Have you ever wished your school had more money for extra projects and activities? It is rare for a school to have extra money for special projects and activities for our students, so we have had to get creative to create those opportunities. As a librarian, I wanted money to have a Dr. Seuss celebration, get new books for the library, and give students books as prizes and gifts. I also wanted to invite authors and speakers to share their reading and writing experiences with our students. My plan was to livestream the presentations and invite parents to view the activities online. I put in a request to Student Council and our PTO, but they did not have adequate funds to support this endeavor, no matter how beneficial it would have been for the students.
A teacher friend told me about a money raising activity called “The Penny Wars”, a fun and creative way of raising money. Besides raising money, the students would enjoy and talk about the fun they had while participating in the friendly competition. At the end of the fundraiser, the losers become the winners and everyone walks away feeling like a champion. Our school goal was to raise $800, and it didn’t seem possible to collect that many pennies. She said another school had raised $1,500 due to the silver coins and the bills. This seemingly effortless fundraiser was proposed to our PTO and accepted.
The best part about this fundraiser is NO overhead. All you need is a large jar for each classroom to collect the money. You also need parent and student volunteers to count money and make flyers. To make it really successful, you need a teacher, parent, or staff member who can motivate the students to participate in this friendly money competition. I went on-line to find the Penny War rules. Sure enough, cyberspace had many versions of the Penny Wars rules.
Following are the steps of my version for the Penny Wars, and reference sites.
Large glass jar for each group. Pickle jugs work well.
Paper, glue and markers to decorate each jar.
1. Talk to your administrators and get approval to run a fundraising activity through PTO or Student Council.
2. Request to speak to PTO or Student Council during one of their meetings.
3. Present your request and the purpose for the fundraiser (you may have to write it up as a proposal).
4. Once request has been approved, look for volunteers, parents (PTO), and students (Student Council), or any other parents or students who may want to help.
5. Meet with your volunteers and explain the plan.
6. Decide the best week for the fundraiser. (Recommend no longer than a week to keep the excitement alive).
7. Assign one jar per homeroom.
8. Ask each homeroom teacher to create a group to decorate the jar. Have students generate a classroom group name. Keep decoration to a minimum; the jar needs to be transparent so students can see how much money is in the jar.
9. Decide when and where you want the money collected. It can be collected in the homeroom or in the cafeteria.
10. Print the rules out so each classroom teacher can review them with the students. Have them post the rules so that everyone understands the procedures and the goal.
11. Explain that the winner is the homeroom with the most points. Each penny equals one point.
12. For best results, begin promoting the event at least a week before the fundraiser.
13. Create and send home a flyer to keep parents abreast of the activity. Make them aware that the money, unless it’s used for a contribution to a ‘charity/cause’, will go right back to the students in the form of projects, activities, dances, and other school related events.
– The classroom with the most points at the end of the fundraiser wins (classroom pizza, snow cone, or ice cream party..use part of the money collected to purchase the prize).
– Pennies count as one positive point each, but silver coins and paper money (including checks) count AGAINST the classroom. This is where the competition begins. Students can “bomb” their competitors’ jar by placing silver coins and paper money into it. For example, if a homeroom looks like they have a lot of pennies, a student can “bomb” (sabotage) thatr jar by putting a quarter into the jar and that classroom’s points will decrease by 25, a dollar will reduce their points by 100, etc.
At the end of each day, count the pennies separately from the silver coins and bills. Subtract the total amount in silver and bills from the total amount of pennies. The difference is the actual points earned by that classroom. Publicly announce the points each homeroom earned so students can plan what classrooms they may want to “bomb” the next day. Remind students that pennies are positive points and they need to continue bringing them in to add to their own jars. After a couple of days most of the homerooms will have negative numbers.
Teachers are encouraged to participate. Many have been known to empty their piggy banks to help their classrooms out. Others have told their students that they’ll match portions of their contributions. Students begin looking down and picking up pennies they find on the ground; it’s amazing how many pennies are dropped and not picked up.
