you're trying out this approach for the first time, you may want to start with a fundraiser targeting homeroom classes.
On either a personal or class webpage, students should describe the purpose of the virtual fundraiser. For younger students, it's wise to have a parent or teacher proofread the content for clarity. Include pictures of the student (with parent or guardian permission) at school and insert some bold graphics to make the page pop.
Then set your students loose to encourage donations to help move things along, tell students to set fundraising goals. That way, they'll have a monetary target that will be helpful for friends and family to know about. In addition, a higher target number may persuade people to offer higher donation amounts.
4. Introduce Leaderboards
For a step up from peer-to-peer fundraising, you can add leaderboards to the process. Don't just rely on your students' or employees' initiative to reach funding goals. Instead, introduce a framework with a competitive spirit. Creating a public competition can help increase donations.
With a leaderboard, you'll be providing a public visual graphic that shows which student or homeroom is leading the pack in donations. For example, maybe your fifth-grade homerooms are all competing to raise the most money for new art supplies or a field trip. Create a website that updates the leaderboard each day and links to the individual fundraising pages. Students, teachers and parents will love checking in to see progress. And if you promote the school event on social media, you can get other community members with ties to a particular teacher or student to donate as well.
Incentivize the top fundraiser by adding a prize. Maybe coming out on top could lead to a gift certificate or some school spirit apparel. Another incentive is to give the winning homeroom a picnic in the park with ice cream treats and games
5. Go with an In-Kind Drive
As a variation on a cash-focused drive, consider accepting in-kind donations. In-kind donations can include services or products. For instance, a local office supply store may choose to donate crayons, pencils, cardboard, binders printer paper. One advantage of an in-kind donation is that it can be a service offering such a well-known hometown athlete could offer coaching or training services.
The process for soliciting these donations is similar to the process you'd use to accept cash donations. You'll need to establish an online fundraising platform. Then an interested party can describe the service or product they're pledging to offer.
Think about areas of need in your school or classroom. You can use this information to target stores, individuals or organizations that might be willing to lend their services. You'll want to use social media, email blasts and video clips to get the word out so anyone eager to participate knows what to do.
6. Hold an Online Auction
Another great online fundraiser for schools is an online auction. These virtual fundraising events are great for raising money for sports teams, clubs, educational class trips or any other cause at your school. Online fundraisers for schools can be an excellent time to tap into partnerships with local businesses and community members. You can pull together an assortment of tempting items and activities to create an exciting online auction.
Partnering with local organizations can be a winning combination. On the one hand, your school will reap the financial reward of the highest bidder. On the other hand, the local organization can gain some publicity that could enhance their business. For instance, a local restaurant owner might be willing to donate a generous tasting menu to your auction. You may have a resident willing to provide a free long weekend at their lake house. A local accountant may offer free accounting services during tax season as a prize that will pique the interest of any adult.
Running an auction will require setting up a clear website where entering bids is simple. Set up a clear timeframe, too, so bidders know when they'll find out the results — and what their bids will help support. When the bids start rolling in, you'll be able to think of them as your donations.
Finally, be sure to publicize the results, especially if you plan on hosting another fundraising auction. Anyone who didn't participate this time around might be tempted to do so next time.
7. Sell School Swag Online
When it comes to virtual fundraising ideas for schools, selling school swag through an online store is an easy winner. It's also a good way to give your district more publicity and increase enrollment if you embed your logo within the designs.
On the front end, you'll need to create stylish swag with the help of a designer. After all, you'll be able to sell more sweatshirts and hats if they look fashionable. Consider involving your students in the process by showing them preliminary designs for feedback. You can even encourage your artistic students to create designs for consideration.
To reduce costs, you may be able to partner with a local screen-printing shop or clothing distributor to get a discount on clothes — or even receive the items as a donation. This can not only reduce upfront costs but increase revenue because you didn’t have to first purchase the merchandise before selling.
Now that you have your swag, create an online store where you can post the items. Take good pictures of your merchandise. You may even ask students to model it. You’ll also need to determine if you'll cover costs such as shipping or consider having parent volunteers available at the school during designated times for donors to pick up their items.
