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The Worst and Best School Fundraisers · Raising Money the RIGHT Way

The Worst and Best School Fundraisers · Raising Money the RIGHT Way


Even the best school fundraisers mostly result in dread, panic, and questionable baked goods. Meanwhile, the worst school fundraisers… well… these are the stuff of legends.

From the glorious triumphs of candy bar sales to the dismal failures of “Guess the Weight of the Principal” booths, these events are always the talk of professionals in the educational finance sector. The most successful school fundraisers are like well-choreographed dances of enthusiasm and cash flow, leaving everyone high-fiving and laughing hysterically. On the flip side, the worst fundraisers resemble a comedy of errors, with more crickets chirping than dollars being raised and everyone wondering what the hell they were thinking.

Whether it’s a spectacular success or a terrible mess, one thing’s for sure: school fundraisers always provide some unforgettable moments and plenty of material discussions at future reunions.

Today, we’re comparing the pair! First, we’re going to dive into some of the WORST school fundraisers that have ever bounced around international headlines.

Then we’re going to instead look at some much better ideas for school fundraisers so you can avoid the proverbial dumpster fire.

Let’s splash some cash!

An excited teacher in a yellow sweater making it rain cash he earned at a successful school fundraiser.
Make it rain!

The Worst School Fundraisers: What NOT to Do

Look, honestly, I have no idea what awful school teachers or administrators signed off on these fundraiser ideas. From questionable to downright horrifying, eyebrows will be raised and jaws will be dropped.

But at least we get to giggle at them on the internet, hey?

Selling Crap

Having children sell things is annoying. It puts pressure on adults to supply a bunch of commodities and pressure on everyone else to spend money on things they don’t want.

Fundraiser sales usually include things like…

  • Chocolate
  • Gift wraps
  • Arts and crafts
  • Baked goods
  • Magazines
  • Cookie dough, candles
  • Popcorn
  • Etcetera

While good in theory, school sell-offs are unfair to the students and the adults they awkwardly annoy – it IS possible to have fundraising without selling anything. I don’t want to buy my neighbor’s kid’s crap, but I also don’t want to seem cheap or unsupportive.

Let’s just skip this one, puh-lease. 

Animal Involvement

Schools have found interesting ways of incorporating farm animals into their fundraisers. Some of them are funny, others are terrible, and some are both funny and terrible. 

Take, for example, “cow chip bingo”. The school makes a giant bingo card on the field next to the school and has cows wandering around on it until one of them takes a dump in a square. Anyone who bought that square wins the game. I don’t know if there’s a prize other than the pride that comes with knowing a cow defecated in your particular square. 

In 2012, the Uruti School in New Zealand staged a best-dressed dead possum competition. The competition had students “deck out the furry corpses in costumes such as wedding dresses and bikinis”. Funnily enough, this was actually a very successful fundraiser as possums are a destructive pest and New Zealand has a strong culture of sustainable hunting. However, as you might expect, not everybody was too happy with the idea.

Donkey basketball is a similarly strange fundraising event where teachers attempt to play the game while riding confused donkeys. This sounds entertaining, and I would pay a good amount of money to see certain introverted teachers ride a wayward donkey around the gymnasium. (Although it might inspire them to quit teaching very abruptly.)

A line of people in different animal costumes holding signs promoting environmental awareness.
Be kind to furry fwends.

Another popular school fundraiser involving animals is to try and raise enough money to force the principal to literally kiss a pig. Depending on the principal, I could be very supportive of this odd event.

Overall though, it’s better to just not involve animals in any school fundraising events. Unless somehow pigs have evolved to talk and I just didn’t get the memo, I highly doubt they consented to these sexual advances!

Teacher Humiliation

Speaking of inspiring teachers to quit, fundraisers that humiliate teachers by covering them in food, dunking them in water, or attaching them to things are a rather popular way for schools to generate money. Some teachers get covered in ketchup and mustard or pied in the face.

A teacher sits in a dunk tank at a terrible school fundraiser.
A moldy oldie.

