Sales-wise, there are worthwhile alternatives to same-olds like candy, candles and frozen cookie dough. A few to check out:
Fair Trade Fundraising
Funky finds include wallets made from recycled billboards, banana-leaf greeting cards and reclaimed-paper bracelets created by Guatemalan, Rwandan and Ugandan communities. Schools can order goods at a discount, sell at a markup and bank the difference.
Started by a mom who was tired of schools preaching environmentalism, then selling wrapping paper made from nonrecycled paper. Eco-conscious reusables like totes and water bottles, along with fair-trade items such as coffee and jewelry, are sold here.
Naumes Fruit Gifts
Offers fruit baskets to pre-sell, with schools receiving 20 percent of the profits. The company then donates, pound for pound, the amount of fruit your organization sells to a local food bank.
Schools around the country have come up with unusual ways to generate cash. This is just a sampling from fundraising-ideas.org.
A week or so before a planned pep rally, set up a table with jars, each with a teacher's name on the front. Ask students to buy tickets for $1 apiece, which they put in the jar of whomever they choose. The teacher who ends up with the most tickets lip-syncs a rap song of his or her choosing at the rally.
School Spirit Chain
(Best for high school) Play on the natural competition between freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors and have a contest to see who has the most school spirit. During a specific week, students buy strips of paper for $1 to contribute to the paper chain for their class, which is kept hidden. Then, at an assembly, have class reps bring out the chains. Members of the class with the longest chain win bragging rights for the rest of the school year. The only cost is paper and staples or tape.
Adult Spelling Bee
What kid doesn't like to see an adult put on the spot? Hold a spelling bee in the school auditorium one night and get an administrator to agree to give the words, which can easily be downloaded from the Internet. Each class selects three parents to represent them, either individually or as a team. Determine an entrance fee per person/team and ask a local business, such as a popular restaurant, to donate a gift certificate for the winner.
Originally published in the March 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.