4 Inspiring fall fundraiser ideas for back-to-school

When it comes to the act of giving, and charity, people general give the most attention during the winter months and end-of-year giving. In fact, around 30% of annual giving occurs in the month of December. However, that doesn’t mean this is the only prime time to start engaging these tactics. Another key time to take advantage of? Back-to-school season! 

This time of year and fundraising go hand-in-hand. When it comes to higher ed, this means moving back to campus, reuniting with social groups and getting back to the daily grind of learning and working. 

It generates special, contagious energy. When that energy is applied to fundraising for the campus or other charitable events close to the facility’s heart or community, great things can happen. Think about it: the holiday seasons are excellent times to give because people come together to spread joy. A similar joyous feeling is generated for those returning to campus in the fall, so why not harness it for your fundraising needs?

Wiley College President’s Inaugural Scholarship Fundraiser 2018

Source: Wiley College/Facebook

Fun fall fundraiser ideas come in many forms

Fall fundraising ideas for back-to-school come in so many shapes and sizes, it’s impossible to list them all. The best part of these sort of activities is that the funds can be applied to the school’s needs or given back to the community in the form of a donation to a specified cause. Even better, these events are raising awareness and bringing people together. Below, we’ve listed only a handful of ideas to help get the creative juices flowing:

  • Casino night

  • Color runs

  • Battle of the bands

  • Movie nights

  • Car washes

  • Community yard sale

How to write a good fundraiser email

Having the right fundraising idea is just the beginning. Marketing teams need to then focus their time and energy on getting the word out to not just the student body but the entire community to see the intended results. 

While flyers and word of mouth are excellent, the best way to start garnering attention for your event is to go digital. Getting the fundraising event’s information on the school’s website is a start, as is sharing that information to the community’s website and social media pages. 

One channel you definitely won’t want to neglect is email. Why—because people are constantly checking their email. Our world is mostly digital; we can check our email at any point in the day, even multiple times per day. With that said, it's vital to craft an engaging fundraiser email in order to help spread the word. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Take your time and make a plan

As a marketer, you know just how vital this step is. Your fundraising email campaign needs to be carefully planned out to ensure its success. So, what makes up a good fundraising email?:

  • Stirs up the reader's emotions

  • Clearly identifies what the fundraiser is for and why it matters

  • Highlights the importance of the cause

Get specific and define the goals of the fundraiser

During the planning process, you’ll want to pay careful attention to your end-goals. Why are you holding this fundraiser? Why should the community get involved and give to your cause? These are all essential questions that you’ll need to address, so to help you define your goals, keep them SMART:

  • S – Specific

  • M – Measurable 

  • A – Achievable

  • R – Relevant 

  • T – Time-bound


SMART goals help you define your end goal and make sure that each goal is realistic

Source: Content Marketing Institute

Outline the message

When we get to outlining what the message of our email is, we mean more than just the basics. Sure, you want to outline your overall design and the content that goes within it. However, you want to pay careful attention to what goes into the message. 

You want your message to be warm and inviting, yet informational. More importantly, you want to include a story within the message. This story can be a personal one from someone your fundraiser has touched in the past, or simply spelling out the importance of your fundraiser. It’s this element of storytelling that sets your fundraising email apart from other marketing material.

In this campaign, To Write Love On Her Arms turned to brand advocate Alex Morgan to add some credibility to the cause.

Source: Emma

When outlining your message and story, be sure to include these key aspects:

  • Plot

  • Hook

  • Call to action

  • Transformation

Track your results

Part of creating a fundraising email worth sending requires you to go one step farther. The process doesn’t end once you’ve hit the “send” button. You need to continuously track the results of your campaign to help you decide if the message is hitting home or if it’s a complete flop. To help you decipher the successfulness of your fundraising email campaign, you’ll want to key an eye on the following KPIs:

  • Click-through rates

  • Deliverability rates

  • Unsubscribe rates

  • Open rates

  • Bounce rates

4 Fall fundraiser ideas for back-to-school season

Now that you know why fall fundraisers are essential and how to craft an email message that will garner results, it’s time to start gathering some fall fundraiser ideas for back-to-school season. We’ve compiled a shortlist of fun fall fundraiser ideas to help get you started.

1. Back to school party

What’s better than a back to school party? Nothing, that’s what.

In all seriousness, hosting a back to school party for students and community members is a great way for colleges and universities to not only kick off the new school year but to help raise necessary funds to keep the campus running. A back to school party is also a great way to help jumpstart the academic year’s efforts to raise money for various scholarship funds that will be used to help future students in achieving their dreams of achieving a degree in higher education. 

Cape Cod Community College Educational Foundation Back to School Party Fundraiser Flyer

Source: Cape Cod Community College Educational Foundation

In their message, the Cape Cod Community College Educational Foundation states that their “why” behind the yearly event is to help support the Foundation in providing various resources and opportunities for Cape Cod Community College, its faculty and its students. 

2. Barbecue Fundraiser

A barbecue fundraiser is a great way to bring together not only the returning college students and staff but also the broader community that surrounds the campus. This fall fundraising idea is great because it creates a relaxed environment for people just to mingle and have fun to help ring in the back-to-school season. 

For this example, the Barstow College Foundation listed that activities would include not only a BBQ dinner but a silent auction, music for all to enjoy and a reverse drawing for $10,000.

Barstow College Foundation Annual Barbeque Fundraiser Flyer

Source: Barstow Community College

In their message, Barstow College Foundation states that all proceeds from this fundraising event will go to the Barstow College Foundation for the benefit of BCC students and various educational programs. 

3. Doggie Dash

Okay, we may have told a little fib when we said there was no better way to ring in the brand new school year than a back to school party. In fact, a doggie dash may take the number one spot amongst the fall fundraising ideas we’ve come across.

Now, this fundraising idea can come in many forms, including fun runs, obstacle courses, and more. However, who doesn’t love taking on a good cause alongside their furry friends? I

In this example, the University of Southern Indiana decides to support another charitable cause while also using some of the proceeds for the campus. Does this make the fundraiser any less “back to school?” Nope! It’s a way to bring the students, staff, and community together to support a worthy cause.

University of Southern Indiana Annual Doggie Dash Dog Walk and Run Fundraiser Flyer

Source: University of Southern Indiana

In the provided information for this fundraiser, USI states that all proceeds from their Doggie Dash events will go to benefit both the USI Pott College Student Advisory Board, but also to the It Takes A Village No-Kill Rescue. 

4. Pumpkin Decorating Contest Fundraiser

While the back-to-school season is big in fall, that isn’t the only reason to celebrate the season. With fall comes all sorts of remarkable changes, including:

  • Weather changes

  • Fall foods

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