How to run a surprise gift room

Encourage giving while raising money for your PTA with a surprise gift room

A surprise gift room is a great way to give little ones a taste of independence. Whether it’s for Christmas, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, you can help children pick a present for the ones they love while boosting the PTA piggy bank.


Charging the same for everything makes things simple, but you could also offer items at a range of different amounts, so there’s something for everyone. Keep items at pocket-money prices, and price gifts according to what they cost – for example, if it cost £1, sell it for £2.


Collecting orders through a pre-order form means you know how much to buy. Parents can pay in advance, so you don’t need to worry about children forgetting on the day. Limit the number of gifts per child to prevent stocks running out before everyone’s had a chance to join in.


While it’s always great to receive donated items, there’s no guarantee that what you get will be useable. The safest option is to ask for monetary donations, which you can spend as needed. Alternatively, a non-school uniform day where pupils pay into the present fund is an easy way to cover costs. Remember, if you specify what the money will be used for, you’ll need to stick to it.

Who to buy for

While it’s traditional to offer gifts for parents, widening the options means more potential income. For Mother’s and Father’s Day, offer gifts for grandparents too. Christmas is a brilliant opportunity for pupils to buy for their siblings. Whatever your choice, ensure you have a similar number of presents for each group.

What to buy

Themed gifts, such as Christmas decorations work well in a gift room but keeping the presents generic makes it easier to reuse what’s left. If you’re unsure about what will appeal to men and women, find items that will please everyone.

  • For him: ties, handkerchiefs, torches, car freshener, ice scrapers, beer mugs
  • For her: make-up, manicure set, nail polish, jewellery, candles, bath bombs
  • For everyone: chocolates, jars of sweets, shower gel, body spray, scarves, coasters, stationery, plants, keyrings, photo frames, mugs, calendar, diary, fridge magnets
  • For siblings: colouring books, toys, teddies, games

Combine several cheaper items to make something more impressive. Think mugs containing hot chocolate kits or sweets layered up in jars.

Where to buy

If you have enough storage, shop all year round for bulk bargains to maximise income. Hit the shops when non-perishable items are being sold off in the days after Mother’s and Father’s Day or the January sales to buy good quality items at low prices. Shops such as Home Bargains, B&M and pound shops are good options throughout the year or order online if shopping in person is restricted.

For a quick and easy option, Your Fundraising Gift Shop offers packs of presents suitable for all three occasions, which can be bought wrapped or unwrapped.


To keep outgoings down, hold a gift wrapping party with your committee and volunteers, or get pupils to wrap their presents at your event. This will require plenty of helpers and patience, but avoids having to wrap a mountain of presents all in one go.

Choose a date 

It pays to hold a Father’s or Mother’s Day sale as close to the day as possible. Forgetful parents and pupils will thank you, and fewer presents will get lost before they reach their recipients. 

Hold a festive gift room at the Christmas fair when everyone is already gathered together or as an event in its own right. Organising the gift room on a different day means you can open for as long as you need to, so everyone has a chance to buy.  

Running your room 

If your surprise room is going to be a stand-alone event, agree on a date and time with the school. For an organised approach, run it during the school day, taking children class by class to choose their gifts. If there are too many to get through, hold separate days for KS1 and KS2.  

Divide the room into choosing and paying areas to prevent congestion and maintain any social distancing required. If pupils are wrapping presents themselves, set up a third area with plenty of supplies and some helping hands.