Summer fair hacks

It's probably your biggest fundraising event, so how can you get even more out of it? Here are our top tips to reduce stress and increase profit

Step up your stalls

  • To help visitors find their way around, spray-paint the grass in front of each attraction with its stall number, which correlates to a list on your event guide or map. For stalls on the playground, use chalk. 
  • Create a guide for each stall that can be laminated and given to those running the stall. Include prices and guidance on what the player needs to do and when to award prizes.
  • Attach your volunteer rota to the reverse of all stall guides. You'll always know where you – and others – are supposed to be.
  • Encourage visitors to stay longer by setting up a prize stall. Rather than winning a small item after each game, visitors win tokens to put towards a more substantial reward. They'll stay around until they have enough for their dream prize!
  • Place your big-earning stalls strategically. Sell raffle tickets on the gate as people come in and position your most profitable stalls near the entrance so people come to these before they run out of money.
  • Charge external stallholders a pitch fee instead of a percentage. This means there's no risk of being short-changed and you have the money even if they don't show. 
  • Ensure there are spare batteries on any stalls that depend on them, such as a buzz-wire game or piggy racing. 
  • 'Don't waste your time setting up tables and chairs and a gazebo for each stall on the day. Instead, tell stall helpers what they can take from a central store and let them put it up themselves. It will only take them 10 minutes but would take hours to do it yourself!' Rachel Khan, secretary, Friends of Culvers House Primary School, Mitcham, Surrey (462 pupils)

Mind your money

  • When deciding on pricing, be practical. It's easier for visitors to pay 20p or 50p rather than 30p or 60p, as it only requires one coin. Avoid anything involving 5ps as they're small and fiddly for volunteers and nearly always require change. 
  • Try to limit the number of different prices at the event – for example, charge 50p per go or three for £1 for all games stalls. This makes it easier for volunteers, and parents know how much money to give to their children.
  • Invest in a card reader. Visitors can only spend as much as they have in their wallet. With a card reader, supporters can spend freely, and there's less physical cash for the PTA to look after.
  • Ensure money is kept safe at events by reminding volunteers to keep it secure and in sight at all times. Consider investing in bumbags so volunteers can keep PTA cash on their person, and have two helpers visiting all stalls at regular intervals to remove excess cash and transfer it to a safe place.
  • 'Bank with a company that has a cash counter. No more counting cash til 2am – just whizz down to the bank in the morning and pour it in. Lovely!' Louise Garner, treasurer, Friends of High Beech Primary School, Waltham Abbey, Essex (105 pupils)

Boost profits

  • Invest in a lottery licence, available from your local authority, which will allow you to sell raffle tickets in the run-up to your event rather than just on the day. This means people who can’t come to the event can still buy tickets.
  • 'Sell Pimm's – it's amazing how just a little bit of alcohol increases fair income!' Louise Garner
  • To avoid losing profits by running out of supplies at your bar, buy drinks on sale-or-return from a wholesaler such as Booker. Some supermarkets may also offer this option. It will enable you to overbuy (within reason) and then return any unsold goods. 
  • 'Sell large cakes by the slice instead of whole to make more money. Lots of our donors like to give a large sponge cake, which we can usually cut into eight or more slices and sell at £1.50 per slice.' Tracey Kerfoot, events co-ordinator, Ysgol Y Castell, Rhuddlan, Wales (210 pupils)

Make the most of your volunteers

  • 'Appoint someone to take the lead on recruiting volunteers. Instead of sending out a generic message and waiting for people to volunteer, ask nicely face to face – they're more likely to say yes.' Louise Garner
  • If you struggle to recruit volunteers, try an incentive. How about running a volunteer raffle with a donated prize, or letting volunteers' children have exclusive access to the bouncy castle before or after the fair?
  • Collate a list of volunteers and their mobile numbers so you can chase anyone who doesn't turn up for their shift. Always ensure personal information like this is kept safely and securely, not just lying around on a piece of paper.
  • Designate floating committee members who can solve problems, fetch equipment and cover for anyone needing a break. Being thirsty, exposed to the elements, and bursting for a wee won't encourage people to volunteer again!
  • When allocating jobs, make sure at least one person sees the job through from start to finish.
  • Indicate who is in the PTA with a T-shirt or lanyard, so anyone needing help knows who to ask.
  • Check your phones. Make sure all committee members have charged their mobile phones and have each other's numbers.
  • 'Look after your stallholders – don’t make shifts too long, so everyone gets a chance to go around the fair. Offer volunteers free drinks, and be sure to say thank you.' Louise Garner

Source equipment

  • Local councils and charities will often have equipment available to hire, including PA systems, fundraising games, marquees and barbecues. Some services require an annual subscription of around £20-£30, but this will likely be cheaper than buying your own.
  • You don't always have to buy or hire equipment. Put a call out to parents or borrow from local Scouts, Lions and Rotary groups or other PTAs.

Attract visitors

'Painted rocks had really taken off in our town, so we decided to hide stones to whip up excitement about the summer fête. We painted 10 stones to look like ladybirds, with Shelley School Fête and the date and time of the event written on the underside, and "released" them two weeks before the event. We posted information about the stones on social media and that those who found them would win a prize if they brought their ladybird to the raffle table on the day of the fête. Our fêtes are public events, so it was open to every child in the village.

Successful hunters were given £3-worth of 50p coupons to spend at Friends of Shelley School-run stalls at the fête, and also got to take their ladybird home.'

Shilo Beare, Friends of Shelley Primary School member, Horsham, West Sussex (350 pupils)


Further reading