While some fundraising campaigns have a clear start and stop time, you don't have to do that with an online store. In fact, you can incorporate swag into many online fundraising for schools initiatives. You just need to make sure it's stocked and the items are updated so you can fulfill the orders.
8. Punish the Principal
A great way to generate buzz for a school fundraising event is to involve your school's principal. And you'll garner even more interest if your principal is willing to subject themself to a little embarrassment for a good cause.
You don't need to punish your school's principal in the worst sense of the word. But a little good-natured fun, like a pie in the face or dip in the dunk tank, can bring in the donations. Set up a scenario where your principal will agree to shave his head and beard if you hit a predetermined donation target. As another option, subject your school's leader to a public sliming if you get enough donations.
Choose a funny activity that will excite your students — and make sure your principal agrees to it. Set up a donation page that's easy to link to on social media, school announcements and newsletters. Then tease the potential event. Post video clips from your principal so students' families and community members can start to donate.
For more ideas to raise funds, we created an article on the top principal challenge fundraising ideas.
9. Host a Virtual Game Night
Traditionally in-person events like game nights can translate well to an online format. If you're looking for fun and easy fundraising ideas, turn to a virtual game night to mix family fun and donations. You can have participants join individually or in teams. Know that you won't need to deal with overhead costs as long as you have access to a video conferencing platform.
For an easy option, go with a trivia night or virtual form of Pictionary. While you can let people join for free, you can make the night more special — and score more financial help — by charging a fee for reservations. This also can help you know how many people to expect and assemble teams, if necessary.
Choose a host to guide participants through the game and keep the atmosphere lively. Take breaks between rounds to offer content related to your financial needs so that participants are inclined to donate. Provide clickable links on-screen and conclude the game night with a prize for the winner.
10. Do an Email Blitz for Online Fundraising for Schools
One of the easier fundraising ideas is to use an email campaign. You won't need to invest in programming, prizes or other time-intensive processes, but you will need to be careful with how you craft your emails to appeal to a diverse audience.
Use the process of segmenting to determine your primary audiences. For instance, you could put parents of students in one category, or segment, and area business leaders in another. Take all email addresses that you have and determine where to put them. When you structure your emails, consider starting with a welcome email. That's where you should introduce the purpose of the fundraiser and provide context. But don't stop with just that one email. Send follow-up emails every week throughout your campaign.
For each email, choose a succinct subject line that gets to the point. Use short paragraphs and bullet points to make the text readable. And include links to donation pages or other relevant information. If you're looking for some writing samples for inspiration, we've produced a number of school fundraising templates to help.
11. Throw a Virtual Gala
A gala can be a good way to tap into some of your top supporters. You might think of in-person galas as white-glove events with a fancy ambiance. Even through a computer screen, you can achieve the same level of sophistication — with the right planning.
Determine your financial goals for the event and launch a classy website devoted to the gala. This will be the home base where attendees can learn about the schedule, bios for speakers and information about the gala's purpose. And, of course, a good website will make donating money as easy as clicking a few buttons or sending a text.
In your line-up, choose speakers who can attest to the strength of your school. School board members, community leaders and parents can be excellent choices for speakers. Select an engaging emcee to be your host so attendees stay logged in.
Send fancy invitations to potential top donors so they feel encouraged to attend and spread the word on social media. Before you go live, do a run-through of the program, which should last around an hour. Keep the tempo lively and ask your audience questions to hold their attention.
12. Try a Viral Challenge
A viral challenge can be another fun and effective way to pursue online fundraising for schools. Just determine the action or feat of strength first and create a video to capture it. It will be even more effective if you get your school leadership team involved in the action. For instance, you could have a favorite math teacher balance on one foot while singing song lyrics from a retro rock song.
Whatever you choose to do, just make it clear and fun. And advertise it widely so people start posting their own videos responding to the challenge online. Use hashtags to drum up interest on social media. Then link to a donation page where people can learn more about your mission and donate money.
13. Harness the Power of Social Media
You may have participated in in-person raffles before, but did you know that you can do them through social media? You'll first need to create an active social media presence on a platform or two. And you'll need to commit to posting each weekday to develop a following.
