Smart Spring Carnival Planning
Tips & Ideas for a Successful School, Church, or Community Carnival Fundraiser
Warmer temperatures, budding trees, sprouting flowers, the first signs of Spring...and...Carnival Season! Traditionally the biggest fundraiser of the year, the Spring Carnival has a lot of moving parts and takes months of preparation. Keep calm and get your planning vibe on, SignUp has collected the best ideas from carnival veterans to help you plan a successful event.
We will provide you with suggestions for themes, games, activities, and food to make the Spring carnival fun for all ages, PLUS fundraiser tips and tricks to make this event a financial victory for your organization. Whether it is your first or 50th carnival, we hope you will find some fresh ideas to make your next Spring Carnival a huge success!
We wish you a fun and fresh Spring Carnival – share your experiences with us so we can celebrate your Spring Carnival success!
Theme Ideas for your Spring Carnival
The spring carnival could be the first taste of Spring for most of your attendees; take advantage and choose a Spring Carnival Theme that exudes joy and the breath of new life that comes with the season.
Spring Fling - All things Spring with a rhyming name for your Carnival event to boot.
Bugs & Butterflies - Nature will be bursting at the seams when Spring Carnival hits the calendar, create fun decor with giant, colorful critters.
Garden Party - Everyone loves a garden party, decorate accordingly and make your carnival look like a walk in the park (or garden!)
Flower Power - Flowers are one of the easiest decorations to make if you need to decorate carnival booths with spring-like things made out of paper. Annual plants are always vibrant and colorful just in time for the Spring Carnival so they can double as decor and dollars for your event. Sell your decor at the end of the event so your attendees can take home some beautiful flowers for their home gardens.
Old-Fashioned Picnic - Picnic tables, picnic baskets and gingham checked tablecloths screams picnic and Spring for all your attendees.
Candyland - The beloved board game is full of fun, bright colors and yes, CANDY. Take a cue from the game itself and don't forget to create some crowd pleaser booths like a Lollipop Woods and a Gumdrop Mountain!
Animal Safari - Find all the animal print decor you can and get your decorate on. Suit up your attendees with binoculars and go on safari. Hide different animals throughout your carnival booths and have your littlest attendees seek out all the hidden animal friends for prizes.
Spring Carnival Booth Ideas
The more activities for attendees to engage in at the carnival = more money raised for your organization. Offer a variety of booths and activities attractive for all ages and be sure to have enough stations to avoid long lines. Assign a few volunteers to manage any congestion around popular game stations. Test-drive the games in advance to avoid any last-minute complications or issues.
PRO TIP: Don't forget to be inclusive with your activities and booths. Ask yourself, "Can everybody play this game?" You may have people come to your carnival who use crutches, wheelchairs, or have special needs that require modification to participate.
Here are some carnival booth suggestions:
- Butterfly photo booth - wings, masks and flower backdrop
- Cascarones - Confetti eggs are always a fan favorite around Easter time
- Decorate a flower pot and plant a seed
- Duck in a bucket ring toss (place rubber ducks in a small plastic bucket, have kids throw rings over the bucket to win a duck)
- Easter egg hunt - If your carnival event is held close to Easter on the calendar, tie in an egg hunt for the smallest attendees
- Egg decorating - Easter themed booth with paints and egg dyes
- Egg roll race (have the kids roll a large plastic egg through an obstacle course)
- Face painting - butterflies, ladybugs & all the flowers
- Giant Flowers "Head in Hole" Photo Station
- Spring Sports Ball Toss - Basketball hoops, Baseball throws & Softball toss
Fan Favorite Booths & Games
- Balloon dart board
- Cake walk
- Chuck-a-duck (Corn-hole) - use a bean bag toss board to throw small duck toys or bean bags decorated with ducks at the board to score points
- Lollipop tree - pick a pop from a foam form and the stick bottom color determines the prize
- Pool noodle car races - Cut a pool noodle in half and host head to head toy car races
- Pot-of-gold penny toss - Get small plastic black mini-pots, have kids toss pennies into the pots for prizes of rainbow chalk
- Score a goal - against a high school soccer player
- Silly string corral
- Temporary tattoos, hair coloring & hair braiding
- Toilet paper toss - into hanging toilet seats
- Touch-a-truck - invite police or fire personnel to attend so kids can tour their rigs
