With tombolas to run, bars to stock and children to corral, the opportunities for things to go awry at school summer fairs are plentiful, so for those in the last minute stages of planning for one of the PTA’s biggest fundraising events of the year, we’ve asked parents to share their ultimate dos, don’ts and big wins for making the day go with (the right kind of) bang.
[Read more: Why Everything You Think About PTA Members Is Wrong]
Do: think big.
Hannah Pope, who is on the PTA at Marksbury Primary School in Somerset, is helping to organise the Corston Fields Festival at the school on 16 June. She advises that you shouldn’t dial back on ambitious plans, as they can pay off big time. “Think big,” she says. “We created the festival due to the school needing a significant IT upgrade, which wasn’t possible within existing budgets. We couldn’t rely on a small fete to bring in the funds. So we opened the day up to the public - not just parents.”
If you still have a week or so ahead of the big day she also recommends approaching companies to sponsor it.
Don’t: think too big.
Dad Greg Murphy is helping to organise his second summer fair at Markinch Primary School in Scotland. Last year he tried running a ‘guess the balloons in the car’ game and says it’s definitely something they won’t be doing again. “It was so much effort to prepare the car and then to dispose of the balloons,” he says. “Most definitely we’ll do a ‘guess the sweeties in the jar’ this year!”
Do: call in favours.
You might have a group of parents who always volunteer to help out at events, but when it comes to the summer fair, you’ll need to call on everyone and anyone. Hannah Martin, whose kids go to Our Lady of Sion School in West Sussex, advises sending out last minute “guilt letters” to parents asking if they can man a stall for a few hours. Martin, who was chair of the junior school PTA for two years, explains: “A week before the fair we send out a letter saying that it is urgently short of volunteers and that we may have to cancel it or cut stalls if we don’t get more helpers. That letter never fails to work!”
Pope adds: “Also don’t just stop at parents - we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of local people not connected with the school who are helping us.”
Don’t: limit yourself to parent volunteers.
If your struggling to find enough helpers, Pope advises “don’t just stop at parents - we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of local people not connected with the school who are helping us.”
You could also call on Year 6 students to help run some of the easier stalls. “They love the responsibility,” says Martin. “And some of them turn out to be brilliant sales people.”
Do: Discover your volunteers’ hidden talents.
Do you know what jobs all the parents do? Best get asking. “See what they can supply for free,” says Pope. “We have a company providing the audio and visual equipment for all the live music for the day.
Don’t: Limit entertainment to just one age group.
“Make sure there is enough to do for the big and little kids,” says Pope. The more people you can entertain of all ages, the more cash you’re likely to bring in.
“Having plenty of seating, food and drink that will appeal to mum and dad or the grandparents means their kids will spend longer (and therefore more money) at the fair,” adds Martin. “We changed the timing of our fair to fit in with lunchtime, then bumped up our catering offering, which also earned us more money.”
Do: Embrace social media.
Word of mouth will only get you so far, to draw in bigger crowds Pope suggests sharing a digital poster for your fair on all the school social media accounts and encourage parents and teachers to share it too.
Don’t: Lose sight of fun.
Yes the event is about making money, but Martin cautions against getting so hung up on making a profit that you lose sight of the fun. “We have a balance of ‘moneymaker’ stalls and ones that never do well financially, but the kids love,” she adds.
It can be tricky to work out which stalls are going to be a hit (and bring in the cash) and which aren’t. But if you need to focus your efforts on just one element make sure it’s:
Pope: “The bar! Corston Fields Festival has sponsorship from Thatchers, Wadworths and Molson Coors Breweries. Being based in Somerset, our biggest seller is Thatchers Gold!”
Martin: “Chocolate and wine tombolas. The first is always popular with the children and the second with the parents.” Our Lady of Sion School sourced prizes for this by allowing children to come into school in home clothes on set days before the fair in return for donations.
Murphy: “Our raffle brought in a lot last year. We sell books of five tickets for £2.50 and each pupil takes two books home. We hand out extra books to the parent council and staff, and sell more on the day.”
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