13 Ideas to Make More Money at Your School Carnival

A school carnival is one of the best ways to raise money and build community spirit for your school. So many schools have yearly carnivals that it is easy to fall into a familiar pattern of repetition each year. The following suggestions are meant to help you shake your event up a little and to start thinking of new ways to increase your profits.


By selecting a different theme for your carnival each year, it both keeps your families interested and engaged, and also it forces your planning committee to develop new ideas for games, events, costumes, food choices, etc. The selection of a theme is the foundation for the rest of your carnival planning. It is vital to keep your auction from becoming predictable each year.


It is important to know what kind of people will be attending your carnival. This demographic knowledge will help you in deciding what kind of a theme to choose and what kind of activities will make you the most money. Basically, make sure you are giving your audience what they want. If karaoke is popular, give them a karaoke booth. If a football throwing competition would be popular, give them that. If you think silly string would be a big seller, have plenty of that on hand and mark it up.


The key to making a lot of money at your carnival is to have lots of people there. Make sure you have an excellent team in charge of getting the word out. First, utilize every method of free publicity: press release, road-side banners, lots of fliers in shops over town, church bulletins, etc. Also let your school families know how important attendance is and that their efforts in bringing others to the event is encouraged and appreciated. After you have exhausted these low or no cost means of advertising, perhaps you can consider a well-placed paid advertisement in the local paper or radio station. Only do this if you’ve had success in the past and can afford it. There are so many means of cheap marketing.


Once parents have arrived, they want to make sure their kids are safe to run around. This sense of security will go a long way toward making mom and dad comfortable and willing to spend more money. I know that if I’m constantly worried about where my kids are and what they are breaking, I’ll be looking at the clock and planning my exit strategy. I’m not going to drop a lot of dough. Make sure to have volunteers specifically assigned to the front doors to make sure no one escapes. I would also station a male and female adult by the bathrooms to make sure no trouble happens there. Try to imagine any place there could be trouble in your physical space and solve the problem before it happens.


One way to make money is to not spend it in the first place. Therefore, do everything in your power to get food and supplies donated. This process should happen very early in your planning. Seek out natural connections within your school community. Who knows, one of your sudent’s dad might own a company that rents out inflatable bounce houses and would be willing to rent them to you for free. You won’t know until you check. Make sure to give out a lot of recognition (both verbally and through prominent signage) to all those who helped, and make sure that a committee takes responsibility for sending out thank you letters to every single person or business that helped you during the carnival.


In addition to the rides, games, and scheduled entertainment at the carnival, there is an opportunity to provide parents and kids with another great experience: vendor booths. You can sell booth space ( can be as simple as 8′ folding tables) to local business who want to market to your specific audience. You can also require the vendors provide some kind of freebie or activity to whoever visits their booth. Pencils, Frisbees, coloring books, etc- and they can put their logo on everything they give away. They can pass out coupons as well. This is a great marketing opportunity for the business and it adds to the overall excitement of the event. If you get enough vendors, you can also make some decent money off of it. If you charge $100 per booth and get 12 booths, you just made $1,200 pure profit. And, $100 for such a great marketing opportunity is not out of reach for many local businesses. I have even heard of carnivals with booths set up for health and wellness information, including free flu shots, blood pressure screenings, for example. You can give price breaks on booths to non-profit groups, if you wish. The more booths = more excitement.


Take a cue from most arcades out there today, convert cash into tokens or tickets whenever possible. This accomplishes two important purposes. 1) It prevents individual booths from having to handle and secure cash. With all the excitement and activity, why take a risk on cash being lost, stolen, or mishandled in any way? 2) People are much more likely to spend tokens or tickets freely than real cash money. It’s a psychological thing.


Even though you may lose a few percentage points for the transaction, I recommend setting your carnival up to accept debit and credit cards for tickets and maybe some of the higher price add-ons you have. This way you avoid the situation of a parent running out of cash, even though they still want to make that last minute purchase. Don’t lose that sale!


In your planning, make sure that you include activities for everyone. For instance, you may get lots of younger siblings. It would be wise in this instance to set aside a safe area for them to crawl and play without having big kids risk accidentally hurting them. A few gym mats, some baby toys, a fence of some kind, and chairs for parents could be all that you need. Even if you offer this toddlers’ area for free, you are doing a service for parents who won’t have to spend money on babysitters or feel rushed to leave, due to their younger children. On the other hand, it would also be wise to provide lots of seating areas and coffee (decaf) for grandmas and grandpas. Make sure that nobody feels uncomfortable or un-catered to. The more people through your door, the more ticket revenue you pick up.


