Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) make a huge difference in the student experience, especially as school budgets dwindle across the U.S. But PTA fundraising isn’t exactly a walk in the park.
PTA members often struggle to find affordable fundraising ideas that win buy-in from parents and keep students engaged. And in a post-COVID environment, there’s a growing need for ideas that work for in-person and distance learners.
Never fear! We’ve rounded up 13 fresh PTA fundraising ideas for elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. Take a look at our list of exciting virtual fundraising strategies.
13 Parent Teacher Association fundraising ideas
School supplies, field trips, and member dues, oh my! Raise money in no time with the online-ready ideas below.
1. Pay you not to bother me
Parents, family friends, and co-workers are bombarded with requests to buy cookie dough, candles, and gift wrap every school year. One North Texas school PTA decided to break the mold and give parents another choice — the “Alternative Fundraiser.”
Parents could simply donate money instead of participating in any upcoming fundraising events. Humor also helped sell this idea. For instance, the $100 level said, “I really wouldn’t have helped anyway, so here is $100 to forget my name.”
It was a breath of fresh air for busy caregivers and still allowed them to support their students. Replicate this at your school by setting up an online donation page with suggested amounts and cheeky descriptions.
2. Grow-your-own garden kit
Home gardening kits are easy to put together, and kids love them because they get to watch their plants spring to life before their eyes.
You’ll need seed packets or seedlings, soil, planters (ceramic pots, plastic pots, or Styrofoam cups will work), and markers to label each plant. Local nurseries and garden centers may be willing to donate herbs, fruits, vegetables, and houseplant cuttings for you to use.
Take pre-orders online via your fundraising page, and then assemble the kits with planted seeds and care tips. Themed packages, like The Italian Kitchen or (Almost) Unkillable Houseplants, are fun and make buying and gift-giving easy. Provide a convenient kit pick-up location or offer neighborhood delivery.
3. Online garage sale
You know the saying: “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” So, collect new and used goods from your community members and create a virtual treasure trove for your next PTA fundraising campaign. There are two ways you can tackle an online garage sale.
You can take pictures of all your items, add them to your fundraising page and social media, and handle purchases there. Or, you can host a live stream — complete with 360-degree views of each product — and sell items on a first-come, first-served basis.
4. Virtual walkathon or 5K
Walkathons and 5Ks are some of the most popular Parent Teacher Association fundraising ideas, and they’ve been updated for the digital age. These virtual races are similar to their in-person counterparts. You can still charge an entrance fee and sell race merchandise. The big difference is that runners compete on their own, track their time, and send you their results online.
A great way to encourage your community to get moving is to host a live stream of your PTA members running on the scheduled day or weekend. Then, throw a virtual after party with a yoga cooldown class, giveaways, and entertainment to encourage social connections and raise money.
5. Coding bootcamp
A whopping 90% of parents want their children to learn computer science, but only one-third of schools actively teach it.
By holding a coding bootcamp, you’ll prepare your students for the future and “hack” your fundraising efforts at the same time. Better yet, you don’t need any advanced technology or school facilities to offer a class.
CodeWizardsHQ, for instance, will host a one-hour online coding class and donate 50% of the proceeds to your PTA. They offer discounted class fees and have programs suited for students in all grade levels. All you need to do is spread the word and charge a student registration fee, and the coding program handles the rest. If your students love it, they also offer long-term course fees at a lower price.
6. Grab bags
You know those celebrity award show gift bags with $500 eye creams and $100 chocolate? Although these goodie bags won’t be quite as high-end, they’ll still bring parents and kids running.
The idea is simple: Reach out to your community members working at large companies. Their goal is to get their employer to donate a small number of products on a regular basis. This might include items like snack bars, face masks, gym class vouchers, cosmetic samples, pens, magazines, ball caps, toys, and so on.
Bundle your finds into inexpensive grab bags targeted at parents, students, or both, and sell them online. Bake sales and T-shirt fundraisers are played out but grab bags introduce much-needed mystery and variety.
7. Virtual read-a-thon
We’ve read the room, and the consensus is in: A read-a-thon is a powerful way to raise money, foster a love of literature, and enhance your students’ skills at the same time.
Have each participating student pledge to read for a certain amount of time for each donation they receive. For instance, students can read 60 minutes for $30. (Instead of pledging one hour, avid readers can pledge to read one entire book for each donation.)
