Elements of a Successful Fundraiser
For most cheerleading and dance programs, fundraising is serious business. Between coaching fees, uniforms, camps and competitions, expenses rack up quickly. Thankfully, there are TONS of ways to raise money throughout the year.
Before we go into our favorite money-making strategies, we have a few tips to go over:
Less is more. When it comes to fundraising, strive for quality over quantity. Focus on a few projects that bring in big bucks, rather than dozens of little ones that barely break even. Of course, if your hard work from one fundraiser doesn’t exactly pay off, feel free to arrange another event to earn more money. Always maintain a strict budget to avoid overspending on events.
Don’t duplicate. Duplicate fundraisers often flounder, as community members tend to feel bombarded when repeatedly approached with similar requests. To avoid this, take a look at other fundraising groups in your community. It would be a shame to sell cookies or cookie dough at the same time as the Girl Scouts.
Prepare your pitch. If your fundraiser requires you to approach local businesses (to purchase ads, donate items or sponsor events), make sure you can articulate what you’re raising money for. Keep in mind that some business owners will want to know specifics. Practice your pitch, and include the reason for the expense. For example, “I’m fundraising for the Hilltown High School cheer team to attend UCA Cheerleading Camp this summer. UCA camp provides our team the important opportunity to develop our skills safely and efficiently. We hope you’ll support us in supporting the Hilltown Tigers athletic program.”
Partner with parents. Since parents often bear the brunt of cheer and dance expenses, make sure to gain their support from day one. As soon as the season starts, assemble a fundraising committee of talented and motivated parents. Collaborate with and delegate to your committee to keep the fundraising workload manageable for everyone.
Show the community you care. Before you start asking your community for money, take some time to volunteer at local philanthropic events. This will help you establish your commitment to the community and earn the trust of local business owners.
Calendars Meet with a local printing company (national chains work too) and come up with your prices. Print forms with specific advertisement prices to place throughout the calendar (business card, 3/4 page, 1/2 page, and full page sizes work well). Designate the minimum amount of ad space each team member should sell. Divvy up businesses in the community for team members to approach. After you sell your ads, have a photo shoot! Capture one photo for each month. Print your calendars, and sell them for around $10 each. They make great stocking stuffers!
Coupon Books Who doesn’t like to save money? With this fundraiser, you’ll make money too. Call local businesses and ask them to donate as many coupons as they can spare. You should ask fast food joints, restaurants, entertainment outlets (i.e. miniature golf parks, skating centers, movie theaters) and so forth. After collecting the coupons, make copies (make sure you receive approval from the businesses) laminate them, and put them together as a coupon booklet. Sell to members of the community.
Community-Wide Basketball (or other sport) Tournament This event has become very common in college Greek systems. You choose to host a full game or opt for a shoot-out type tournament. By charging a fee at the door as well as an entry fee for participants, you could rack up some serious cash. Consider including a small raffle/auction for door prizes.
Selling Concessions Contact a local sports venue and inquire about whether they allow teams to fundraise through concessions. Typically, fundraising teams are responsible for set-up, sales and clean up of the concession stand. Some venues will allow teams to work multiple events. Others only allow one per season. This is a fundraising activity that parents often do with their cheerleader or dancer.
Here are some ideas from other teams:
Cheer Cans “At the beginning of the season, we have a pasta party at one of the girls’ houses, and everyone brings a coffee can. After we eat, each of us decorate our cans with construction paper, pipe cleaners, little cheerleader print outs and glitter. Then, each girl is in charge of finding a convenience store (gas station, corner store, etc.) where they can put their can. The object of the can is to draw as much attention and change as possible. The girl who raises the most money with her can gets a prize at the end of the season. The cans that raise the most money are usually bright and original, but it’s not all in the can. The key is location, location, location. This year we’ve done it for about 3 weeks and have already raised more than $500. It’s easy and fun!” Jonathan Law High School
Fashion Show “My squad in Kenora, Ontario, Canada organized a fashion show for a fundraiser one year. Each girl had one or two outfits, and we recruited a couple of guys to help us out. We went to local clothing stores and asked them if they would be interested in letting us model some of their outfits. A couple of girls went to each store and tried on and picked out outfits. We held the fashion show in our school gym and sold tickets at the door. It was packed, we all had a lot of fun doing it, and we made a lot of money. During the fashion show, we raffled off prizes which had been donated by businesses, and we served some snacks and drinks. It went over really well. In the end, all of the work was worth it.”
