School fundraising is a two billion dollar market in the United States. Almost every school, whether they are public, private, charter or faith based, has school fundraisers. Due to economic pressures, many schools are now resorting to extensive year-long fundraising to close budget gaps and keep schools and programs from shutting down. However, as the economy continues to lower family incomes and cut into parents’ volunteering time, schools are beginning to find that they aren’t raising as much money as they had in the past.

A survey done by the National Fundraising Association in 2007 determined that on average the most labor-intensive school-wide fundraisers are school carnivals, with an average of 59 volunteers needed. Other labor-intensive fundraisers included auctions (28), “-thons” such as walk-a-thons (22), breakfasts or dinners (17), and raffles (17). By contrast the least labor-intensive fundraisers for schools included product fundraisers (7), direct donations (7), and restaurant nights (6) . Another survey from the same source showed, unsurprisingly, that 71% of parents are “concerned and overwhelmed” about having to support more fundraisers. Right now, many parents don’t find that they get any significant benefits when they donate their time and money to help out with school fundraisers. Free t-shirts and bake-sale glory are nice, but they don’t quite cut it.

Are there any school fundraisers that are of real, long-term value to schools and parents which do not require a significant amount of time or effort? Can schools use their creativity to find fundraisers that reward both schools and parents?