A school carnival is one of the best ways to raise money and build community spirit for your school. So many schools have yearly carnivals that it is easy to fall into a familiar pattern of repetition each year. The following suggestions are meant to help you shake your event up a little and to start thinking of new ways to increase your profits.
BUILD YOUR CARNIVAL AROUND A REALLY GOOD THEME
By selecting a different theme for your carnival each year, it both keeps your families interested and engaged, and also it forces your planning committee to develop new ideas for games, events, costumes, food choices, etc. The selection of a theme is the foundation for the rest of your carnival planning. It is vital to keep your auction from becoming predictable each year.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
It is important to know what kind of people will be attending your carnival. This demographic knowledge will help you in deciding what kind of a theme to choose and what kind of activities will make you the most money. Basically, make sure you are giving your audience what they want. If karaoke is popular, give them a karaoke booth. If a football throwing competition would be popular, give them that. If you think silly string would be a big seller, have plenty of that on hand and mark it up.
THINK LIKE A GUERILLA (MARKETER)
The key to making a lot of money at your carnival is to have lots of people there. Make sure you have an excellent team in charge of getting the word out. First, utilize every method of free publicity: press release, road-side banners, lots of fliers in shops over town, church bulletins, etc. Also let your school families know how important attendance is and that their efforts in bringing others to the event is encouraged and appreciated. After you have exhausted these low or no cost means of advertising, perhaps you can consider a well-placed paid advertisement in the local paper or radio station. Only do this if you’ve had success in the past and can afford it. There are so many means of cheap marketing.
SECURITY AT DOORS = PARENTS FEEL SAFE
Once parents have arrived, they want to make sure their kids are safe to run around. This sense of security will go a long way toward making mom and dad comfortable and willing to spend more money. I know that if I’m constantly worried about where my kids are and what they are breaking, I’ll be looking at the clock and planning my exit strategy. I’m not going to drop a lot of dough. Make sure to have volunteers specifically assigned to the front doors to make sure no one escapes. I would also station a male and female adult by the bathrooms to make sure no trouble happens there. Try to imagine any place there could be trouble in your physical space and solve the problem before it happens.
SEEK A WIDE VARIETY OF DONATIONS
One way to make money is to not spend it in the first place. Therefore, do everything in your power to get food and supplies donated. This process should happen very early in your planning. Seek out natural connections within your school community. Who knows, one of your sudent’s dad might own a company that rents out inflatable bounce houses and would be willing to rent them to you for free. You won’t know until you check. Make sure to give out a lot of recognition (both verbally and through prominent signage) to all those who helped, and make sure that a committee takes responsibility for sending out thank you letters to every single person or business that helped you during the carnival.
CHARGE FOR VENDOR BOOTHS
In addition to the rides, games, and scheduled entertainment at the carnival, there is an opportunity to provide parents and kids with another great experience: vendor booths. You can sell booth space ( can be as simple as 8′ folding tables) to local business who want to market to your specific audience. You can also require the vendors provide some kind of freebie or activity to whoever visits their booth. Pencils, Frisbees, coloring books, etc- and they can put their logo on everything they give away. They can pass out coupons as well. This is a great marketing opportunity for the business and it adds to the overall excitement of the event. If you get enough vendors, you can also make some decent money off of it. If you charge $100 per booth and get 12 booths, you just made $1,200 pure profit. And, $100 for such a great marketing opportunity is not out of reach for many local businesses. I have even heard of carnivals with booths set up for health and wellness information, including free flu shots, blood pressure screenings, for example. You can give price breaks on booths to non-profit groups, if you wish. The more booths = more excitement.
SELL TICKETS FOR EVERYTHING- KEEPS CASH AT A MINIMUM
Take a cue from most arcades out there today, convert cash into tokens or tickets whenever possible. This accomplishes two important purposes. 1) It prevents individual booths from having to handle and secure cash. With all the excitement and activity, why take a risk on cash being lost, stolen, or mishandled in any way? 2) People are much more likely to spend tokens or tickets freely than real cash money. It’s a psychological thing.
Even though you may lose a few percentage points for the transaction, I recommend setting your carnival up to accept debit and credit cards for tickets and maybe some of the higher price add-ons you have. This way you avoid the situation of a parent running out of cash, even though they still want to make that last minute purchase. Don’t lose that sale!
PLAN SOMETHNG FOR EVERYBODY
In your planning, make sure that you include activities for everyone. For instance, you may get lots of younger siblings. It would be wise in this instance to set aside a safe area for them to crawl and play without having big kids risk accidentally hurting them. A few gym mats, some baby toys, a fence of some kind, and chairs for parents could be all that you need. Even if you offer this toddlers’ area for free, you are doing a service for parents who won’t have to spend money on babysitters or feel rushed to leave, due to their younger children. On the other hand, it would also be wise to provide lots of seating areas and coffee (decaf) for grandmas and grandpas. Make sure that nobody feels uncomfortable or un-catered to. The more people through your door, the more ticket revenue you pick up.
BOOK A GREAT EMCEE
I am a strong believer in designating someone to serve as the overall host or emcee for the event. Give this guy or gal a wireless mic and let him or her use charm, humor, prodding, and enthusiasm to get people having a great time and spending money. Don’t settle for a bland voice telling people the talent show starts in five minutes. Get a person who will have the natural ability to hype it up. The emcee can also call attention to booths that aren’t doing well and need attention. Just make sure that the emcee doesn’t cross the line into being obnoxious. This can be a tall order, but if you get the right person, it can make a world of different to your event.
FOOD, FOOD, FOOD
Basically, forget everything else I’ve written. It’s really just all about the food. People love to eat and they’ll spend money to do it. Offer as many choices and styles as you can think of. If people like to eat it and it’s convenient to mass produce and serve, do it! I really don’t think you can over-do it on the food.
This is an opportunity to really hype up a specific item. For instance, this could be the only time all year that third grade teacher Mrs. Riley makes her world-famous elephant ears. Your school carnival is the only place on Earth to get them. “Tell your friends and family! Don’t miss this once a year chance!”
(Remember to get as much of the food donated as you can, because it would then be 100% profit!)
OFFER LOTS OF PLACES TO SPEND MONEY
Besides selling tickets for games and food, think about ways you can sell additional items. I know of carnivals who have successfully sold student designed t-shirts, school community recipe/cookbooks, family photos, and raffle tickets, to name a few. Also, look at the Oriental Trading Company Catalog for very inexpensive items that kids love to have. Silly string for instance is a great seller. You can even set up a little store for any of the above mentioned items. Don’t miss any opportunity to get people to spend their hard-earned dollars for your school.
LEVERAGE THE “CELEBRITY” OF TEACHERS, PRINCIPAL
Kids are always amazed to see their teachers in any situation out of the classroom. I remember thinking that my elementary school teachers actually lived at school. They couldn’t possibly have a life in the “real world”. To run into one of them at the grocery store was like running into a movie star or the President of the United States. You will be sure to have a hit activity anytime you can put a teacher in a funny situation. Think dunk tank or pie throwing, etc. Maybe the principal could get his head shaved if a certain level of money is raised that night.
The school carnival is a great opportunity for your community to come together, develop relationships, and raise some much needed money for your school. Be as creative as you can in selecting a popular theme and planning activities that will accomplish your fundraising goals. Good luck!
Source by Jim Berigan