How to Run a Spell-a-Thon Fundraiser
Spell-a-thons combine the best elements of a school fundraiser: they encourage learning while encouraging donations. If you’re looking for a fundraiser, spell-a-thons are a great way for students to raise money for schools, extra-curriculars, or clubs.
This page outlines the A-Z of spell-a-thons, including planning, tracking donations, and tips for organizing and promoting the fundraiser.
Spell-a-Thon Guide Table of Contents
A quick introduction to what a spell-a-thon is and how it works.
What is an "A-Thon" & How Does it Work?
Thon’s can be a powerful fundraising tool.
What do you need to run a Spell-a-Thon?
The tools, support, and volunteers you’ll need for a successful Spell-a-Thon.
Using a Spell-a-Thon to Fundraise
How to raise money with spell-a-thons.
Templates, Ideas, Tools, & Resources
Kickstart your spell-a-thon using curated templates and tools.
Spell-a-Thon Theme Ideas
Feel inspired with our spell-a-thon theme examples.
What is a Spell-a-Thon?
Spell-a-thons work similarly to other types of “a-thons”, like read-a-thons. Students commit to learning to spell a set amount of words and collect pledges.
Because the donations are based on students improving their spelling, most donors are happy to support them. This makes spell-a-thons an effective fundraiser that everyone can get behind.
Spell-a-Thon Goals & Rules
Treat these as a base and feel free to tailor these to suit your specific event.
The ideal amount of time for a spell-a-thon is between 10 days and 2 weeks. However, you can customize the length of your spell-a-thon anywhere from 10 days to 1 month.
The spelling goal will largely depend on the student’s grade and how long the spell-a-thon lasts. Higher grades will typically learn more words, and lower grades will learn fewer words, but it should be every student’s goal to learn how to spell every word on their list.
The word list should contain words that students would be learning to spell normally. The most important thing is that the words are customized for students’ grade levels.
Recommended Starting Rules
For a successful spell-a-thon, make sure to:
- Decide the following before you start telling students about the spell-a-thon:
The dates and length
- The spelling goal
- The word list
- The theme
- Start telling students about the spell-a-thon at least 10 days before it starts.
- Students should be signed up in your fundraising system and gathering donations at least 7 days before the fundraiser starts.
- On the day the fundraiser starts, be sure to re-explain the rules and encourage students to continue fundraising.
- Halfway through the spell-a-thon, remind students how many days they have left to finish their spell problems.
- Decide whether the spell-a-thon ends with a spelling test or a spelling bee. Spelling bees take a bit more time to organize, but can generate more donations.
Frequently Asked Questions About Spell-a-Thons
How does a spell-a-thon work?
Students collect pledges from their family, friends, and parents’ coworkers. In return, students learn how to spell a certain amount of words. The pledge amounts vary and can be anywhere from $1 per word.
You can customize the rules of your spell-a-thon based on your school’s needs. The main idea is that the students are committed and learning how to spell new words.
How long does a spell-a-thon last?
The exact length of the spell-a-thon largely depends on how many words the students are learning. A good general rule is to give students at least 1 to 2 weeks to learn their words.
When should you hold a spell-a-thon?
Spell-a-thons aren’t weather-dependent like other fundraisers, so you can hold them any time during the year. Because spell-a-thons are held inside, you might want to plan yours for the fall or winter, so you can save the warmer months for fundraisers that have to take place outside.
What words should students learn?
The words should first and foremost be based on students’ grade levels. Spell-a-thon words should be similar to the words students would be learning in class normally. Involve teachers in the process, so the spell-a-thon words are not too easy or too hard.
Are spell-a-thons good fundraisers?
Spell-a-thons essentially turn spelling tests into fundraisers, so they’re a win-win. Students get to improve their spelling ability, and the school gets to raise money for important initiatives, making spell-a-thons great fundraisers.
What is a “Thon”?
Thon’s Are Fun & Effective Event-Based Fundraisers
An “a-thon” is a peer-to-peer style fundraiser that involves participating in a certain activity and gathering donations for participating in said activity.