Our fundraiser was conducted in the cafeteria. The jars were set out on tables on the stage. A big banner was hung on the wall promoting the “Penny Wars”. When the students entered the cafeteria for lunch. we’d get them excited by playing a CD with a medley of money related songs. To encourage student participation, a big deal was made every time a dollar or five dollar bill or more was placed in the jar. A short clip of “We Are the Champions” would be played to highlight that donor’s contribution.
Once the students were seated, we’d announce how many points each class earned from the previous day. It was important to keep a running record of how much was collected at the end of each day. The numbers collected in silver coins and pennies were recorded on a spreadsheet and the points calculated; then shared with each class. Points need to be shared with every participating class on a daily basis. This allows students to strategize which classes they may want to “bomb” with silver coins and dollar bills.
My school ran this activity in the cafeteria. Many schools choose to run it in the classroom during homeroom time. Students that bring in money are given a few minutes to walk to the class they want to “bomb” and put the silver coins and bills in their opponents’ jar.
The first year we did this, we spent hours after school counting and rolling the coins. The second year every teacher was given coin rolls and asked to have their students roll the coins before turning them in. This worked out well and gave the students practice in counting money.
I worked in a Title 1 school with approximately 900 students and the first year we collected $2,100, surpassing the $800 goal. The second year we collected $1,600 and by then the students knew what the activity involved and what strategies worked best. For example, many of the students hung on to some of their money until the last day hoping to usurp the opposing classrooms.
Feel free to comment or ask questions to clarify this activity. Also, please share your experiences with running the Penny Wars fundraiser. I have heard that this activity has also been adapted to be used in offices to raise money for worthy causes.
Other sites with information on the Penny Wars.
Penny Wars Images
Penny Wars with a lemon twist
Penny War variationsElementary School Penny Wars on YouTubeJunior High Penny Wars on YouTube Create a fundraising thermometer
BRATTLEBORO — A make-your-own-route 5K is raising money for four organizations in the community.
"I might do it on a treadmill," said Kyle Girard, an eighth-grader at Brattleboro Area Middle School.
Pledges and videos of people participating in the 5K will be accepted until Sunday. Students said the 3.1 miles can be covered by running, walking, biking, crawling or other methods. Information can be found at bamspennywars.wixsite.com/pennywars.
Students at the middle school formed teams earlier this year to raise money for The Gathering Place, Brattleboro Retreat, Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and Vermont Foodbank. Participants are encouraged to create their own bibs then take a video of themselves doing the 5K and say what team or organization they are supporting with as much enthusiasm as possible.
The clips can be sent to Chris Brewer, a member of the school's academic support team, at [email protected] Money can be dropped off or mailed to the school and made payable to BAMS.
The school has four teams, two made up of eighth-graders and two made up of seventh-graders. Their names are based on constellations, including Draco and Leo. All of the approximately 311 students in the school are included.
The team that donates the most money wins and gets bragging rights. The one with the most participants supporting it also gets bragging rights.
There's also a contest for best bib. A video on the website features a template for making a bib and more information.
Student Leaders organized a fundraiser called Penny Wars before the coronavirus pandemic hit. The teams would collect pennies in containers for organizations, and silver coins and dollar bills would negatively affect the score but still help the organizations.
About 21 seventh- and eighth-grade students volunteered to be Student Leaders. They filled out an application talking about what they would like to help the school achieve before taking on the positions.
In an interview by video conference last week, several Student Leaders told the Reformer they have fun and don't always have a lot of focus.
Jesse Ackerman-Hovis said the hope with the 5K is to raise as much money as possible. Participants are encouraged to do the event with friends and family but practice proper social distancing.
Ackerman-Hovis suggested that bonus points should be awarded to those who take pictures of themselves wearing a face covering during the 5K.
Stephanie Pike, science teacher and student leadership adviser at the school, expects student leaders to vote on the best bib once the videos are all submitted. Brewer plans to make and post another video with compiled clips from the 5K.
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at [email protected] and at @CMaysBR on Twitter.