- Treasure dig - fill kiddie pool with sand and bury small plastic toys for kids to find
Popular Rental Activities
- Bounce house
- Bungee jumping (kid-sized)
- Dunk tank
- Human gyroscope
- Inflatable giant slide, obstacle course or climbing wall
- Mechanical bull (kid-sized)
- Petting zoo
- Pony rides
- Sumo wrestling
- Video game truck with multiple stations
Food and Drink Suggestions
- Fruit kebabs - Use in season fruit and berries to build kebabs for a walk-about snack
- Bake Sale - Include a bake sale as a fundraising element for your food sales
- Fruit Pies - Cherry, blueberry, strawberry-rhubarb
- Homemade marshmallow rice treats
- Chocolate covered strawberries - decorated with sprinkles & jimmies
- Cookies, cakes, brownies
- Lemonade, iced tea & water
- Popcorn/kettle corn
- Peanuts, pretzels, chips
- Candy - fill a bag
- Grilled hot dogs & hamburgers
- Churros, funnel cakes, doughnuts
- Sno-cones, ice cream, shaved ice
- Cotton candy
After you've developed your Carnival Theme and Booth Ideas fit for Spring don't forget you'll need some signage for your attendees to know all that is available and where to go while attending your event.
Free Printable Spring Carnival Signs: Click here to download Spring Carnival signs.
Share the Workload with Spring Carnival Committees
While a core planning committee is needed to oversee the entire Spring Carnival fundraiser, we strongly recommend creating subcommittees with a chair responsible for each team. Along with regular planning committee meetings, each subcommittee should meet separately to discuss ongoing tasks and ensure everything is on schedule. Click here to find more detailed information on essential carnival committees.
PRO TIP: Assigning co-chairs for each subcommittee ensures someone can cover when family or work commitments disrupt a leader's committee responsibilities.
- Ticket Sales
- Concession Stands
- Raffle or Auction
- Music and Entertainment
Spring Carnival Planning Checklist, Budget & Timeline
To ensure you have enough time to plan your Spring Carnival it's imperative that you start MONTHS in advance. The first and most important decision is to choose the date and time of your event (plus a rain date in case of inclement weather). Optimally the event date should be chosen nine months to a year in advance and confirmed six months out.
Once you have your event date as a starting point, create a timeline for the entire process. Remember things like choosing the location, soliciting sponsorships, rental inquiries, etc., must be arranged a minimum of 3-4 months ahead of time to guarantee availability. You won't be the only organization planning a Spring Carnival and do not want to promise a bouncy house or dunk tank only to find out they've all been reserved and you are out of luck with unfulfilled promises.
PRO TIP: Planning a successful Spring Carnival involves a mountain of volunteers and a dedicated budget - you'll need to spend money to make money. Before you get started, have a realistic conversation with your group to ensure you have an ample team and clearly defined budget to work with. Check out these important carnival planning questions to prevent things falling through the cracks.
Downloadable Checklist: To help you stay on task, click here for a downloadable checklist with a suggested timeline for orchestrating a successful event.
Spring Carnival Marketing & Promotion
Having a big turnout is key for your Carnival fundraiser! Getting people to show up takes planning and effort. Start promoting the Carnival early and often and be creative with your communications.
Organize a competition for local artists or art students to design a logo to use on all of the marketing materials. Offer the winner a Carnival prize package with Carnival-related items, like free tickets for games and food/drink, a customized t-shirt, certificate or trophy designating them the winner. Then create posters and flyers using the winning design.
- Create a free website that gives people more in depth details for the Carnival, include this link on all communications/posters.
- Create an online event on your organization's Facebook page.
- Posters and Banners - Make colorful signs that tell people about your carnival. Remember to list the date, time, location and all the Carnival activities: "Games! Prizes! Food! Entertainment! Silent Auction! etc.," The more posters you put up the better.
- Flyers - Hand out information about your carnival to everyone you know. Include the date, time, location, what kinds of things you'll have at your carnival, and a list of sponsors.
- Newspapers, radio stations, newsletters, and local websites - Ask your local newspaper, congregation, or school newsletter to run a free announcement about your carnival.
