A carnival is one of the best and most fun ways to raise a significant amount of money for the school. However, the amount of work involved in turning your carnival into a real money machine can be intense. Here are five tips you can use to really increase your earning potential.
1. Use the latest technology in your marketing campaign.
A basic principle of marketing is getting your message across to your audience in the way 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 dates / times for carnival
Notifications on bracelet sales
Cool activities you’ve booked, like a bungee jumping or inflatable joust
Popular entertainment acts you have scheduled, such as local bands or the high school cheer squad.
Incentives like shaving the head to the principal if 80% of the school’s students buy wristbands in advance
Any special food items you sell at the carnival, such as fried Oreo cookies.
Get this information in real time and specifically ask your readers to spread the word by sending email links or suggesting their friends visit your school’s fan site.
I would also suggest hiring a handful of students who are heavy texting users. Ask them to start a “text tree” in which they send text messages to ten of their friends and family. Then those ten text ten more friends and so on, until the numbers explode. It can be a simple message like “don’t forget to buy your carnival bracelets today.” This can be a very powerful tool for you.
Be sure to ask your school district if you can use their automated telephone alert system, if they have one. This is the phone system that calls you home to notify you of school cancellation or something similar. Schools often use these systems to inform parents about school plays or performances. Request permission to use the system for your school’s carnival announcements to parents at 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, which is schools, in a bad economy. People are afraid and want to keep 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 stand out in your carnival marketing plan.
First, be very specific in your material. Tell parents exactly what the money you raise will go to. Work with the school principal and teachers to make a list of all the items that depend on fundraising. Tell parents that these items will be removed if their goals are not met. You even go so far as to create a priority list – name the item to cut first, etc. Some may ignore your message, but for others, this reality check will be a good incentive. And at least, it can be said, they were warned.
Second, make sure you start advertising your carnival LONG before it happens. I speak six or seven months before. Then after you’ve told them where their money will go, specifically suggest that families should SAVE for your event. If you give them six months (24 weeks) and ask them to save just $ 3 per week, that’s $ 72 by the time of the event. If your school has 250 families and only half of them (125) save to spend the $ 72, you will get $ 9,000. 75% of that amount would equal more than $ 13,000. Would it be useful for your school?
I’d even go as far as launching a school-wide project where kids get coffee cans or milk jugs and decorate them in personal savings boxes for the school carnival. Even with tight budgets, many families can find ways to raise $ 3 a week. That’s only 43 cents a day! But you will have to devise a plan for them.
Unless families are aware of the specific need and are provided with a specific plan on how to reach the goal, you will not be able to raise the money your school needs.
3. Pre-sale activity wristbands
In the previous sections, I mentioned pre-sale activity and gaming wristbands. This is basically a concept where people get a discount for buying their full access game tickets in advance. If a person decides not to pre-purchase the bracelet, they will have to pay more at the door on the day / night of the event. Generally, a $ 5 advance purchase discount is sufficient incentive.
I would suggest setting a school-wide goal for bracelet sales. This will mean that you or the school principal will have to do a great deal with the children about monitoring their progress. Once a day or once a week, you should do the math and announce to the school how close you are reaching the goal.
This can be done with a simple “target thermometer” made with a pair of thick black and red Sharpie markers and a large sheet of construction paper. It doesn’t have to be fancy to clarify the point. It really encourages kids to do it. Of course, that will mean that you will have to offer them something pretty good in return for their effort.
Even though he’s an old man, the school principal who shaves his head in front of the school is a great motivator (unless the principal is either bald or a woman who refuses to submit to the razor) . But things like an assembly, a day off from school, a day off from school (if it’s private), or anything else that doesn’t cost you money would be good too.
By pre-selling a large number of activity wristbands, you not only anticipate your income, but you also get a good start in estimating how much food you will need to have on hand. By adding the goal / reward system to the pre-sale, you proactively increase your revenue.
4. Be smart about spending on rewards: use reward packages
It’s easy to want to squander the rewards you give kids for the games they play. Some schools get very involved and set up a “prize redemption” station, where children exchange the tickets they won playing games for various prizes, much like the way arcades do.
I would suggest staying away from this system. While kids love it, it presents a logistical nightmare for carnival organizers. You have to figure out all the math of how many tickets each child could win in each game, for each time they play it. Then you need to determine how many of the small, medium, and large prizes to buy based on how you think the kids would actually fare. And you better not ruin it by not having enough “big” prizes. You could have some disgruntled young men on your hands …
Also, children take a long time to decide what prizes they want. Have you ever queued up behind a seven-year-old at the awards counter at Chuck E. Cheese? It takes them eons to figure out how to spend all their tickets. You’ll have a line snaking through your entire school, trying to handle this!
The solution, while not the most fun for kids, is to go with packaged prize packages that are all the same. You can create separate packages for boys and girls, if you like. Good prizes are pencils, McDonald’s coupons, small candy, a homework pass, a few small toys, a rub-on tattoo, etc. In the long run, a kid won’t be disappointed with this loot bag and it has saved everyone involved a lot of pain.
5. Market like crazy with add-ons to make money
Ok so you have people buying their activity bracelets and some food, but how else can you get them to part with their hard earned money?
From the moment a family enters their carnival, they must be overwhelmed by opportunities to spend money. The games and activities are attractive, but you can set up a bunch of other money-making stations that are also very attractive.
For example, you can sell “shells”. These are decorative egg shells hollowed out and filled with confetti. Once they are filled and decorated, you glue a small cover over the hole to keep the confetti inside.
Have volunteers prepare them by the dozen and then sell them individually at the carnival. A person buys a shell, sneaks up behind a friend, and snaps it over the head, raining confetti on that person. It’s a good laugh for everyone. It just makes sure that the person buying the egg knows that they shouldn’t hurt their target by crushing them on the head too hard.
There are many articles online that give instructions on how to make and decorate eggs. Do a simple Google search to find out more.
Another good idea is to set up a jail at the carnival. For a fee, like 2 tickets (roughly $ 1), you can hire one of the jail guards to “arrest” one of your friends. The “arrested” person has to stay in jail until they pay for 4 tickets (approximately $ 2) to get out.
The jail should be in a conspicuous place where everyone can see who has been arrested.
If you really want to increase the shame factor, have inmates sing for the crowd while incarcerated. 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!
One more idea to earn some extra money at your carnival would be to hire a volunteer who is handy with a camera to take candid photos all night 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 seller to motivate people to buy.
These are just a few of the many strategies you can use to earn 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.