Table of Contents


Fundraising is an important part of all Grad Nights. The success of Grad Night is dependent upon developing and implementing a successful financial plan.

The first step is to prepare a budget. A budget is simply a financial plan to balance the estimated income against the expenditures.

The second step is to determine how the event will be funded. Most Grad Nights are funded by a combination of ticket sales, fund-raisers, donations, and/or grants. Some Grad Nights use ticket sales to pay for the basic celebration and use community donations and fund raisers as "icing on the cake". Other Grad Nights do not charge for tickets and use community donations and fund-raisers to pay for the entire event. Each Grad Night has to find the correct formula.

The Budget

The Treasurer should prepare an estimated budget with input from all of the Grad Night chairpersons. The budget should have each activity and committee as a separate budget line item. After the budget has been approved, the chairpersons are expected to maintain spending within the approved limits. The budget numbers should be changed only if approved by the Executive Committee.

Sample Budget

The following sample budget is for illustration only.

500 Graduates Eligible to Attend

Assume 50% attendance (250 graduates buy tickets). Set Ticket prices at $40.00 per ticket. Assume $5,000 will be obtained from Community Donations and fundraisers.

Ticket Sales (250 X $40)$10,000
Community Donations and Fundraising$5,000
Administration and Miscellaneous$500
Food and Beverage$1,000
Photo Booth$500
Public Relations$500
Private Security$500
Site/Storage Rental$500
On Campus Promotion$250
Postage and Printing$250

Setting the Ticket Price

You can set your ticket price in several ways:

Example #1

  1. Prepare an estimated budget. Assume $10,000 is required.
  2. Work backwards to set the ticket prices. Assume 250 tickets will be sold.
  3. Divide required budget by estimated ticket sales income: $10,000 / 250= $40 per ticket.

Example #2

  1. Decide on the amount of money the graduates would reasonably pay for a ticket.
  2. Set your budget based on the ticket sales price.
  3. Multiply the ticket price times the number of tickets sold: $40 X 250 = $10,000
    If $10 is your selected ticket price, you could plan for a $2,500 total budget
    If $50 is the ticket price, you could plan for a $12,500 budget.


Most Grad Nights use the following methods to obtain funds:

  • Ticket Sales
  • Fund-raisers
  • Donations
  • Grants

Ticket Sales

Ticket sales can provide the basic funding for Grad Night. Most Grad Nights charge some level of admission. In 1999, reported ticket prices varied from a low of $20 to a reported high of $120. The average ticket price was approximately $50. Some Grad Nights did not charge for admission. Some of the reported ticket arrangements were as follows:

  • Event is free but graduates must make a reservation to attend.
  • Event is free if student signs up before the event, but must pay a fee at the door if no advance reservation was made.
  • Tickets cost less before the event (say $30) and higher at the door (say $50). This is intended to encourage early ticket sales.
  • Tickets cost at least a small amount (say $20) to try to ensure the graduates will attend the event.

Financial Assistance for Deserving Graduates

Some Grad Nights offer free tickets to deserving graduates who cannot afford an entrance ticket. The Grad Nights obtain a list of graduates from the school and send the tickets directly to the graduate or send a block of tickets to the school. In either event, the names of the graduates who receive the tickets must be kept confidential.


Federal financing may be available in your school area via the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act. Check with your city or county school board office. These dollars carry a lot of restrictions and may only be used for certain items or programs. Don't be surprised to find all of the money allocated to your county or city is already earmarked.

In general, these federal dollars cannot pay for entertainment, T-shirts (unless they carry a drug free message on them), prizes, or activities but can be used for education (including Grad Night workshops).


Everyone knows lots of ways to raise money and you're probably groaning at the thought of another fund-raiser. Some suggestions:

  • Sell an item.
  • Set up a certificate-receipt program with a local grocer or drug store.
  • Hold a craft show, art auction, house tour, mock jail (pay to get out), dance, or a yard sale.
  • Sponsor a teacher or student basketball, volleyball, or baseball game, or car wash.

