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7+ School sugar-free fundraising ideas for love and money

School fundraising can yield profits beyond mere money reports Jenna Templeton and Natalie Ritchie

A recent survey by the Australian Education Union shows that 83 percent of schools engage in fundraising, and 90 percent of those say it is important for their annual budgets.

However, with one in five Australian children overweight or obese by the time they start school, the chocolate drive is fading out. Public schools in the ACT have banned chocolate fundraising altogether under the ACT Public Sector Healthy Food and Drink Choices Policy, and many Australian schools have phased it out too.

In September 2016, the Federation of Parents and Citizens Association made a recommendation in a submission to a NSW upper house parliamentary inquiry into the childhood obesity epidemic, hoping to find practical solutions to the soaring weight of school-aged children. It said that despite schools being forced to resort to fundraising to secure vital funds to carry out school initiatives, the use of chocolate bars and other sweet items such as doughnuts should be replaced with healthy options.

So how to attract dollars instead?

Doing lots of in-school smaller fundraisers that focus on creating memories, like discos, fetes, trivia nights or selling mementos like picture plates and tea towels. These types of fundraisers involve the whole school and students’ parents, bring in a wider community, and a good financial return. A successful fundraiser is one which the majority of school staff, parents and the students support. And one where there is a perceived benefit, such as fun, prizes and family time.

Yummy as chocolate is, it doesn’t build community, creativity, a connection to nature, a love of reading, or benefit our health.

Here are some fundraising ideas that do:

1) Grow the Seed

Gardening expert, Angie Thomas, explains the non-monetary benefits of fundraising initiative, Raise A Patch, in an interview with Brooke Hunter.

“Yates Raise A Patch was primarily designed to enable schools to raise much-needed funds for equipment and resources in a healthy way. It also provides kids with an opportunity to learn about where their food comes from, encouraging more children into the garden and increasing awareness of sustainable living. With this in mind, planting a school veggie patch using some of the seed packs is a fantastic project for schools, whilst teaching students about healthy food choices along the way,” she says.

Among their fundraising suggestions are grow-a-seedling projects to sell at school fetes, school planting days where every family buys seeds to sow, a harvest market stall at school to sell the produce (which could extend to a cooking demonstration), or a floral craft day where kids make and sell their floral masterpieces.

Angie suggests:

  1. Get the kids to bring in empty food tins, drill a few holes in the base, the kids can paint & decorate them, fill with potting mix and then plant a flower seedling in each. They can then be sold for a gold coin ‘donation’.
  2. If your school has a vegie patch, grow vegies like silverbeet and herbs like basil and parsley and sell bunches of them.
  3. If any parents have some succulents and are willing to part with some (or some stems), they can be propagated easily and small plants then grown for sale.
  4. One packet of seeds can grow a lot of plants! Ask school families to bring in some small plastic pots that you can grow some fast growing plants in. These can then be sold to raise funds.
  5. For school fetes I have been lucky enough to have some plants donated by local nurseries to then sell at the fete.
  6. You could try making ‘seed balls’ with the students to then sell. You can make herb or flower seed balls. Here’s an article that Gardening Australia did called Clay Seed Balls

Good for: Community spirit/Creativity/Environment/Health

2) Do the Read

Host a used book drive. Don’t just ask the school families to contribute; call for books from the local community and open the sale to the public. Maybe throw open a kids’ read-a-thon to the public at the same time, where kids read aloud (good for their public speaking skills), share their favourite books, and discover new ones. Scholastic hosts free themed school book fairs where every book sold earns the school free library books.

Good for: Community spirit/Creativity/A Love of Books

3) On the Make

Go one better than a white elephant sale and get students to upcycle their un-used junk, furniture and electronics into something else entirely. Then hold a sale or auction of the results. This could provide a great inter-generational makers’ experience if kids work alongside helpful mums and dads or grandparents using a mix of basic home materials and any specialist tools parents may have.

Good for: Community spirit/Creativity/Environment

4) School Family Cookbook

With obesity such a big (in both senses of the word) issue, why not put a healthy twist on the popular school cookbook and ask families to share their favourite sugar-free, low-fat, hi-veg or otherwise healthy recipes? Maybe ask them to contribute memories, stories and photographs alongside the recipes, so it becomes a history project that lives forever. The old days of typing all the recipes up and stapling them are gone. Create a Cookbook offers templates, images, fonts and more for fast and easy professional-look publishing. Its how-to section includes guidance on finding a sponsor to offset printing costs, with a sponsorship contract template, and an online form for sponsors to upload their details.

Good for: Community spirit/Creativity/A Love of Books/Health

5) Map the Year

Print the students’ artworks or photographs on calendars with the school and student’s name under each one, and sell for a profit. To weave in some meaning and learning, pick a theme – pictures of local animals and plants, or ‘my favourite place in my suburb’, or ask kids to write or illustrate an inspirational poem – and select the best in a competition. Crazy Camel prints calendars with the school term, public holiday and activity stickers for $8 with a suggested retail of $14, giving you a $6 profit.

Good for: Community spirit/Creativity

6) A-thons

The oldie-but-goodie walkathon is a great way to meet-and-greet local businesses (maybe ask them to donate refreshments?) on an urban route, or to discover local history, or for busting ‘nature deficit disorder’ on a bushwalk. Why not make it into a fact-finding scavenger hunt about the local area, with a prize for those who solve all the riddles?

An alternative for early childhood centres is an obstacle-a-thon created by Australian Fundraising. They set up a fun obstacle course at your fete or event, and supply collateral with prizes to encourage sponsors.

Good for: Community spirit/Environment/Health

7) Wear the Profit

A pre-loved clothing sale (or swap) is a good excuse to clean out your wardrobe (yours or the kids’), and reduces the fast-fashion churn. It’s eBay, but in real life.

Why not sell sustainable products to the community at the same time? Make $1 from every Lemongrass or Grapefruit & Mint soap you sell from Eco Store (ecostore.com.au/pages/fundraising-AU); their downloadable ‘Soapport Kit’ comes with a tally sheet, fundraising tips, a seller’s flyer to leave behind to promote your cause, a certificate template to recognise hard work, and a letter template to help you communicate.

Good for: Community spirit/Environment


Seasoned fundraiser Veryan McAllister recommends five things to keep in mind when organising a school fundraiser:

  1. Timing is key. Know when sports grand finals are on, like International Rugby Union matches, so as not to double up.
  2. Don’t start a fundraiser as school term ends.
  3. What is the reason for the fundraising? The school community, as well as the wider community, need to know what it’s for. The more clarity and transparency, the more support.
  4. Appreciate that everyone has limited time and resources, and appreciate what they can do however small. Ask for what you need, be clear and say that if everyone can do at least one thing, it will help.
  5. Everyone likes something new and that creates interest. The more innovative, the better. Check out fundraisingdirectory.com.au for loads of ideas!

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