St. Raymond School held its annual “Penny Wars” last week. This a friendly competition between classes to raise money for a special cause. This year the proceeds went to Feeding America. The object of the game is for each grade to collect as many pennies as possible. Students bring pennies to school and put them in their classroom container. Each penny is worth 1 point. Students may “sabotage” another grade by putting silver coins into another classroom’s container, not their own. Each silver coin subtracts that value from the class total. Results are kept a secret until the coins are counted on the last day.
The winner of the 2021 Penny Wars was 3rd grade. The 3rd graders will receive a free dress pass and a pizza party. A special prize will also go to 8th grade for bringing in the most pennies.
The total amount of money raised was $5,415.04. which was donated to Feeding America. The Feeding America network is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, working to connect people with food and end hunger. Through Feeding America, $1 helps provide 11 meals.
Most pennies: 8th grade
“A special prize will go to 8th grade for bringing in the most pennies.”
Total money raised: $5415.04
We donated to Coinstar, which is partnered with many charities. They will waive their fee and donate directly to Feeding America.
Also, we had:
Coins from 20 countries
Including; Canada, Japan, India, China, South Korea, Singapore and Australia
4 different tokens
3 dog treats
Top 10 Virtual School Fundraisers
Halfway through the school year, many PTAs and PTOs are struggling with new fundraising ideas. Virtual events aren’t going away in 2021, but fortunately, there are many creative fundraisers that are working well for school communities today. Hosts of the Multipurpose Room podcast, Debora Jones and Wes Jones of K-12 Clothing, partner of SquadLocker, have lots of creative, fun ideas for virtual fundraisers.
In arecent episode of the Multipurpose Room podcast, Debora and Wes share their 10 favorite fundraising ideas in this remote climate, based on creativity, fun, and dollars raised.
Multipurpose Room’s Best School Fundraising Ideas
- Virtual Trivia Night: Companies like Hambone’s Trivia make hosting a virtual Trivia Night easy, fun, and successful. Even though our social lives have moved to online, we can still gather together for fun events.
- Penny Wars: With a national coin shortage, this is a great way to get coins that have been sitting in jars at home back into circulation. Have a central location where teams can drop off their coins. There are many ways to make this a fun, easy way to give back to your school.
- Netflix Movie Night: Teleparty (formerly Netflix Party) is a fun way to watch TV with your friends. Teleparty synchronizes video playback and adds group chat. You can pause for a sponsor to advertise their services, share a community announcement, and break to grab some popcorn or pizza from the comforts of home.
- Virtual Cookbooks: Pulling a community cookbook together with CreateMyCookbook can be super easy, fun, and profitable. Once you sell lots of cookbooks, host a live cooking class for a fee with one of the recipes, taught by a teacher who knows their way around a kitchen.
- Amazon Wish Lists: Make teachers’ Amazon Wish lists available to your community. Instead of donating cash, people can purchase needed items. Be sure your school is signed up for Amazon Smile, too. Amazon automatically donates a portion of purchases from everyone who tags your school when buying on Amazon.
- School Grants: Many PTAs don’t take advantage of grant money available. The National PTA and others provide grants that your school can apply for. It’s easier than you think to get started.
- Craft Baskets: Over spring break, sell a craft basket to parents containing all the supplies to make a simple craft. In addition to keeping little ones busy and having fun over break, it gives back to your school.
- Partner with a Food Truck: Have a local food truck come to your school or another convenient location for a community dinner. Since it’s outdoors, it’s easier to social distance. The truck donates a portion of sales back to the school, plus it supports their local small business, too.
- Etsy: Set up an Etsy website (it’s easy!) and sell various items that students make at school – pottery, jewelry, bird houses, sun catchers, and other artwork.
- Decorating Contest: Sell tickets to an online decorating contest for Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas or another themed event any time of year. Don’t forget prizes for the winners, and include your pets.
In this episode, Debora and Wes Jones also talk about online music lessons, celebrity shout outs with Cameo, virtual casino nights and scavenger hunts, and other fundraisers school communities have used with great success.
