You often hear that children are the future—but what if they don't get the tools, programs, and resources necessary to succeed?
A study by The Century Foundation (TCF) found that K–12 schools are underfunded by $150 million in the United States alone. This significant gap cuts into a number of educational and after-school programs, including team sports, band and choir, and art classes.
Fortunately, private fundraising efforts can help make up for a lack of public funding. Family members, educators, elementary students, and high school students can rally together to help raise money for the extracurriculars they care about. Below, we offer a number of fundraising ideas for kids to help fund programs in your community.
12 fundraising ideas for kids
Whether you're hosting a fundraising event for a sports team, after-school art class, or a chess club, there are a number of fun activities that can help raise funds for your cause. Below, we offer a number of easy fundraising ideas for kids to implement within your community.
1. Host a Cupcake Wars competition 🧁
Cupcake Wars was a TV show on the Food Network that ran for 11 seasons. For a kid-friendly fundraising idea, you can recreate the series as a show-stopping fundraising event. Have kids prepare their favorite cupcake recipe, then sell the treats in a cupcake-only bake sale. For a fun dose of competition, have supporters vote on their favorite treats, offering prizes for best taste, most innovative recipe, or best decorated at your cupcake cook-off.
2. Sponsor a read-a-thon 📚
A 2019 study by the Literacy Trust found that children are reading less than ever before, with just 26% of children under age 18 spending time reading each day. To help students discover a love of reading—while raising funds for your good cause—sponsor a read-a-thon. Students will collect pledges for the minutes spent reading, with all pledges going toward your fundraising goal.
3. Throw a regular game night 🎲
Families and other members of your community are constantly looking for fun activities to do with the whole family.
Capitalize on this need by throwing a weekly game night at your school or community center. Each week can feature a different game (think Bingo, trivia, board games, an Uno tournament, Catch Phrase, or other games that work well for large groups), where supporters purchase tickets online in advance to reserve their spot.
4. Organize a kids vs. adults field day ⛹
Do you think parents, staff, and local business owners can still keep up with high school students? Probably not—but they can have fun trying! Organize a field day with a series of dual-team events, such as capture the flag, tug-of-war, or an obstacle course relay race. Each team will win points for each event, with the grand prize winner being announced that day.
5. Build a hay bale maze 🧩
Looking for a family-friendly fundraiser to kick off the fall season? Reserve a practice field, community park, or other large outdoor space and build a maze from hay bales. When Halloween season approaches, recruit students to dress up and play scary characters throughout the maze. Or, to increase the difficulty level, consider hiding various small prizes throughout the maze, transforming it into an interactive scavenger hunt.
6. Vote on the best T-shirt design 🎽
T-shirt fundraisers are one of the most tried-and-true methods to raise funds for sports teams and other after-school activities. Rather than hiring (yet another) design firm to come up with this year's T-shirt, why not let the kids take a crack at it? Students will submit their own designs for T-shirts or sweatshirts, and community members can vote on their favorite submission by donating a small fee (e.g., $1). That way, your organization earns funds two ways—first through the voting process, then by selling shirts with the winning design.
7. Compete in a 24-hour relay race 🏃
Every school in your community is trying to solve the same problem: organizing a successful fundraiser to support the programs they care about. So, why not join forces into one mega fundraising event?
Take a unique spin on the typical walk-a-thon or charity run and create a relay race that goes between rival schools in your district. The race will run 24 hours long, with teams competing from each school. The team to finish the course first (and hit every school while they're at it) gets bragging rights within your community.
8. Organize a silent auction of student-made projects 🎨
When schools are forced to cut spending, art classes are the first programs to go—from pottery to painting to drama or dance classes. This can cause a serious detriment to students' creativity. Invest in the arts at your school by creating a silent auction event, with each item made by students themselves. Students will contribute paintings, drawings, wood carvings, knitting projects, and other items made in school to be purchased by supporters.
9. Offer a guardian happy hour 🍻
Many times, parents and guardians don't get enough credit for volunteering their time, driving kids to after-school activities, and pitching in for various fundraising campaigns. To give them a much-needed night out, invite families for an adults-only happy hour. Partner with a local restaurant or pub, and sell tickets as a "cover" to enter the festivities.
10. Organize a clean-up-your-yard sale 🪴
If you're looking for a fun way to raise money during the spring months, consider organizing a clean-up campaign in your local community.
Individual families and business owners can donate funds in exchange for 1-2 hours of yard work.
Student volunteers, meanwhile, can help pick up trash, rake leaves, plant flowers, trim hedges, or do other groundskeeping duties.
11. Throw an improv night 🎭
For years, nonprofits and student organizations alike have used talent shows, karaoke nights, and other open mic events to raise funds for a cause. For a fun kids fundraiser, consider throwing an improv night at your school. Students, staff, and family members can try their hand at comedy, while earning money—and a few good laughs—for a cause.
12. Create a street painting competition 🖌
Face painting? Been there, done that. But street painting? Now that's something we could get on board with. Each year, various student groups at Drake University take part in "street painting" during Drake Relays, with event organizers voting on the best-painted square. For a creative fundraising idea, your school can replicate Drake's long-standing tradition, designating part of your parking lot to be painted over. Family members, students, and staff can donate funds to paint a single parking space. Then, supporters can donate while voting for the best-painted square ($1 = 1 vote).
Launch your next fundraising campaign on Givebutter
Hopefully, this article gave you several great fundraising ideas to implement at your school or children's organization. To ensure your kid-friendly fundraising goes off without a hitch, you need the right tools to put your plan in motion.
Givebutter is the free, all-in-one fundraising platform trusted by student clubs, sports teams, and nonprofit organizations alike. With Givebutter's 130+ features, you can easily build a fundraising page, sell tickets, and invite supporters to your event. Plus, with a built-in CRM system and marketing automation, you can keep tabs on potential supporters, send event reminders through SMS and email, and amplify your message across social media.
Ready to see how Givebutter can help you reach your fundraising goal? Launch your free account to get started.
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.