A fundraising guide for youth activity centers.

Fundraising Ideas to Supplement Your Competition Budget

Every small business has its financial challenges. It’s easy to feel like you’re always behind the eight ball to keep up with extra costs that you incur. 

Fortunately, youth activity centers aren’t just businesses – they also have emotional connections within their communities. These emotional connections provide opportunities for youth activity fundraising that may not be available to other businesses.

As with everything in life, fundraising ideas that take more effort can bring a higher reward. Even so, there are still plenty of simple fundraising ideas that can generate a quick infusion of cash to cover ever-rising expenses for costume/apparel, travel and entry fees for team competitions.

Luckily, many creative people have shared their fundraising success over the years, so we all have more proven ideas to consider.

8 fundraising ideas for youth activity centers that actually work 

Here are a few suggestions for your organization’s fundraising. The first one is probably the most prevalent and the second one the most fun. All, however, are great ways to generate extra income.

Sell branded merchandise at your facility

You could say that now is the ‘golden age’ for small businesses to sell customized merchandise as an ancillary revenue stream. You can choose to do this the easy way (more expensive) or the hard way (cheaper).

There are tons of cloud-based tools (like Merchify and Spreadshop) that make it easy for you to create designs for t-shirts, buttons, bumper stickers, bags, hats, calendars, phone cases – pretty much anything- and get them produced.  And there are plenty of embroidery and screen-printing resources out there to get things done for you.

Samples are great to display to draw people in and show them what they can purchase but show the samples and allow them to purchase on your website. Include links to purchases in all your communications and social media platforms. It’s great to give a piece of merchandise to each new student and turn them into little billboards for your organization. This is great to ramp up when you need a little cash flow boost.

Your artfully-skilled students may be able to help you when you need to ‘freshen’ your design. Have a contest and make the winning design a limited edition! (Remember the legalities of this and get a waiver for the copyright from the winner.)

With a little research, you’ll find that setting up and selling branded merchandise online is much easier and far less expensive than you think. Merchandising is also a dual-benefit activity because of the marketing benefits it provides.  

Start a themed marathon

Many activities can be turned into a marathon. Probably the one most familiar to us for fundraising is a dance marathon. But this idea has plenty of room for creativity. There are rock-a-thons, jump rope marathons, hula hoop marathons, trampoline marathons and so on.

For youth activity centers, it would be fun to match the marathon to the center. Of course, the dance marathon would fit dance studios best. A lap-a-thon could be used by swim school with students swimming laps to raise money. The trampoline marathon could be used by the gymnastics gym and a drum-a-thon for a music school.  

The most important thing is to connect your marathon to your facility and to your community.

Marathons amplify the reach of your center fundraising by allowing people who aren’t there to contribute. While it takes some extra effort, there’s significant payoff to be had. Encourage attendance, and motivate attendees to keep on doing the featured activity with prizes. Awards for those who last the longest can be given in addition to prizes for those who raise the most money through their sponsors.

Other potential prizes:

  • the single highest per-hour sponsor
  • the highest overall per-hour payout
  • the highest number of sponsors

The more ways students can win prizes for increasing the number and value of their sponsors, the better the haul for everyone!

During the marathon, announce winners each hour to keep people going. Solicit gifts from local businesses that might appreciate the low-cost opportunity to market themselves. You might even look for a local sponsor or two to underwrite the costs of the marathon.

Always make your marathon fun – like this dance marathon!

Create a virtual reality treasure hunt

Remember how much your students loved the Pokemon Go virtual reality game? It’s easier than you think to create something similar: your own virtual reality treasure hunt. 

Using a tool like Action Bound, you can create one for your organization. What makes sense is to set up a one-day, special event, treasure hunt where teams can pay an entry fee to play and compete. 

Award prizes for winners. Students can invite friends to participate and parents can tag along to make sure everyone stays safe.

Offer a moms’ spa day

Moms need love and pampering too! Consider providing a little pampering by hosting a spa day to show appreciation – and raise money. Enlist your students to paint fingernails, serve lemonade, rub shoulders or keep the music flowing. 

Settle on prices to charge moms (i.e., $10 to $25 for a half-hour of relaxation) and invite them to bring their friends and coworkers to join them in the fun.

If you want to make it extra special, contact a local massage therapist that might be interested in donating their time. The free publicity and volunteer hours may attract them and their participation will allow you to ask for larger donations.

Produce a themed silent auction

Silent auctions are popular for fundraising because they work. But they may work even better if you get creative with them. Give your auction a theme that your students will like. 

Try Disney’s Frozen, auctioning off movie packages and ice cream gift cards. Or enlist the help of local businesses and try an all dining-out silent auction, selling gift cards to local eateries.

Host parents’ or family night out

Hosting a night out event for parents or the family can be as intense or as easy as you like. While you can charge more for some, the higher cost always means more work for everyone.

For parents, consider hosting a drop-off event that lasts three or four hours in the evening–just enough time for them to catch dinner and a movie. Provide pizza and drinks for the kids, and charge anywhere from $40 to $100 depending on your location and family demographics.

For families, local businesses may be willing to share the proceeds of one night for a good cause. Check with fast food and sit-down restaurants alike to see who might be open to such an arrangement.

If they don’t want to part with their proceeds, they’ll likely let you set up a table to collect donations. With these fundraisers, promotion is everything. So, be sure to hang signs and let everyone know your dancers will be collecting donations for a few weeks in advance.

And don’t forget RSVPs! This is made easy using Jackrabbit’s Events module.

Create car magnets or stickers

Car magnets are easy and require little in the way of upfront costs. You can sell them at your front desk, to families.

To add a bit of social to this fundraiser, incorporate a social media photo contest, inviting families to post and tag their car photos on sites like Facebook for a chance to win a prize. You can also add an element of surprise by designating an office manager as a secret shopper. He or she could hunt for and give prizes to drivers of magnet-speckled cars throughout the area.

Have a multi-family yard sale

Everyone has junk they no longer need. Planning a multi-family yard sale will help families get rid of it instead of allowing it to sit around for years! Your parking lot is the perfect place for hosting this event.

Each family is responsible for pricing and selling their own stuff, but they agree to turn over a percentage of their earnings to your organization at the end of the day. 

Market your event with signs (emails and social media posts) to let customers know the proceeds go to your organization and put out a donation jar too. Fundraising is about the money, sure. But when your fundraising efforts can bring families together, your fundraising strategy is also about creating an active community around your organization.

Other fundraising events and activities

The truth is, there are countless ways to find cash to help with your competition finances. So forget the played-out fundraisers that parents only begrudgingly do because you can find creative solutions that pay off in more ways than one. 

It’s just a matter of finding the right mix of techniques that work for your organization and your community.  The only way you’ll learn which fundraising ideas work for you is to test your ideas and gauge the results.

Here is a list of seven more fundraiser ideas. 

You can sell:

  1. Food items: Candy, Cinnamon rolls, Cookie dough
  2. Flower bulbs
  3. Magazines
  4. Raffle tickets
  5. Scratch, discount, entertainment and spinner cards
  6. Snacks: Gourmet popcorn/Pretzels
  7. Travel mugs

These can be seasonable – or not; themed – or not.

How to perfect your fundraising efforts

Fundraising may be a new skill that you are comfortable with – or not. Once you start trying your ideas and see what’s working, it will become easier, and even fun. 

Many owners look for passionate parents or other volunteers with whom they can partner to help make their activities easier and more effective. 

Whatever route you choose — patience, perseverance and a willingness to try new things will be your best friends.

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