As the band director of a small high school in Upstate New York, I found myself stuck between a rock and a hard place when it came to fundraising. We had very specific guidelines in that all of our fundraisers had to be scheduled the year prior, and needed board approval. With everyone in our school selling items from chocolate to candles, I chose a different route. I decided to stage three bottle drives, and from that would establish a student fund that could be used throughout the year for various needs not covered by budget.

To get the ball rolling, I enlisted the help of a few parents. We contacted a local Bottle Return Center, and they provided us with a dump truck, a road banner, drinks for the kids, and an incentive to earn one cent more a can if we took care of washing out and organizing the returnables.

We set out on the first Saturday of the School year, with a pillage of publicity. We put flyers in the local paper, registered it with the Sunday papers, and PSA’d it on local TV stations. A few of those helpful parents got bus route maps, and organized teams for the kids to work in. Other parents made signs and flyers, and left them on their houses and cars.

The day of the bottle drive I picked up complementary donuts and coffee from Dunkin Donuts, along with garbage bags that they provided us. About 25 students showed up, some with siblings and friends. We split the kids into teams with adult drivers sent them off.

The community embraced the idea, and teams were returning back with a summer’s worth of collections. Some students were amazed how quickly that dump truck filled up. Two hours in we called the bottle return and asked them to pick up the truck. They showed up with a spare!

Our bottle Drive netted us a cool $1000. Not bad for a first outting. the next drives were scheduled for the weekend after the Super Bowl, and the weekend after memorial Day.

As we continued to hold this fundraiser, we developed new ideas. We set up a rolling account at the Bottle return, and people brought in their cans for us on their own time. We arranged a collection of the neighboring golf courses on Mondays, and placed our own recylcing containers in local eateries. The local supermarket set up a drop off point for receipts on our behalf. Finally, our local parade offered a great time to set up a drop-off, and we coordinated free ride tickets at the field days for donations.

The extra cent was worth the hassle, and sorting was a breeze. We set up in front of our bus garage, and our custodial staff loaned us hoses and large garbage bins. i would be careful, especially in the warm weather, to watch out for bees, and keep your allergic students far away. It is also handy to have on hand some Raid!