Tip your teacher

For the past several years, I have auctioneered for a school that utilizes a ‘teacher tip contest’ in a way that’s fun, honors the school’s hardworking teachers, and generates good revenue for the fundraiser as well.  Here’s how it works:

During the reception the teachers take turns as ‘bartenders.’  At this K-5th school, the K-1, 2nd-3rd grade, and 4th-5th grade teachers each take 20-minute group shifts at the bar. They chat with parents as they serve them beer and wine, while the parents fill the teachers’ tip jars, either with cash or “tip slips,” on which parents can simply write their paddle number and a tip amount.  Friendly competition between the grade levels is encouraged.

During the live auction, usually at the beginning of the Fund a Need, the totals and winners of the tip contest are announced.  The teachers then ‘donate their tips’ to the school; and in a nice touch, the total of all teacher tips (this year it was over $4000) serves as the highest bid level for the Fund a Need.  “Who can match your teachers’ generous $4,218 donation this evening?” 

Note:  Just as with classroom art projects, there is often much more interest/action on the part of the newer parents (in this case the K-1 parents) than those of the oldest, one-foot-out-the-door students (here, the 4th-5th grade parents).  If there are more grade levels than time shifts, it’s usually best to put extra teachers together at the higher grade levels to give them a fighting chance in the competition. 

Also, revenue enhancers like this require a learning curve and buy in from the community over time.  Especially the first time out, it’s good to explain this contest clearly, and repeatedly, to the crowd.  Once they do buy in, though, it can make for a fun way to unite a school’s parents by grade level, honor its teachers, and raise money at the same time.