Fundraising- Friend Not Foe
By Grant Olson

Budgets are being cut everywhere, yet the demand for new programs and materials and expensive playground equipment remains. How will you locate the funds? The answer might be a fundraiser, a solution not always met with universal support from parents and staff. However, you can successfully raise money while positively promoting your program – all you need is proper planning, a good product selection, and creative promotion.  



The key to successful fundraising is in the planning. When will you conduct the fundraiser? How will you involve parents? How many fundraisers should you have? Read on for the answers to these questions and more.

  • It’s a Team Effort. Create a fundraising committee comprised of both parents and teachers. In some cases, it makes sense to add fundraising on to the agenda of an existing committee rather than form a new one.
  • Fewer Can Be Better. Parents are busy and often have older children involved in school, sports, and community programs. You can prevent fundraising fatigue and increase participation by conducting fewer, well-planned fundraisers throughout the year.
  • Put It on the Calendar. Plan fundraisers in advance and put them on the calendar early so that teachers and parents can prepare for the event.  
  • Timing Is Everything. Fall is a great time for product fundraisers because nearly everyone buys holiday gifts. Event fundraisers like yard sales are better suited for spring when the weather is nice. It’s also important to schedule your fundraisers around other events in your community such as the Girl Scout cookie sales and elementary school fundraisers.
  • Look at All Your Sources. Are there grants available? Would SCRIP programs work? SCRIP programs involve the purchasing of gift certificates from retailers in your community (e.g. a grocery store chain, restaurants, etc.). The gift certificates are then sold to parents and other members of the community. When the gift certificate is redeemed, your program earns a percentage of the sale. Over time, SCRIP money can really add up and supplement your fundraising efforts.


Selecting a Product and a Vendor

When choosing products for your fundraiser, you’ll want to consider a number of factors such as value, profit percentage, and educational value.

  • Value – Is the product of high quality and priced fairly? Try to avoid products that can be purchased at local stores for better prices.
  • Profit Percentage – The greater the profit percentage, the better. Be sure that the high profit percentage does not come from overpricing the items or from shipping and handling charges. You can often raise more money with reasonably priced products sold at a lower percentage because you will sell more items.
  • Educational Value – Parents are more inclined to buy products that help educate or entertain their children.
  • Incentives, Tallying, Packing, and More – When making your final product and vendor selections, be sure that you discuss all aspects of the program, including incentives, with your fundraising representative.


Know Your Program’s Unique Needs

Each child care program is different and what works for one will not necessarily work for others. Here are some considerations to think about when selecting and conducting a fundraising program:

  • Choose a product with educational value that supports children’s learning at home (e.g., children’s books and music).   
  • Make it very clear that the fundraising proceeds will benefit your program and the children, not corporate profits. Parents can relate to field trips and playground equipment and will embrace the fundraiser with enthusiasm when they know their children will benefit.
  • Give a portion of the profit to a local charity that helps children such as a homeless shelter, a food bank, or the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  


Conducting Your Fundraiser Successfully

Fundraising for child care programs is a lot different from fundraising at the elementary school level. Elementary schools have huge sales due in large part to motivated children and the possibility of winning prizes for top sales. Adults do both the selling and purchasing of products for early childhood fundraisers, and good causes and products, not prizes, motivate them.           

Successful fundraising is fairly simple. All you need is a good cause, strong leadership, and motivated members. Maximize your fundraising results with these three tips for success:   


1. Prepare

  • Set goals for the group as a whole and individuals. Set reasonable goals that emphasize everybody’s participation. For example, as a group you want to raise $5000; each individual is responsible for raising $100.
  • Make sure your teachers support the project. Teachers and staff are a direct link to the parents, and their enthusiasm about the fundraiser will carry over to the parents.  
  • Select a few key parents and ask for their help. Just about every program has a few parents who are outgoing and well connected. If you get the right people on board, they will spread the word and produce dramatic results.  
  • Inform teachers and parents of the project at least a week in advance. Communicate the upcoming fundraiser by including information in the parent newsletter, by posting an announcement on the parent bulletin board, and by placing the fundraising dates on your program’s calendar.
  • Write a kickoff letter. The kickoff letter should explain why you are raising money and the logistics for conducting the fundraiser. Ask your fundraising representative for a sample letter you could use. If possible, print the letter on your program’s letterhead to give the fundraiser validity.


2. Hold a Kickoff Presentation

If you are serious about raising money, you need to figure out a way to get the parents’ attention at some type of fundraising kickoff. Some programs might hold a meeting around the time when most parents pick up their children. Providing refreshments and an extra 15-30 minutes of child care will increase attendance. Another idea is to combine the fundraiser kickoff with an art show or another gathering. Use your imagination! Whatever type of event you choose, you want to:   

  • Discuss how the money raised will be used;  
  • Demonstrate the product and explain the benefits;
  • Show the brochures and explain how the product is ordered;
  • Remind parents to think about future gifts they may need to purchase; and
  • Explain any incentives.


3. Promote, Promote, Promote!

  • Reinforce the importance of the project in whatever ways possible including meetings, newsletters, message boards, and emails. It is especially important to communicate directly with the parents whenever possible.
  • Share success stories of members that are doing well and explain how they are making their sales. Find out who has sold the most and challenge others to top their sales.
  • Remind participants of the deadline for turning in orders and money. Stress the importance of turning the money and order forms on time.
  • After your fundraiser is completed, make sure you thank all those that participated. If possible, recognize top sellers and volunteers that went beyond the call of duty.



Fundraising can be a successful solution to tight budgets, but it does take some advance planning and consideration of both teachers and parents. Don’t do too many fundraisers, and choose a product that meets the unique needs of your program. Stay positive and promote like crazy, and there is a good chance you’ll meet your financial goals while enhancing your program’s image.


Grant Olson is president of Music Rewards Fundraising, one of the few companies that specializes in raising money for early childhood education. He publishes a monthly fundraising e-newsletter with a distribution of over 10,000. The newsletter, along with information on raising money with fun and educational children’s music, is available at