Make Money as an Adult: Bring Back 3 Classic Kid Fundraisers

We all remember those classic kid fundraisers: fighting dehydration in the Walmart parking lot to sell countless boxes of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies, painting huge cardboard signs and dancing on the side of the road at high school sports team car washes, and sandwich-bagging brownie after brownie for the church bake sale.

You might cringe at remembering those times now, but those fundraisers were classic for a reason: they’re moneymakers, and you can use them to make money as an adult, too. The trick is to raise the money without looking tacky for taking a cut — harder to do than it sounds, but not impossible. (There will be no “$5 cover house parties” here.)

Here are three tasteful moneymakers to help you quickly earn cash, coupled with important planning tips that could have you up and running by this weekend.

1. Homemade Baked Goods

I don’t know about you, but for me, bake sales are always a happy sight. Whether we’re talking cling-wrapped Rice Krispie treats, homemade cheesecake brownies, or just bulk croissants dipped in some fancy chocolate, you can’t go wrong with a well-placed bake sale.

That charm lasts long into adulthood — just ask Angela Logan, a woman featured in Oprah Magazine for paying off her mortgage with her homemade apple cakes and building a business on the premise.

Get started with a good recipe and solid word of mouth. And it wouldn’t hurt to identify a hard-and-fast goal you’re raising money for: “Homemade Chocolate-Covered Strawberries for College Loans,” and “Medical Bill Marzipan” might not have a smooth marketing ring to them, but they will motivate your network to buy quickly.

2. Set Up an Adult Lemonade Stand

Nope, that doesn’t mean alcoholic (unless you want to fill out the paperwork to meet local liquor laws). But you can put an adult spin on this broken-sign childhood classic by creating a delicious lemonade with high-quality ingredients — just lemons, sugar and water… no Hi-C here! — and upscale add-ins that appeal to adults with tons of options, such as lavender, pink cranberry or cucumber basil.

Create and test your delicious lemonade in batches, and then get your product into the right spot: far away from competitors like Whole Foods and Walmart. Check out a local events calendar or your city’s Craigslist listings and make contact with event coordinators.

Introduce yourself by email or phone and arrange to sell your refreshing beverage anywhere people might be hot and looking to try something new: in the parking lot at local baseball tournaments, at indoor and outdoor church functions, at summer festivals and local farmers markets.

3. Host a Community Talent Show

You don’t necessarily need to provide a product to earn money from fundraisers. Instead, capitalize on entertainment value! Start practicing your middle school baton-twirling karaoke routine and partner with a local restaurant or after-hours coffee shop to organize a talent show among your friends and community.

Here’s how it works: you brainstorm and plan a talent show with an entry fee for a family-friendly night out. Advertise on Craigslist, local websites and with printed flyers in restaurants and stores around town.

Charge a small cover to attend and a small fee to enter the contest. Use half of this income to create a series of prizes: a grand prize for the winner of the talent show, a second prize for second place, and an honorable mention for a unique skill or young participant. Take the remainder as payment for organizing and promoting the event yourself. Then sit back and enjoy the show as your community shows off its hidden talents.

Are you ready to give it a try? Test out one of these ideas and let us know how much money you raise. But keep in mind that success comes at a price: if you make significant income from any of these fundraiser ideas, you need to report that income on your state and federal taxes.

Your Turn: What was your favorite fundraiser as a child? Do you think you could adapt it to earn money as an adult?

Sarah Greesonbach is the magic bean behind Greesonbach Creative, a distinctive copywriting and content studio, and a former budget-hater. Compare mistakes in personal finance and eating Paleo at Life [Comma] Etc.