Choosing the Right Fundraising Mix: A Guide for PTO Leadership

Masthead Waves

As PTO leaders, one of our most important tasks is deciding on the right mix of events and fundraisers to support our school’s initiatives. The key to successful fundraising is variety and consideration of your school’s unique needs and capacity. It’s also important to engage your community in diverse ways that reach families across your school while maximizing participation and profitability. Finally, consider the number of fundraisers and which types your school community can manage without creating negative vibes—“fundraising burnout” is real! 

This post will explore different types of fundraisers, including sales, events, and activities driven by student participation (like Beanstack’s reading fundraisers!), and highlight why those with high student involvement not directly tied to dollars raised should be a particularly critical part of your fundraising mix.

Types of Fundraisers

Sales-Based Fundraisers

Sales-based fundraisers are a classic choice for many PTOs. These include selling products like popcorn, chocolates, and T-shirts. These fundraisers are relatively straightforward to organize (though they can be volunteer-heavy) and can generate significant revenue. However, they often rely heavily on the enthusiasm and sales skills of a small group of parents and students. Examples include:

  • Product Sales: Items like candles, greeting cards, and wrapping paper.
  • Food Sales: Popcorn, bake sales, or pizza kits.
  • Branded Merchandise: School spirit wear like T-shirts, hoodies, and caps.

Ticketed Fundraisers (Events)

Event-based fundraisers create opportunities for community gathering and engagement while raising funds. These events can be fun and help foster a strong sense of community. However, they often require substantial planning and volunteer effort. Examples include:

  • Movie Nights: Charging an admission fee for a family-friendly movie screening.
  • Carnivals/Fairs: Offering games, food, and entertainment with tickets sold for various attractions.
  • Bingo Night: A family-friendly ticketed game night with the opportunity for raffles and prizes.

Student Engagement Fundraisers

Activities that involve broad student participation in a particular activity are excellent for promoting equity, increasing excitement across the whole community, and ensuring all students and families can participate and support their school. These fundraisers ensure that every student can contribute regardless of their ability to sell products or the availability of their parents to volunteer at events. Examples include:

  • Reading Fundraisers: Students log their reading minutes and seek sponsors from their families and community to celebrate their reading achievements.
  • Walk-a-Thons/Run-a-Thons: Students collect pledges for the distance they walk or run.
  • Talent Shows: Showcase student talents while raising funds through ticket sales and concessions. All students can participate and support their school.

Beanstack Reading Fundraisers are the most equitable way to raise funds for your school and encourage participation from students across your entire school community.


Key Reasons to Integrate Student Engagement Fundraisers

High student participation fundraisers are particularly valuable because they engage all students, creating a sense of inclusion and shared purpose. Here’s why they are equitable:

  • Inclusivity: These fundraisers allow all students to participate regardless of their sales abilities or family resources. Every student can contribute to the school’s goals.
  • Academics and Skill Development: Activities like reading and math fundraisers raise funds and promote valuable academic skills. Students feel a sense of accomplishment as they see their efforts benefiting their school, and parents and school administration can feel good about a fundraiser directly tied to school values.
  • Community Building: Broad participation fosters a strong sense of community and school spirit. When every student is involved, the entire school community feels united in pursuit of a common goal.

Planning Your Fundraising Mix

When planning your fundraising mix, consider the following:

  1. Variety: Aim to include a mix of sales, events, and high-participation activities to appeal to different segments of your school community.
  2. Resources: Assess your PTO's resources and volunteer capacity. Some events may require more planning and manpower than others. By creating a mix of high-impact, low-impact, and volunteer-effort fundraisers, you can ensure there is enough capacity to meet your goals.
  3. Goals: Align your fundraising activities with your school’s values and goals. High-participation activities can have an incredibly impactful effect on creating a strong, inclusive community.
  4. Financial Needs: Look for a mix of events that support your school’s overarching fundraising goals. Consider a few high-impact fundraisers with smaller, community-focused fundraisers mixed in. 

By thoughtfully selecting a diverse mix of fundraisers, you can ensure that your PTO’s efforts are effective, inclusive, and aligned with your school’s needs. The best fundraising mix always includes some activities that engage every student and foster a sense of community in addition to raising funds. By including a good mix, your PTO will raise funds and build a stronger, more united school environment.


Contact your client success manager if your school is already a Beanstack user. Not yet a Beanstack client? Contact our team to learn how we can help streamline your next reading fundraiser.

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