Desserts at the Local Pizza Parlor

Because pizza restaurants typically do not offer dessert, Grad Night may want to sell dessert at the Pizza Parlor to raise money. Customers will become accustomed to seeing you there, and will watch for the group every week.

Prom Dress Sale

  • Charge $5 to place a dress in the sale, $100 per table for private vendors (such as hairdressers, dress rental shop, florists, tux rentals, limousine companies, make-up, diet services, tanning salon, computer dating service, balloon decor, etc.); $1 admission fee (paid at door by those wishing to purchase or look); and have a seamstress available for alterations (Seamstress to donate 10% of fees back to Grad Night).
  • Hold the sale on a Saturday in one of the schools. Dresses should be brought in Friday night or Saturday morning. Seller marks the size and price and provides a self-addressed envelope with beginning price and reduced price (if any).
  • The prices of unsold merchandise should be reduced (if previously agreed) starting at 3 PM. The seller sets own price and keeps all money from sale ($5 entry fee already paid). Grad Night Treasurer handles the admission fees and money from sales of absent dress sellers. Grad Night volunteers assist and check dresses for damage and size/price tags. Flea market set up in corner for shoes and purses. Unsold items required to be picked up by a certain time or they are donated to charity.
  • Drug/alcohol prevention activities allowed free tables for displays. Fashion show held at 1 and 3 p.m. Menus from area restaurants provided.
  • Clearly mark sizes. Don't let anyone hold a dress more than 15 minutes without a deposit. Limit number of dresses each buyer may take into dressing room. Check dresses as they go in and out of dressing room for damage and price/size tags. Arrange lots of publicity in local and school newspapers, daily school announcements, posters at school, churches, and businesses. Allow adults to bring in evening/cocktail type dresses for sale.
  • Grad Night should not be responsible for the sale or non-sale of any item, the returned condition of any unsold item, any returned checks.
  • Grad Night should make every effort to ensure the safekeeping of the items and request two forms of identification prior to accepting personal checks.
  • The seller should pick up unsold items no earlier than 5 PM and no later than 6 PM on the day of the sale (any item(s) not picked up by 6 p.m. become the property of Grad Night).
  • Uncollected money will be mailed to the seller with a $5.00 handling fee deducted from the price.

Art Auction

Print an art auction catalog giving information about the auction including the rules, the pieces to be auctioned, list of patrons, etc. Include information about Grad Night. Sell admission tickets ($5 to attend). If possible, use a professional auction company.
Anticipated Profit could be as high as $2,000 from auction and $4,000 in ticket sales.

Christmas Tree Sale

  • Limited number of trees. All trees $20 ($35 market value) Flocked trees available.
  • Pre-Sale ticket holders get first choice (Dec. 2-4). General Public sales is 5-10 Dec.
  • The Grad Night volunteers should be prompt and wear warm clothes, hat and leather gloves. (Scotch pine trees are heavy and the needles are sharp).

Grocery Store Coupons

Many grocery stores are willing to sell discounted coupons for use in their stores. They do it because they are guaranteed the coupons will be spent in their stores as the coupons are not good anywhere else.

  • Collect money from parents to purchase a block of coupons.
  • Purchase the coupons on Monday, pick-up coupons on Wednesday, and distribute coupons to purchasers on Thursday.
  • Once school has some profit, they can begin to purchase some coupons "up-front" without waiting.
  • Store sells coupons to non-profit organization at a discount. i.e. Grad Night pays $4,800 for $5,000 worth of coupons. Grad Night keeps the $200 profit.

