10 fundraising tips for your journalism program

We usually book two or three gourmet food trucks for Back to School or Open House nights.

We usually book two or three gourmet food trucks for Back to School or Open House nights.

Selling advertising is probably the best way to fund your journalism program. But my newspaper and yearbook students seem to have trouble selling ads to local businesses. So to help offset publishing costs and to raise money to attend the national high school journalism conventions, I’ve turned to fundraising. Here are some tips that have worked for our program and might work for yours, too.

10. School Rules: Check with your school about fundraising rules. In some schools, you have to split the proceeds of your fundraising 50-50 with the student body. To circumvent splitting proceeds, you might consider setting up a Booster Club or going through PTSA to sponsor fundraisers.

9. Avoid Paying in Advance: Avoid fundraisers where you give a large amount of money upfront (so no In-In-Out trailer coming to school or Laser Tag). Frozen yogurt is OK because the amount you pay up front is usually minimal and the items sells out.

8. Students Take Charge: Have each student in charge of organizing a fundraiser. That means setting it up, promoting it (on campus and via social media) and being there the day of the event.

Behind the counter at McDonald's on McTeacher's Night fundraiser.

Behind the counter at McDonald’s on McTeacher Night fundraiser.

7. Restaurant Nights: Most restaurants (McDonald’s, Panda Ex- press, Chipotle, Shakey’s Pizza, etc.) will give you a portion of the proceeds of a particular night. I prefer McDonald’s McTeacher’s Night because no flier is needed and you get a portion of all proceeds that evening. Some McDonald’s ask that school staff volunteer behind the counter to increase sales.

6.  Popcornopolis: Students take orders for this gourmet popcorn and the money. The items are delivered to you. You earn half of the proceeds of each item sold.

5. Food Truck Nights: Contact food trucks to come out to your campus when you have evening events. You can either have them give you a flat fee ($45 or $50) or you get a portion of the proceeds for the evening.

Students collect tips from customers during a recent fundraiser at McDonald's.

Students collect tips from customers during a recent fundraiser at McDonald’s.

4. Tip Jar: At several of our fundraisers, we also have a tip box and the students ask people for monetary donations. We use it at Food Truck Night, McDonald’s McTeacher’s Night and Shakey’s Pizza Night.

3. Roller Skating, Bowling, Ice Skating: Have some fun and get some exercise while raising money. These fundraisers usually give you cash at the end of the evening.

2. World’s Finest Chocolates: This is one of the best money makers. You get half of all sales. People are familiar with this product, so the chocolates pretty much sell themselves.

1. Online Donations: Donors Choose, You Caring, Go Fund Me. Anyone, including strangers, can donate to your cause. You promote it via social media and students can email to relatives, friends, etc.

I presented these tips during an AdviserFest at Cal State Northridge in October 2014. Advisers there also shared their own fundraisers, which include selling baked goods outside a local Starucks, selling  subscriptions to the student newspaper and selling discount cards to restaurants like Applebee’s.

Good luck on your fundraising efforts. And if you have some fundraisers that worked for you, please share them in a comment.

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