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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 you can raise a significant amount of money for your school. The amount of work that goes into turning your carnival into a real, money-making machine, however, can be intense. Here are five tips you can use to really grow your income producing potential.
1. Use the latest technology in your marketing campaign
A basic principle of marketing is to convey the message to your audience in the ways they consume information. Since your main market is families with young children, you can safely assume that a large percentage of these parents are active online. That’s why you need to make sure you use social media outlets as a primary means of getting the word out.
Create a Facebook fan page for your school and fill it with quick posts like:
· Important dates/times for the carnival
· Notifications about selling bracelets
· Cool activities you book, like a bungee run or inflatable jute
· Popular entertainment acts you have planned, such as local bands or the high school cheerleaders.
· Incentives like shaving the principal’s head if 80% of the students in the school pre-purchase wristbands
· All the special foods you’ll be selling at the carnival, like deep-fried Oreo cookies
Get this information out in real time and specifically ask your readers to pass the word by sending email links or suggesting that their friends check out your school’s fan site.
I would also suggest recruiting a handful of students who are big texters. Ask them to start a “text tree” where they text ten of their friends and family members. Then, those ten each text ten more friends of their own and so on, until the numbers explode. 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.
Don’t forget to ask your school district if you can use their automated phone alert system, if they have one. This is the phone system that calls you at home to alert you of a school cancellation or something similar. Many times, schools use these systems to inform 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
Face it, it’s hard to get people to spend money on charities that are schools in a bad economy. People are afraid and want to hold on to their money. That is understandable. However, it is also true that schools need to raise money for things, important things, that the budget will no longer cover. Therefore, I would suggest two very important messages to really hammer home in your carnival marketing plan.
First, be very specific in your material. Tell parents exactly what the money you raise will be used for. Work with the principal and teachers to come up with a list of all the items that depend on fundraising. Tell the parents that these items will be cut if your goals are not met. Even go so far as to create a priority list – name the item that will be cut first, etc. You message may still be ignored by some, but for others, this reality check will be a good motivation. And at least, you can say, they were warned.
Second, make sure you start promoting your carnival LONG before it happens. I’m talking six or seven months ago. Then, after you’ve told them what their money will be used for, specifically suggest that families SAVE for your event. If you give them six months (24 weeks) and ask them to put away just $3 a week, that’s $72 by the time of the event. If your school has 250 families and only half of them (125) save up to spend the $72, you will receive $9,000. 75% on that amount would equal over $13,000. Would this be helpful for your school?
I would even go so far as to launch a school-wide project where kids get coffee pots or milk jugs and decorate them into personal piggy banks for the school carnival. Even with tight budgets, many families can find ways to scrape together $3 a week. That’s only 43 cents a day! But, you will have to lay out a plan for them.
Unless families know the specific need and are given a specific plan on how to reach the goal, you will not be able to raise the money your school needs.
3. Pre-sell active wristbands
In the sections above, I mentioned pre-sale performance and game bracelets. Basically, this is a concept where people get a discount for buying their access tickets ahead of time. If a person decides not to pre-purchase the wristband, he or she would have to pay more at the door on the day/night of the event. Usually a $5 discount for pre-ordering is enough incentive.
I would suggest setting a school-wide goal for the sale of the wristbands. This will mean that you or the head teacher will have to make a big deal with the children about tracking their progress. Once a day or once a week, the calculations should be done and announced to the school about how close to the goal you are getting.
This can be done with a simple “target thermometer” that you make with a pair of thick Sharpie markers – black and red – and a sheet of large poster board. It doesn’t have to be fancy to make the point. Really get the kids excited about it. Of course, that will mean you’ll have to offer them something pretty good in return for their effort.
Even if it’s an old man- the headmaster shaving his head in front of the school is a great incentive (unless the headmaster is already bald or is a female who refuses to suffer the scissors). But things like an assembly, a day off at school, a day off from school (if private), or anything else that doesn’t cost you any money would also be good.
By pre-selling a lot of activity bracelets, you’re not only front-loading your income, but you’re also getting a good estimate of how much food you’ll need to have on hand. By adding the target/reward system to the pre-sale, you are actively pumping your revenue.
4. Be Smart about spending on prizes – use prize packs
It’s easy to want to spread the rewards you give kids for the games they play. Some schools really get into it and set up a “prize redemption” station, where kids trade the tickets they’ve earned from playing games in for various prizes, very similar to the way arcades do it.
I would suggest to stay away from this system. While the kids love it, it presents a logistical nightmare for the carnival organizers. You have to figure out all the math on how many tickets each child could potentially win for each game, for each time he or she plays it. Then you need to determine how many small, medium and large prizes you should buy based on how you think the kids would actually do. And you better not screw up by not having enough “big” prizes. You could have some disgruntled young people on your hands…
Plus, it takes an incredibly long time for kids to decide which prize(s) they want. Have you ever stood in line behind a seven-year-old at the checkout counter at Chuck E. Cheese? It takes eons for them to figure out how to spend all their tickets. You will have a line snaking around your school trying to manage this!
The solution, although it’s not the most fun for kids, is to go with prepackaged prize packages that are exactly the same. You can create separate packages for boys and girls if you like. Good prizes are pencils, coupons to McDonald’s, candy, homework permission, some small toys, a rub-off tattoo, etc. In the long run, a child will not be disappointed by this bag of loot and you have. saved a lot of grief for everyone involved.
5. Merchandise like crazy with monetizing add-ons
OK, so you’ve got people buying their active wristbands and some food, but how else can you get them to part with some of their audio-earned dough?
From the moment a family enters your carnival, they should be showered with opportunities to spend money. The games and activities are attractive, but you can set up many other money-making stations that are also very attractive.
For example, you can sell “cascarones”. These are decorative eggshells that have been hollowed out and filled with confetti. Once they are filled and decorated, you stick a small cover over the hole to keep the confetti.
Have volunteers make these by the dozen and then sell them individually at the carnival. One person buys a cascaron, he or she sneaks up behind a friend and smashes it over their head, raining confetti down on that person. It’s a good laugh for everyone. Just makes sure the person buying the egg knows not to hurt their target by smashing it too hard on the head.
There are many articles online, giving instructions on how to make and decorate the 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 USD) you can hire one of the prison guards to “arrest” one of his friends. The “arrested” person must stay in the jail until he or she pays 4 tickets (about $2) to get out.
The prison should be in a conspicuous place where everyone can see who has been arrested.
If you really want to increase the embarrassment factor, have the inmates sing for the crowd while being imprisoned. I once had to sing “Little Bunny Foo Foo” while waiting to get out of jail. It was very embarrassing, but very fun!
One more idea to earn some extra money at your carnival would be to get a volunteer who is handy with a camera to take candid shots all evening of friends having fun together. With a digital camera and a portable color printer, you can print copies for sale. Price the photos to move 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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