Sample Grocery Coupon Explanation to Parents in Newsletter:

WHAT A DEAL!!! Grocery Certificate Program Helps GRAD NIGHT earn thousands. At absolutely NO COST to you, and NO EFFORT on your part, you can do something astonishing for GRAD NIGHT. Purchase Grocery Certificates! Here are the facts about the program:

  • Grocery certificates are gift certificates. GRAD NIGHT purchases grocery certificates at a 4% discount and sells them at face value. You use grocery certificates like cash.
  • You get 100% of the certificate value. You shop at these stores anyway. Just don't use your cash; use our grocery certificates instead.
  • Grocery certificates come in $25 denominations. They are good at all store locations. You will receive change if you spend less than the face value.
  • Order as many certificates as you want. Order every week, once a month, whenever you want. We deliver to you. Pay when you receive the certificates.
  • Check the math. Many of you purchase at least $100 at the market each week. Assume 100 of these families used our grocery certificates. Grad Night makes $4 on each certificate. Every week GRAD NIGHT would make $400!
  • To participate, call (name) at (phone) for orders or more information.


Many parents, community businesses and organizations are happy to be part of Grad Night and will gladly give a donation.

The fundraising committee typically handles solicitations for donations. This prevents duplicate soliciting. Most businesses are annoyed if more than one person for the same event approaches them.

  • Letters may be sent to businesses, civic organizations, school clubs, school booster groups, the religious community, chambers of commerce, and other community groups. It is important to always state the purpose of the event even though there may have been previous publicity.
  • Be tactful, thoughtful, and polite when approaching businesses. Businesses do not owe Grad Night anything. Be very careful to ask politely and not demand or threaten in any way. Some businesses will give freely with no questions asked. Other businesses need to be approached on a "what's in it for them" basis. Don't overlook loan or discount items as useful donations.
  • It is important that schools who share boundaries are selective in who they solicit. Be careful to ask only businesses that are patronized by graduates or parents from your school. Many community businesses, particularly smaller ones, want to give only to the local community school and do not wish to support any other school.
  • If several parties are to be held at schools in the same general area, it may be advantageous to form a regional Grad Night Central Committee. In this way, businesses will not be overwhelmed with solicitations from a large number of schools.
  • Most businesses probably will be willing to provide some sort of help (financial, prize, food, paper products, decorations, equipment, etc). A letter explaining the concept of Grad Night followed by a personal visit or phone call will probably have more success. Some businesses or organizations will ask for suggestions, others will offer to pay for specific items (breakfast, DJ, grand prize, specific activity, etc.). Some will offer discounts or the loan of equipment, etc. Others will make a cash donation with no stipulations. All of these are wonderful contributions that reduce the cost of the event.
  • When soliciting donations, look for teen oriented items or items that can be used at the event. It is a rare business that has nothing to offer. For instance: Dry cleaning certificates or donate clothes hangers for the coatroom, Hardware stores can donate masking or double-sided tape for the decorating committee, and Florists can donate centerpieces to be used as decorations then given as a door prize.

Regional Groups

If a regional group has been formed which includes your school, it is imperative to follow the solicitation guidelines. Failure to comply with the agree upon guidelines jeopardizes the entire process, as the businesses cannot understand why an individual school has contacted them after being told that only one regional letter would be sent. Often they will ask to be withdrawn from the program.

A List of Possible Donors

  • Parents that are unable to work on the Grad Night may wish to donate specific items; others will offer money. Be sure to have a place on the parent's letter or sign-up form for them to make a donation.
  • School booster groups.
  • Civic organizations like the Optimists, Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, etc.
  • Religious community (churches, synagogues).
  • Chamber of Commerce members.
  • Local businesses that are not Chamber members.
  • Theaters.
  • Airlines (donate flight bags, playing cards, paper products, snack items, etc.).
  • Substance abuse support groups (such as MADD, SADD) can donate door prizes and offer free publicity of your event in their literature.
  • Hotels, motels can donate food, door prizes (dinner, lunch).
  • Local caterers can donate food.
  • Professionals such as doctors, dentists, orthodontists, and architects and lawyers.
  • Printing and copying businesses.
  • Real estate companies and individual agents may be willing to match amount collected by individual agents.
  • Grocery stores offer discounts on food, plastic bags, door prizes (gourmet or fruit basket).
  • Gas stations can donate door prize ($'s worth of gas), state inspection.
  • Restaurants can donate food items to be served at the event or gift certificates.
  • Pizza parlors can donate event food or door prize (pizza coupons).
  • Local newspapers can offer space for free publicity for your Grad Night both before and after the event.
  • Area newspapers, TV stations, radio stations give free publicity before and after the event in Public Service Announcements.
  • Hospitals, emergency facilities can sponsor an event at your Grad Night like the DJ or the main entertainer, or the grand prize. They can also donate door prizes like first-aid kits. They can also supply you with medically trained personnel for the night of your event in case of an illness or accident.
  • Hospital volunteer groups can donate prizes from their gift shops.
  • Congressional representatives-issue an endorsement, letter of support, publicize your event, offer door prizes like a flag that flew over the US Capitol, etc.
  • Your Local government representatives can write a letter of support, which you can use in your publicity and fundraising endeavors.
  • Health clubs can donate a number of free visits.
  • Fast food restaurants can donate ice, cups, napkins, plastic silverware, disposable plates, and food coupons for game prizes.
  • School photographer can donate individual student pictures for entry tickets, ID.
  • Local business promotional giveaways are great for game prizes.
  • Car dealers can donate prizes.
  • College fraternities and sororities may be looking for community service activities that they can volunteer.
  • College church youth groups.

