We recently interviewed Bonnie Dougherty, outgoing Corresponding Secretary of Washington Elementary School, part of the Mt. Lebanon School District in a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA. Bonnie shared with us lessons learned from their most successful fundraiser: READ-A-THON. And now we are passing these lessons on to you, to help you organize a successful fundraiser for your school.

Read-A-Thon is a two week reading competition between Washington School and another local elementary school in their district, Lincoln Elementary. Read-A-Thon is only in its second year and so far has been the most successful fundraiser to date. Last year they raised over $6,000, and Lincoln Elementary School raised over $10,000!

Here is how the Read-a-Thon works:

  • At the beginning of the school year, they describe the program to the students at the kickoff assembly. They also send information about the fundraiser to the parents.
  • The kids are asked to read every day for 2 weeks, and tally the hours and minutes they read each day.
  • They are then asked to get at least 5 pledges who will donate a certain amount of money for every hour that the student reads.
  • Their daily numbers are recorded on a slip that is signed by the parent and returned to the teacher the next day.
  • The committee chair collects the information from the teachers every day, and records the information on a spreadsheet.
  • Every day, the student with the most hours per classroom receives a prize. The prizes are small tokens like pencils, stickers, etc. – they were all donated to the school.
  • Periodically throughout the 2 weeks, random prizes are awarded. The random prizes are always based on the amount of reading completed, and never on the money earned.
  • Each day the students hear an update on the competition: which school has the most hours, who were the top readers at each school, etc.
  • At the end of the 2 weeks, the winning school is announced. The top reader at Washington School last year received a Kindle Fire (which was donated to the school).

What makes this fundraiser so successful? A few things:

  • Parents are informed how much the PTA spends per child per year. In the case of Washington Elementary, it is at least $25/child/year.
  • Parents are told that if the financial goals for this fundraiser are met, there will be no additional fundraisers for the year. This is a big deal, as this fundraiser is held in September, and if it is successful, there are no more fundraisers for the rest of the school year.
  • Parents and students are asked to seek out just 5 pledges willing to donate up to $5.00 each. This clearly demonstrates that with just a little effort, the PTA can raise the money that they spend per child per year. Parents can also opt to simply pledge the entire $25 themselves.
  • The students are very excited about the competition and the chance to win prizes. They take pride in helping their school “win”.
  • The parents are enthusiastic after the summer to get their kids reading more and watching TV less.
  • No student is left out. For those who cannot read on their own, the hours and minutes are tallied for the time that they were read to.
  • All prizes are awarded based on students’ accomplishments of the reading time and not the money earned.

We hope you find these tips useful as you organize your own fundraiser.