Penny War

With Homecoming gone and Christmas not quite within grasp, many are left with empty stretches within their student activities calendar. My name is Brooke Ray and I am a senior at Chippewa Hills High School in Remus, MI. This is the story of how my school raised morale and funds at the same time. Last year a need was brought to our attention by our principal for an emergency fund to be started. She wanted to create a financial safety net to be utilized in times of crisis and tragedy in our school community. National Honor Society answered this call for an emergency fund and we launched a penny war. Our first emergency fund penny war had a rocky start. Students knew little about it unless they were in NHS or knew someone who was. Organization of jars for collecting money and the times money could be collected was not clear. Student did not buy into the event and with our execution you could hardly blame them. We raised a total of $250 last year.

This year we set a school goal of $250 hoping that we could at least meet our earning from last year. The only positive element we had going for us last year was the element of class competition. We kept that element and used it to motivate our students using our grade-level homerooms as main bases for collecting pennies and silver. Each homeroom has an identical mason jar with a colored lid corresponding to the class color of the students in that homeroom. Throughout the week students brought in pennies to count as positive points for their class and silver/paper money to be used as negative points to the other classes.

To handle distributing and collecting the money our NHS members each signed up for a homeroom. Each day they delivered the jars at the beginning of homeroom and collected them before the last period. Students were allowed to deposit money during homeroom and between classes until the second to last class of the day. Prior to the last class of the day, NHS collected the jars and returned them to a secure room where the contents was dumped into the prospective class’s 5-gallon bucket. Returning empty jars to the homerooms each day encouraged students to donate more because they could not keep a visual of how their competition was doing. We collected money before last period so that during the last class of the day NHS students were able to count up the money for a daily total.

The daily total was key to encouraging our students and earning their attention. We utilized our student council snapchat, school-wide remind email/text, morning announcements, and lobby digital display to blast each day’s totals out to all of our students and their parents. The prize for the winning class was a movie day but the movie meant little compared to the meaning of beating all of the other classes and proving your class superior. Nearly every day a different class pulled ahead and new plans or strategies were created. Students began bringing in so much money that by Thursday and Friday we eliminated the homeroom jars and set up four monitored buckets in the lobby during homeroom.

On the last day, student brought in buckets of pennies and hundreds of dollars of paper money. The student body mobbed the lobby as they speculated who they believed to be in the lead and decided where their silver and paper money should be placed. We saw a level of participation and excitement that only the true spirit of competition can bring out. Our NHS members spent over three hours sorting through pennies, quarters, dimes, nickels, and dollars to reach a final total before the final bell rang on Friday. When the bell signaling an announcement rang out in our last period all of the classrooms fell silent. As they announced the rankings each student reacted to their own class’s total but the total that no one predicted was the was the grand total. Our penny war with a simple goal of $250 had brought in a grand total of over $2,250. In one week we took our penny war total from last year and doubled it nearly ten times over.

We raised nearly ten times the amount of money for our school emergency fund than we had last year and it could be credited to three things: placement, organization, and promotion. We placed the penny war a month or more out from homecoming and a month or more prior to Christmas. Financially, students do not have any other big items vying for their money in the beginning to mid-november. Placement of your fundraiser is critical if you want to see your students able and willing to contribute. Organization of details such as who, what, where, when, and how are all questions that need to be answered prior to your event in order to avoid road blocks. Promotion is where you can make or break your whole event. If our students hadn’t been reminded constantly of their classes standing they would most certainly not have contributed as generously as they did.

This event is not far fetched or unattainable. My school is comprised of just over 500 kids. My senior class is only 134 students. My school is not known for spirit or incredible fundraising, it is known for hunting and fishing. I write to you as I sit at home on a school holiday, November 15th the first day of rifle hunting season. If my small school in the middle of nowhere can raise $2,250 in one week in November, imagine what your school is capable of.


Thank you for your time! If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me by email at