As a dedicated public school parent, two things have become abundantly clear to me over the years: 1) Schools are woefully underfunded and 2) Any school is as good as the commitment of the school community.
I’ll skip number one right now because seriously, don’t get me started. So until we fix that issue, there are a lot of things we can be doing as parents, grandparents, committed aunts and uncles, and even good community members and neighbors, all to help support our schools.
(I love that my favorite local Brooklyn restaurant set out a “restroom jar” so that non-customers could use it…provided they made a donation to our local public school. Now that’s a good neighbor!)
Whether your kids are in public school or not, we all want to be supportive of their educational environment. The thing is though, we don’t all have a zillion dollars in disposable income or ski houses in Gstaad that we can donate to the annual auction.
Those of you who do — bless you. I mean it. You’re amazing. But for the rest of us, there are plenty of ways we can still contribute and support our schools in meaningful ways without having to empty our bank accounts.
Of course the number one way to help our schools meet their needs is through fundraising, which is why I’m so delighted to get to share my favorite tips on behalf of Facebook. Surely you’ve seen one on your friends’ feeds by now — if not tried it yourself — and it’s just a wonderful way to get the attention of your entire social network right where they already are, and let them know how they can lend a hand to a cause that’s important to you.
What’s more, there’s an awesome fundraiser contest going on Facebook right now so you can potentially score an additional $5,000 for your school by September 20! More on that below.
Right now, check out these 13 wonderful, inspiring ways to help support your school in realistic ways. Hopefully one of them will feel like the perfect match for your own time, skills and interests.
1. Be a class parent
This is the biggie, right? We recently talked to Class Mom: A Novel author Laurie Gelman about her years of experience in this essential (if sometimes tough) job and we are so grateful to all of you committed to being that designated class parent! If you’re on board this year, be sure to check her advice on how to make being a class parent more fun.
2. Volunteer in big or small ways
Of course you run for PTA president or volunteer as tribute…er, crossing guard each morning. But you can also sign up to help in smaller ways, which is especially great for us working parents.
Enlist for lunch duty or recess time once in awhile. Chaperone one of child’s own class trips. Send in a few items off your teacher’s Amazon wish list. Or just be the one awesome parent who always remembers to bring in snacks when the class is running low.
3. Donate gently used books to the library
Most school libraries are so grateful for new or gently used books to suit every grade level. That means, not your gnawed up copy of the Brown Bear, Brown Bear board book. (For real — our school librarian tells me every year someone tries to pawn one off on her!)
Whether you’ve got a few favorite Caldecott winners that your kids have outgrown, or an entire series of Percy Jackson or Junie B. Jones books that are taking up shelf space, check with your librarian and see if they could make good use of them.
4. Pick a skill, any skill…
Got tech or design experience? Perfect! Schools can always use tech help — maybe they need help putting together a newsletter template, tweaking online forms, or even redesigning the school logo. If you’re a crafter, you can beautify the school or get creative when it comes to teacher gifts. If you’re a designer, create school t-shirts. Writers can help proofread letters. Photographers may be needed to document school plays or robotics competitions.
Professional — or amateur — organizers have skills that can be used in so many ways. Just ask yourself, what do I do well? Then volunteer that.
5. Host a creative school fundraising event
Hey, I never say no to a homemade Rice Krispy bar. But there are so many other fundraising events you can hold besides a bake sale.
For years I helped coordinate a Celebrate Reading parents night out complete with cocktails, munchies, and some really amazing local authors and writers. (Of course it does help to live in Brooklyn for that one, but surely there are some talented people where you live too!)
Other school fundraising event ideas:
-Live or silent auctions or raffles
-Family movie night
-Group tickets to minor league game, concert or local performance
-Engaging guest speakers or meet-and-greets
-Basketball shooting or football kicking contest
-Student art fair or holiday craft fair
-Car wash or pet wash
-Parents night out: A whiskey tasting, perhaps?
6. Set up an online fundraiser
Think of all the reasons you might want to raise money: The fifth grade class trip. New playground equipment. Scholarships for kids in need. Field trip funding. New technology. An upgrade to a gym, auditorium, science lab or music room. An organic garden. Curriculum enrichment programs. Sports equipment or team uniforms. Money for PTA-funded support staff to help teachers with crowded classrooms.
