Several years ago, I started a “Work-a-Thon” in my school. Teams of 4th through 12th graders raked leaves and washed windows, helping the local elderly and the disabled prepare their homes for winter. The students asked parents and friends to sponsor them for various amounts of money and all donations were used for school projects.
The fundraiser seemed perfect, but it turned into a tactical nightmare when the Iowa weather in October and November proved to be uncooperative. In the first year or two, we only raised between $3,000 and $4,000. In the third year, I gave in to the critics and did a “Walk-a-Thon” instead, which I hoped would be less of a nightmare and would quiet the critics. However, when we reviewed all the evaluations, people missed the “Work-a-Thon” (WAT). So the following year we planned even harder for a WAT and had a great one. That school is still using the WAT as its primary fundraiser; and now, after 20 plus years, it regularly grosses over $35,000 to $40,000!
The “Work-a-Thon’s” best value was not money earned, but the community presence gained! The people loved having our students spend time with them. They would often start calling in late August and early September to find out when we would be coming to help!
We caught the interest of local TV, radio and newspapers, leading several businesses to support the effort as well. Several companies actually began to budget for the WAT and knew exactly when and to whom to send their donations. WAT garnered the support of statewide political officers and CEO’s of corporations! Despite the early problems, I knew it would be a great fundraiser. The students learned to organize themselves; the community was helped for free; parents often helped the crews; students received scholarships; teachers worked with their students; contacts and future giving opportunities were opened. Sadly, though, I almost gave up on the idea! If you find a good fundraiser, stick with it, improve it and keep using it!