Schools in Rural Areas

For schools in small rural areas that feel they have few community resources even after reading the above list, it may be necessary to be a little creative. All communities use services regardless of their size.

The following are suggestions for other places to start:

  • Soft drink bottling company who fills local soda machines at corner gas station or in school.
  • Restaurants and fast food chains in nearby towns that are patronized by local community.
  • Churches/synagogues attended by local community.
  • Hospital patronized by local community.
  • Theme parks like Marineworld, Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, Six Flags...
  • Insurance companies serving the area.
  • Civic, social, and fraternal organizations.
  • Grocery and Convenience stores.
Be creative! The support is there; it may just take a little more effort to find it!

Writing Donation Request and Thank You Letters

When writing a donation request letter, keep the letter brief but be sure to include the purpose of Grad Night, the purpose of the letter (be specific as possible about your needs), and a general overview of the event (not a detailed report). Neatness, grammar, and legibility all count. Be sure to include the name and phone number of someone to call who can answer questions. For a better response personalize the letters (rather than "Dear Businessman" or "Dear Friends"). Enclose a self-addressed envelope (with or without a stamp).

Thank You Notes and Acknowledgment of Donations

It is important that each donor feels that the items donated were useful, valuable, and appreciated. Ensure the Fundraising Committee follows through with Thank you notes. Major donors should receive a personal note, certificate, or special recognition. Businesses and organizations remember who thanks them and they do appreciate hand-written notes. A pre-printed card with an address label on the envelope just isn't good enough. Some schools invite their donors/sponsors to their Grad Night Preview so they can see where and how their donations were used.

Thank You Ads

One of the many reasons that businesses donate to Grad Night is for the publicity they will receive. If possible, arrange for an ad to run in the local newspaper shortly after the event that lists every company, organization and individual that donated. If it is impossible to obtain a free ad and the budget will not accommodate the purchase of one, the chairperson should include the name of every donor in a letter to the editor of the local paper. Ads can be purchased in your high school's football or basketball program.

Sample Letter to the Editor

On behalf of the seniors at ____ High School, the Grad Night Committee would like to thank the following businesses and individuals for their part in making the all-night GRAD NIGHT a tremendous success.
There were a total of ___graduates who attended the GRAD NIGHT celebration on ____. Due to the outstanding support of the community, over $___ in cash and numerous other prizes were given out. The night's activities included_________(list your key activities here). There was plenty of food, and just plain fun! The evening was topped off with the awarding of our grand prize, a ______(list your Grand prize). Congratulations to ______for being the lucky winner of this special prize.
It was exciting to see how the community rallied around our graduates to give them a thrilling evening. In addition to the graduates, the volunteers that evening had a wonderful time watching the grads having fun. We also thank the ________(list additional helpers here) for an excellent job of cleaning up. This event could only have been made possible because of the interest of this community, and we Thank each and everyone!

