Unpredictable British weather means fundraising is often restricted to the indoors, especially in the colder months, but that doesn't mean it has to be limited!
'We decided to purchase a DIY race night kit from Amazon for £17.99. The pack included a DVD and betting tickets, as well as a duel forecast sheet to enable us to raise even more on the night. I wrote to local businesses to ask them to sponsor a race for £25. In return they were featured in the programme and promoted by the compere on the night.
We sold horses and jockeys in advance, which meant those who couldn't attend on the night could still support the school. Each horse cost £5. Our school is based in a small rural community and is the hub of the village, so people were happy to participate, especially as the prize was a bottle of wine! We also sold the jockeys at a cost of £3 per rider and sent a letter out to all the parents and children asking them to be a virtual jockey. Successful riders won a tub of sweets.
We sold 50 tickets for the event at £7.50 each, which included a meal of lasagne and salad followed by sticky toffee pudding. To keep things simple, we asked people to bring their own drinks. The minimum bet was set at £1. On the night, we had four volunteers – a compere, two people on the tote and our 'tech man', who played and stopped the DVD and dimmed the lights!
We increased profits by holding a raffle, with all prizes donated by the parents. There were four races, a break for food and drawing the raffle, then another four races. We had a fabulous night and raised a total of £1,264.50.'
Hannah Mayhew, Secretary, Hoxne School Association, St Edmund's Primary, Suffolk (67 pupils)
Murder mystery evening
'We held this event in October with the help of local drama group, The York Stars. We chose the play 'Who Killed the Headmaster' so we could have a school theme, which we enhanced by asking attendees to come dressed in school uniform. We kept costs down and reduced the number of volunteers required by asking people to bring their own food – some brought sandwiches, while others ordered a takeaway. The PTA provided hot drinks and cakes.
We charged £8 per ticket. People could book a table of eight together or be grouped together with other ticket holders. The play was in three parts: part one – up to the murder; part two – the interview of suspects; part three – the reveal of the murderer, their accomplice and why they did it! The intervals allowed us to eat and discuss the crime. Before part three we had to submit our findings, and the team closest to the truth won a prize. There was also a prize for best male and female costume.
We split the profits, boosted by a small raffle, with the York Stars, making about £275 each. It was a hilarious evening and a good way for the parents and teachers to get to know each other.'
Naomi Whittaker, Scarcroft Primary School, York
'Being a big fan of escape rooms, I was keen to run one as an evening for parents. With a little research, I was able to put together a series of puzzles that I could craft a narrative around. To avoid spending money on props, the puzzles used items that were available in the school. As I'd put this together from scratch I tested it out first on a small group of teachers and parents, who suggested a few tweaks.
We charged £5 per person, and each team could have four to six players. The teams gathered in the school hall at 7:30pm, buying drinks while everyone assembled. Once I explained the premise and rules, we sent the teams to their classrooms and started the clock. This added a competitive element, as teams were trying to be the first to make it back to the hall. We profited from this competitive spirit by selling clues to teams while they were in the rooms.
Everyone made it out in around an hour, and afterwards teams could relax with drinks while prizes were presented. We were all cleared up by 10pm.As this was our first attempt, we only had four teams, as we wanted to prove that the concept worked before filling all of our KS1 classrooms. This means that next time we can confidently run a larger event.
Our only costs were a TEN (to cover the sale of alcohol) and chocolates for the winners. We raised £200, and are now hoping to run it again with more participants. There's even potential to sell the pack to other schools if they don't want to write their own.'
Victoria Kirk, PTA Chair, Poringland Primary School, Poringland, Norwich (373 pupils)
Arts and crafts night
'Our children relish any excuse to get creative (and messy!), meaning an arts and crafts night is perfect. The event was quite simple to organise. We sourced materials throughout the year, taking advantage of special offers, and getting ideas from websites such as Pinterest. Last year, we found some real bargains and spent around £30 in total. We charged £3.50 per child for a session lasting an hour and a half – the price included a drink and a ham or cheese roll.
We had a good mix of activities and set up 'stations'. Each station had a volunteer to give help and supervision. Activities ranged from experimenting with watercolours to colouring mandalas, painting tealight holders and making puppets. Over 60 children attended, with a good number from each year group. The children were thrilled with what they'd made, and this simple fundraiser made a profit of £145.I'd advise others to source the arts and crafts materials early so you can get good deals and to ensure you have lots of volunteers, as we found that younger children needed a lot of support.'
Sarah Hawes, Chair, Friends of Our Lady & St Michael RC Primary School, Abergavenny (170 pupils)
'After running many successful events for children, we were inundated with requests to hold one for adults – so we decided to try a medium night!
