So which came first, “the Chicken or the Egg?”
In terms of school fundraising, the answer is unmistakably clear – the ‘plan to spend the money’ comes before the‘plan to raise money’. That means you have to know exactly ‘what’ you need to purchase and how much it will cost before you begin researching and organizing the actual fundraising events. So how do you do this?
Make a Plan. Put together a balanced budget that includes your fundraising plan. Decide what events the parent-teacher organization (PTO) would like to run and what purchases they’d like to make that are not typically covered under the school budget, but will benefit the students.
Purchases may include, enrichment programs, a new computer lab, educational field trips, or an engineering lab to name a few.
Once you’ve also taken into consideration some minor administrative costs (bank fees, paper, photocopies, etc.) you’ll then have an idea of how much you expect to spend throughout the school year.
Research Fundraisers. Begin researching fundraisers that will help you raise the money to pay the budgeted expenses. Similar to investing in the stock market, you’re encouraged to diversify. Include both product fundraisers and fundraisers that are organized completely in-house by parent volunteers.
Product fundraisers are those where you work with an outside vendor, sell products like gift wrap, chocolates, or recyclable water bottles, and make a percentage of the sales (typically around 50%).
In-house fundraisers are those that are organized by parent volunteers such as bake sales, pancake breakfasts, auctions, raffles, or the highly profitable PTO educational challenge or $5ForKids campaign. With these types of fundraisers, the organization holds on to a much higher percentage of sales (typically more than 90% depending on expenses).
Review Prior Years’ Budget. Remember to take a look at not just the prior year’s PTO budget, but also the budgets from the last 5 years. PTO Officers come and go and some past years committee members may have made some good (and not so good) purchases that you may or may not want to repeat. Similarly they may have already tried some very profitable (and not so profitable) fundraisers from which you could learn.
Use the Internet. Search terms like “How to Spend PTO Money” then “PTO Fundraising Ideas” or “PTO In-House Fundraisers”. In summary, do your research, make a plan, and stick to the plan throughout the school year.