A Complete Guide to Planning a School Carnival
with the Best School Carnival Ideas
School carnivals offer the perfect opportunity to raise valuable funds, bring the school community together, and have fun. They are also a great way to get parents to volunteer in their children’s schools and boost morale. But to be successful, you need the best school carnival ideas!
Is your school looking to host a fundraising carnival but doesn’t know where to begin? We’ll start by highlighting some of the top benefits of hosting a successful school carnival, then cover carnival planning and the costs involved. Finally, don’t miss our list of top creative festival ideas, from popular games to delicious food. We’ve even included a few eco-friendly suggestions to educate the community and maximize your fundraiser’s success and profitability.
Benefits of Hosting a School Carnival Fundraiser
School carnivals (or festivals, fairs, and fetes) are a great way to engage students in their school and community. Festivals have games, food, and other fun activities. But are there more benefits of hosting a carnival for your school? Let’s take a look:
Raise Valuable School Funds
Whether your school wants to raise money for a new playground, school supplies, tech equipment upgrades, or enrichment programs, a school carnival is a great way to achieve your financial goals.
- Be clear with your fundraiser’s aim so that students, teachers, and the community understand what they’re contributing towards.
- Be grateful for all the donations and support you receive – a thank you letter and appreciation posts on social media go a long way in building strong and long-lasting relationships.
- Show the impact your carnival fundraiser has made. Post photos of the final results (a new library or a school trip) on the fundraising website and social media pages. This way, supporters can see the success of their fundraising efforts firsthand.
Engage the Community
A school carnival is a perfect opportunity to engage your local community and strengthen ties with local businesses by asking them to sponsor your festival. This is a win-win situation as they will gain free exposure, and your school will receive essential funding, volunteers, donations, and prizes.
This is also a chance to empower the local school community, where children can meet students from different schools, fostering future friendships and school bonds. Why not sell tickets online to optimize outreach within the community and increase visibility for your school carnival?
Teach Teamwork and Giving Back
Working together for a common purpose is a great way to teach students about the power of teamwork and the importance of giving back. Ask the students what they’re passionate about and align with a cause that will benefit from the school carnival fundraiser. This could be an animal shelter, feeding the homeless, or funding extracurricular activities in the local community.
School carnivals provide a safe and wholesome environment for kids and adults to have fun. It’s been a strange couple of years, so now’s time to regain that sense of community spirit. Whether you prefer jumping on a bouncy castle, competing in a bake-off, or simply having your face painted as your favorite character, a school carnival has it all.
Just make sure to promote diversity and inclusivity at your school festival by offering games at different levels for all abilities, along with different price ranges to include everyone.
Host a Fun and Profitable School Carnival in 12 Simple Steps
Hosting a school carnival is a great way to raise money for your school while having fun. That being said, planning and executing can be a little tricky. To help you get started, we’ve created these 12 steps, so you’ll have all you need to plan and host a smash-hit carnival!
Before the Event
1. Define Your Fundraising Goal
First things first, why are you hosting a school carnival? Before you start any planning, defining a clear fundraising goal is essential. Think about these questions to get you on track:
- What are we raising money for?
- How much do we need to raise?
- How many people do we need to attend to achieve this goal?
- What are your non-financial goals? How do you want to boost audience levels and supporter engagement?
Make your call to action something people are passionate about and will enthusiastically support. Ideally, you want it to be something that will make an impact.
2. Assemble a School Carnival Team
You’ll need a solid event planning committee to handle the various carnival planning tasks. Whatever you do, don’t try and go it alone! Even if your organization works with a professional nonprofit event planner, a carnival committee is still needed to direct the planner’s activities.
The PTA/PTO (or parent-teacher group) usually takes the reins with school carnivals. There is a lot to do, so don’t forget to start planning with plenty of time. Parents, teachers, and school administrators should work together to:
- Determine fundraising goals and identify how to achieve them.
- Set a school carnival budget – Look for in-kind donations, but be realistic about upfront costs and how they will impact your fundraising carnival planning.
- Manage timelines – decide the date and duration of the carnival.
- Choose a carnival theme – Consider a harvest or Halloween theme for the fall or a Christmas theme in December. Some carnivals select a certain country or culture for a theme.
3. Choose the Carnival Entertainment
Now for the fun part! Brainstorm popular school carnival game ideas, food and beverages, and other carnival activities. This can be a task that quickly gets out of control without some proper guidance and focus. Here are a few tips to help you keep the enthusiastic planning committee in check.