Lemon Shakeups “We sold lemon shake-ups at our annual All-Sports Kickoff, the Friday night before school starts in August. We asked each parent to donate some of the ingredients (lemons, sugar, ice, and our “secret” ingredient lemonade mix). Hardees donated cups, lids, and straws. We bought a couple of giant lemon squeezers (actually called a potato press) at IKEA and Bed, Bath, and Beyond. We found plastic cups with lids at Dollar General to shake everything in. We put up an awning, made signs, borrowed 6-foot tables from the high school, kept the extra ice in the high school freezer, and made ice runs when needed. The key is getting organized. Cut each lemon into eight pieces, and keep them in a large covered container. Make up the lemonade mix in a huge decanter with a spout. Put the ice in an ice chest, and have the sugar in a large container with a quarter-cup scoop. Have a box for your money and start with at least 20 ones, 2 fives, and a ten. Have someone specific taking money because the people making the shake-ups get very sticky. Have at least 12 plastic glasses with two very-squeezed lemon quarters in each ready to add one quarter cup sugar and ice to the top. Fill with lemonade and put on the top. Hold the top firmly on and shake well for about a minute. Pour into the Hardees cup. Each Lemon Shakeup goes for $2.00. We made $482.00 in four hours. Each parent took an hour shift. We sent the dancers out into the crowd with carriers (like at baseball games) selling shakeups. It was fun, and the most successful fundraiser at our Kickoff!!”
Pep Rally/Ice Breaker “We had a new football coach this year and decided to host a “parking lot pep rally/ice breaker,” for not only the new coach but also the new freshman. We charged $3.00 to get in and had two dunking booths. All the coaches and principals sat in the booths, and we charged $3.00 for 3 balls. The kids loved it. We sold concessions and t-shirts. We also provided other games where they could play and win prizes that were included in the entry fee. We raised in $1100.00 in 3 hours and everyone had a great time.” Johnson Central High School, Paintsville, KY
Poster-a-Thon “Every year we hold a poster-a-thon. We spend the night in the high school gym painting all the “run through posters” for football season. We have three types of pledges: flat pledges, hourly pledges, and per poster pledges. We have to paint these anyway, but now we raise money to do it. We have 10 girls on our squad and raised $1200.00 this year. It is easy, fun and a great team building time.” Pierce High School - Arbuckle, CA
Join The Club! “We are doing a fundraiser called the “200 Club”. We have sent out letters asking 200 people to donate $20.00. We have been getting great response to this. We can possibly raise $4000.00 with little cost to us. We live in a small community, maybe schools in larger communities could have the 500 Club.” Pierce High School - Arbuckle, CA
What’s In The Bag?! “We held a fundraiser one where everybody had to make a picnic lunch. Lunches consisted of such items as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, ham sandwiches, spaghetti, etc. People came to bid on each basket. Not only was it fun, we also made $1,500!!! We also held another that was called mystery bag. We all brought in a brown bag and filled with stuff. Some bags only had one thing and others had 6-7 things. We raised $1,000!!!”
A Ride Around Town “We sold tickets for a limousine ride where ONE LUCKY PERSON got to ride in a limousine with three friends of their choice. The limo took the winner and three friends out to a restaurant for dinner. All expenses were paid for. We sold the tickets for one dollar each, and we were able to raise over $1200!” Spring Creek Middle School
Helping the Environment “Our squad in Oregon went around different neighborhoods and collected aluminum cans and plastic bottles. We then took the recyclables to the nearest grocery store and turned in all of the cans and bottles for money (only some states do this). Each girl was able to collect around $200.00!”