They are also often placed in a dunk tank. One teacher was actually told that if she participated in the dunk tank, she would secure her own classroom for the following school year. This feels like a bold move of the administration bullying a teacher into something they don’t want to do.

A new, popular idea for a school fundraiser is the duct tape prank. The whole idea is that if you pay enough money, you can duct tape your teacher or the principal to a wall, though that can sometimes go awry. 

One elementary School had every teacher participate in pole dancing for tips, while a principal of a different school proposed a lingerie fashion show with teachers as models. Even worse was the elementary principal, who made a “sexy teacher” calendar to sell for school funding. 

A clever (though rather unethical) fundraiser one school conducted was literally bidding on your child’s teacher for the following year. In 2019, an elementary school in Portland put teachers on an “auction block” (yikes). Ultimately, six parents bid a total of $1,300 to pick their kid’s teachers. After word spread and teachers expressed their discomfort, the money was refunded, and the highest bidders no longer got to pick a teacher.

Another school asked parents to donate lunch food and then charged teachers to eat it. But even worse than that was the school with its teachers working at McDonald’s for tips. The slogan for the fundraiser was “Come watch your teachers work!”, as though they don’t do that every day at school. 

Student Humiliation

In March 2024, a video showing students at an Oklahoma high school allegedly licking toes at a fundraising event generated controversy. The state superintendent called the act “disgusting”, but it did raise $150,000 for the school. 

Unfortunately, auctioning off students also seems to be a popular fundraising event for schools. Sometimes, they even call it a “slave auction” (double yikes).

A man sitting at a computer loses his mind after reading about the worst school fundraiser idea: a slave auction.
Wtf did I just read?

This often involves students bidding on other students, and they have to be their servants for a day and do things such as carry books, pick up lunch, and basically be humiliated so the school could make a few dollars.

Some slave auctions even have the person handcuffed or wearing a leash. While this might make for some funny stories from students in later life, it’s still highly questionable.

One school had a day where you could buy friends with a rose. Popular kids got tons of roses, while others got none and were devastated.

One of the worst school fundraising ideas ever was with the boys’ water polo team, which made a calendar with them in their swimsuits. I’ll pay not to see that, thanks. 

Torture Methods

If you think some of the school fundraisers you just heard about sound like torture, you ain’t heard anything yet! Ask any parent of a young child about the song “Baby Shark” and they will prepare to slap you in the face. That is how irritating the song is.

A school in Australia decided to use the annoyance to their benefit by playing it in between classes perpetually until enough students paid to join a charity walk. The school was slammed online for using something that is actually considered a torture method, and no doubt some teachers were traumatized by this malicious act!

“The CIA used the Barney Theme music to try to break the Guatemalan Bay prisoners. Even they weren’t as cruel to torture people with Baby Shark.” 

A poster advertising the awful Shark Baby school fundraising event.

Another completely tone-deaf and humiliating fundraising idea a school initiated actually called “Homeless Night” where students actually paid to live like a homeless person for a night. For $15, students brought cardboard boxes to camp out in front of the school. They made it a fun experience by decorating the boxes and it was basically a supervised sleepover with BBQ included. The fundraiser did raise money for the city’s homeless shelters, but the name and theme were quite tasteless.

One school had a “jail” that students could pay to put people in, and those people would have to pay to get out. I wonder what would happen if a prisoner was out of cash. Would they be in the school’s jail until their parents could bail them out?

What Were They Thinking?

In 2022, at a high school in Michigan, a rapper named O.T. Rell simulated sex with a stripper in front of a crowd in the gymnasium. The rapper performed with his shirt off alongside his background dancer, who was dressed in lingerie. There was a discrepancy over whether or not the event organizer knew that the stripper was going to be in attendance. Overall, most agree that they were perfectly aware. 

What could be worse than hiring a stripper for a school fundraiser? Perhaps having the students give lap dances to their teachers!

In 2021, the Kentucky governor said that a particular school fundraising event at Hazard High School, which was captured on since-deleted photos, was “unacceptable”. The photos showed students giving lap dances to staff and spanking each other with a paddle, among other actions. 

