The School Fundraiser: A Sample Timeline

Are you in line to lead next year’s big school fundraiser? Central School (in Wilmette) holds its annual fundraiser in late February, but PTA jobs, like fundraiser chairs and committees, are slated the preceding May. This timeline assumes a similar calendar.

May
This is the time to start recruiting volunteers. And remember, don’t just ask your friends to help; speak enthusiastically about already committed volunteers to new recruits. Find reliable individuals to chair and organize committees for every major component of the event. Sample committees include: auction solicitations, invitations (including logo), publicity, ad book (which describes the event and carries ads from the community), raffle, decorations, auction display, auction items from classes (have each teacher donate a few hours of his or her time for an outing with a small group of students and each class contribute one unique, handmade donation), reservations and check-out, including RSVPs and end-of-party payment. Choose your theme and hold one meeting with committee chairs to start planning and lining up solicitations. Just don’t expect too much to happen during the summer.

September
Hold one meeting at your chosen venue and include a “tasting.” This allows volunteers to see the space, envision the party, sample and comment on possible party food. They will feel important and work harder. Also on the checklist: develop a logo, sell T-shirts at school, and hire a DJ and professional auctioneer.

October-November
Solicit more donations and talk up the great items already received. Report a deadline for donations the week before Thanksgiving, but accept gifts until the day the ad book goes to print.

Thanksgiving-December Break
Finalize the invitations. Expect no other work to be done during the holidays, but the invitations should be mailed immediately after the holiday break.

January
Finalize the ad book. Proofread it often. Have the PR committee send out weekly notices and RSVP reminders.

February
Decorations and display committees finish with their work. Hallway displays at school should improve each week, fueling the excitement. Assemble all donated items in one location (if you’re the chairperson, that honor requires you to be the most inconvenienced, so offer your home as headquarters). Organize items individually for easy moving, set-up, and sale. Distribute ad books five to seven days before the event, so guests can start thinking about and planning their bids.

The Big Day
Set up and decorate as early in the day as possible. Finish several hours before the party starts. The volunteers need time to rest, refresh and dress. Plan to dismantle, deliver and count the proceeds the next day.

One Month Later
Celebrate every volunteer at a “thank you” party.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in “NorthShore” magazine, March 2005.