Winter event ideas

Need inspiration to bring some fundraising fun to the winter months? Browse these PTA success stories...

Looking for successful fundraising ideas for the winter term? We chatted to PTAs to hear their tried and tested events, complete with tips and advice!

Festive trail and market

'Our PTA wanted to run a Christmas treasure trail but as we live in a rural area and the weather can be inclement in December we decided it would work best if done by car. The trail began at our school and finished at a local activity centre. We themed it around the 12 days of Christmas, using decorated wooden pallets. One of our PTA mums made and painted the boards, leaving us with few other costs. Participants had to use a map to find the boards, and there was a hidden letter at each one. Once they had all the clues, they could solve the puzzle that would allow them into our Christmas market.

Participants could begin the trail any time between 10am and 12pm, and it took about an hour. We charged £10 per car, regardless of how many passengers, and the "treasure" was a hot chocolate and Christmas biscuit when they reached the 12th pallet display, which was also the location of our Christmas market. The market had more than 30 stalls, including one selling homemade items made by parents. We charged each stallholder a fee of £5 plus a raffle prize and our pre-school ran a Santa's grotto.

The day raised just over £1,200. Being a small rural school, we were over the moon! The children really enjoyed the event and it was a good-value afternoon out in the otherwise expensive run-up to Christmas.'

Leanne Bambrough, Longtown Community Primary School, Longtown, Hereford (70 pupils)

Wreath-making evening

'Our wreath-making nights have been growing in popularity since they began five years ago, with a group of parents attending every year who now bring friends and family along too.

The event usually runs from 7-10pm on a weeknight at the beginning of December. We start advertising the evening and selling tickets (through ParentPay) for £10 each, around a month in advance. The price includes a moss ring and some basic bits of greenery, as well as hot drinks. We ask people to bring a pair of gardening gloves and their own secateurs (and most bring wine and nibbles too!).There is very little preparation involved: we order eight-inch moss rings and pre-cut specialist florists' wire from eBay; buy a few decorations, baubles and ribbon from the local pound shop; collect pine cones from the woods and dry out slices of oranges overnight in the oven. We encourage people to bring their own things, too.

Sourcing and collecting greenery is usually the most time-consuming job. Last year, thankfully, our local garden centre donated a van-load of greenery, which they also delivered – in return for some publicity!

We set out tables, lined with newspaper, in the school hall, and place greenery around the room. We provide written instructions on every table, but so many of us have been going for years now that there is always someone to ask if people don't know what they're doing!

We also buy some wine, chocolates and biscuits, wrap them in cellophane and hold a raffle, which is popular as we have a captive audience and everyone is in a Christmassy mood! Last year, the raffle made £140.In 2016, our costs were around £80, but the evening made a profit of over £700 from ticket sales and the raffle.'

Melanie Irvin, Chair, Friends of Chandlers Ridge Academy, Nunthorpe, Middlesbrough (395 pupils)

Christmas coffee morning and show

'Christmas is always a busy time of year as we have our Christmas fayre and a Christmas-themed fundraiser. But an event we always make sure we have time for is our Christmas coffee morning, where pupils put on performances for the attendees. The success of this event is down to teamwork between the school staff, the PTA and parents.

Parents are asked to donate cakes, which we serve along with tea, coffee and squash, and raffle prizes are donated, which means that expenses are kept to an absolute minimum. About five to six members of the PTA help at the event – a couple on the door taking entrance money and selling raffle tickets and the rest serving refreshments. We charge an entry fee of £2 per person (refreshments are included), and £1 for a strip of raffle tickets. The school do most of the preparation for the event but the PTA puts out all of the tables, chairs and decorations the night before, and also sets out the refreshment area.

The event itself is fabulous; every child in the school takes part, including our pre-school pupils. Each class spends time rehearsing their performance, some sing, some rap, some do a topic-based performance, some play musical instruments and others read poems or stories they have written. This event is so successful because of the amount of support we receive! Our hall is always packed with parents, carers, grandparents and friends, and raises approximately £400.'

