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Ruthie Oland

Five Ways To Fundraise This Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day always comes as a delightful break from winter doldrums for all ages, and at school, it offers a festive and easy fundraising opportunity. Here are a few ways to celebrate with your students and raise money for your next project!

1. Set up a fundraising table and sell boxes of our Chocolate Minis. These sweet treats are a delicious alternative to conventional chocolate, and a fun way to share your love for the environment, small farmers and your community!

2. Distribute personalized handmade valentines that feature fun facts about Fair Trade and why it matters. These can tell students where to find Fair Trade chocolate (hint: your fundraising table)! Some sample text for your cards: “We (heart) Fair Trade! Fair Trade means that farmers are paid a fair price, work together in democratic co-ops and can invest in their communities and their land. Be sweet! Choose Fair Trade.”

3. At your fundraising table, share our short and entertaining video about why Fair Trade chocolate matters. Kids will come for the yummy chocolate, and leave feeling good and more informed about where their chocolate comes from.

4. Sell individual Chocolate Minis. They’re bite-sized and individually wrapped, so you can sell them for pocket change — but it’ll add up fast toward your goal! You can also glue individual wrapped chocolates to paper hearts and offer to deliver them to your customer’s desired recipient.

5. Sell Fair Trade hot cocoa by the cup. It’s easy: just set up an urn of hot water, cups and one of our hot cocoa or hot chocolate mixes. It’s an instant sweet and warming treat that will be irresistible on a cold February day and bring in great profit for your group. This works especially well for after-school meetings or sports games.

How do you fundraise around Valentine’s Day? Share your idea in the comments!

Sign up for your catalog fundraiser! 

How To Place Your Fundraising Order

Congratulations on running a Fair Trade fundraiser with Equal Exchange! Now that the selling phase is over, it’s time to place your compiled order.

Need some help navigating the Master Order Form? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! This is the part of the fundraiser that requires the most attention to detail, but you don’t have to feel overwhelmed. We’re here to walk you through the process step-by-step, and you’ll be surprised by how easy it actually is!

Watch our video:


New Federal School Fundraising Rules & Fair Trade Solutions

Last year, new federal rules on school fundraisers and snacks went into effect nationwide. These guidelines regulate the food available to kids throughout the school day, from the cafeteria to the vending machines. This includes – you guessed it – food fundraisers like bake sales and candy bar sales.

The goal is to curb the amount of sugar or unhealthy foods that kids may be consuming at school without their parents’ knowledge, which is something most parents can get behind!

Still, the new rules have left some groups at a loss for fundraising tactics. After all, bake sales and candy bar sales have been a reliable way to raise money for years. But this is actually a great opportunity to reexamine our school fundraisers in general, from the nutrition, to the quality, to the sourcing of the products we sell.

Let’s face it: the conventional candy bars we used to love are poor quality, and filled with artificial ingredients and preservatives. Worse, many conventional chocolate products are part of a problematic supply chain that includes forced child labor on cacao plantations in West Africa. When I stop to think about that one, I have to ask: shouldn’t there be federal school rules that ban any products made by exploited children?

It will probably take some time for regulation to catch up with those standards, but in the meantime, you can set a high bar for your school and your community by choosing organic, fairly traded products for your next school fundraiser. Equal Exchange’s catalog fundraiser contains real, organic, delicious chocolates made with high quality ingredients. My favorite, the Panama Extra Dark, contains a total of four ingredients (and I recognize them!): organic chocolate liquor, organic raw cane sugar, organic cocoa butter and organic ground vanilla beans. It’s that simple.

The best part about it? Each ingredient was ethically sourced from small-scale farmer co-ops, grown by adults who were paid a fair price for their crop and who are able to improve their communities through Fair Trade premiums. That means that their kids can go to school, too – not to work on a cacao plantation.

Don’t worry – an Equal Exchange fundraiser does fit in to the new federal rules. Food fundraisers are allowed as long as the food is “not intended to be consumed in school.” Because our products are ordered from a catalog by adults, kids aren’t selling candy to other kids who are hungry for a school snack. It’s safe to say our chocolates are “not intended to be consumed in school” – that is, unless you’re a teacher who orders a box of Organic Chocolate Minis for your desk drawer!

Organic chocolate bars are just the beginning of our fundraising selection. Our catalog is also filled with organic, Fair Trade coffees, teas, cocoas, nutritious snacks and even handmade artisan crafts! Let’s embrace these new federal school fundraising rules and try something that is healthier, tastier, better for the planet and better for our kids.

Learn More about Equal Exchange School Fundraising 

6 Ways To Promote Your Fundraiser At Back-To-School Night

How many families participated in your last catalog fundraiser? If you’re like most communities, participation probably ranged from 20-50%. It’s disappointing when you work hard to run a school fundraiser and don’t see the support you expected. Sometimes this happens because parents get sidetracked or feel too busy, and sometimes the catalog simply never makes it out of their child’s backpack!

That’s why Back-to-School Night is the perfect time to kick off your school fundraiser. With parents, teachers and students all gathered together and excited for the coming year, you can make an impression and generate enthusiasm for the fundraising weeks ahead.