I am a strong believer in designating someone to serve as the overall host or emcee for the event. Give this guy or gal a wireless mic and let him or her use charm, humor, prodding, and enthusiasm to get people having a great time and spending money. Don’t settle for a bland voice telling people the talent show starts in five minutes. Get a person who will have the natural ability to hype it up. The emcee can also call attention to booths that aren’t doing well and need attention. Just make sure that the emcee doesn’t cross the line into being obnoxious. This can be a tall order, but if you get the right person, it can make a world of different to your event.


Basically, forget everything else I’ve written. It’s really just all about the food. People love to eat and they’ll spend money to do it. Offer as many choices and styles as you can think of. If people like to eat it and it’s convenient to mass produce and serve, do it! I really don’t think you can over-do it on the food.

This is an opportunity to really hype up a specific item. For instance, this could be the only time all year that third grade teacher Mrs. Riley makes her world-famous elephant ears. Your school carnival is the only place on Earth to get them. “Tell your friends and family! Don’t miss this once a year chance!”

(Remember to get as much of the food donated as you can, because it would then be 100% profit!)


Besides selling tickets for games and food, think about ways you can sell additional items. I know of carnivals who have successfully sold student designed t-shirts, school community recipe/cookbooks, family photos, and raffle tickets, to name a few. Also, look at the Oriental Trading Company Catalog for very inexpensive items that kids love to have. Silly string for instance is a great seller. You can even set up a little store for any of the above mentioned items. Don’t miss any opportunity to get people to spend their hard-earned dollars for your school.


Kids are always amazed to see their teachers in any situation out of the classroom. I remember thinking that my elementary school teachers actually lived at school. They couldn’t possibly have a life in the “real world”. To run into one of them at the grocery store was like running into a movie star or the President of the United States. You will be sure to have a hit activity anytime you can put a teacher in a funny situation. Think dunk tank or pie throwing, etc. Maybe the principal could get his head shaved if a certain level of money is raised that night.


The school carnival is a great opportunity for your community to come together, develop relationships, and raise some much needed money for your school. Be as creative as you can in selecting a popular theme and planning activities that will accomplish your fundraising goals. Good luck!

Carnival Games Policies Are Now For the Weak Minded

The rules are changing and I don’t really know why. The games are quickly becoming a clerk position and I don’t know why. Seems as though they want everybody working the games to play it just like the sign says and I don’t know why. Somebody please tell me soon. It doesn’t matter to me though, I just want to know.

There was a saying a long time ago that people still use today, to endure…to adapt…and this too shall pass. That saying is how I approach the ever changing carnival game regulations. Even though I have broke in working games as strong as I could, I haven’t lost a step with each regulation implemented by fair commissions and Carnival show owners alike. I do know quite a few of my peers that have been greatly affected.

In my field of study, build-up oriented games, I began working what is widely known as a collection. The collection is when you get a player to play and then pay. Basically the collection has been omitted from the regular running of all the shows that are playing the most major fairs and festivals. There have been major set backs at the choice games too.

One way of getting money then is now not allowed now because the shows are allegedly making it a better environment for the patrons of these said events. These people making these drastic rules changes have never worked the games for sure. The guy that spends the most money usually went to fair looking for the carny with the biggest bite. Those players tend to realize if they get beat for enough money they will get a prize.

I have noticed quite a few emails from people telling me I won the lottery, someone died and they want me to help them with all the money the person left and they will pay me a large sum, or someone may just want me to run great sums through my bank account for great riches in return, and other internet scams as well. They are all identity theft emails. I don’t bite at all. I even have fun with these people telling them things like my name is Gunnar Nemecek and I am from Steal, ID. Get it.

One thing I have noticed is that, for the most part, these emails come directly from the United Kingdom. They have a Nigerian flavor many times, as well, but are still directly from the UK. This tells me that the UK allows this type of scam. This also tells me that they may allow these scams because the people of the UKs’ general philosophy is that if you fall for it you should learn from it. That they also feel you should be smarter and that it should teach you a lesson.

In America we don’t share that philosophy as a whole. We believe that these characters should be nipped at the bud. In return Americans are the easiest target for these internet scammers because they are so protected by all of these laws. They have become weak minded to the point that actually believe that there is no way that’s a scam because it’s against the law. They can’t get away with it. Why? Because they are coddled by American law.

This brings me back to carnival games. I know a guy in Lafayette Georgia who was ripped off for all of his money, then his jewelry, and then his car in a carnival game back in the 60’s. He will tell you that this carny fleeced him good. He will also tell you how it changed his entire outlook on life. This guy now owns a store, nice home, his wifes’ successful catering business, a large bank account I am assuming, and is always sporting very expensive jewelry. This guy will tell you that if it weren’t for being ripped off he wouldn’t have what he has today.

