Is Shaving The Side Of Your Head Still In Style 5 More Ways to Make Money at Your School Carnival – Updated For 2010 School Year

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5 More Ways to Make Money at Your School Carnival – Updated For 2010 School Year

A carnival is one of the best and most fun ways to raise a significant amount of money for your school. However, the amount of work that goes into turning your carnival into a real money-making machine can be intense. Here are five suggestions you can take advantage of to really increase your earning potential.

1. Use the latest technologies in your marketing campaign

A basic principle of marketing is to get your message across to your audience in the ways they consume information. Since your primary market is families with young children, you can safely assume that a large percentage of these parents are active online. Therefore, you should make sure that you use social media as your primary means of spreading the word.

Create a Facebook fan page for your school and fill it with quick posts like:

· Important carnival dates/times

· Notification of sale of bracelets

· Cool activities you’ve booked, like bungee jumping or inflatable jousting

· Popular entertainment events you have planned, such as local bands or your school’s cheerleading squad

· Incentives such as shaving the principal’s head if 80% of the students in the school buy wristbands in advance

· Any specialty foods you’ll be selling at the carnival, like deep-fried Oreos

Get this information in real-time and ask your readers to pass on the information by sending a link via email or telling their friends to check out your school’s fan site.

I would also suggest bringing in a few students who are active texters. Ask them to create a “text tree” where they write to ten of their friends and family members. Then those ten texted ten more of their friends and so on until the number exploded. It can be a simple message like “don’t forget to buy your carnival wristbands by today.” This can be a very powerful tool for you.

Be sure to ask the school district if you can use their automated phone notification system, if they have one. It’s a phone system that calls your home to tell you that school is canceled or something like that. Many times schools use these systems to tell parents about school plays or performances. Ask permission to use the system for your school carnival announcements to parents on their home or mobile phones. This is a very effective means of communication at your disposal. If you have it, use it!

2. Be more truthful in your marketing

Agreed, it’s hard to get people to spend money on charities like schools in a bad economy. People are scared and want to keep their money. It is clear. However, it is also true that schools need to raise money for things, important things, that the budget will no longer cover. So I’d like to offer two very important messages to really nail down your carnival marketing plan.

First, be very specific in your material. Tell your parents exactly what the money you collected will be used for. Work with the school principal and teachers to make a list of all the things that depend on the fundraiser. Tell parents that these subjects will be cut if your goals are not met. Even go so far as to create a priority list – name the item to be cut first, etc. Some may still ignore your message, but for others, this reality check will be a good incentive. And at least, we can say, we were warned.

Second, make sure you start promoting your carnival WAY before it happens. I am talking about six or seven months ago. Then, after you’ve told them what their money will go to, specifically invite families to JOIN your event. If you give them six months (24 weeks) and only ask them to put away $3 a week, that’s $72 by the time the event happens. If your school has 250 families and only half of them (125) save up to spend $72, you’ll end up with $9,000. 75% of that amount would be over $13,000. Will it be useful for your school?

I would even go so far as to start a whole school project where the kids get coffee cans or milk jugs and decorate them into personal savings banks for the school carnival. Even on a tight budget, many families can find a way to scrape together $3 a week. That’s only 43 cents a day! But you will have to make a plan for them.

If families don’t know the specific needs and don’t get a specific plan to reach the goal, you won’t be able to raise the money your school needs.

3. Pre-sale of activity bracelets

In the sections above, I mentioned pre-sale activities and game wristbands. It’s basically a concept where people get a discount for buying tickets early to an all-access game. If a person chooses not to purchase a wristband in advance, he or she will have to pay more at the entrance on the day/night of the event. Usually a $5 discount for the previous purchase is enough incentive.

I would suggest setting a school-wide goal for bracelet sales. This will mean that you or the school principal will have to agree with the children about tracking their progress. Once a day or once a week you should calculate and report to the school how close you are to the goal.

This can be done with a simple “target thermometer” that you make from a pair of thick Sharpie markers – black and red – and a sheet of large poster board. It doesn’t have to be fancy to get the point across. Really fire up the kids for this one. Of course, this will mean you have to offer them something pretty good in return for their efforts.

Even though it’s outdated, a school principal who shaves his head in front of school is a great motivator (unless the principal is already bald or a woman who refuses to give in to clippers). But things like fees, a day off from school, a day off from school (if private), or anything else that doesn’t cost you money will also be fine.

By pre-selling a large number of activity wristbands, you not only load up your profits, but also give you a good start to estimate how much food you’ll need to have on hand. By adding a goal/reward system to your pre-sale, you are actively increasing your revenue.

4. Spend wisely on prizes – use prize sets

It’s easy to want to splurge on the prizes you give kids for the games they play. Some schools really get into this and set up a “raffle” station where kids trade in the tickets they’ve won in games for different prizes, much like arcades do.

I suggest staying away from this system. While the kids love it, it’s a logistical nightmare for carnival organizers. You have to find out how many tickets each child can win in each game each time they play it. Then you have to decide how many small, medium and large prizes you should buy based on how you think the kids will actually do. And it is better not to screw up, not having enough “big” prizes. You may have disgruntled boyfriends…

Also, kids take an incredibly long time to decide which prize(s) they want. Have you ever stood in line behind a seven-year-old at the prize counter at Chuck E. Cheese? It takes them years to figure out how to spend all their tickets. There will be a queue around your school trying to get a handle on it!

A solution, although not the most fun for kids, is to use prepackaged prize packages that are all the same. If you wish, you can create separate packages for boys and girls. Good prizes are crayons, McDonald’s coupons, small candies, a homework pass, a few small toys, a tattoo rub, etc. After all, the kid won’t be disappointed with that bag of loot, and you’ve already saved a lot of grief for everyone involved.

5. Sell like crazy with apps that make money

OK, people buy their wristbands for outdoor activities and some food, but how else can you get them to part with some of their listening money?

From the time the family comes to your carnival, they should have plenty of opportunities to spend money. The games and activities are exciting, but you can create a bunch of other money-making stations that are also very attractive.

For example, you can sell “cascarones”. These are decorative eggshells, hollowed out and filled with confetti. Once they are filled and decorated, you glue a small cover over the hole to keep the confetti in.

Have volunteers make them by the dozen and then sell them individually at the carnival. Once a person buys a cascaron, he or she sneaks up behind a friend and smashes it over their head, showering the person with confetti. It’s a good laugh for everyone. Just make sure the person buying the egg knows they won’t hurt their target by smashing it too hard on their head.

There are many articles on the internet with instructions on how to make and decorate eggs. Do a simple Google search to learn more.

Another good idea is to set up a prison at the carnival. For a fee, like 2 tickets (about $1), you can hire one of the prison guards to “arrest” one of his or her friends. An “arrested” person must remain in jail until they pay 4 tickets (about $2) to get out.

The prison must be in a prominent place where everyone can see who has been arrested.

If you really want to add to the embarrassment, make the prisoners sing for the crowd while they’re in jail. I once had to sing “Little Bunny Foo Foo” while waiting to get out of jail. It was very embarrassing, but a lot of fun!

Another idea to make extra money at your carnival is to invite a volunteer with a camera to take candid pictures of friends having fun together throughout the evening. With a digital camera and a portable color printer, you can print copies to sell. Credit photos to drive traffic and make sure the photographer is also a good salesperson to get people to buy.


These are just a few of the many strategies you can use to make more money at your next school carnival. The most important tip is to make sure you give people what they want. The more ways you can tempt them, the more money they will spend.

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