Our favorite way for schools to fundraise is through their community’s online SquadLocker apparel store! SquadLocker loves sending a portion of the sales from your school’s custom uniforms and apparel back to you – all year long! And you don’t have to do a thing but enjoy wearing your apparel.
For more fundraising ideas, listen to the full episode here.
About Multipurpose Room Podcast
Hosted by K-12 Clothing, the Multipurpose Room provides real-life issues that PTAs, PTOs, and school staff are dealing with and offers practical tips. For more information, visit: https://www.squadlocker.com/squad-blog/k-12-clothing-launches-new-podcast-for-ptas-ptos-and-school-staff
SquadLocker supports schools by managing the entire process of acquiring custom school uniforms, sports gear, and spirit wear – from instant online store creation to free graphic artwork assistance as well as decoration, production, and fulfilment. Learn more at https://www.squadlocker.com/solutions/schools.
Penny wars virtual
Employee Engagement Strategies for Giving Back
Engage Your Team with a Challenge
Penny Wars taught I’M Giving that our employees love a challenge, and our executive team has never shied away from our employees’ enthusiasm. We’ve taken on the Ice Bucket Challengeand the Mannequin Challenge. We’ve set fundraising goals and then matched the total amount raised. Last April, our team went all out with the #SlimeBucketChallenge. Once you get your executives on board, it’s easy to implement:
- Set out buckets with your executive’s names. For added flare, InfoMart made foam cutouts of our Board’s faces to adorn the buckets.
- Sell raffle tickets to your staff
- Give your team a week to drop their tickets
- On the day of the event, draw a raffle ticket for each executive. If your ticket is drawn, you get to dump the slime on that executive!
Because we were raising money for Autism Awareness Month, we staged the area in blue (make sure it’s edible just in case— we used instant vanilla pudding, applesauce, food coloring, and cornstarch to thicken it as necessary). We brought the entire company out to the parking lot, set up a video camera, and our executives got messy for a good cause! To keep the fundraising going, we nominated other companies to take up the #SlimeBucketChallenge.
Pro tip: If you find that your employees shy away from donating because they don’t want your executives to know they want to slime them, set a fundraising goal instead. Tell your team if they raise $500, the entire Board of Directors will be slimed.
Join the Cause
Whether you’re a large corporation, a small business, or anywhere in between, your company can do their part to raise money and awareness for a good cause with these employee engagement strategies and more. Have other ideas for fundraising at the office? Share them with us on social!
How To Run a School Penny War Fundraiser
Penny wars, also called coin wars, coin drives, and penny drives, have grown in popularity as lucrative fundraisers that are easy to organize. In addition to netting some substantial cash quickly, a penny war fundraiser builds spirit and promotes friendly competition—not to mention encourages lots of student participation. As well, a penny war can serve as a standalone fundraiser or be part of a larger effort.
Pin these quick steps to get started fast, or keep reading below for more detail.
How Penny Wars Work
The basic premise of a penny war fundraiser is that kids bring spare change to school for a set period of time, usually a week or two, and deposit it into containers. At the end of the collection period, the change is typically donated toward a cause or for a purchase within the school or to an outside charity, and the class that netted the most is rewarded.
There are lots of ways to run a penny war fundraiser, and discussing and deciding on the rules are steps your group will want to take at the start. Some popular rules variations include:
Positive pennies: Each penny is worth one point and counts “positively” toward a group’s point total; each silver coin or dollar bill gets points based on its value (a nickel is worth five points, a dime is worth 10, etc.), but counts “negatively” toward other groups’ totals. So in a competition between classrooms, students who want their class to win will place pennies into their own buckets and place nickels, dimes, quarters, or dollar bills into other classrooms’ buckets. In some penny wars, dollar bills are counted positively along with pennies.
Printable Positive Pennies Rules
Negative pennies: For the penny war at Whittier Elementary in Downers Grove, Ill., positive points were given based on the value of each silver coin (for example, a quarter was worth 25 points) and one point was deducted for every penny. Students strategized by saving up their pennies and dumping huge amounts into the buckets for classes that were ahead—one student even brought in rolled pennies from the bank!