It made him stronger and smarter and, most of all, it taught him how to approach financial matters for the rest of his life. This is a true story and the guy owns a little store heading north on 27 out of Lafayette, Georgia, on the right, if you verify the authenticity of this story. This is really what carnival games did for people when we carnies were allowed to rip off the public.

Being flim-flammed made the person smarter and way more on the guard for every venture in the future. You will even hear former customers say to each other things to the effect that that sales pitch sounds just like that carny at the fair. They may be looking at cell phone plans or car tires or really anything in every day life.

The bottom line is that it is only the small time players that actually complain about the games. Complaints are only a small factor for the rules changes though. The larger spenders don’t generally complain. Some are just too embarrassed to admit they were beaten out of that much by a carny or anybody for that matter. But for the most part, and I am speaking from a whole bunch of experience, they want to hear your lines.

If someone took a poll of all adults leading lives outside the carnival, and asked them, yes or no, do you think that carnival games are rip-offs. The general answer would definitely be yes. I would figure that nearly everyone who has ever played carnival games would say yes, maybe 99.9%. So when they play it’s kind of like those people that jump into the barrel of snakes, except now all the snakes are not poisonous. They continue to play and the people have no idea, generally, that there are all these rules changes making them less apt to get beat out of their money.

Some people argue that the rules changes were for bettering the image of carnies. That theory is flat bull. These people working the carnivals have to gain a better overall look, which is why their is a dress code. Whether or not a person gets beat for large cash and jewelry has so very little impact on the overall image of carnies. The people just don’t realize, Hey! I didn’t get beat for $60 in any game this year, any impact at all in the rules changes. They still call the games rip-offs.
I hopscotch from show to show almost every year. I see all types of game policies. When I first dropped in on a show called Pugh, owned by Jeff Pugh, they didn’t have any real carnies working their games. As a matter of fact their ad in a business magazine, at the time, they stated that they had the most stringent game policy in America. The show went under and the route was taken over Jeff Pughs’ brother-in-law.

Since I first walked on that midway and showed that carnies could rip off the public, while at the same time, not being a menace off the lot, they now have real carnies in most of their games. The shows’ name changed to Mid America, owned by North American Midways in care of Danny Houston, but the general game policy changed to go on ahead and get em’, just don’t get a complaint. Their route continues to be one of the best in the country for the games. But they did transform from one philosophy to nearly the entire opposite philosophy, with no impact in proceeds or attendance at their fairs and festivals.

Multifaceted Marketing for Business Development and Small Business Marketing

One of the most critical elements of successful business development and marketing campaigns is the concept of using several vehicles to reach your potential customer. I call this Multi-Faceted Marketing. It’s based on two very simple assumptions:

1. Most people are resistant to a sales pitch, their first reaction is ‘No’.

2. Most people do not remember something until they have seen or heard it many (6-12) times. That includes your company or product name.

Your customers are overwhelmed with marketing slogans, pitches, and images. They are brain-dead when it comes to being sold. They are most likely resentful of anything that takes their time away from running their small business or mid-sized company, and would sooner ignore you than listen to you. We humans are built in a way that allows us to forget something seconds after seeing or hearing it. It may take 6 to 12 impressions in order for us to recognize something, and often more to remember it.

Question: Would you recognize the logo of the world’s most popular cola? My guess is you would if I could show it to you (it is a registered trademark). It’s probably the most recognized symbol in the world and has been around for over 100 years. But, it’s no accident that you see it everywhere you look. Their parent company knows that even though they are not a new business, and even with their preeminent position in their market, they need to advertise everywhere to support their place in your memory.

Your strategic planning and marketing plan won’t look like theirs, they spend millions on their business development and marketing, but it can contain the fundamental principles that make them successful. It can contain Multi-Faceted Marketing, which will insure your company or product name reaches your potential customer in multiple ways. By doing so, you will insure that they receive multiple impressions and will soon remember you and your products.

What does this look like? It takes some analysis like that done in an intensive Two-Day Critical Analysis and Strategic Planning Consultation, and some understanding of your company, products, and market to show the business development and marketing activities that best fit your company, but a good diversification might resemble:

1. A good website with fully implemented Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

2. Regular press releases, articles, and other public relations.

3. A proactive email campaign

4. A proactive phone campaign

5. Online targeted advertising

6. Hard copy advertising

7. Show attendance

This is a sample list and not all the activities listed apply to all companies, but you get the idea. A Multi-Faceted, diverse group of activities maximizes the opportunity for you to reach your potential customer multiple times, overcoming the first ‘No’ reaction. It provides the customer multiple impressions allowing them to build a memory of your company and product. And, it allows the time to build a relationship with them, before you ever meet them.

Developing new business isn’t easy, but by following a few basic principles, you can maximize your return on investment on every one of your business development and marketing activities. Beginning with Multi-Faceted Marketing is a good start.

Good luck and good marketing.