Anne Appleby, PTA Co-Chair, Thomas Eaton Primary Academy, Wimblington, Cambridgeshire (164 pupils)

Christmas at Hele's

'We began holding our Christmas shopping evening nine years ago and it is held on the 2nd Tuesday in November, in the evening, from 7-9.30pm to offer gift ideas before too much is already purchased! This event is held in the main hall. The tickets are £2.50 for adults, £1.50 for pupils (including a drink). Pupils are given a letter with a ticket request attached, asking for information such as number of tickets, preferred refreshments and a contact number (this helps distribute raffle prizes to those who have left before the draw). Each ticket is numbered which becomes their raffle number. This ticket is shown to have a free drink and admit entry – the corner is torn off once the drink has been taken. Last year we sold 137 tickets prior to the evening and another 40 on the night. The stallholders are charged £10 a table, plus a donation for the raffle. Last year, students from a Hospitality and Catering course made cakes and refreshments which they sold on the evening, giving their profit to the Friends. Year 11 students provide the music and backdrops for ambience. Last year ticket sales brought in £350, our 23 stalls made £212, and refreshments totalled £47. Minus expenses, Christmas at Hele's made £594.98. We start contacting the stallholders in July to give them plenty of notice. We also gained several new contacts through local fetes. We have contacted Oxfam who want to hold a Fairtrade stall, and Hearing Dogs for the Deaf have shown an interest too. My advice would be to provide an area for people to sit and have a chat to encourage people to stay longer, and to have plenty of refreshments for sale! Keep a look out all year for new stall ideas.'

Julie Felwick, PTA Chair, Friends of Hele's, Plymton, Plymouth

Christmas fair

'We split our classrooms into games, arts and crafts, various product and gifts stalls, a Santa's grotto and a refreshments hall with tombola. We had really positive feedback from all who attended. We charged 50p entrance per person with children under two free. Parents displayed flyers in their cars, we distributed flyers to the tourist office, placed them on notice boards around the town and enlisted the support of the local radio station, local magazines and newspapers. We also publicised the event on our Facebook page and various free online websites. We charged £10 per stall although occasionally we made exceptions for charities and local not-for-profit organisations. The Christmas Fair made about £1,300. The most important thing is to have a lot of fun, in whatever event you are organising. We feel the success of our PTA is largely due to the friendships that have grown over the last 18 months since our children started primary school so a team approach and support is essential, there is no room for prima donnas. You also have to take a 'we're not proud' approach and ask people for help. It feels strange at first asking for freebies and donations but, once you get into the swing of it, the response can be overwhelming! The other essential aspect is in the planning and organisation – it needs to start well in advance, and be well co-ordinated. When we first started, there was a temptation to replicate what the previous PTA had done, but we changed events and their layouts to really good effect. We feel the purpose of our PTA is to enhance our children's experience at school, but also to bring together parents and carers and to show the local community what a great place our school is and what fabulous talents our children can offer.'

Sherrie Harrison, Anney Catholic Primary School PTA, Seaford, East Sussex

Christmas calendar

'Nearly everyone has a calendar, so we thought that this fundraising idea had great potential. The company we used was one that advertise in PTA+ magazine – Hamptons.

We went to twelve of our local businesses who have ties to the school and sold them advertising space at the bottom of each page for £30 each, trying to offer them a date relevant to them – for example a florists in March for Mothering Sunday. We then enlisted the help of the school in providing a self-portrait for every child and member of staff in the school. Each month of the calendar would have a class allocated to it then the two final months were taken by the teachers and staff. The front cover was our school logo along with a couple of pictures, one of our spiritual garden (which the HSA helped pay for) and the other our fun day. We also wanted to include every relevant date which is important to the school, so we compiled a list of all key dates, from term times and inset days to our own fundraising activities like the disco and our fun day. As a Catholic school it was also important for us to include parish fundraising events. Once all the documentation was in place and we were awaiting the delivery of the calendars we sent out an order form through every pupil, pricing the calendar at a very reasonable £4 each. The response was very positive and in total we raised £1,082. We were thrilled with the outcome, especially as this was our first attempt. We understand that due to the number of unsold calendars, the profit could have been much more, but we'll be able to gauge order numbers next year and order more efficiently. Potential advertisers have already approached us for this year.'

Michael Wall, Holy Family Catholic School, Worksop, Nottinghamshire

Christmas disco

'Our disco was a very popular event held during school hours and was a great fundraiser for the school. We held one for Reception and KS1 and another for KS2, and the children donated £1 in exchange for wearing their own clothes to school. We have an excellent relationship with a local catering firm, which provided drinks and doughnuts to help boost our profits! One of our teachers played the role of DJ, and we set up the disco lights ourselves. There were plenty of party games, and we used cones of sweets for prizes, which cost around £15. The event was promoted about two weeks beforehand with posters around school, a letter home and texts to parents. All the class teachers helped run the event, organising party games appropriate to the different age ranges and supervising the children. PTA volunteers just needed to assist with handing out refreshments and general clearing up. The parties lasted for an hour each and were held on the same day in the afternoon, so children could be collected from school at their normal time. We brought in a profit of £300 and we were delighted. It was straightforward to organise with minimal fuss!'

Michelle Gerrard, PTA Chair, St Joseph's Primary School, Heywood, Lancashire