carnival booth

School carnivals have proven time and time again to be the most successful tool to fundraise and build comradery among parents, teachers, students and the surrounding community. It’s easy to fall into a carnival rut. So how do you keep everyone engaged and revenue up? Easy…read the following tips for how to keep your carnival a step ahead of the rest!

1. Theme is King

- By selecting a quality theme each year you can continually attract a sizeable crowd and prevent being boring or predictable. Children love surprises and so do adults. Changing your theme means changing game ideas, foods, and even prizes. Themes don’t have to be complex or for that matter even innovative they just have to be interesting. The ice cream doesn’t make the sundae, the toppings do!

2. Be aware of who your attendees are.

 Know what has been popular in the past and build on it in the future. Do people like dunk tanks, baseball throws, or even a ring toss? Know what makes money and then ask your audience what you could improve on or what they like. What food is popular, what are attendee favorites? For instance a dunk tank is popular and this year your theme is African Safari. Simple, have the person in the tank dress up like a jungle cat. The key is making simple ideas spectacular. Making your attendees active participants makes them feel appreciated and needed. Your carnival NEEDS them. Ask them to complete surveys, be aware of what they think!

3. Don’t just think like a Marketer, be one!

Having lots of people attend your carnival alone will not be the sole determinant of dollars raised. That being said, you must advertise your carnival. With money and few funds available for marketing it is key to utilize your dollars wisely. First, utilize free methods. Schools often have press releases, place fliers in shops around the neighborhood, advertise at athletic events where people from other schools and the community attend. More recently facebook and email are also ways to get adults and the community involved. Doctor’s offices are a great place to put fliers. Wouldn’t you rather read about some exciting carnival than the latest flu virus, I thought so! If you happen to have funds for paid advertising in newspapers or on a local radio station these are also successful alternatives. However, you’ll want to ask when the best times are. What is the average age of the listener, etc.. Ask for their (radio station or newspaper sales agents) advice on what might be the best bargain for you. And last but not least don’t forget word of mouth. A proven track record of success will keep attendees coming back for more. And the great thing is, they tell their friends!

4. Make your Carnival Inviting

Simply put is your carnival safe? Is it somewhere parents want to bring their children? Is there adequate parking? Is staff clear on directions and are they helpful? Clearing these issues up ahead of time will help for a smooth running carnival and happy parents. Not to mention you might actually have time to enjoy your carnival!

5. Develop a wide network of support

As noted funds will be limited, seek out local businesses, parents, grandparents and friends for donations and support. The best way to make money, don’t spend any! Provide incentives for participation, free tickets for admission, game tokens etc. Also, allow for vending booths. You can charge for vending booth space at the carnival. This is a great marketing opportunity for local businesses and revenue for your carnival. Again, another way to get doctors involved is to set up health and wellness booths. Get people in the community involved.

6. If theme is King, Entertainment Is Queen

Book a great host. It is important that this person be charming; use humor, prodding whatever it takes to show people a great time. The happier people are the longer they’ll stay, the more friends they’ll tell and the more money they will spend. Also, make sure there are plenty of opportunities to spend money. People love options so give them some.

7.  Involvement is Key

Get teachers and administration staff involved. Show that it truly is a community effort. Leverage student’s interest in seeing teachers outside the classroom. Let people know what your school is all about. Ultimately the funds raised will be helping students as well as the staff. Show people who attend the carnival that you know what it means to be a part of the team and how great your students are. Not only will this make your carnival a success, but it will promote a great reputation for you school.


And remember the difference between a good carnival and a great one is fine tuned planning!

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