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December 16, 2018

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Survey Confirms Product Sales Out
Perform Other School Fundraisers

by the AFRDS

From carnivals and car washes to auctions and catalog sales, there seems to be no limit to the different ways schools attempt to raise money. But, according to a survey of school parent groups, sales of popular consumer items (e.g., gift wrap, cookie dough, books, magazines, gift items, candy, etc.) consistently yield the best results compared to other types of fundraising drives. Conducted by the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers (AFRDS) in cooperation with PTOtoday and Time Direct Ventures, the survey shows 8 out of 10 parent-teacher organizations at public elementary schools conducted a product sale to raise money during the 2006-2007 school year. Among parent-groups that conducted at least one product sale, 8 out of 10 said it was their most profitable fundraising project, out-performing all other fundraising efforts.

“This new research confirmed our suspicions that product sales are still the best option for school groups looking to raise substantial funds in a short amount of time,” said Vickie Mabry, executive director of AFRDS. “We learned also that school groups that limit the number of fundraising projects conducted throughout the year tend to earn more money with a single fundraising drive. That’s probably because their supporters know they’re only going to be tapped a couple of times and, therefore, they’re more willing to reach into their pockets when it counts.”

According to the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers, schools earn nearly $2 billion each year through product sales.

The online survey of 342 parent-teacher organization members was conducted over the summer. Other key findings include:

  • Moderation is Key - Parent-teacher groups that conduct fewer overall school-wide fundraisers raise more money. Among parent-teacher groups who raised more than $15,000 through school fundraising events, most (54%) limited the number of school-wide fundraisers to no more than four during the 2006-2007 school year.

  • Timing is Everything - Seven out of 10 parent-teacher organizations said the most profitable school-wide fundraiser began in either August, September or October. A smaller percentage (19%) said the most profitable school-wide fundraiser began in February, March or April.

  • Some Fundraisers Require More Volunteers - The most labor-intensive school-wide fundraiser, in terms of volunteers needed, is a school carnival, which requires 59 volunteers, on average. Other labor-intensive fundraiser include, in this order: auctions (28 volunteers), “thons” (e.g., Walk-a-thon) (22 volunteers), breakfasts/dinners (17 volunteers) and raffles (17 volunteers). By comparison, fundraisers that require fewer volunteers include, in this order: product sales (7 volunteers), direct donations (7 volunteers), restaurant nights (6 volunteers) and student/family portraits (2 volunteers).

  • Other Popular School-Wide Fundraisers Rarely Mentioned as Most Profitable - Other frequently cited school-wide fundraisers, including direct donations, box top and soup label collections, student/family portraits, Internet shopping shared revenue, retail store affiliations, scrip programs and car washes were rarely mentioned (1% or less) as the most profitable school-wide fundraiser.

“By putting more effort behind those fundraisers that really count, schools will find that they can better participation and stand a better chance of meeting their fundraising goals,” Mabry said.


About the Author:

The Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers is an international association of 600 companies that manufacture, supply and distribute products that are re-sold by not-for-profit organizations for fundraising purposes. AFRDS members ascribe to the association's Code of Ethics and Standards for Professional Practice. For more information on fundraising, visit

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