1. Prepare your pitch. Be ready to tell folks what you’re raising money for, why it’s important to the kids and the community and how much you’re hoping to raise. Envisioning the goal helps people feel motivated and committed.

2. Display products. Order a few of our products and arrange them on a table to give parents a chance to see and hold the items in the catalog.

3. Offer samples. Break up a few chocolate bars and brew some coffee, tea and cocoa to give parents a delicious taste of what’s to come in the fundraiser. You can order Equal Exchange-branded cups online or by calling Customer Service at 774-776-7366.

4. Make something yummy. Bake cookies or other treats with Equal Exchange ingredients to show their versatility (and deliciousness)!

5. Start selling. Offer packaged coffees and chocolate bars at your table to get some products into the hands and homes of parents and teachers. It’ll help get folks talking about how great the products are and will get them excited to order more!

6. Distribute catalogs. Make sure parents have a catalog! Keep a stack on hand in case they want to bring one to the office or share with a friend. (This is a great opportunity to encourage folks to share your school fundraiser with your wider community, too.)

These are just a few of the ways you can get people excited about your school fundraiser – try them all, choose a few or get creative in your own way. Good luck!

School-Wide Fundraising Part 3: Distributing Orders

This is part three of a series on school fundraising. Read Part 1: Logistics or Part 2: Collecting Orders

Your fundraiser is almost finished! You’ve done a great job promoting, selling and collecting orders. Now it’s time to wrap up and distribute all those Fair Trade goodies. You’ll receive your order within 10 businesses days of placing it, guaranteed  – so it’s important to be ready when everything arrives! Here are some tips to get you organized and prepared to receive, check and distribute your orders.

1. Notify the school treasurer of how much money you collected, how much profit you earned and how much is due to Equal Exchange. Let her or him know that the invoice will arrive with the order.

2. Reserve a safe storage space (one that’s free of rodents and pests!) where you can keep the bulk order until you’re ready to distribute the products.

3. Confirm your order’s arrival date with Customer Service. Then, notify parents, teachers and students.

4. Set aside a few hours to assemble the orders for your school. Recruit a few detail-oriented parent volunteers to help with this step.

5. Set up your space. Make it a party with snacks, drinks and music!

6. Arrange all the products in a line in the order they appear on the order form. Each volunteer will need a paper bag labeled with a student’s name and class, and the student’s order form. Then, volunteers should proceed down the line of products and place items in the bag based on what’s listed on the order form.

7. Recruit volunteers to help distribute compiled orders to homeroom classes.

8. If, on the off chance, someone is unhappy with or wishes to return a product, please call Customer Service to work out a solution.

9. Give teachers about a week to collect any missing/wrong product forms. Once you have those, call Customer Service to sort out what is being returned and what needs to be shipped to you. (Shipping charges may apply if you decide to order extra product that was not left out by our error.)

10. Don’t forget to break down shipping boxes and bring them to the recycling center! And you’re done! Congratulate yourself on a successful fundraiser and thank your volunteers for all their help. Now treat yourself to some delicious fairly traded chocolate and look forward to the great things your fundraiser will make possible!

Looking ahead to your school-wide fundraiser? Get started and find out more about our fundraising program for schools and groups of all sizes.

School-Wide Fundraising Part 2: Collecting Orders

This is part three of a series on school fundraising. Read Part 1: Logistics or Part 3: Distributing Orders

After the hustle of promoting your school-wide fundraiser and gathering support from your community comes the daunting task of collecting those order forms. The trick to mastering this step is organization and good communication with teachers, staff, students and parents. Here are some things to keep in mind to make this part of the process a breeze.

1. Create a clear timeline and stick to it. Send a memo to teachers and administrators with clear instructions about where and when students should submit their order forms. (Plan deadlines early so you can extend them if you need to!)

2. Collect and organize orders by class. Give every teacher a collection envelope with their name on it. Ask them to collect the students’ orders and make sure that the amount of money they collect from each student matches their order total. Include a form for teachers to record any missing or extra money alongside students’ names. (Find this form and more on our Tools page.)

For large schools, ask each homeroom teacher to compile the entire class’ orders onto their own Master Order Form. This form can be emailed to you and combined with other classes later.

3. Compile class totals on your Master Order Form. Ask a detail-oriented volunteer to help with this step. If you need any help using the Master Order Form, feel free to contact Equal Exchange staff for help: 776-776-7371.

Don’t forget to double check your final compiled orders against the total number of items ordered and total amount of money collected on each student’s order form.

Find the Master Order Form on our Tools page.

4. Save individual order forms for your records. You will need these order forms to assemble student orders once your bulk order arrives.

5. Submit your final order to Equal Exchange. Send your complete Master Order Form to Then, exhale, take a break and wait for your order to arrive!

Looking ahead to your school-wide fundraiser? Get started and find out more about our fundraising program for schools and groups of all sizes. 


