Wayne Elsey, no calorieEarlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study in The Journal of American Medical Association revealing there was a drop in the obesity rate for children between the ages of 2 to 5. There are a variety of reasons this could have happened, but many of us remember being children or having children in any of the nation’s public, parochial or private schools and having the fundraising packet arrive at home, which made all school families become fundraisers selling chocolate, typically, to neighbors, family and friends.

The fact that some people like chocolate, buying boxes and boxes of chocolate so your child can be successful with his or her fundraising target is probably not a good idea. Most parents dread this time of year and these days, schools are becoming more aware of the desires of family for viable alternatives.

In today’s school fundraising world, administrators and PTAs are able to have families sell wrapping paper, jewelry, candles and magazines. While the efforts are all laudable because schools do need to fundraise and families need to be part of the equation, there are other ways to encourage families to have fun and truly participate in fundraising campaigns with no calories. In addition, opportunities exist for schools to create dynamic school spirit campaigns that also raise critical operational and programmatic dollars.

Involving students, administration, faculty and staff is necessary for fundraising success, and schools are doing so in innovative ways. If you do a little research, you will find that some schools are having dance marathons and allowing their students to film themselves with school personnel lip-syncing to popular songs for promotion. Other schools are doing car washes, movie nights, Zumba classes, carnivals, fitness challenges and walk/run challenges.

All of these ideas have two common threads. They are asking students and families to move beyond a fairly passive or non-energetic role in terms of selling candy, candles or wrapping papers to more active and participatory roles. In addition, these more innovative fundraising initiatives are about building and maintaining relationships, team and school spirit.

Today’s individuals and families are bombarded by multiple demands on their time and attention. The most successful school fundraising campaigns are those that recognize that families prefer not to have another obligation to contend with, but rather prefer to have an opportunity to be together with quality time and connect with people. The fundraisers that offer togetherness and fun will be the most successful for both families and schools.