All those pennies really do add up!

Host a Penny War for Ronald McDonald House Charities

You can help our Ronald McDonald House by hosting a Penny War at your local school! A penny war fundraiser is easy to operate and helps build school spirit, all while raising funds to help families of seriously ill, hospitalized children in our area.

To host a Penny War, please contact Maranda Gammage at

Here are some quick steps to get started.

How Penny Wars Work (from

The basic premise of a penny war fundraiser is that kids bring spare change to school for a set period of time, usually a week or two, and deposit it into containers. At the end of the collection period, the change is donated toward a cause, and the class that netted the most is rewarded.

Popular rules variations include:

Positive pennies: Each penny is worth one point and counts “positively” toward a group’s point total; each silver coin or dollar bill gets points based on its value (a nickel is worth five points, a dime is worth 10, etc.), but counts “negatively” toward other groups’ totals. So in a competition between classrooms, students who want their class to win will place pennies into their own buckets and place nickels, dimes, quarters, or dollar bills into other classrooms’ buckets. In some penny wars, dollar bills are counted positively along with pennies.

Negative pennies: For the penny war at Whittier Elementary in Downers Grove, Ill., positive points were given based on the value of each silver coin (for example, a quarter was worth 25 points) and one point was deducted for every penny. Students strategized by saving up their pennies and dumping huge amounts into the buckets for classes that were ahead—one student even brought in rolled pennies from the bank!

Prize Incentives

Some groups offer small daily prizes to the class that collects the most each day, determined by weighing the containers or counting the coins daily. Because the grand prize is based on the effort from a whole class of students, all-class incentives tend to work best for penny wars.

Pizza party
Ice cream party
Afternoon movie with snacks
Game day
Extra recess
Activity with the principal (lunch, kickball game, etc.)

Additional Considerations

What to use to collect the coins: While any large container will do, some that work particularly well are empty water (bubbler) bottles, gallon-size milk jugs, and large snack containers (such as those come from warehouse stores with pretzels, cheese puffs, etc.).

Where to set up the containers: Organizers at the school will provide each participating classroom with containers and gather them at the end. But depending on the size of your school, the number of grades, and the number of classrooms per grade, they can also be organized by grade in a central location.

Where and how to count the coins: The containers can get quite heavy; Decide who will count all of the collected coins. Options include enlisting volunteers to hand-roll the coins or taking the coins to a supermarket that has a coin-counting machine. Some groups choose to invest in a coin-counting machine, particularly those that plan to announce classroom tallies during the penny war or that plan to fundraise with penny wars again.

Publicizing Your Event

By their very nature, penny wars don’t require a lot of advance notice for kids to participate—all students need to do is bring in some change. But you’ll still want to make families aware of the activity on your website and Facebook page (and other social channels, if you have them) to give them time to save up their coins. And you’ll definitely want to share the rules ahead of time.

Field-Tested Themes for Penny Wars

Often, just providing containers and incentives are sufficient to get kids’ competitive juices flowing. But a theme always adds a fun element. Following are some school-tested penny war themes.

Piggy “banks”: The PTO at South Range Elementary in Canfield, Ohio, had success with a “Pack the Piggies” theme by painting large water bottles pink (to represent pigs) and setting them up in a row, by grade.

Holidays: For a March fundraiser, the Oakland Park (Fla.) Elementary PTO held a St. Patrick’s Day-theme coin drive. Coins were collected in shamrock-decorated containers, and one of the prizes at the end was a green pot filled with gold coin candies. You can pick any favorite holiday and decorating to match.

Cake in the face (or other teacher/admin stunt): Set up two or more large coin containers, each with a person’s photo on the front. The principal, vice principal, beloved teacher, or other well-known school figure are all good candidates. Kids vote with their coins, and the “winning” container earns a pie planted in that person’s face.

Visual Motivation

You can help keep momentum by playing up classes’ progress, either during morning announcements or via fun visuals displayed in a central location in the school. A progress thermometer is a simple and effective way to keep participants up to speed.