Digital Relationship Fundraising & Peer Fundraising Campaigns fundraiser ideas for high schools

Building off the popular concept of crowdfunding campaigns, digital relationship fundraising platforms have surged in popularity over the past several years. Organizers and parents like them because there’s no tangible product to manage or event to plan. Students embrace them because they leverage existing relationships and the mobile devices and technology that they’re already using all day. 

In a nutshell, participants set up individual donation pages for a group fundraiser and send donation requests to their contacts via e-mail and text. Hopefully, the recipients participate, even if they only make a small donation. Depending on the platform used and the amount raised, between 70% and 93% of the donated funds are retained by the group. The difference goes to the company who owns the platform to cover their costs.

There are several options for launching and managing a digital relationship fundraising campaign for your high school team, club or event. Two favorites of ours are Pass the Hat Today and Raise Craze.

Pass The Hat Today

Pass the Hat Today is a NC company launched in 2020 by local marketing and technology professionals Alicia and Jay Smith of Wilmington. After a year of intense fundraising in 2019 and 2020 by her daughter Rachel for the dance team’s trip to Nationals, Alicia started to form a plan. She reflected on their experience and knew she could create a better relationship fundraising platform than the one the dance team had used.

Alicia’s goal was to minimize administrative and processing fees and make sure the funds raised by a team, club or group, would actually go to the group! After almost a year of research and planning, Pass the Hat Today was launched in November of 2020! Learn more about Pass the Hat Today! fundraiser ideas for high schools

Raise Craze

RaiseCraze is a relationship fundraising platform that is dedicated to being a force for change by spreading kindness. RaiseCraze is similar to other online social fundraising platforms in that they provide an online platform to create a secure website used to request donations from your family and social circle via e-mail.

The difference is the culture of kindness, empathy and gratitude that Raise Craze creates with every fundraiser. When a participant receives a donation, they pay the kindness forward by completing acts of kindness for others, either individually or as a team.  

In early 2020, Cyprus Woods High School Marching Band in Texas decided to give Raise Craze a try and were blown away by it’s success. It was the most successful fundraiser in the marching band’s history, raising $39,868 and keeping 95% of those funds, or $37,714!

To pay it forward, the band performed a day of service as a group at Mission of Yahweh Women’s Shelter and played for the residents!

Social Media Challenge Fundraiser

Another effective type of peer fundraising campaign that has the potential to be very successful among high school students is a social media challenge.

Remember the ice bucket challenge? It was a peer fundraising campaign for ALS that went viral in the summer of 2014. Participants took a video of a bucket of ice water being poured over their heads, and tagged their friends to do the same, to bring awareness to ALS and encourage donations. The challenge went viral and raised over $220 million for ALS in 2014. A 2019 article at details how the viral video challenge accelerated the fight against ALS.

Fundraising Events

A more traditional type of fundraiser centers around an event that community members pay to attend or participate in, with the proceeds benefiting the group throwing the fundraiser.

The success of the event usually relies on time and resources being donated by members of the group raising funds. It’s popular to include a t-shirt or swag bag in the registration fee for the event. A few of my favorite fundraising events for high schools are an Athletic Game or Tournament, a Food Truck Rodeo and the classic Talent Show.

Athletic Game or Tournament

To plan a charity tournament or game, come up with a fun twist on a classic athletic game or tournament, and raise funds by charging teams a registration fee, plus charge spectators admission at the door.

At my daughter’s high school, the junior class always held a “VolleyBros” tournament each fall (we do not have boys volleyball in public NC high schools). Teams paid $15 or $20 to register and were assigned a “coach” from the girls volleyball team. A simple, random-draw tournament bracket was created, and 3 or 4 courts were set up at the high school the night of the event. Admission was charged for spectators and the tournament was usually a huge success for the junior class.

Food Truck Rodeo

Food trucks are fun! Holding a food truck rodeo fundraiser works best when you can schedule it in conjunction with another event like a big game on campus or a senior event like field day or decorating parking spaces.

Consider scheduling the fundraiser when the trucks may not have as much business, like in the afternoon, between lunch and dinner, or later in the evening after their dinner rush. You’ll need a big space (high school parking lot works well) for all of the trucks, plus you may want to set up tents for shade.

There are a couple of different ways to raise funds with a food truck rodeo. You can charge attendees an entrance fee or you can ask the food trucks to donate a portion of their sales back to the organization holding the event. As an extra incentive, you could offer participating food trucks free advertising through a booster program or in an event program.

Another idea is to make the food truck rodeo a friendly competition between the four graduating classes (or any subsets of a larger group). Each class can adopt a truck and partner with the owners to promote it in the days leading up to the fundraiser. The food truck/class with the most sales wins. The prize can be an extra portion of the proceeds or something intangible like a campus privilege or opportunity at a school event.