Creative ideas for fundraisers at your kid’s school

Like many grammar schools, St. Odilo School,, strives to make up the difference between tuition and the actual cost to educate students with a variety of fundraisers. Each family in the school is responsible for selling a fixed number of raffle tickets each year, with cash winners chosen monthly. Families are encouraged to sell Fannie May chocolate bars and candy each fall and spring, raising thousands of additional dollars. The parish also hosts an annual Mardi Gras Dinner Dance/Auction each year for school support. This fun evening of food, dancing and bidding continues to grow each year.

Chicago Jewish High School’s most successful fundraiser occurred during its 10-year anniversary celebration. More than 750 people gathered and helped raise more than $650,000 for the school’s tuition fund. The event, coordinated by a committee of school parents, parents of alumni and the director of institutional advancement, honored faculty and staff and recognized the “pioneer” students who were part of the first class.

Saints Peter and Paul School in Naperville,, holds several fundraisers, but if Dave Fox had to pick his favorite, it would be the annual Fun Run. “The Fun Run allows our students to get sponsors for a mile run around our school campus. They enjoy the out-of-uniform day and the ability to run with their friends in the afternoon, but they are able to raise money to not only help the community, but to help their school.” The school also holds a golf outing to raise money for tuition assistance and an annual auction that not only raises money for the school, but provides a fun night out for families.

Families at Science& Arts Academy in Des Plaines are passionate about fundraising. “One of our school’s philosophical tenets is to teach and encourage our students to give back to those less fortunate,” says Tim Costello, head of school. “Our students are very empathetic toward various causes, some close to home, others farther afield.” While they host many fundraisers throughout the school year, SAA parents and faculty support the Spring Gala, which helps raise funds to bridge the gap between operating funds and expenses for the school. Key elements of the gala include live and silent auctions. Four years ago, the school added a fund-a-project initiative to the gala repertoire, which raises tens of thousands of dollars for special “wish list” projects, such as providing technology in every classroom, theater department enhancements, a new science lab and equipment, and faculty professional development.

Oak Park’s Alcuin Montessori School’s Annual Auction& Gala takes place each spring and combines the fast-paced action of an online auction with the fun and elegance of a live auction and gala, says Alejandra Valera, director of advancement at Alcuin. This year’s live auction is April 26 while the online auction takes place at a week before the gala and features a fun e-Bay style auction where people bid for items like designer purses, hotel stays, clothing and toys.

St. Celestine School in Elmwood Park does many types of fundraisers throughout the year, but one of its most successful is the annual fashion show where students, parents, and teachers become the models. Maria Malo, director of development, says the school raffles off huge baskets of items donated by the classrooms and local businesses to raise money. “Even after 75 years, this tradition has stayed strong,” she says, crediting the volunteer Parents’ Club in making sure it stays exciting year after year. The next fashion show is in the fall.

Keshet’s most successful fundraiser is its annual Rainbow Banquet, which has grown over the last 25 years from 500 guests to more than 1,400. The 2013 event, which featured The Temptations, raised more than $250,000 to benefit Keshet’s educational scholarships, vocational training and recreational programs for individuals with developmental disabilities.

“When an event is about supporting children with disabilities, those who come out to support it are warm and special people encompassing a wide spectrum of those who have been personally touched by a child with disabilities to those who are grateful that Keshet exists in case they ever need us,” says Keshet’s Deb Weiner.

“From a purely fundraising point of view, I think part of the success can be attributed to the way we engage our donors throughout the year. Communication is key and at Keshet we talk to them as much as possible – not just when it’s time to ask for support,” Weiner says.

Students play a big role in fundraising at Grace Lutheran School in River Forest, This year students from preschool through eighth grade raised $13,000 for the school at the first annual Walk with Grace Walkathon. They also collected 10 wagonloads of food for the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry from households along the route. A picnic lunch and class games in Priory Park capped off a morning of fun.

Part of Making the Grade, a special advertising education guide.

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