Plan-ahead summer events

It's never too early to start thinking about the summer term - take some inspiration from these success stories and get planning

Our brilliant colour run raised over £6,000

By 4pm, the children were unrecognisable. Having arrived in clean white T-shirts, they now resembled walking rainbows after enjoying our first PTA colour run. Our mission is to bring community engagement through fun and fundraising, and a colour run seemed like a perfect fit. The purpose of the run is to cross the finish line, covered head to toe in vibrantly coloured powder – this matters much more than the speed of your running! It was important to be inclusive, so we priced entry tickets at the break-even point of £8.50 per child. At this price, we could buy enough powder for each lap of the course and provide everyone with a pack containing a sachet of coloured powder, a course map, a good quality medal, a race number and a voucher for food and drink.

Parents could accompany their children for free. To make a profit, we asked the children to collect sponsorship money which we organised online using the BOPP digital fundraising tool, which allowed us to claim 25% Gift Aid on all donations. We sold over 400 tickets in the lead-up to race day. Once we knew the numbers, we ordered coloured powder from a company based in the Netherlands called Kingdom of Colour, which offers a product that is both environmentally friendly and safe for children with allergies.

Our volunteers arrived early, ready to set up the course, direct the runners and cover them in colour. One dad acted as a master of ceremonies and helped commentate – greeting arrivals, recording times for each wave and cheering children on as they ran. Another volunteer held a warm-up session with the children, getting them lunging and stretching.

Suddenly the runners were off with a burst of colour released from large powder-filled fire extinguishers. The younger children managed a 1km lap while some older runners completed the course three times before returning for their medals and a drink. After that, it was time for our much-anticipated colour party.

There were nearly 1,000 people in attendance, and as we danced among the rainbow of powder, if felt like a massive community festival. We donned goggles and sunglasses and threw cups of full colour into the air.

Parents and pupils preformed live music as everyone headed to the barbecue, where our amazing teachers served up hot dogs and burgers. As they spent time catching up with friends, the parents seemed only too happy to spend money at the barbecue and bar.

The event was only possible thanks to the parents and teachers who spent their day volunteering. We made nearly £1,800 in sponsorship plus £400 from Gift Aid. The remainder came from food and drink. From the proceeds, we ordered a Crinkle Crags Climber for our long-term Path of Adventures project on the school field. We were thrilled, and the event will, quite literally, run again next year!

  • Louise Dennis, bulletin editor, Stamford Green Primary School PTA, Epsom, Surrey (713 pupils)

Watch a video of the event on Twitter

Our sell-out circus was a magical mix of laughs and excitement

‘When the circus came to Cogenhoe Primary School, the fundraising was great, but the smiles and the giggles were priceless. The idea came from our deputy head. Her husband is the head teacher at another school that had run a successful event with National Festival Circus. The waiting list was almost a year long, but we were able to book for the following May.

We opened up ticket sales to the school first with an early bird discount of £6 instead of the full price of £7. As a small school with 600 tickets on offer and three hour-long shows to fill, we hoped there would be enough interest, but we didn’t need to worry – we sold half the tickets in the first two weeks. After that, we launched it on our local Facebook page and put up posters around the village.

Word quickly got out: the 7pm show was the most popular and sold out two weeks in advance. With four days remaining before showtime, we had sold all 600 tickets and there was a long waiting list.

We turned our circus day into more of an event by including stalls, games and two big inflatables to help boost income. The PTA ran the bar and sweet stall and we invited local food and drink companies along to provide coffee and cake, ice cream, chips and a barbecue. All we asked from the external stallholders was a donation – whatever they thought was reasonable.

National Festival Circus arrived at 11am and began setting up their traditional big top. By 4pm, we were enjoying the first show. It was full of slapstick humour and extremely interactive with loads of back-and-forth banter between the performers and the crowd. Children enthusiastically raised their hands to be chosen to participate and everyone was thrilled by the fast jugglers, clever magicians and agile acrobats. Other acts included a strongman, giant slinky and panda bear. Benches at the front meant children could sit with their friends and be close to the action.

When the shows were over, the circus packed away and a team of PTA children helped pick litter from the field. By 9pm, they were gone and our village playing field was totally spotless.

Between the circus and the PTA team effort we made more than £3,500 profit. The funds are going towards an outdoor classroom and we are also making a donation towards school trips to assist parents in difficult circumstances.’