The activity can be almost anything, from reading to running to bowling. No matter what activity you choose, the premise is the same. Participants commit to doing the activity (reading a certain amount of books, running a certain distance) and ask their friends, family, and coworkers to support them.
A-thons work great because you reach a huge donor pool through peer-to-peer fundraising. People are also more likely to donate since participants are “working” in return for the donations.
What Do You Need to Run a Spell-a-Thon?
Power it With FutureFund
FutureFund’s built-in pledge campaigns allow you to easily collect money and keep donations/pledges organized. Since parents cover payment processing fees, 100% of the funds raised go to your school!
FutureFund is easy to use - for everyone
FutureFund makes running a spell-a-thon easy for everyone. Easier for PTAs and PTOs to run, for students and parents to participate, and for donors to donate.
Accept online donations
Instead of dealing with paper pledge forms and cash and cheques, FutureFund takes the process online. Donors can donate instantly online with their credit or debit cards.
A single tool to power your entire Thon!
FutureFund makes it easy to track how the fundraiser is going. Easily view how much money has been raised and more with detailed reporting.
Using a Spell-a-Thon for Fundraising
Consider the below when organizing your spell-a-thon. Spending a bit of time up front getting organized from an admin and donation perspective will save a lot of time and potential frustration later.
Managing and organizing pledges
Each student will sign up as a participant in the fundraiser. Then, they can collect pledges individually by credit or debit card. You can also accept cash pledges, but be mindful of properly storing and tracking cash you collect.
If you are using FutureFund, you can record these pledges and they will automatically count towards the student’s total and the grand total for the fundraiser.
Donor information and donation management
Before launching your fundraiser, confirm what records you need to collect from donors.
If you are using FutureFund, it’s easy for students to sign up, especially if their information is already in the system. You can bulk sign up entire grades or classes. All donor payments are automatically entered into the system, so you can instantly see each student’s total and the grand total.
Make sure you accept online donations
Fundraising campaigns that accept online donations perform much better than fundraisers that only accept cash or check.
If you are using FutureFund, you can accept payments online. Donors are given a donation link and can pay by credit or debit card. Any cash donations can also be noted in the system to be collected later.
Spell-a-Thon Templates & Resources
Sample spell-a-thon rules
These rules are a great starting point for organizing your spell-a-thon.
To participate in the spell-a-thon, you must sign up by [date]. Then, the spell-a-thon starts on [date], which means you have until [date] to learn your words! Make sure to tell your family that you’re fundraising, so they can donate (ask your parents for help, so they can ask their friends and coworkers too!).
All donations will be collected through FutureFund through this link: [link].
Sample spell-a-thon event description
Unsure of where to start? Use this sample student and parent messaging to get the ball rolling!
Spell your heart out! Starting [date], [school name] will be hosting a spell-a-thon to help fundraise for [cause]. You can help by doing as spelling as many words as you can! Parents, each student will be collecting pledges online through FutureFund: [link]. Please spread the word to your family, friends, and coworkers to help make this fundraiser a success!
Set Up Online Pledges With FutureFund
Let parents and supporters donate online with FutureFund’s online pledges. Try it out for free!
Make your donation easily and instantly! Click this [link] to make your donation through secure credit or debit card payment.
If you prefer to donate by cash or check, just donate directly to the student you’re supporting. Thank you for your support!
Spell-a-Thon Theme Ideas
Depending on when you hold your spell-a-thon, you can choose words to match a holiday. You can find words to go with any holiday, from Halloween to St. Patrick’s Day.
It’s called a spelling bee after all, so why not go with an animal theme? This theme is easy to customize for students’ grade levels too.
Another way to customize word lists for students’ grade level is to choose words based on what they’re learning. Pick words based on historical events, scientific concepts, and more.
Etymology, or the history of words, can help students identify how to spell certain words. Choose words with similar origins, like Latin or Greek, or words with the same root.
Take students all around the world with a geography-based spelling list. You can choose the country based on the curriculum or even let each class choose a country.
If your school has a second language or immersion program, a spell-a-thon is a great way for students to test their skills. Encourage kids to learn how to spell in another language.
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