- Decide what types of food you’ll offer and whether it will tie in with the carnival theme.
- Will you hire a live band? Maybe you can get this donated if some keen musician parents are out there?
- Make a list of around 4-5 carnival games for different ability levels, from preschoolers to high schoolers.
- Add extra activities like costume competitions, dog contests, and talent shows.
- Keep the adults entertained with a silent auction or an auction of promises to boost profitability and community spirit.
Check out our list below of the Best School Carnival Games and Booth Ideas.
4. Apply for Permits, Insurance, and Check for Restrictions
Choosing the entertainment for your school carnival can be great fun, but be aware that not every idea will be practicable or safe for your festival.
Make sure you don’t run into any problems by:
- Consult with local officials to determine what licenses and insurance are needed, such as for providing rides, inflatables, or selling food.
- Discussing safety and procedures with all teachers, staff, parents, vendors, and volunteers.
- Making sure there’s an onsite first aid area for any unforeseen circumstances.
- Applying for alcohol licenses if you plan to offer alcoholic beverages.
- Letting your local fire brigade and ambulance services know when and where the school carnival will occur.
5. Make a Carnival Map
Make your school carnival easy to navigate so all attendees can get the most out of it. Provide everyone with a map of the grounds beforehand, so they can find all the activities they want to try. This goes double for the youngsters. Don’t forget to point out disability access points, restrooms, and first aid areas.
6. Secure Carnival Sponsors
Attracting corporate or community sponsors for your school carnival is a sure way to boost the success and outreach of your fundraising event. Sponsors help increase awareness of your school festival by promoting it to their employees and customers via social media. Most importantly, they create a financial backbone by helping to offset event costs.
Remember, companies are looking for a win-win relationship when investing in your school carnival, so be sure to explain exactly how sponsoring your fundraiser will provide value to the local businesses you are prospecting. Look for companies that support your school’s mission and values and align well with the event you’re planning.
Here are some ideas on how to acknowledge your sponsors and thank them:
- Highlight sponsors’ names and company logos on the school carnival website.
- Mention their product(s) or services on your fundraising website and social media.
- Ask your sponsors if they would be willing to provide a gift voucher or gift basket, from their company, as a silent auction or raffle prize.
- Invite your sponsors as guests of honor to your school carnival so they can see firsthand the impact of your fundraising efforts.
Check out our Killer Prize Donation Letter Template and Thank You Letter Template here.
7. Collect Donated Prizes
Carnival games equal fun prizes! Remember that you needn’t break the fundraising budget to obtain good prizes. Defer some of your costs by:
- Asking people to donate food, snacks, and beverages.
- Offering low-budget giveaways such as gift certificates and gift baskets donated by local businesses. (This also provides valuable marketing for sponsors.)
- Trying to get in-kind donations like volunteering time or donating venue equipment such as tables and chairs for the carnival booths.
Just make sure to organize your prizes with plenty of time ahead of the school carnival. You don’t want to be left with no prizes and a bunch of unhappy kids.
Check out our guide on the Best 30+ Prize Ideas and How to Get Them Donated here.
8. Promote the School Carnival
Promoting your school festival effectively is essential to achieving success and smashing your fundraising goals. There are many ways, some of which are free or inexpensive, to create hype around your school carnival. Here are just a few of our favorites:
- Incorporate social media trends to spread the word! Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are great ways to let people know about your school carnival and get them excited. Set up a Facebook page and Instagram profile and start posting stories, photos, videos, and updates about your upcoming event to show your donors where they’ll be making an impact by supporting your cause.
- Involve the local media to advertise your school carnival and Invite them to attend. This creates a wonderful opportunity to share a story about community goodwill and provides a great moment for news photos.
- Create a carnival flyer that will be sent home with students that includes:
- What’s happening at the carnival
- Why is the school hosting the event
- The cost of admission cost
- Where tickets can be purchased
- Your donation website URL and social media page with all the information and updates
9. Sell Carnival Tickets Online
Why not consider a cashless carnival? Sell school festival tickets online in advance and avoid money exchanges and pointless queuing on the day of the event.
It’s important to price your event high enough to reach your goals but not so expensive that people can’t afford to participate. Some schools allow free entry to their school carnivals to maximize attendance and simply charge for games, activities, and snacks inside the venue. Depending on the attraction’s cost, a specific ticket price would be applied to it. For example, face painting might require two tickets, whereas the dunk tank could cost 4. This can be organized before the event online to promote a safer, more convenient experience. On the day of the school carnival, just make sure to assign a booth for top-ups for those who run out of tickets.
