8 School Fundraisers That Made Us Wonder “Why Didn’t We Think of That?!”

Go beyond the bake sale.

Sponsored By St. Jude Children's Research Hospital®
Creative School Fundraising Ideas - WeAreTeachers

Every school community is filled with love, but every school community loves doing different things! School fundraisers are not one-size-fits-all endeavors.  

That’s why when our friends at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital shared some of the genius ways schools are fundraising for St. Jude, we knew we had to share. Go beyond the bake sale with these smart school-fundraising ideas.

1. Host a backyard talent show.

Eleven years ago, four elementary school students in Morton, Illinois, had the idea of hosting a small talent show to raise money for St. Jude. That idea has now grown into an annual event that involves the entire community and has raised over $150,000!

How you can do it: Host an open call for talent show tryouts, spread the word, and sell tickets!

Why it works: Never underestimate the power of parents paying for tickets to see their children perform—or the talents of your incredible student body. 

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2. Make lemonade … and give it away. 

Students in West Point, Mississippi, give away lemonade for free at a stand near an annual arts festival in exchange for donations to St. Jude. In five years they have raised over $15,000 and once accepted a $300 donation for a glass of lemonade! 

How you can do it: Publicity is the key to free-lemonade-stand success. Weeks before the event, promote your “free sale” to your community through social media and school-announcement channels. 

Why it works: By turning your event into a donation drive to accompany a free treat, your school can raise exponentially more funds than a simple lemonade stand or bake sale with set prices. 

3. Do math problems for money.

As a teacher new to Oak Grove Elementary School in Hernando, Mississippi, Sherry Anderson had the idea to get the entire school involved in the St. Jude Math-A-Thon. Registered Math-A-Thon schools collect donations from family and friends for St. Jude, and students receive encouragement for mastering standards-aligned math skills. 

How you can do it: The St. Jude Math-A-Thon is easy to implement at your school and works for grades K–8. It lasts one week, and you can implement it at any time during your school year! 

Why it works: Family members are enthusiastic about supporting their children’s math progress, and students become motivated to make a difference in other kids’ lives through math. 

4. Collect one mile of pennies. 

The students of St. Michael the Archangel School in Streator, Illinois, were inspired to collect one mile of pennies for St. Jude. That equals 84,480 pennies, or $844.80! The school community of first- through eighth-grade students pulled together their first mile of pennies in just three weeks. Read more about their story here. 

How you can do it: Task your students with bringing in pennies from home and encourage them to ask neighbors and friends to donate their pennies to the cause. 

Why it works: The ask is so small—literally just pennies people already have on hand. Thus, the risk of family-fundraiser fatigue is low, and the rate of participation is high. The process of counting pennies and coming together as a school community will be exciting for students.  

5. Transform waste into want.

Second-grade teacher Maddie Valeiras of Miami, Florida, went out to lunch with her second-grade team members at their favorite sandwich shop. When she learned that the shop’s leftover bread pieces were going in the trash, she had the bright idea to turn them into croutons. The shop owner happily donates the bread pieces, Valeiras bakes the croutons, and the second-grade students package and sell them for $5 a bag—all for St. Jude. Valeiras’ elementary school raised $788 in one school year. 

How you can do it: Is there a similar resource in your school or community that can be repurposed or transformed into a fundraising good? Is there a way to get your students involved? Ingenuity and community are the keys behind this fundraising tactic! 

Why it works: Donated product plus creativity, deliciousness, and student involvement make this fundraiser a crunchy success. 

6. Throw a carnival for younger students.

Creative School Fundraising Ideas - WeAreTeachers

Photo credit: Jeremy Nash

High school students in Loudon, Tennessee, hosted a spring carnival for local elementary school kids. The students provided all of the carnival activities for younger kids, such as face painting, a bounce house, a dunk booth, and lots of games. They also asked local first responders to host meet and greets with the younger children and sold raffle tickets for donated prizes. All proceeds from the high school carnival benefitted St. Jude. 

How you can do it: Teen students can serve almost all of the jobs at an event for younger children, and middle and high schools have the campus event space on weekends. All you need is a willing faculty coordinator and the desire to fundraise! 

Why it works: Parents of young children are in need of kid-friendly activities and are willing to pay for a fun experience and a great cause. Teens are often in need of service hours and will benefit greatly from this service-learning experience (and have a great time doing it). 

7. Ride trikes for a cause.

Creative School Fundraising Ideas - WeAreTeachers

Preschool, kindergarten, and daycare students have a blast at St. Jude Trike-A-Thons and begin their lifelong service-learning journeys in the process. They learn trike- and riding-toy-safety lessons during a week that culminates with a school Trike-A-Thon event. Trike-A-Thon events have the potential to become community crowd-pleasers. For instance, Early Learning Academy in Lexington, Nebraska, has held its Trike-A-Thon for 15 years, and this year they raised close to $10,000 for St. Jude. 

How you can do it: When you register your Trike-A-Thon with St. Jude you receive all of the fundraising and sponsorship resources necessary. You can schedule your Trike-A-Thon week at any time that works for your organization’s schedule. 

Why it works: Young students’ families are supportive of Trike-A-Thons. They love how their children learn riding safety and how to give back at a young age. And on ride day, families come together for a fun-filled day, as kids fly around the trike track! 

8. Use rivalries for good.

Creative School Fundraising Ideas - WeAreTeachers

Photo credit: WTVR.com

Two rival high schools in Chester, Virginia, used their week before the big game as a combined fundraiser for St. Jude. Both schools raised funds through games and spirit day activities that required small donations to participate. The higher the school participation, the more funds raised for St. Jude. Most importantly, the two schools came together for a good cause. 

How you can do it: Contact another school in your area with whom your school has a healthy rivalry and suggest transforming the competitiveness for good. Then, each school registers with St. Jude and receives resources for hosting successful fundraisers. 

Why it works: Students were excited by the school-wide activities and motivated to win bragging rights for their school. 

Ready to get started? Get more St. Jude school fundraising tips and resources.