School-Wide Fundraising Part 1: Logistics

This is part three of a series on school fundraising. Read Part 2: Collecting Orders or Part 3: Distributing Orders

Running a school-wide fundraiser can be logistically challenging, but if your community is motivated and organized, you’ll see big results! And with an Equal Exchange school fundraiser, your community will support small-scale farmers and artisans at the same time.
Last fall, Columbia Falls Middle School in Montana sold over $30,000 of fairly traded, organic products with an Equal Exchange catalog fundraiser to benefit their student council. Leslie DiMaio, a teacher and fundraising organizer at Columbia Falls (pictured, right, with top fundraising students), shared some of her strategies for success with us, which we’ll feature in this three part blog series.

The key to a successful school fundraiser is good planning and preparation. Let’s go through it step-by-step:

1. Fill out your catalog agreement form and get the ball rolling! We suggest planning a two week fundraiser to make the best use of time and energy. You can even request catalogs months in advance and we’ll send them a few weeks before your start date.
Sign up here! 

2. Assemble a good team of helpers (both kids and adults) who will help you promote the fundraiser, collect and distribute orders, and keep track of money coming in.

3. Figure out what you’re raising money for and how much you need. New sports uniforms? A band trip? Art supplies? Make sure everyone knows your goal and what the kids are looking forward to. Email or print and send a letter like this one to announce your school fundraiser.

4. Encourage homerooms to do weekly check-ins to solve problems and answer questions as they come up. Make sure teachers know about the educational tools available to them and encourage them to talk about Fair Trade using a short presentation.

5. Hold a kick-off assembly on a Friday to build excitement and get kids informed about how the fundraiser works. Have the student council, drama club, choir or other groups present information about your Fair Trade fundraiser in a creative way. (We think that skits, songs and visuals work well!) Announce your overall goal and the prizes for top-selling homerooms and students. Ask fun school-related trivia questions and hand out Equal Exchange samples as prizes.

6. Make goal charts to post outside of each classroom so students can track their progress. (You can make goals relative to homeroom size and grade level.) Keep everyone motivated by filling in your progress bar together as you go along.

7. Make it fun for everyone! Distribute catalogs and samples of chocolate, coffee or tea in the teacher’s lounge. Invite the principal to host a pizza party for the top-selling class. Give small prizes to helpers and volunteers. And most importantly, remind everyone of the good they’ll be doing for communities around the world.

So your fundraiser is off to a great start. What’s next? We’ll share with you some best practices for collecting orders, staying organized and keeping everyone motivated.

10 Tips For A Successful School Fundraiser

Ready to get started right away?

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1. Think ahead and start your school fundraiser early. The earlier you start, the more money you can raise! Start planning your fall fundraiser in the summer and lay the groundwork for a smooth back-to-school season. Start thinking about your spring fundraiser after the new year so everyone is ready to go when the spring energy hits.

2. Build a good team. An effective team consists of folks that bring different skills to the table. Look for the:

  •  People Person. Find someone who is great at sending out short, friendly reminders to the parent community throughout the fundraiser and rallying support.
  • Bean Counter. Find someone who is good at counting and keeping track of how the money is coming in.
  • Task Master. It’s important to have someone who can keep track of fundraising milestones. This person can be in charge of deadlines and keeping team members and the community on schedule.

3. Set clear goals for the money you raise.  What are you raising money for, and how much do you need? Clear goals will keep everyone motivated, focused and on track. And don’t forget to heavily promote your goal (new sports uniforms, a band trip, art supplies, etc.). It’s a huge incentive for the community to visualize what the students will get.

4. Pace yourself. Don’t try to do everything at once. Make up a clear and realistic timeline for the school fundraiser and a reasonable task list for volunteers. Then, stick to it, and don’t forget to make time to relax!

5. Keep everyone informed.  Clear communication keeps things moving and helps everyone avoid surprises. Give parents advance notice so they are expecting the fundraiser, remind students periodically before their orders are due, and give teachers specific instructions for collecting and accounting for orders.

6. Get kids involved.  Our Classroom Activities will bring Fair Trade to life for your students. Coach them on talking points and conversation starters to help them introduce their cause to potential customers. You can also provide incentives like goodie bags or a pizza party for top-selling students or classrooms. School fundraising can be a great social skill-builder and a huge school spirit booster!

7. Relate the fundraiser to your values. Part of the reason you chose Equal Exchange is because of our mission. Share it with your community! There’s something for everyone to learn and appreciate about the values of Fair Trade and its impact on communities around the world. This is a valuable moment to demonstrate how you can make a difference near and far and work toward goals that benefit our global community.

8. Expand your reach. You can go beyond your own school community to gather support for your fundraiser. Most people will be delighted to help your school and receive amazing products in return. Take catalogs to your workplace, congregation, book club, or community events.

9. Don’t forget to say “thank you.” Let your volunteers know you appreciate them with thank you cards from the kids or a luncheon at the end of the fundraiser. And thank your community supporters, too – thank you notes or community announcements can go a long way toward boosting spirit and encouraging folks to participate again next time.

10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice. School fundraising can be easy and fun with the right approach and tools. If you have questions or need guidance, please don’t hesitate to call our Fundraising Expert Hotline: 508-427-5214. We’re here to assist you with the fundraising process so you can reach your goals. You can do this!

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Or learn more about Fair Trade School Fundraising.