How about raising money for your child’s team, or to help provide uniforms to players in need?
Now, just put it into writing using the simple template from our sponsor for this post, Facebook, and you can raise money with so little effort.
It really is brilliant since the entire platform is already set up for you, and the friends, family, and fellow class parents are likely all on Facebook anyway. All it takes is a little commitment and a great cause, and you’ll be amazed at how eager people are to help out.
More about the Facebook Contest
With classrooms in full swing, so many schools are fundraising for school supplies, infrastructure, tuition, student programs and more. So Facebook is helping celebrate the importance of education with a Facebook contest that will award an additional $5,000 each to the top 10 fundraisers for education in the U.S.!
Here’s a fundraiser I started for my own kids’ school
To enter to win, visit facebook.com/fundraisers and create an education related fundraiser between now and September 20. Select the education category, and select a nonprofit marked as “education.”
Then, just spread the word about your education cause and in a few taps, friends and family can donate and share with others. On September 20th, the 10 eligible fundraisers that have raised the most money will receive an additional $5,000 toward their cause.
Visit this link for full entry details… and good luck! Whether you win or not, you’ll be doing something meaningful for your school without a whole lot of effort.
7. Be the parent who helps the class parent
If you can’t be a class parent, maybe you can take over one single responsibility for them: Collecting the holiday gift money, setting up Signup Genius for volunteers, assembling a contact chart for the class, taking over field trip chaperone management. The class parent will be grateful, promise!
8. Advocate for your school
Our school has been in need of a lot of help over the years, and so we’ve done all kinds of things to help: Writing letters to the school chancellor to advocate for a new principal; staging a parent-teacher-student protest early morning to bring attention to our unfulfilled school budget promises; signing petitions about the healthfulness of school lunch; even sending emails to local education blogs or newspaper editors about issues that require public support — all these tactics are such valuable ways to support your school and they don’t take much time at all.
9. Enter contests and apply for grants
There are so many grant programs, sweepstakes and rewards offered by corporations, retailers, educational nonprofits, even your state, city, or local government. So keep an eye out, and enter! As they say in the lottery ads: someone has to win, so why not you?
Our own district ended up winning funding for one of several school projects in the borough recently, and now our middle school kids finally have lockers on the way. Whoo!
And of course there’s that Facebook contest going on right now, if you hurry.
10. Collect Box Tops
Yep, Box Tops for Education is still going strong, and eligible schools may earn up to $20,000 each year — more if you include the eBoxTop program. If you have a large enough school body, those box tops from participating products definitely add up. We just keep a little plastic bag pinned to a bulletin board in the kitchen and drop the box top in there before the box hits our recycling container. When it’s full enough, we bring them into school.
Even better, you can volunteer to be the box top coordinator for your school; someone’s got to count all those little pieces of cardboard at the end of each year!
11. Encourage your company to offer matching funds
If you are fortunate enough to work for a company with a matching fund program, see if they’ll add your local school to an approved list of non-profits. It’s a great way to make your own donations work that much harder. Plus, tax break for your company so it’s a win-win.
12. Set up a donation program through local shops and businesses
Our local cafés, toy store, and supermarket have, at various times, offered programs that donate 10% or so from every purchase by a school parent to our school. Some of the shops have created actual rewards cards with bar codes to track the donations, while others just tell you to mention your school affiliation at time of purchase.
If you have a contact with a local retailer — or you are one yourself — see if you can help seed this idea which can do a lot of collective good.
13. Work your contacts
Hey Kristen! I know a couple of kids who you love whose school could use a little help.
Even if you can’ts support your school in some of the ways I’ve suggested here, I bet you have connections who can; reaching out to them has value too.
Think about friends who can offer up high-ticket auction items, donate prizes or food for the school carnival, create personalized artwork for an end-of year teacher gift. Just start by scanning your address book or social media contacts. We bet that will spark some ideas right there.
Thanks so much to our sponsor for this post, Facebook, for doing so much to support our kids’ education and making it so easy for us busy parents! Be sure to read up on the Facebook contest and see how you can enter to win an additional $5,000 for your education-related campaign by September 20!