In-School Fundraising and Volunteering: How Do Schools Support Causes?

Is your organization thinking about taking your cause to schools? Educators polled say, “Go for it!”

MDR strategists have many a conversation with nonprofits and corporate social responsibility practitioners intrigued by the idea of holding school-run fundraisers and volunteer events. Schools, after all, have tentacles that can reach out to entire towns. And aside from the obvious benefit of raising much-needed money for a good cause, student engagement creates an unbeatable future pipeline of supporters and donors.

However, several assumptions may be holding organizations back from launching school- or classroom-based campaigns. Some things we hear:

“Schools won’t participate.”
“The approval process will take too long.”
“Schools only want to raise money for their own classrooms, sports teams, and school trips.”
“We would have to develop a lot of standards-based curriculum for teachers to participate with their students.”

A recent MDR survey threw those assumptions overboard. In our online survey, K-12 teachers, administrators, and other school personnel shared with us how they vet causes they take on with their students. Educators told us they love that their students raise money and volunteer for charities. On a scale of 1 to 10, K-12 educators surveyed rated the idea of students raising money for a cause an 8 out of 10. And they gave volunteering time for a charity a 9 out of 10.

Here are key highlights of the results.

Nearly All Schools Raise Money for Causes.
Ninety-four percent of our respondents said that their school supports at least one or two charities each year. Half support several.

Number of charities your school supports

Teachers Are Often the Decision Makers.
Various causes are championed by a wide variety of school constituents. One classroom, several classrooms, or the entire school might participate.

Who generally chooses causes  for schools to support

Decisions About Causes to Support Are Made Quickly.
Getting to “yes” takes less than one month. A large percentage of educators surveyed say it takes less than a week.

What is the length of the decision making process about causes to support

They Want You to Keep It Simple.
Most educators surveyed said they want in-school campaigns to be turnkey and easy to collect donations. And they don’t need to be curriculum-based!

The ideal fundraising activity or charity should

What Are the Most Important Lessons for Students?
Teaching social responsibility and citizenship to youth are the key benefits. Also important is helping them develop empathy, social emotional skills, and team building.

What are the most positive lessons for students when doing school fundraising

Be Kid-Focused.
Educators are most interested in causes supporting other children. Causes that are health- and environment-related fell closely behind. Nonprofits connected to issues like gun control, and religious causes fell low on the list.

Be kid-focused with your school fundraising

There Is High Interest in Supporting the Local Community.
Internationally focused causes are of lower interest to teachers.

Causes we are most likely to support with students

Traditional Standby Fundraising Ideas Still Work.
Educators prefer runs/walks, collecting change, and clothing and food drives to gaming activities and academic competitions.

School fundraising ideas from most appealing to least appealing

Who did we survey?
MDR surveyed educators at elementary, middle, and high schools, including public, private, charter, and parochial. The majority of the respondents were classroom teachers but we also heard from principals, librarians, counselors, guidance, physical education, and others. The highest proportion of educators we surveyed work in Title 1 schools.

If you have any questions or comments about this research study, please contact us at