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Alternative school summer fair ideas

It's wonderful to celebrate the end of the school year with a big fundraiser, but it doesn't always have to be the same old event. Try one of these summer fair alternatives and end the year with a bang!

Running a more unique fundraiser at the end of your school year will help you stand out from surrounding schools and could also have more appeal for the general community, raising awareness of your cause and increasing your supporter base.

You may even be able to plug a gap in your community, bringing an event to town that wouldn't otherwise happen. Some ideas will freshen up your summer fair, while others can raise just as much money for a lot less effort, especially when external companies are involved in the running.

Circus

What is it? Holding a circus fundraiser may sound like a logistical nightmare, but it simply involves paying a supplier to organise practically the entire event for you! Suppliers arrive with their circus tent and set it up, perform and pack away, and some even supply marketing materials.

How does it work? Because the supplier is so heavily involved in this fundraiser, it means that all you need to do is book a date and liaise with the school to agree hall hire (or access to outdoor space for a circus big top). You can then sell tickets online, meaning you need a fraction of the manpower you'd need for a fair. As it's held indoors or inside a tent, there's also more leeway when it comes to inclement weather. It's common for profits to reach over £1,000 for a circus, so for very little effort you're looking at a big profit and an amazing experience for your school community. To boost profits you can sell food and drink or even run a few stalls before the show starts - but check beforehand with your supplier as some will stipulate in the contract that they will be entitled to sell (and retain profits from) refreshments such as popcorn and candy floss.

Campover

What is it? A camping event can be pretty much whatever you want it to be, from a few families pitching their tents on the school field to a full-blown mini festival in the local farmer's field. Entertainment can be as simple as a game of football, craft activities and a campfire sing-along, or a line-up of live music.

How does it work? Find a suitable site and check what permissions you may require. Order equipment such as marquees, toilets, bins, lighting, generators, staging and a PA system. Arrange activities such as a treasure hunt, obstacle course, water fights, den making, tug-of-war and family games of rounders and football, with craft workshops and pamper sessions for adults. Ask families to book a pitch, and offer both overnight and day tickets.

Inflatables day

What is it? Get your community excited with a fundraising event involving inflatables, water and bubbles! This is surprisingly simple to organise, using an external company such as Simply The Best Events, which offers a variety of packages.

How does it work? Charge a one-off entry fee, for which children receive a wristband that allows them to play on a variety of fun inflatables. Restrict ages on some items so reception children and Year 6 aren't bouncing around on the same castle! Alternatively, encourage team spirit with an 'It's a Knockout!' challenge. Attendees form teams and choose a name, outfit and mascot. Charge participants to take part and observers to attend, and encourage children to seek sponsorship. These packages typically include trained first aid helpers to supervise. Always check the requirements for erecting inflatables with the supplier and ensure you have a suitable space.

In the news

Worried about recent news stories surrounding inflatables?

Music festival

What is it? Bring Glastonbury to your school with your own lineup of live music and a festival atmosphere.

How does it work? The key to a music festival is securing acts. Research local bands online and ask local venues to put you in touch with acts. Ask parents whether they're part of a band and would like to perform, and nearby secondary schools may have pupils who are keen to take part, too. Hire any equipment you may need such as marquees, lighting, generators, staging and a PA system. A few people may need to camp on site the night before to keep an eye on equipment. Music festivals usually feature multiple areas, so how about setting up one stage in the main hall and one outdoors?

Grand ball

What is it? With black ties, a sit-down dinner and flowing champagne, it's a spectacular way to raise a considerable profit and will be an appealing treat for parents.

How does it work? Book a venue, catering and any entertainment. Research local hotels or golf clubs and see if you can negotiate a charity discount. Using an external venue means that food, drinks, music and service is taken care of, enabling PTA volunteers to enjoy the evening. Source a live band to get everyone in the celebratory spirit, and consider booking a magician or comedian. Hold a silent auction at the event to boost profits further, and have some interval games, such as 'roll a pound' or heads and tails, in between courses.

