Solutions to small school fundraising

There are many inherent advantages to being part of a small school community, but fundraising options isn’t usually one of them.

Fundraising can be difficult for all schools, especially in today’s economic climate where many families are already stretched to their limit. Small schools, especially those which are rural or isolated, have an additional set of unique challenges to face. But just because you are limited in size, doesn’t mean you need to be limited with your creative problem-solving.

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Limitation: small volunteer base

Low student numbers typically mean low parent and community numbers, and subsequently – fewer volunteers. Even though small schools often have impressive participation rates and are community-minded, you will still be limited by small numbers of volunteers. In smaller schools, the loss of a key individual or family through graduation or attrition can also have a disproportionate effect on the group.


The solution is finding fundraising options that can be run with tiny teams of just one or two people. Often engaging a dedicated fundraising business – selling customised or pre-made products from wine to bags to cookies – means a lot of the legwork is already done. Many companies provide marketing and accounting materials and can be run online which removes the need to find volunteers to handle sales and distribution.

For schools who wish to run their own fundraising internally – and keep every cent of profit for the school – there are still plenty of options. You will require the support of your entire school community but they can be organised with one or two people: such as ‘Stop the Music’ where you play a really annoying song (like Baby Shark) non-stop over the school PA before school and during lunchtime until the school receives a certain amount of donations or a Gold Coin day where in exchange for a gold coin, students and staff can wear crazy socks, crazy hat, free dress etc. Passive fundraisers that can be set and forgotten, such as earning loyalty credit from a local IGA or supermarket is another way of adding a few vital dollars with minimal ongoing effort.

Keeping good handover records is also vital to save future volunteers time and headaches as they can easily access files that document decisions made (what worked and what didn’t), suppliers and donors contact details, templates, check-lists, budgets and more.

© Tierney, Adobe Stock


Limitation: small customer base

The one thing all successful fundraisers need is customers. Many fundraisers are internal, meaning the source of funds is the school community itself. Asking students, families and their immediate friends to purchase, donate, sponsor or attend – while great for community building – can be limiting for small schools, and they often won’t have the numbers to justify certain fundraisers options because they’re unable to meet the sales targets that ensure profitability.


The solution is fundraising options that go beyond the school and instead target the wider community as a customer base. This means the event or product must be of broad and general appeal and not rely on sentiment.

Options include selling broadly popular or practical items like confectionary or wine, raffles with cash prizes, a carwash or sausage sizzle, a regular stall at a farmers’ market or even crowdfunding. You may want to run an annual quiz night or bingo night themed to have broad appeal across your community. There are many fundraising options that can be run online, which means they can be promoted across the country, rather than simply across town.

Thinking outside the box is the cornerstone of a successful fundraiser, and small schools can involve their entire community with a unique event – such as the Dwellingup Pumpkin Festival – or a carefully considered attempt at a Guinness World Record.

Limitation: restricted to ‘small’ fundraisers

Due to the limitations already discussed, ‘big’ fundraisers such as Fetes are often not practical for a small school.  But often the success of a fundraiser is not dependent on the size of the school or the number of volunteers but the effort and creativity of the idea. There’s also no reason small schools need to go it alone.


If there is a desire to attempt a fundraiser that requires more bodies, then consider joining forces with another group. There are likely other groups within the local area who have their own fundraising needs – such as RSL, sports clubs, other small schools, community daycare or animal welfare groups.

Not only will you have the benefit of additional volunteers and an alternative customer base, but you also gain from their experience and ideas while they gain from the space and visibility of the school. Solutions may include ‘renting’ out the school oval for a community car boot sale, a vintage car show, a farmers market, a doggie day out or even using the space for gold coin parking.

Shannon Meyerkort

Shannon Meyerkort is a freelance writer and the author of "Brilliant Minds: 30 Dyslexic Heroes Who Changed our World", now available in all good bookstores.

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