DoJiggy Can Help with Donor-Friendly Websites for School Carnivals
Day of the Event
10. Setup and Cleanup
Carnival setup and cleanup can be a daunting task, but with a solid team behind your school fundraiser, you’ll have it done in no time. Simplify the processes with these ideas.
- Start a day or two earlier. Weather and safety permitting, chairs, tables, and other equipment can be stored at the venue to eliminate any stress on carnival day.
- Ask teachers and PTO/PTA members to arrive early on carnival day and assign specific tasks.
- Get students to decorate and design everything from signage to posters to booth labels.
- Provide numerous trash cans around the grounds – for recyclable and non-recyclable waste.
- Assign a ‘waste patrol’ to help keep everything tidy throughout the event.
11. Share the Carnival Love!
Optimize engagement with your carnival supporters by:
- Live streaming some of the big events. This will maximize visibility and outreach while including anyone unable to join in person.
- Using a thermometer on the fundraising website to check the progress of the carnival’s success.
- Updating your carnival social media page and Instagram profile with pictures and short videos.
- Creating a hashtag challenge or viral video throughout the day and after the event. Add donation buttons to these pages to increase giving.
- Keeping the carnival donation website open after the event so that people can continue contributing and exceed your fundraising goals.
After the Event
12. Event Analysis
There’s still important work to do when the school carnival ends. Evaluating your fundraiser is an essential indicator of its success. Make sure to:
- Calculate how much was raised.
- Remind your supporters where and how the money will be spent.
- Collect important feedback to see what the attendees enjoyed and to learn how a future school carnival could be improved upon.
- Send out thank you letters to sponsors, donors and volunteers.
- Post success and fundraising pictures on social media.
See the ultimate guide on how to plan and host successful fundraising events.
Best School Carnival Games and Booth Ideas
Creating a school carnival that provides something for everyone will boost donations, increase turnout, and provide entertainment for all. So, to give you some inspiration, here are our top festival games and easy carnival booth ideas. They will win over your supporters and help smash your school fundraising goals.
Face Painting Stands
Most kids love to be transformed into their favorite superhero, animal, or dinosaur for the afternoon. Set up your stall and charge a small fee for each face painting. If you’re feeling more adventurous, why not add an extra fee for colored wash-out hair spray and temporary tattoos?
The three-legged race, the moonwalk race, and the bounce-the-ball race encourage the camaraderie of the traditional fair. These are silly and fun competitions for any age and ability and will surely have you in fits of giggles by the end.
Flower Crowns and Customized Hats
Dress up like royalty for the day with your own flower crown. Charge for kids to buy ready-made ones or set up an area and charge a small fee for people that want to weave flowers together to make garlands and crowns of their own. An alternative is a mad hatters booth where people pay a fee to decorate and customize hats, caps, and visors. Throw in a competition, and the winner gets a prize for the most creative, funniest, or spookiest design.
The tug-of-war fight, where local men and women team up and show off their brute strength, is not to be missed at your local school carnival. More than ever, it’s a chance to demonstrate the solidarity of the community and get into the spirit of the event. The two competing teams can donate to participate, and why not make them dress up as Superheroes, Vikings, or Gladiators for a bit of extra fun and humiliation?
Bouncy Castles and Bouncy Houses
Every school carnival must have a bouncy castle. Children and big kids (aka adults) love to have fun in the sunshine, and what better way than a bouncy castle to do it? There could even be a couple of these designated for different age levels, so the little ones don’t have to worry about being bounced too high.
Coconut Shy is a classic UK school festival idea. Set up a line of coconuts on stands and get people to pay to knock them off by throwing balls at them. The person to knock off all the coconuts wins a prize.
Dunk booths are always a hit at carnivals. They’re simple to set up and an excellent way for students to raise funds. Ask the school principal and faculty members to take turns sitting in the tank while students pay money to dunk them.
Carnival Talent Show
A carnival talent show is an excellent way for students to show off their unique skills, like singing, dancing, playing an instrument, performing magic, or telling jokes. Set up a small stage at the carnival venue and find a teacher to be MC. Hold auditions at school beforehand and have your set list ready.
Showcase your school spirit wear at a fundraising carnival. Why not set up a booth to take orders for your school-branded merchandise? This is a sure way to unite the students and community while raising valuable funds for your school and school groups.