  • Selena Jacobs, PTA chair, Cogenhoe Primary School, Northampton (210 pupils)

Our combined giant garage sale and summer fair raised £4,600

‘Holding a garage sale is a fantastic way to declutter. But with more than 60 other stalls, sellers at our PTA’s giant garage sale risked coming home with more than they sold.

The giant garage sales began long before I was involved with the PTA. Once a year, they would allocate a day for local people to set up a stall outside their homes. Visitors could wander from house to house hunting for bargains. We have a strong village community – everyone knows everyone – so people are usually keen to get involved.

Sales were paused during the pandemic, but this year marked their return. To celebrate, we decided to combine our first sale with the summer fair. We reasoned that making one big event would attract more people on the day. It also made it easier to recruit parent volunteers since we were only asking for help at one event.

Despite our excellent track record, we didn’t take success for granted. We advertised for stallholders on Facebook, local community groups and posters around the village. We also contacted two local newspapers which wrote articles about the event. More than 60 houses, plus some local businesses, signed up to sell.

With the sellers confirmed, we set about producing a garage sale map. Residents paid £10 to list their stall but could keep all profits made on the day. We offered advertising to local companies as a way for them to support us while drumming up extra business for themselves. People often visit the sales from outside the village, so advertising on the map is a good way to reach new customers. We also received two offers of sponsorship from Calverley Autos and Calverley St Wilfrid’s Cricket Club.

Calverley Parkside Primary School sits right in the middle of Calverley village. On the day, visitors would pop in to buy their map and return later – laden with bargains – to enjoy food from the barbecue or a slice of cake.

The fair itself was a memorable event. Our headteacher, deputy and the head boy and girl all agreed to go in the stocks. Children paid to drench them in water, and it turned out to be quite a money maker!

We raised more than £4,600 from the combined garage sale and fair, and the money will go towards revamping the school playground.’

  • Laura Jones, chair of Friends of Calverley Parkside Primary School PTA, Calverley, Pudsey (240 pupils including nursery)

Compared to other events we run, our camp night is stress-free

‘The smell of hotdogs and burgers wafted from the food tent while the sound of children happily playing rounders and football filled the air.

Around the school field, some 30 families set up their tents while a dad was DJing in one corner.

While running the drinks stall with my friend and fellow committee member Justine, I marvelled at what a great atmosphere our annual camp night always generates and what a simple but enjoyable event it is.

We’ve been running our camps for over 15 years, and this was the second time I’d been the organiser – the first was in 2019. Every year, tickets sell out within a week, even though we charge £30-£40 a pitch. We make even more money from selling evening-only tickets to people who want to be a part of it but don’t fancy camping.

Besides the small food and drinks tents and the DJ, we don’t provide any other entertainment – we make it clear it’s about families making their own fun.

People bring whatever sports equipment they want – footballs, bikes, bats and balls. The tents go up around the outside of the school field, and the kids just get on with playing together in the middle.

As people arrive, we give them wristbands and a black rubbish sack and tell them they need to clear up after themselves. We provide access to school toilets that face the playground, so we don’t have to hire portable loos.

For the most part, people bring their own food or order pizzas to be delivered to the field, but for the first time this year we used external vendors, and we asked for 15% of their takings.

A local guy specialising in food pop-ups did the burgers and hotdogs, and in the morning, a cafe from the high street served pancakes and coffee. Previously, we’d cooked everyone bacon rolls for breakfast, which was a lot of work.

At 10.30pm, the people with evening-only tickets left, and we locked the gates and gave all the kids hot chocolate and biscuits as a bedtime snack.

You can’t tell people to go to sleep at a specific time, but everyone was in their tents by midnight this year, which was pretty good. Some years, we’ve had kids out playing football all night! Parents know they probably won’t get much sleep on camp night, but it’s worth it.

The parents loved it as much as the kids. Everyone said they’d had a great time and they didn’t want to leave in the morning.

Compared to the other events we run, the camp night is extremely stress-free, particularly considering the amount of money it raises. This year, we made almost £2,500.

Next year, I’ll get more volunteers involved. There were just the two of us running it this time, but if we had six or eight people, we could take turns and us organisers would be able to enjoy more time with our families.’

  • Gemma Regan, former PTA secretary, Buckhurst Hill Community Primary School, Buckhurst Hill, Essex (409 pupils)

Read about the 7 principles of Leave No Trace and apply them to your camp night.