Remember when deciding on the theme for the school’s silent auction was your biggest worry? Ah, 2019 – I miss you.
So many things have changed and while we are all taking a much-needed break from distance learning. I know our admins are hard at work planning for what the Fall might look like. From sneeze guards and alternate days to lunch in classrooms and more distance learning (I know – I can’t either!), I’ve heard it all.
I don’t know what it will look like, but I do know there will be major changes that affect budgets. And I think that it will be more important than ever to think about how your PTO/PTA can make school fundraising during COVID a success this year.
What Will Fundraisers Look Like this Year?
Some of the most successful PTO Fundraisers are special occasions centered around bringing parents, kids and the community together for an event.
- A silent auction.
- A carnival.
- A fun run.
- A spaghetti dinner.
- A penny war.
There are so many fun events that raise money for PTO.
But how can you do large in-person events during a pandemic?! Is school fundraising even possible during COVID?
Aside from being a room mom and on the PTO board, my full time job is to bring meetings and conventions to my city and hotel. I’ve been planning, promoting and marketing large events for over twenty years — until COVID 19.
Events, including our PTO/PTA events, have stopped for the time being. They will resume, but they will most likely look very different in the next year with limited attendance and increased restrictions.
While we don’t know exactly what the event restrictions will look like, we do know the need for fundraising will be the same if not greater. Below are TWO online fundraising solutions that can help add to or replace your existing event next year:
Option #1: Run an Online Auction
If you can’t have your traditional live or silent auction event, an online auction is a great option.
How It Works
Partner with an online auction company to set up your site and custom URL (like, BidOnOurSchool.com) which helps with marketing. Utilize your volunteer base to ask for items and sponsorships as usual.
Set a timeframe to advertise and open the auction (usually 3-5 days) and end date and time (weekend/night when most parents can be available). Set a few days post auction for item pickup at school.
For an online platform, I recommend Neofill to anyone and everyone looking to set up a first time online auction. They primarily run auctions for large tv and radio stations but they love to help PTOs and charities. I’ve run over twenty online auctions through Neofill because of their professionalism, sites, pricing model and super helpful staff. This platform is perfect for school fundraising during COVID.
Benefits of an Online Auction during COVID
1. No Upfront Cost
You aren’t paying for food, event space, or entertainment so nearly all of the money you raise, will remain with the PTO. Some auction companies keep a percentage of the total amount raised while some charge an annual fee. I like the percentage option so there is no upfront cost.
2. Unlimited Attendance
You can share the web address to everyone you know — near and far. More eyes on the items = more bidding = more revenue. Win, win, win!
3. Sponsorship Revenue
If a lot of your live/silent auction revenue in the past has come from sponsorship in the past, online auctions can easily support this model. Online banners and email sponsorships can be sold in place of at-event signage.
Sponsors and item donors love online auctions because more people see their items and descriptions. You can also offer sponsors a list of email addresses of the bidders to follow up with after the auction is over and help them expand their internal marketing reach.
4. You Can Safely Bid in Your Pajamas
School fundraising during COVID does have it’s perks. 😉 Many will miss the event, but I’ve seen the bidding for a classroom art project keep going on until way past midnight. And it’s so much more comfortable to bid in PJs than heels!
- Not sure how to be a great room mom during the pandemic? Get all the resources and email templates in our Ultimate Guide to Room Parenting during COVID
- No Room Parenting Program at your school? Learn how to start a room mom program from scratch!
Option #2: Online Direct Drive
If you can’t have your traditional carnival or dinner to fundraise, a direct drive could be an option. A direct drive runs like the old American Heart Association Jump Rope for Heart or “Read-A-Thon”. Kids pledge do activities like reading, jumping or running. Friends and family sponsor them. Kids win prizes. PTO raises money.
How It Works
Partner with an online sponsorship platform. You provide general information to them and they set up the site and collect the money online. You advertise the cause, directive and prizes to the kids and parents.
We’ve partnered with PledgeStar for the past four years to run our read-a-thon site. They are easy to work with, the site is turn key and easy for families to use and they work to customize the site for your school!.
Benefits of a Direct Drive
1. Fund a Specific Need
Direct Drives are great for goal related fundraising and parents are more likely to give when they know where their money is going (ex: $5,000 for Space Camp, $30,000 for new Chromebooks, $100,000 for a new playground)
2. Minimal Upfront Costs
The only upfront cost of a direct drive is prizes. Multi level prizes work best (prize for creating the pledge site, prize for raising $25, $50, $150, etc). Kids love keychains if you haven’t noticed and key chains are budget friendly prizes!
3. Entire School Gets Involved
Class prizes (crazy hair day, PJ day, etc) are also big incentives that are free. Principal challenges are also free (and fun!) and come in really handy when you are near goal and need a push! You haven’t lived until you’ve seen your principal duct taped to the wall and silly stringed repeatedly by top fundraisers!
We are in extraordinary times and with either of these fundraisers you could also consider donating a portion of the profits to a charity the school supports.
I hope this post has helped you think about alternative ways to make school fundraising during COVID easy and fun for everyone involved.
We have been through so much change recently. And I know that talking about even more change can be uncomfortable, especially when it comes to disrupting a much loved annual event.
I know from experience how hard change is, but also how rewarding and profitable it can be. Several years ago, our preschool fundraiser switched from a silent auction event to an online event and we raised $5,000 more that year than in previous years with a live event. People missed the event but loved the playground the auction provided for.
I love helping to raise money for our school and I’ve been personally using these online methods for many years – both professionally and for school fundraisers. If there is any way I can help you or answer any questions about raising money for your PTO, please email Amy at email@example.com, and we’ll connect!
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