Check out our list of best-selling school spirit wear and learn tips on how to boost spirit wear sales to smash your school fundraising goals.
Carnival Guessing Games
School fairs encourage us to try our luck with raffles and tombolas and often bring out our competitive side. What better way to win prizes, make money for a good cause, and create a healthy sense of competitiveness than school festival guessing games? Here are a few of our top ideas:
Charity Raffles and Tombolas
A school carnival must! Simply purchase a numbered ticket to win a prize and source raffle prizes from local businesses or even give away homemade gifts like jams or baked goods. The fun is in the tombola spin and the anticipation of a win. They’re sure-ﬁre money spinners, as kids and adults of all ages love to have a go.
How Long/How Heavy?
Simple guessing games can be great fun, popular, and inexpensive at school fairs. You can set up a stand with a pet or an object(s) and ask for a small donation for people to guess its weight or length. For example, your pet sausage dog’s length, your giant tortoise’s weight, or your fluffy cat’s age. Make customized merchandise of the pet or object in question, like badges or pens, and give those away as prizes or sell them for momentos.
Fill a car with as many balloons as possible. Pay a small fee to guess how many balloons you think are inside the car and write it down. The person who guesses correctly or has the closest guess wins a prize. Even better, try to get a tour company to sponsor you by donating their tour bus to fill with balloons and then raffle off a tour voucher as the top prize.
For an easier option, fill a jar with sweets, like jelly beans, and ask people to pay to guess how many sweets are inside. The winning or closest guess wins bragging rights and the jar of goodies.
Guess the Name
Another popular and low-cost school festival idea is to run a competition to guess the name of something. How about bringing your favorite soft toy from home, placing it on display on your stall, and asking people to pay a small fee to guess its name? The correct answer wins a small prize. Encourage people to guess as often as they want to boost donations – you could even charge a little extra if they want to guess with a clue.
Ideas for Carnival Food and Drinks
Keep your attendees happy by providing delicious food and drink options. Remember, the longer they hang around, the more money they will spend. The idea is to keep costs low and provide easy-to-walk-around-with food options such as hot dogs and burgers. Don’t forget to offer vegetarian, gluten-free, and special dietary requirement choices to satisfy everyone’s needs.
Ice Cream Stands
Once people have devoured the main course, they’ll look for something sweet for dessert. Snow cones, ice cream cones, and Hawaiian Ice are popular school carnival favorites.
A slice of homemade cake, chocolate chip cookies, or decadent cupcakes offer more perfect ways to satisfy sweet tooths. Parents can donate these, and you could even run a bake-off competition to vote on the tastiest cake or biscuit.
It’s important not to forget about the adults and how to keep them entertained while the kids are bouncing around and getting their faces painted. How about setting up a cocktail-making stand as a creative festival idea? You can serve traditional cocktails to the parents and virgin alternatives for the kids. It might not be the time to escape to the beach, but you can dive into the vacation spirit with a Piña Colada.
Eco-friendly School Carnival Ideas
Do your part for the environment and set up some educational carnival games. Eco-friendly festival ideas are a clever way to spread environmental consciousness among adults and children and have fun in the process. Here are our top ideas for eco-friendly school carnival games:
Why not run a stall that sells plants, herbs, and seeds? You can host some interactive demonstrations on how to start planting and an advice corner for budding gardeners.
Customizing used products and upcycling are great school carnival ideas. Giving new life and a creative twist to old goods is an innovative way to teach people about sustainability and being eco-friendly. Just grab some odds and ends from home, like old plant pots, jam jars, or dog/cat bowls, and provide a variety of simple stationary items to jazz up any old item into a newfound treasure for a small donation.
Host a Dog Show
Hopefully, everyone and their dog will attend your school fair, so don’t forget to involve your furry guests in the fun. Set up an agility course for the energetic dogs and a costume competition for the rest. Charge a small fee for participation and ask local pet shops to donate a few prizes, like dog treats, for the winners.
Sell pet merchandise and offer personalized pet products that you can offer on-site or sell on our free e-Commerce stores.
Conclusions on School Carnivals
School carnivals are a great way to engage the community and give kids something fun to do. Plus, they’re also a fantastic way for schools to raise money. If you want your school’s next carnival to be successful, make sure you have games that appeal to all ages, abilities, and interests. So, what are you waiting for? Start raising money while making memories.