The above image shows a colorful school carnival photo booth outside on green grass in the sunshine.
The ONE Thing That Makes or Breaks Your Fundraising Carnival
There are so many details that pull you in a myriad of directions when planning a fundraising carnival!
Of course, you need to plan exciting carnival games, prizes, and activities for the kids. This includes adding new games each year and ditching the games that were not a hit from last year. And, you must ensure there are engaging activities for the adults, too (such as a silent auction). There is also planning required to handle decorations, volunteer management, parking, and feeding hundreds of carnival-goers.
But we want to keep you focused on the PRIMARY factor that makes or breaks your fundraising carnival, and if you look at our picture above you will see it is missing one important thing...
Getting Folks to Show Up at Your Carnival!
You want a HUGE Crowd! It is so easy to get sidetracked by all the details with planning a carnival that you overlook the primary focus: ensure people show up at your big event! The hardest part about planning a fundraising carnival is not the planning itself, but rather getting carnival-goers to commit and show up.
What happens if nobody shows up?
Think of a fundraising carnival as a party. If you plan a party, but nobody comes, it is a waste of money and time. You could have the world's best carnival, with amazing decorations, unique carnival games & great prizes for the kids - but unfortunately if not enough people show up, you won't make a profit. Of course, if not enough people attend your carnival, you'll lose hundreds of dollars due to food, clean-up, booth, and prize expenses!
There are many factors you can tweak to ensure carnival-goers will attend your exciting event. See our 6 quick tips below to make sure you have a carnival packed with tons of carnival-goers for fun and profit!
The above image shows parent volunteers at a school carnival booth.
Get Folks Involved!
The #1 SECRET to attracting enough carnival-goers to your event is to...
...Get your entire organization, school, or church involved.
Everyone at your school or church should be looking forward to your upcoming carnival. Carnivals are fun and exciting, and a fantastic fundraiser, of course!
Encourage all your organization members to be on-board by involving as many people as possible! As an example, for a school carnival, be sure to include administrators, teachers, children, parents, and extended family.
If you're having a school carnival, ask the room-parent from each classroom to organize a pre-assigned game or activity booth at your carnival by getting volunteers to sign up for a one hour time slot.
In addition, you can even have the kids take part in the decorations of the booth! Ask kids to donate to their individual Classroom Basket Raffles. We've worked with one school that asked the kids to donate 2 liter soda bottles for their Cola Ring Toss game. (Click here to see how they were able to get great participation and ended up with 905 sodas from their students!)
Note: We recommend NOT having the room-parent do the purchasing of prizes and booth supplies for one booth.
(Carnival purchasing is best done by just one person. See why here!)
The above image shows a ticket sales table set up at an outdoor Carnival.
Have A Ticket Pre-Sale
Pre-sale tickets help in a few different ways. First, folks who purchase tickets are making a commitment to come to your event. It is easy to then count the pre-sale ticket sales and estimate how many people will attend your carnival. This is a huge bonus, and makes it much easier on the carnival planners involved! A ticket pre-sale also helps to shorten the ticket booth lines on your carnival day, meaning your volunteers can help out at other booths for a longer period of time.
In addition, if you have a pre-sale for food items you are serving then this also allows you to make plan the amount of food and drink to serve for the big event!
Be sure to check out the second part of this series here! We've written 4 more awesome tips to attract tons of people to your next carnival.
The above image shows fundraising posters made by students displayed on the school yard fence.
Flyers & Signs As Advertisements
Here are 3 ways to utilize this method:
A.) It may sound unnecessary to have flyers and signs for your carnival in 2019, but trust us on this one. People are bombarded with constant to-do lists and reminders, so your carnival's date and time will likely slip their minds. Be sure to have plenty of flyers and signs for your carnival as a fantastic way to have folks "save the date" for your awesome upcoming carnival!
B.) Also, if your school has social media, consider posting these flyers on social media, too. Involved parents and community can repost on their own social media and spread the word about your carnival throughout their community this way.
C.) Teachers who are involved with your carnival can give flyers to children and ask them to show their parents once they get home.
The above image shows teen volunteers posing at an outdoor school carnival.
Find "Outside" Volunteers
Another way to get more involvement in your big event, is to look for volunteers outside organization. For example, if you are an elementary school, be sure to ask for teens volunteers from the local middle and high schools.
There are plenty of other ways to get volunteers at your carnival. We recommend asking teachers to ask all parents in their classrooms to volunteer just one hour at your carnival. Most parents can afford an hour or two on the weekend with plenty of warning in advance, but if they are unable to attend, ask if they'll instead donate a few dollars to help with carnival costs.
Be sure to reach out to local middle and high school administrators and ask them if any of their students need volunteer hours! Many school organizations require between 5-30 volunteer hours a year for students. Encourage students who need volunteer hours to donate some of their time at your carnival; it's a fun way for them to get a few volunteer hours down! Here at Carnival Savers, we especially LOVE having youth football players volunteer at carnivals, and you can see the adorable reason here!
The above image shows a colorful smoothie food truck at a school carnival.
Invite Your Neighborhood & Community
Ask school parents and kids to invite their entire family and some friends, too!
Carnivals are a fantastic event to invite the grandparents to; they'll love spending time with their family and grandchildren.
And, don't forget to invite the entire community to attend your carnival by, again, posting flyers nearby and on social media. Don't forget there are always some children living close by who are home schooled or who attend a private school.
One elementary school in Texas put up yard signs in the surrounding neighborhood and at local businesses (with permission of course) and found that many neighbors who did not have children at the elementary school came to their Friday evening carnival!
Why? This school told everyone to come out for an "easy Friday night dinner" that was conveniently located right around the corner with popular food trucks! Once the neighbors came out to eat - they had signs to tell folks about their silent auction inside which helped to increase sales at their auction as well! A win/win for this community!
So don't sleep on your opportunity to get your local neighbors involved and make sure they know they are invited as well!
The above image shows a little league team and coach huddled in the grass.
Choose Your Carnival Date CAREFULLY!
We are guessing that many of our readers are planning for carnivals that already have a date and are coming up in the near future. However, we want to point out that timing is a huge part of attendance at a fundraising carnival.
For example, if the kids have other activities, parents may want to come to your carnival but simply are unable to (or only be able to stay an hour) due to prior commitments. When planning your carnival, look for other large community events. For example, you do not want to compete against a large, popular music festival, opening season for any youth sports, or a community-wide event like a library opening etc.
We are aware of one school in the southern U.S. that has their annual carnival in February - well before all the youth sports games like baseball, softball and soccer have started playing. The school PTA does not need to worry about extracurricular sports getting in the way and preventing folks from staying at their 5 hour long carnival. So, be sure to check your calendar carefully to look at typical weather, community activities, holidays, sports seasons, and other events that can interfere with your upcoming carnival.
Thank you for reading the Carnival Savers blog. We hope we have helped you to keep your focus and know the most important thing to keep in mind when planning your big fundraising carnival!