Printable Negative Pennies Rules
What to use to collect the coins: While any large container will do, some that work particularly well are empty water (bubbler) bottles, gallon-size milk jugs, and large snack containers (such as those come from warehouse stores with pretzels, cheese puffs, etc.).
Where to set up the containers: Organizers will frequently provide each participating classroom with containers and gather them at the end. But depending on the size of your school, the number of grades, and the number of classrooms per grade, they can also be organized by grade in a central location.
Where and how to count the coins: It’s the obvious end result, but worth considering beforehand. For one, the containers can get quite heavy; and not all banks are willing to count a large quantity of coins. Options include enlisting volunteers to hand-roll the coins or taking the coins to a supermarket that has a coin-counting machine. Some groups choose to invest in a coin-counting machine, particularly those that plan to announce classroom tallies during the penny war or that plan to fundraise with penny wars again in future years.
Publicizing Your Event
By their very nature, penny wars don’t require a lot of advance notice for kids to participate—all students need to do is bring in some change. But you’ll still want to make families aware of the activity on your website and Facebook page (and other social channels, if you have them) to give them time to save up their coins. And you’ll definitely want to share the rules ahead of time. Use our editable sample flyers to promote and explain your penny war.
Penny War Flyer: Positive Pennies
Penny War Flyer: Negative Pennies
Field-Tested Themes for Penny Wars
Often, just providing containers and incentives are sufficient to get kids’ competitive juices flowing. But a theme always adds a fun element. Following are some school-tested penny war themes.
Piggy “banks”: The PTO at South Range Elementary in Canfield, Ohio, had success with a “Pack the Piggies” theme by painting large water bottles pink (to represent pigs) and setting them up in a row, by grade.
Holidays: For a March fundraiser, the Oakland Park (Fla.) Elementary PTO held a St. Patrick’s Day-theme coin drive. Coins were collected in shamrock-decorated containers, and one of the prizes at the end was a green pot filled with gold coin candies. Achieve a similar effect by picking any favorite holiday and decorating to match.
Cake in the face (or other teacher/admin stunt): Set up two or more large coin containers, each with a person’s photo on the front. The principal, vice principal, beloved teacher, or other well-known school figure are all good candidates. Kids vote with their coins, and the “winning” container earns a pie planted in that person’s face—which is what happened to West Carrollton (Ohio) Middle School principal Doug Mescher and assistant principal Korinne Toadvine as part of a penny war fundraiser to benefit the Special Olympics.
Adapt the ideas in “Fun Principal Incentives To Motivate Students” for other ways to get your principal in on the fun.
Depending on the length of your penny war, you can help keep momentum by playing up classes’ progress, either during morning announcements or via fun visuals displayed in a central location in the school.
The Whittier Elementary PTA updated its board daily with class totals, using big numbers to indicate which classrooms were in first, second, and third places.
This poster board made by the Joseph H. Saunders Elementary PTA in Newport News, Va., provided students with a visual representation of how its penny war points were tallied, how to raise money, and even what the money would be spent on.
Photo credit: Nicole Duigou
Kenyon Woods Middle School in South Elgin, Ill., held a penny war as part of a larger effort to raise money for hunger. Visual incentives included a filled grocery cart to show students how their coin donations were making a difference.
Photo credit: Food for Greater Elgin
And a progress thermometer, like this one used at Coleman Elementary in Elgin, Ill., to mark students’ efforts toward their goal to raise $500 during a penny war for hunger, is a simple and effective way to keep participants up to speed.
Some groups offer small daily prizes to the class that collects the most each day, determined by weighing the containers or counting the coins daily. Because the grand prize is based on the effort from a whole class of students, all-class incentives tend to work best for penny wars.
Ice cream party
Afternoon movie with snacks
Activity with the principal (lunch, kickball game, etc.)
Get additional ideas in “Low-Cost Incentives for Your Next Fundraiser.”
Originally posted in 2017 and updated regularly.
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