Colour run

What is it? A colour run is a sponsored fun run with a difference - bucketfuls of brightly coloured powder!

How does it work? Offer different course lengths for different age groups, and sell tickets that include extras such as coloured powder, a bottle of water and a T-shirt. Encourage runners to seek sponsorship. Invite a local sports instructor to lead a warm up, and have colour stations at various places along the route where volunteers can throw powder over the runners. The powder is made from cornflour and non-toxic dye, and washes away easily without staining clothes or the ground.

Wow-factor attractions

Want to revitalise your summer fair without altering it completely? Incorporate one of these exciting attractions to keep it fresh!

  • Climbing wall: Suitable for children of all ages and abilities, suppliers such as The Warehouse Climbing Centre offers a range of walls and provide all safety equipment and a qualified instructor.
  • Fairground rides: Set the atmosphere with the tinkle of carousel music or hire a mini ferris wheel or teacups for a funfair feel.
  • Animals: Go traditional with a petting farm of cuddly creatures, or excite visitors with a reptile and insect visit or falconry display.
  • Inflatables: Hire some inflatable fun such as zorbing, human table football or gladiator duels.
  • Pet show: Encourage people to come along and show off their pets, awarding prizes for everything from the shiniest coat to waggiest tail.

These kind of attractions might not make much money or might only break even, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. They'll draw visitors in to then spend money elsewhere, and give kids an experience they may not otherwise have had. Decide whether an attraction will be a decent profit maker by considering how many children can take part per session, for how long, and how much leeway needs to be allowed to get one lot off and the next group on. Check our suppliers directory for trusted companies.

Make it happen

Success for events of this type is all about good planning, so allow several months to get everything in place, and appoint a sub-committee with clear roles. Not sure if it will work for your school? Survey parents to gauge interest. Bear in mind that if your event involves suppliers, they will need to be booked well in advance.

Licensing

Remember, if you're supplying alcohol at your event then a Temporary Event Notice (TEN) is required. PPL and PRS for Music licences will be required if you're playing music. If guests exceed 500, you may need a Premises Licence. Ensure external stallholders have their own public liability insurance. For more on licensing, see our guides.

Beat the rush

Bear in mind that summer is the busiest time of year for outdoor events suppliers, so the earlier you order the better. Visit our suppliers directory for trusted suppliers.

Raise even more!

Incorporate some of these extras into your event to boost profits...

  • Raffle: Acquire a lottery licence so you can send tickets home in the run up to the event. This will remind people about your event and encourage them to come along. Seek prize donations from local companies, and hold the draw later in the event to keep people hanging around!
  • Refreshments: Decide whether you want to do the catering yourself or get a caterer in - doing it yourself means more profit, but a caterer means less work. Read our guide to catering at events.
  • Silent auction: Source prizes such as goodie hampers and tickets to local attractions. Attendees can bid on these items 'silently' on paper bidding sheets during the event, making it easy to run.
  • Stalls: Run stalls that tie in with your event, such as adding a festival vibe to campovers with glitter tattoos or selling tutus at your colour run. Charge a pitch fee to outside providers. Games stalls go down well at any event - see our Always-updated guide to summer fair stalls and games.

Key points to consider

  • Wet weather: What will you do if it rains? Can you move the event indoors? Make your wet weather policy clear to external stallholders and ticket holders. Read our tips for wet weather contingency plans.
  • Safety and security: Carry out a risk assessment. Consider how stewards will communicate with one another, and appoint first aiders. Think about any possible parking issues and inform local residents about potential noise.
  • Tickets: How much you charge involves balancing your need to raise money with how much the average family can afford. Sell tickets in advance and consider early bird offers and discounts for young children.
  • Publicise: Put up posters in local shops (editable posters are available at the PTA print shop). Display roadside banners a few weeks before the event - contact your local authority to seek permission. Send a media release to local papers and radio stations.

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