Give each student their own fundraising page where donors can drop in funds and share encouraging comments, images, and GIFs. Don’t forget to provide participants with a reading log or another way to track their hours.
8. Matching gift campaign
A matching gift campaign is completely free and essentially gives you two Parent Teacher Association fundraising ideas for the price of one!
Have your community members ask their employers to match their PTA donations. Many companies already have a corporate matching program in place, so your fundraisers shouldn’t encounter significant obstacles.
Some companies will offer a 2:1, 3:1, or even 4:1 match for every dollar donated, up to a certain amount. So, a parent’s $30 donation could turn into $60, $90, or $120 in a matter of moments. It’s crowdfunding that helps you reach your PTA fundraising goal twice as fast.
9. Online contest
Virtual events should always be interactive — you don’t want your viewers web surfing or sneaking away. If you host a live streamed competition, your viewers won’t be able to peel their eyes away for a second. Sell tickets, round up your judges, and try out some of our favorite contest ideas:
- Virtual talent show: Hold your own version of America’s Got Talent or The Voice.
- Battle of the bands: Put out the call for future chart-toppers and see who really rocks the hardest.
- Fashion show: Pit style against style and trend against trend in a sartorial showdown.
Another way to add engagement to this school fundraising idea? Skip the judges and have your viewers vote on their top picks instead.
10. School auction
Going once, going twice — we’re sold on our next PTA fundraising idea! Take a page from the QVC channel and host a can’t-miss school auction entirely online. The key to this event is to have a couple of fun, energetic hosts that your viewers will love.
If you’re targeting students, ask popular teachers and coaches to lead the show. For parents and the wider school community, a local celebrity host is sure to draw a crowd and drive publicity for your event.
Leverage relationships with local businesses and larger chains to secure various worthwhile items for the big day. Then, launch your live stream on Facebook, Zoom, or YouTube and sell, sell, sell!
11. Crafts night
Teens, tweens, and young children love to get crafty — you’ve just got to come up with the right project. From there, a virtual arts and crafts night is a no-brainer. You can have families pick up supplies themselves, or prepare supply bundles for pick-up. To keep costs low, consider contacting local art supplies stores to get materials donated, and choose simple projects.
Then, live stream your mini workshop using your online fundraising software and walk participants through each step of the process. Here are some ideas students of all ages might enjoy:
- Duct tape wallet
- Egg carton flowers
- Rainbow grilled cheese sandwich
- Edible marshmallow slime
- “Ninja” throwing stars
- Galaxy print T-shirts, sweatpants, etc.
- Pom-pom key chains
- Phone case art
This Parent Teacher Association fundraising idea leaves your students with a cool craft and a great memory. Family members and friends can get in on this idea, too. All you have to do is switch it to a drink-and-draw workshop or scrapbooking night.
12. Field day
Field day is a beloved school event — a day where kids get to go wild, compete, and leave their books behind for a while. However, in a post-COVID school environment, you may be wondering if you can really reproduce field day for students learning at home. The answer is yes!
The Online Physical Education Network (OPEN) recently shared a wealth of resources to help schools host a virtual field day. Watch their videos of at-home field day activities for zany-but-practical ideas like the Tennis Shoe Tower, Wind Bowling, and Paper Plane Corn Hole.
Challenge your students to complete their three favorite activities, and give out prizes for the highest scores or fast times by event. You can raise money by suggesting a donation amount or selling field day merchandise.
13. Netflix watch party
If a field trip to the movies is off the books or too expensive, a Netflix watch party is the perfect low-cost PTA fundraiser. You can use a free tool called Netflix Party to host a series of family movie nights — or TV show marathons — throughout the year. Before the big night, simply create an event page with the movie time, description, and rating, and charge admission to watch.
There’s also a chat feature. Use it to challenge viewers with trivia questions throughout the event for a small prize. Or, include a raffle ticket with each admission and announce the winner at the end.
Another way to raise funds? Make it a dinner-and-a-movie combo! You can partner with a local restaurant and ask them to donate a percentage of food and drink sales back to your group. Your virtual attendees will be happy to order takeout before it’s time to tune in.
Need more Parent Teacher Association fundraising ideas?
Raising money online offers unique benefits for your PTA. Namely, virtual campaigns take fewer costs and volunteer resources to execute, but allow you to reach a far wider audience than traditional, in-person campaigns. With these ideas in your back pocket, it’s virtually impossible not to see fundraising success.
We’ve got additional resources to inspire your school fundraisers:
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.