- Offer tickets for sale at a discount in the weeks before the carnival. This builds interest in your event while earning a base of funds.
- PRO TIP: Sell tickets in two different colors - one color for pre-sale and one color for during the event; this will help you distinguish between sales and gather good estimates for next year.
- Word of mouth - Tell all your friends and family and ask them to publicize the Carnival as well.
- Recruit a local celebrity to get the word out - a local politician, author, artist, or band posting about your event to their followers will surely increase turnout.
Spring Carnival Volunteers
Volunteers are the key to a successful Carnival. It just can't be done without them. Be sure to start recruiting volunteers early in the process and ask volunteers to invite friends and family to volunteer. Recruit local high school students or youth clubs/groups as volunteers. Students may earn service hours in exchange for their help; offer students free food/tickets for volunteering.
Online sign up sheets are an absolute must to keep large events like this organized! From carnival game and booth volunteers, to carnival supplies, prizes, concessions, and more - the various aspects of organizing large fundraisers just can't be managed with clipboard sign ups, reply-all emails, and phone call after phone call anymore. SignUp fits the bill! It is simple to use on any device and makes it extra easy to boost participation. With just a few clicks, people can sign up to choose where to volunteer and/or what to donate. Once volunteers have picked a shift, SignUp sends automated confirmations and reminders to help everyone keep their commitments. This helps keep you from scrambling at the last minute begging for volunteers or donations.
To get the word out that you need volunteers be sure to include your SignUp page link on your event page, in every email and social media post.
PRO TIP: Slow to recruit people? Make it a contest. The person who recruits the most people to sign up to volunteer gets a free book of tickets, a customized t-shirt, free food/drink during the Carnival, or some other fun incentive.
Make it easier for participants to know who to turn to if they have questions or need help, have key volunteers wear matching shirts or at the very least identify volunteers with name tags.
Don’t forget to schedule "volunteer runners" to assist other volunteers with restocking prizes or concessions, resetting games, or helping with a lost or injured participant (keep a first aid kit on hand, just in case!). You will also need plenty of people for setting up and tearing down the tents, games, and prizes after the event is over.
PRO TIP: Schedule enough volunteers in shorter shifts (30 - 90 mins) for each activity. This allows them to volunteer at multiple booths AND still have time to enjoy the event. Be sure to have a few back-up volunteers available just in case someone can’t make it at the last minute.
Reward your volunteers with a Free Drink and Snack after their volunteer shift is over. A few days after the event send out a short feedback form to all volunteers asking for feedback for help in planning next year's Carnival.
Additional Ways to Fundraise During the Spring Carnival
Raffles, Auction & Additional Activities
- Hold a silent auction or raffle. Reach out to your organization members and local businesses to donate items. Don’t forget to ask golf/country clubs, restaurants, gyms, yoga/Zumba studios, or personal trainers.
- Add a bake sale or cake decorating contest
- Sell student designed t‐shirts, community recipe/cookbooks, cups/koozies imprinted with your organization's logo, etc.
- Family fun run or obstacle course with a registration fee
- Organization Yard Sale or Craft Fair - Ask for donations from members or local artists; or sell space for them to set up a market booth
- Penny Wars - Set up various jars with competing team names, mascots, favorite volunteers, local restaurants, or some other "this or that" questions (Vote for your favorite! Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Captain America) and have people drop pennies into their favorite.
- Price your tickets so a typical family can have a lot of fun and enjoy multiple activities. Offer volume discounts, sibling/friends/family discounts, early bird/presale discounts. The bigger the discount the more tickets you will sell.
PRO TIP: Cash Sense. Avoid cash handling at all the activity booths and concessions stands by having a few designated ticket booths. Set a ticket price (# tickets) for each booth or food item. Keep cash‐handling locations staffed with two or more people. Have locked cash boxes on hand, and a process for moving and storing large sums of money. Many banks and supermarkets provide an auction and carnival service and can help with your cash process.
Planning a Spring Carnival is a huge undertaking that is dependent on many volunteers. SignUp can help make the process from beginning to end less stressful for everyone. We hope these tips and tricks help make your Spring Carnival a fun and memorable fundraiser!