Engage with your followers by spelling out some of the needs of your students and school. Share potential plans if you reach a certain financial benchmark. And use images and questions to keep followers interested — and eager to offer their support.
Once you have a strong following, introduce a raffle contest. You can partner with a local business to offer a gift certificate or prize to the individual who donates the most money. Make it easy to donate money online and provide a link in the days or weeks before announcing the winner.
You can also use social media to promote other online school fundraisers.
14. Plan a Virtual School Dance Party
You might think of school dances as a strictly in-person event, but that doesn't have to be the case. In fact, a virtual school dance party offers more opportunities to spotlight creative dance moves from a wider range of people. When you attach a fundraiser to a virtual school dance, you marry two ideas into one fun occasion that can do a lot of good.
Try going with a dance-off as one approach. You can charge a small cover fee for participants to enter the virtual event. Enlist a panel of judges to weigh in on the quality of dancing, as well as an emcee to host the event. Tell attendees to make sure they're in a space with good lighting so everyone else can see their dance moves. Then crank up the tunes and let everyone dance.
In between songs, take a moment to communicate the underlying reason for the dance party. This will give everyone time to catch their breath — and reach for their wallets to donate. And if everyone is having a good time, they might be in a more giving spirit!
15. Create a Public Wishlist
Did you know that some school systems rely on their states for as much as half of their funding? With budgets tighter than ever, some students might not have all the necessary supplies.
Creating an online public wishlist enables anyone to help finance a school-related purchase. It helps to spell out your needs for items like books or pencils. With a compelling and personal story about your school, you'll be more likely to attract interest.
Create your wishlist online and make it public. Choose items that connect to your needs and provide links so that donors can access and purchase items easily. Publicize your wishlist on all school-related websites or social media pages. Include links in your emails. And send an email blast to tout the urgency of needs.
Finally, as with any fundraising effort, it's vital to thank donors. Set aside a part of class time to have students write thank you letters using a template as their guide. When you send these out, you'll set the stage for future donations from the same individuals.
16. Sell Student Art Online
If you want to raise funds to support a robust fine arts program at your school, you can use the talent of your students to achieve this goal. Creating an online art show and sale is one of the best fundraising ideas because it gets your students involved. It also gives them an opportunity to feel rewarded for their talent since one of the goals is to sell their art.
It doesn't matter whether you're working with elementary school students making tempera paintings or high school artists creating sculptures from trash. Work with your students to create things like paintings, drawings or ceramic pieces. Explain that the profits from sales will go to a fundraising effort.
Create an online gallery and upload high-quality images of the students' work. Post biographical details about the student or statements to endear potential buyers. Use social media, school announcements and email blasts to encourage community members to buy the art.
You can use an auction-style structure to encourage bidding, or you can set a price and stick with it. In either case, promotion is key to ensuring that your students' artwork falls into the right hands.
17. Offer Seasonal Candygrams
When Valentine's Day or Halloween rolls around, you gain an opportunity to create a thematic online fundraiser for schools. Candygrams remain a popular and fun way to brighten someone's day in the name of a good cause. Although candygrams traditionally are tangible items, you can offer a virtual versions
If you have a design-savvy student or teacher, ask them to piece together a few candygram card template options. For instance, a card with bubbly text and red hearts would be appropriate for a Valentine's Day event. Provide text boxes so people can enter personalized messages when they access the virtual cards.
Then create a site where people can go to purchase a virtual card to send anywhere for a donation. You can provide a suggested donation amount — but make it easy for people to donate more.
People will love having the chance to reconnect or share their appreciation for others. And you can pair this fundraiser with just about any holiday or big event.
18. Creating an Online School Store
One of the best virtual fundraiser ideas for schools is setting up an online school store. Depending on the fundraising platform you use for your school, you can have a whole ecommerce store set up for you, no DIY necessary. This store will run around the clock, raising revenue for key programs that might not have enough traditional funding.
Discover how easy it is to get started with one of these creative virtual school fundraisers. It takes just seven minutes to get started with launching one idea in your online fundraising for schools repertoire. Watch our short online demo.