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School Fundraiser Alternatives

Sick of shilling wrapping paper and pricey stuff to help your kids education? Parents can raise cash with these five fun ideas, instead!

Some PTOs opt for classic cookie dough. Other strategies include lots of little sales over the months. Still other schools simply ask parents to donate what they can in an envelope at the beginning of the year – and that's that. But what about something that gets the kids more involved – and spreads a little joy, instead of jeers?

You've come to the right place! We turned to the Fundraising Ideas & Products Center, an online resource directory that's been kicking out money-raising gems since 1996, and plucked a few fun do-it-yourself favorites that are primo for schools. Give one a go for a fundraiser that's sure to bring in the dough – and maybe even give everyone a rollicking good time, to boot.

1. Adult Spelling Bee

Turn the tables on teachers and parents by putting them in the Merriam Webster mastery hot seat! Set-up is easy enough: Simply turn to the spot your school typically hosts them (an auditorium or gym will do). Each class can choose three grownups to represent them – individually or for a fee. How does the cash roll in? Set an entry fee, say $50, and have the kids (and/or adults) get local businesses and other sponsors to help pay it. The entire school gets invited to the big event!

2. Rappin' Teachers

OK: Getting grownups to do goofy stuff is just too much fun (and tends to be a pretty popular with the kids), so we had to toss in one more. In this idea, one school got several teachers to volunteer to rap during a pep rally (it's sure to be a hoot during lunch hour, too). A week in advance, they put the teachers' names on jars and sold tickets to the student body for $1 a pop. On pep-rally day, the teacher with the most tickets got to lip-sync the classic "Rapper's Delight" – with the school mascot. Hippie to the hip-hop!

3. Arrest a Fan

Here's a primo pick for some spirited homecoming fun. The week before the big game, sell $5 tickets that have two lines to fill-in: the purchaser's name, and the name of the person they want to see get "arrested." That day, have a volunteer police office arrive – in uniform – to randomly arrest the kids with the most "votes." One high school set up "jail" on a track by the football field, where arrested kids had to sit for 20 minutes. Unless they paid bail, that is: $3 to find out who had them arrested, and another $2 to have that person arrested. This is one jail "break" everyone'll get a kick out of!

4. Womanless Beauty Pageant

Who's that lady? Well, it's not – in this zany fundraiser! Recruit a few brave guys to gussy up as their best version of a gal (check with the drama club to see if you can bum a few evening gowns, or hit a local thrift shop). Give 'em the works, from makeup to a talent competition. Each class could select a "contestant" and work to get sponsorship bucks – or sell tickets to the event, along with basic food items. The boys turn into "raving beauties," according to one parent, "and the crowd never stops laughing!"

5. Movie Night

A pretty basic concept, this one's a great social shindig, to boot: Securing a big room with projector or large-screen TV, plus goodies, are the main "hurdles" to clear. Pick an age-appropriate flick for the kids – or, if you make it an adult-affair, something fun with wide appeal. Charge a single price for the film and refreshments, only for the food and beverages – or just ask for donations. Depending on your crowd, an all-night movie marathon could be a cool twist. Either way, "allow plenty of time for socialization before and after the movie," organizers suggest.

Looking for a few more fundraising ideas – and how to get one of them organized and off the ground? Check out resources and strategies from PTO Today Magazine. Happy money-making!

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