We found a medium, Anne Clark, with great reviews, who charged £100 to attend the event. Finding a hall proved tricky – a survey of the parents revealed that they were uncomfortable having the event held within the school just in case their child came home scared that the school was haunted! We approached our local rugby club, who generously allowed us to use their hall free of charge.
Tickets cost £7.50 and we promoted the event through word-of-mouth and social media, where we posted eye-catching visuals to grab people's attention. We made sure we only had one contact for ticket sales so we didn't overbook.
The parents spoke highly of Anne Clark, and reported her readings were accurate. The whole event worked really well – our outlay was low, and so was the workload but we still raised £375.50!'
Dale Dow, PTA Chair, Carrick Knowe Primary School, Edinburgh (380 pupils)
'We hold a quiz night twice a year, selling tickets for £10 per head, which includes a fish and chip supper plus nibbles.
We start promoting the event about a month beforehand by printing and distributing flyers. Parents usually form class teams in advance, though we sometimes put people together on the night. A couple of people set ten rounds of questions, which include a tasting round (e.g. what flavour crisps?) and a picture round.
We hold the event in the school hall. Once, we tried using our village hall as it was bigger, but the hassle of moving everything there was too much. On the night, we have a bar which sells wine and prosecco by the bottle – it's quite a boozy night! We buy the alcohol on sale or return and hire fridges to keep it cold.
Our average profit is around £700 with 150 people attending. I would recommend giving it a try – it's always a great night!'
Adele Quinn, Chair, Friends of Burhill Primary School, Hersham, Surrey (512 pupils)
Pamper and shopping evening
'We hold our pamper and shopping evening every November. Tickets cost £5, which includes a drink on arrival. The PTA serves additional refreshments such as cupcakes and we create a relaxing atmosphere with some soft background music.
I find stallholders by picking up cards from craft fairs during the year. If I like what they offer, I invite them to cover both the pamper and shopping elements of the evening. I try to recruit local businesses to promote the community.
We charge stallholders £10 per table plus a prize for the raffle. We have 35-40 stalls on offer, including nail treatments, massages, make-up, jewellery, crafts, edible treats, clothing and accessories, homewares, flowers and Tarot readings.
On entry, we give everyone a programme containing a welcome note, PTA information, stallholder names and contact details. Treatment stalls have booking forms where visitors can book slots for later on in the evening. We provide refreshments for stallholders – if you keep them happy, then everyone's happy!
After the event, we fill in feedback sheets to collect comments and suggestions for the following year, while it's still fresh in our minds. Our event raises around £800 profit for a few hours work. It's a very enjoyable and relaxed evening.'
Tracey Ferguson, Todcaster Grammar School Parents Association
Infant story night
'We aim to host a story night for the infants during every half term. At the start of the school year, we promote the event in our half-termly school newsletters and letters to parents. We also include event details on the PTA page of our school's website and ask the teachers to remind their classes.
Children from Nursery to Year 2 and invited, and parents can stay with their children during the event if they want to. On the night, we have around 130 children attend, as well as a number of parents and older and younger siblings. Tickets cost £1 per child and adults are free. We ask children to come in their pyjamas and bring their favourite teddy. We have approximately 20 helpers on the night, who are a mixture of PTA members and school staff. Our only outlay is £30 outlay on milk, cookies, tea, coffee, sugar and disposable cups.
All in all, we raise around £130 per event. While it's not one of our most profitable events, it's definitely one of the most enjoyable and easiest to organise!'
Jen Eastwood, event organiser, Beaconside CofE Primary School, Cumbria
'The Poynton High School PTA theatre trips began as a social night idea with the potential extra benefit of raising funds. Our first trip was to see Mamma Mia! at the Palace Theatre in January 2007. It was so successful, many more followed and there have now been more than 100 trips.
Initially, we advertised the trips to parents and students, but an article in the Poynton Post brought them to the attention of the wider community. We now have over 500 theatre enthusiasts on our database – mainly retired people who have a bit of money and like the benefits of coach travel!
We reserve seats for shows that we think will be popular and the theatres give us a few weeks to sell the tickets. We then confirm how many tickets we need and pay for them. Any unsold ones are released back to the theatre. We get a group discount, so we can often offer the ticket and transport by coach for the price of the ticket alone. There is often less discount on big or newer shows, and musicals are much more popular than plays.
In 2012, we decided to branch out and organised our first mini-break to Windsor and Buckingham Palace. These little breaks have also proved popular, and we now have two or three a year.
As a retired Maths Teacher and ex-PTA committee member, continuing to run these trips on behalf of the PTA has enabled me to enjoy my passion for the theatre with like-minded people! While our primary aim is to provide a valued service to the local community, the trips do raise around £1,500 a year for the school.'
Elaine Roe, retired Maths Teacher, Poynton High School, Stockport, Cheshire (1,507 pupils)