When you’re a part of a public school, either as a teacher, administrator, parent, or community volunteer, you’ll likely be tasked with providing fundraising support at one point or another. While public schools in the United States receive funding to cover basic costs like teacher salaries, some fundamental classroom supplies, and maintenance, most schools rely on fundraising to provide other essentials that public funding does not cover.
This can include professional development for teachers, classroom supplies, clubs and after-school activities, special classes like gardening, robotics, or clay making, and field trip funds to ensure that all students can attend out-of-school learning events.
While school fundraising might seem straightforward, it’s essential to consider how your fundraising efforts will feel to all school community members: from those with a lot of disposable time and income to those with very little, if any, extra time or income. This article will highlight ways to ensure that your school fundraising efforts are inclusive to all school community members.
Make room on the fundraising committee.
One of the best ways to ensure that a school fundraiser is equitable and inclusive is to ensure that the school fundraising committee is representative of the larger school community. While PTO meetings are sometimes attended disproportionally by the parents with the most flexible schedules (often, the highest incomes), there are many ways to ensure access to PTO meetings. PTO meetings should be alternate between morning, afternoon, and evening times, should happen with real-time translation for every language represented at the school, should have virtual options that allow for genuine participation, and should be kicked off by a school official who is familiar with all communities represented and can welcome everyone to the meeting.
Create lots of ways for parents to volunteer or get involved.
Most parents want to be involved in their child’s school community, but barriers like transportation, finances, and comfort in a school setting prevent some from having the chance to be as involved as they’d like. One way to knock down barriers is to create a variety of ways for parents to be involved as volunteers. While showing up at school at a specific time might be required for some volunteer positions, others, like coordinating with local businesses, translating flyers and materials, putting together packets, organizing supplies, and so much more, can be done from home.
Provide real value to families.
While some families might be able to splurge on expensive cookie dough, wrapping paper they won’t use until next year, or other non-essential items, a lot of families won’t be able to participate in these sorts of fundraisers. Instead of selling things not all families can afford, consider hosting events that are fun, valuable, and affordable for families. A big-screen family movie night can be hosted in the school cafeteria with refreshments for sale, a community coupon book can be sold, or a school store, with necessary school items sold at a discount, can be hosted each week.
Create lots of ways to win prizes.
When students hear about school fundraisers, they’re often excited about the prizes. For many students, though, reaching a certain “level” of donations is not possible, which can leave them feeling disappointed and excluded. Instead of tying all prizes to amounts earned or pledged, consider creating multiple pathways to prizes that allow all kids to show their school spirit.
Many schools have found success offering prizes for all students who sign up to participate and then different prizes for students based on receiving a single donation of any amount, receiving several donations, receiving up to $5 (a price point that is more accessible for many kids and families), participating in any sort of spirit activities during the fundraiser such as wearing a school t-shirt or writing a thank you note to their teacher or any other number of activities to ensure that all kids receive some prize over the course of the fundraising event.
Choose appropriate prizes.
One of the best ways to deflate kids’ enthusiasm for participating in a fundraiser is to offer a prize that is not appropriate or that can’t be used by them. Avoid giving coupons to restaurants, theme parks, or other expensive attractions that student’s families are not likely able to afford even with a coupon or that are too far from the school for families to access easily.
School fundraisers can be a fun and meaningful way to raise the necessary money for a school and build school culture and community at the same time. With thoughtful preparation, an inclusive planning committee, and welcomed input from teachers, families, and students along the way your next school fundraiser can be as inclusive as it is fun!