Sample Letter to Volunteer Solicitors:

Thank You for volunteering to help obtain donations for Grad Night. You are soliciting for an extremely important and popular project.
We need donations of gifts with teen appeal. Where such gifts are not available, please try to obtain a cash contribution to offset Grad Night expenses or purchase gifts.
Please keep accurate records of donations (see below). Record each contribution on an index card. Note the actual value of each gift (If the actual value is not given, provide an estimate). Record the amount of any cash or check.
Please avoid duplication of calls. There is nothing worse than to have the business community receive several requests from different callers from the same organization.
Please send Thank you notes (see below). Also, if the donor agrees, place an acknowledgment poster in their storefront as quickly as possible.
Please ensure checks are made out to:________. Forward the checks to __________.
Please complete your work by _______ and ensure all materials have been forwarded.
The following individuals will be happy to answer questions you may have:_______.
Good luck and thanks so much!!! This will be a successful project because you're involved.

Contributor Tabulation Sheet

Mark off columns on a sheet of paper and use the following headings so solicitors may record information about contributors:

  • Date solicited
  • Name of business/person
  • Address, phone number
  • Cash donation
  • Prize donation
  • Cash value of prize
  • Thank you note sent/date

Sample Donation Thank You Note

Please use the following format to write and mail a thank you note as soon as a gift is received. Enclosed are thank you notes and envelopes. Thank you for donating stamps. We are very grateful to each business or person who contributes to Grad Night and a prompt handwritten thank you note will underline our appreciation.

Thank you for your generous contribution of to __________ Grad Night.
When we see our young people celebrating this festive and happy occasion in a safe, drug and alcohol free environment, we will remember your interest and concern.
Thank you for helping us to give our graduates a memorable Grad Night.

Sample Solicitation Letter

Dear _____
Remember when you were young enough to celebrate all night? Wasn't it fun? We are inviting you to give that kind of special memory to the (school name) Class of '(year.) Grad Night.

Plans are now underway for this blockbuster event, an unforgettable gift from you, the parents, and the community to the Class of ____. The idea is to host an all night alcohol and drug-free celebration that will rate as the "celebration of a lifetime!" Imagine an event with great band (or DJ) as well as terrific in-person entertainers, interactive games, casino, carnival games, candid photos, graduation video, 'round the clock door prizes (including a $_______ grand cash prize), and all you can eat food and refreshments including breakfast! All of this is wrapped up in a party theme with fantastic decorations.

The cost of Grad Night is steep, but together we can do it! All donations are tax deductible. Even though graduation is months away, we need your commitment so we keep the ball rolling.
Thank You!! And don't wait up on the night of June ______We're going to be late!!

Sample Letter For Business and Civic Community Organizations

Dear Distinguished Friends:
The _______ senior class parents are currently organizing a tremendous GRAD NIGHT event for our graduating High School seniors. The Grad Night event will provide an alcohol and drug-free alternative to keep our seniors safe. Educators, graduates community leaders, and parents of our young adults are working countless hours to provide a memorable and entertaining evening. This special event sends a clear message to all graduates that we care about their safety.
In previous years community generosity has provided valuable prizes, contests, games, and food. Your support of this worthwhile tradition is extremely important. We need your help to continue this event.
The City Council and the School Board support Grad Night and they commend you for any contribution. Most of all, the graduating seniors are grateful to you for caring enough to provide a safe alcohol and drug free party.
Please use the enclosed form along with the self-addressed envelope to send in a contribution. Your donation is tax deductible. Thank You!!!!

Sample Thank You After the Event

Thank you for your contribution to (school name) Grad Night.
This event served as a community statement to our youth to have a wonderful time without drugs and alcohol. The celebration was a huge success and would not have been possible without the contributions and support of the community. Knowing they have the support and backing of their community leaders makes a difference for our graduates.
We appreciate your interest and concern for the safety of the graduates at (school name) during this special time in their high school year.
We have enclosed a certificate of thanks that we would like for you to proudly display to show to our community that you took part in making (school name) Grad Night (year) happen!