One year, for the Halloween carnival, a class had the bright idea to set up a “shooting range”. The buyers would get to shoot a kid with paintballs. Members of the class would take turns being the target, running back and forth while getting shot at. The teacher, who was both the class sponsor and the school principal, approved the idea.

In the eighties, the student government sold tickets for “topless dancers” at an after-school rally. Everyone bought them to see how it would play out. Unbeknownst to a group of three and four-year-old siblings, they were brought onto the stage with no shirt and a boombox played the latest pop songs. Gross. 

Some schools have students buy dates with other students in an auction style. The student being auctioned off buys a ticket and then advertises themselves in front of the whole student body. One year, it apparently made $10,000!

One school blindfolded the football team, and they had to guess which cheerleader was kissing them but awkwardly (and hilariously?) it was their own mothers. As long as the kiss was just a peck, it’s certainly not the worst fundraiser on the list!

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The Best School Fundraiser Ideas WITHOUT Torture or Humiliation

Moving right along to something less demoralizing, let’s talk about some much better ways to fundraise for a school without giving teachers reasons to quit!

Please, feel free to borrow these fundraiser ideas. For the love of all that is holy, use these fundraiser ideas.

Leave the Gestapo things to the Gestapo.

Art Museum

One of the best school fundraisers I have heard of is an art auction. Everyone gets dressed up like they are going to a gallery opening and it makes the kids feel super special to see their artwork displayed like in a museum.

Of course, parents only buy their kids’ art, but it’s fun, they get a memory, and the kids feel good about themselves. Pure, wholesome goodness.

Front-Row Seats

Another great fundraiser idea is a raffle for front-row seats at various school events. I am usually the parent who shows up late and has to sit all the way in the back where I can’t see anything, so I’d shell out some cash for this! 

“Topless” Car Wash with a Twist

While a “topless car wash” sounds completely inappropriate on the surface, this idea is actually quite clever.

For a high school fundraiser, the cheerleaders host a “Topless Car Wash”. There are signs all over the front of the school.

Once the cars pull around to the back of the school, the fully clothed cheerleaders only wash the bottom part of the car, not the top. And those jerks who showed up for that fundraiser deserve a half-assed job!

Flat Out Ask for Money

Most parents agree that fundraising activities are annoying, time-consuming, and awkward. Tons of parents would prefer the school just send a letter home on the first day of school that says, “Please donate. If we raise X amount of money, we will not have any fundraisers for the rest of the year.”

I’m sure a lot of perpetually tired teachers and parents would love this idea and they would make a fortune.

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The Best School Fundraisers are About Connection

NOT disconnection.

Fundraising events are about connecting the school to the wider community. They’re about creating memorable and joyful moments for students, parents, and faculty alike in a way that supports the school and its community.

Navigating the world of school fundraisers requires a delicate balance of creativity, organization, community engagement, and an understanding of what is appropriate for school. While some ideas soar to new heights of success, leaving participants energized and funds flowing, others crash and burn in a blaze of awkwardness and disappointment (and sometimes news headlines).

By learning from both the triumphs and the missteps, organizers can ensure that future events are met with enthusiasm and support. In the end, it’s not just about the dollars raised, but the memories made and the bonds strengthened within the school community that truly define the success of any fundraiser.

Community engagement builds student success so make fundraisers fun, wholesome, and meaningful. And leave the humiliating experiences at the curb where they belong!

A jar of money and group of community members making heart shapes with their hands after experiencing the best school fundraiser.

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Jane Morris

Jane Morris is the pen name of an ex-teacher who would really like to tell you more about herself but is worried awful administrators will come after her for spilling their dirty little secrets. Jane has taught English for over 15 years in a major American city. She received her B.A. in English and Secondary Education from a well-known university and her M.A. in Writing and Literature from an even fancier (and more expensive) university. As a professional queen of commiseration turned published author, Jane’s foremost passion in life is to make people laugh through the tears.

She has written several highly acclaimed books unpacking the reality of teaching and life inside the school system. You can view her full library of works here.