Healthy Fundraising: How to Fundraise While Promoting Health

Family at fundraising event

Investing. Fundraising. Donations. Gifts. These are all words that come to mind when we look at ways to increase the financial pools that we can draw on for programming or causes. Many schools hold various fundraisers throughout the year to assist with sports teams, special programming, scholarships, introducing new programs, completing projects or maintaining overall excellence. In order to do this, schools and programs must have effective and feasible methods to raise necessary funds. Unfortunately, a vast majority of fundraisers are geared towards unhealthy foods such as candy and snack sales. The good news is that many healthier fundraising options do exist! Here are some ideas for fundraising while promoting health:

  • Farm to Table Fundraiser Dinner – Instead of hosting traditional spaghetti or pancake dinners, talk with local farmers and vendors to serving fresh/local foods. Alternatively, if you have incredibly successful spaghetti dinners – serve spaghetti squash or whole grain pasta instead to sneak in extra health benefits such as reduced carbs, sugars and increasing energy, vitamins and nutrients. Also, add healthy sides such as fruits and vegetables to your meal.
  • Produce or Plants Sale– Collaborate with a plant nursery, farmers or grocery stores to assist in selling produce or plants for a percentage of the profits. There are other organizations that sell seeds or have specific fundraising programs that you can partner with. Encouraging families to grow their own foods will make healthy choices more easily accessible. Consider hosting a how-to-grow-your-own-foods demo or class, either in person or via video, to promote this event. Your local Extension office may be willing to assist with this. This would double as nutrition education as well! Holidays are great for evergreen wreaths sales or specialty items for the holidays. Some other companies have specific school-targeted fundraiser packages that are not food related, these can be quick and easy fundraisers that keep your families healthier.
  • A Day at the Park – Coordinate with your local city, county, or state park coordinators to use their parks and encourage exercise and healthy snacks by having a family fun day. Set up healthy snack stations (trail mix, granola, flavored water, baked chips, etc.) and activity stations (hula-hoop contest, jump rope contest, tire run, etc.). Bring in additional vendors with activities and healthy programs. Sell various school spirit items, photo booth, etc. to assist with fundraising. Carnival games are always a big hit with children and their families.
  • Scavenger Hunt Challenge – Host a day-long, weekend, or week-long scavenger hunt. Collaborate with the farmers market, grocery stores, library, churches, schools, parks and local businesses to hide healthy clues at their sites. Charge a fee to participate and then encourage families to get out, increase communication to decode clues and be the first to discover the hidden prize. Award a healthy prize: reusable water bottles, ticket(s) to a school game or park pass for the family. Encourage social media interaction by having families take “healthy selfies” at each location to promote your cause.
  • Movie Night at the School – Host a movie on the lawn during the summer in which families pay a small fee and have healthy snacks available in place of candy and buttery popcorn. Healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts, seeds, trail mix and low-fat popcorn are great alternatives.
  • School Cooking Show – Have a cooking competition between families or teams of youth at each school to see which school can provide the healthiest and tastiest meal. Have participates pay a fee to join, and then sell tickets for others to attend a live cooking show. Have teams provide their own healthy groceries and recipe or get local businesses to sponsor the ingredients. Get local chefs to volunteer to judge and bring out the local media to record your event.

Be sure to check with your school supervisors to know any limitations or guidelines before scheduling fundraisers. When it comes to executing the event, remember that healthy kids learn better (CDC, 2014). Demonstrate to families and children why nutrition and health matters with consistent messaging at events and programs. Include information on nutrients, improved health and physical activity in school newsletters, classroom environment and extracurricular activities.

For more information on school fundraising – check out these other Extension articles:


Sarah Ransom, University of Tennessee FCS Extension Agent


Kansas State Department of Education. Child Nutrition and Wellness.

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2014)

New York City Department of Education. Healthy Fundraising Tips.