Chocolate Auction “On the night the girls show their parents what they’ve learned from cheerleading camp, we also hold a Chocolate Auction. Each cheerleader is required to make a basket (usually with a theme) that must include some sort of chocolate inside it. Then the parents bid on the baskets until the highest bid wins. The baskets usually go for $30-$80 each. We make about $700-$900 on the auction. It’s a great way to get the parents into it and a wonderful fundraiser. Lewis Central High School – Council Bluffs, Iowa
Cookbook “We made a cookbook! Cheer Stars all-stars got their parents to donate recipes and had them all bound by a local office store. We sold the books for $6 and only had to pay to have them bound and photocopied! Everyone loves personal recipes. We even put our team info in it to advertise ourselves. You can get businesses to buy an ad and in return it cuts down your cost = more money!”
Hotdog! “Our squad did a great fundraiser that raised a bunch of money. We went to Kroger and Publix and had hotdog sales in the front entrance. Each person paid about $5.00 for the hotdog and about $2.00 for a drink or cookies or chips. We stayed in the parking lot and cheered to draw attention. But we made different words to our cheers. Instead of, ‘Cheer! What are you waiting for, waiting for, get up off your feet, and shake it to the beat!’ We yelled, ‘Eat! what are you waiting for, waiting for, get up off your feet, and buy a hotdog now.’ We also made signs in the parking lot. We did this for a whole day and managed to raise $600!”
Kick-a-Thon “We have a great way to raise money, entertain the crowd, and get ready for competition every year. We are a traditional pom team so our kick line has to wow the crowds. We hold a Kick-a-Thon. We start training in the beginning of the year and slowly increase to 2 minutes of solid kicks. The day of the event, we hold our Kick-a-Thon right in the gym during half-time and kick!! The only kicks that count are at least shoulder high. We go back to the supporters that made a pledge and collect for either a straight pledge or pledge-per-kick. Not only do we raise money but we have a great height on our kicks for state competition!” West Catholic High School – Grand Rapids, MI
Official School T-Shirt “We sell the ‘official’ school shirt each year. No other organization is allowed to sell any type of school shirt, and this helps us a lot. We try to be inventive with the yearly slogans and have been able to find some of our biggest selling slogans by looking at all of the great shirts at summer camps. This squad of 12 has never made less than $500 on this sale.”
Cheer-a-Thon “One great fundraiser our school came up with is a Cheer-A-Thon. We go to our local football stadium and cheer as long as we can. We have local companies and families sponsor us for so much money an hour (approximately $20 per hour.) Last year we had girls there for 25 hours! If you stop cheering, you have to drop out. Everybody loves this and they come support us.”
Rock-a-Thon “Here’s a great idea for a fundraiser that my squad did called a Rock-a-Thon. We asked a local church if they would be willing to let us use one of their sanctuaries and a TV. Each girl brought her own rocking chair and we rocked the night away! We got pledges from businesses and friends pledge money per hour of solid rocking. We rocked all night eating pizza, popcorn, and watching good movies!”
Basket of Cheer “A really great fundraising idea that makes a lot of money is to raffle off a “basket of cheer.” Have each cheerleader buy or ask for donations of five or more items that have to do with your school’s mascot. This can be anything such as figurines, t-shirts, license plates, magnets, stuffed animals, and season tickets for the next sport’s season. Then place the items in a large decorative basket and wrap it with plastic and top it with a large bow. Hold a raffle for the basket charging three to five dollars per ticket. You are sure to make a lot of money!”
Penny Drive “Our squad got every homeroom class to bring in their loose change every morning. We would go around collecting it for about a month. Then, whichever class brought in the most money, we would give them a pizza or sundae party (they loved getting out of class for a party). Our squad raised about $1,600 with this fundraiser!”
Garage Sale “Our squad usually does a garage sale. Each girl gathers items she is willing to sell and asks neighbors and friends to donate items. Then we get together the night before to price and set up. The next day you have the garage sale. We also sold cookies and sodas. We made a little over $900, plus we got to go shopping in each other’s wardrobes!”
Pig Kiss “Our squad is doing a fundraiser where each girl has a jar that no one can see into. We placed a picture of each girl above their jar in the lunchroom. We left the jars there for two weeks, and the object was to fill the jar of the cheerleader who you would most like to see kiss a pig. So at the end of two weeks we counted up the money $500, and the lucky girl had to kiss a pig in front of the whole school at a homeroom assembly. It was a fun fundraiser, and it didn’t cost us anything! Bishop Blanchet High School – Seattle, Washington