Candle Making as a Fundraiser - CandleScience

Hi. My name is Chris Gibson and I’m a special education teacher in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Chris has an inspirational story... He started a candle making fundraiser to help his students learn basic life skills. We interviewed him to learn more about his story...


What do you currently teach?

I’m currently working at East Chapel Hill High School. I am a system level 2 teacher, which is a self contained class for students with severe to profound disabilities. I’ve been here for the last two years. We work with our students on their academic needs as well as vocational training and just trying to prep them for life after high school.

How did you get started as a special education teacher?

When I was a junior at the University of North Carolina, I had aspirations to become an attorney, but I was taking a course called Education for Non-Majors as an elective course. It really just got me interested in the education process in North Carolina. One of the requirements for the class was to either write several papers or you could tutor in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City school system. So I chose to tutor and I was placed at Sewell Elementary School. I was paired with a student who had special needs. That was really my first experience working with anyone with special needs. I was also paired with a certain teacher at Sewell Elementary School who was a real mentor for me. After the semester had ended, she came to me and said “You know, you have a real gift for this. And, after graduating from college, I decided law wasn’t really what I should be doing. I really wanted to work with students with disabilities. So I went back to school and I got my lateral entry degree in Special Ed. as well as my masters degree, all from the University of North Carolina.

Why were you looking to do a fundraiser?

Well you know, working in the school system, you can always use money, whether it’s for classroom materials. And especially for our students, we have community based instruction outings that we’re allowed to go on. We’re actually allowed to go once a week. All of these outings, several of them cost money. Being able to be kind of self-sufficient where we can make and sell a product and use the proceeds from that to help facilitate field trips, community outings, as well as classroom materials was really the main reason for trying to find a fundraiser. Just a way for us to have money coming in, and not having to ask parents every week to send in a few dollars here and there. We were able to become kind of self-sufficient.

Why did you choose to make handmade products?

I went to several EC conferences. They have like a showcase of different school-based enterprises that different schools have done. They have people who make blankets, people who make soaps, things of that nature. Craft products they make that they can sell to either the staff and community. So trying to find some kind of craft idea we can sell to the staff. I happen to know several people who work at CandleScience, including my wife. Once she was able to establish getting me some supplies and really giving me the opportunity to make some samples. It really kind of took off from there. It was a process the students picked up on pretty easily, especially when we correctly structured it. We asked the staff and monitored the staff and polled them to see what they wanted, what scents they wanted and what sizes they wanted. From there it just kind of exploded and we were able to make this product and share it with the teachers and administrators.

How did you structure the fundraiser?

Well first we started off making samples of the candles. We just chose several fragrances. We’ve done a holiday fundraiser as well as a Spring/Mother’s Day fundraiser, so for instance for the holiday, we’d pick about four fragrances and we’d make them in the 8 oz tins. Then we would take them to either a staff meeting or leave the candles in a neutral location for staff members to pick them up, look at them, smell them, see which ones they preferred and then just had an order form. After about a week of having the teachers and administrators being able to look at the samples, we collected what everyone ordered and then we made our own order through CandleScience and then began working on the products.

How did you get your students involved in the fundraiser?

Well, the majority of my students have autism. So, really, trying to make it a structured activity where there was a clear, finished product was really a key. Using a lot of visual supports to help them see what needs to be done, first, second, third and so forth until the product is complete. These products take multiple days because you have to wait for the melted wax to cure. It was definitely a process. But really after running through it a couple times they were able to pick up on their role in the process and it really just became very successful.

What did your students learn?

I think all of the students benefitted in one way or another. Whether it was just by being able to follow the directions of the process. Then I had some of my higher functioning students who were really able to build their measuring skills, especially when measuring out the wax. That was definitely key. It takes a little patience to make the candles and to go through the whole process. That was also a key in understanding that we need to do step one, following the sequence. All of those things were very beneficial to all of my students.

What did you learn from your students?

I learned that you have to be extremely patient, but that it’s absolutely worth the process to get to the end result. I really learned that several of my students were very, very capable of completing all the aspects of making these candles. You know I work with students who are considered probably the lowest functioning. So, to be able to see them have a hand in making this product, and a product that is very appealing to many people, that was very rewarding for me.

What surprised you the most about running a candle fundraiser?

I would say, absolutely the staff response. We had so many people, so many teachers, administrators, assistants who wanted to come by and see the process, who were just very, very interested, you know ordering 10, 12 candles at a time. The orders that we got after probably the first time we did the fundraiser were just incredibly surprising. Really we were like, Oh man, I’m not sure if we have enough. We may have bit off more than we could chew as far as how many people wanted some of the products we were making.

What tips do you have for someone doing their own fundraiser?

Watch the videos of how to make the different candles using the different jars or the different tins. Understand that it’s a process and have a little patience with it, especially if you happen to be working with younger students or students with disabilities.

Christopher Gibson is a special education teacher who uses candle making as an effective learning tool and fundraising program for his class. We interviewed Chris to learn more about his inspirational story.

- Chris's class making 8 oz. candle tins for an upcoming fundraiser

3 Tips for Starting Your Own Candle Fundraiser

1. First make candles for fun!

Before starting a fundraiser make sure you are familiar with candlemaking. Our soy candle making kit is a great option to get started. It will familiarize you with the candle making process and help you be more efficient when organizing a candle fundraiser.

2. Keep your product line simple.

We recommend starting out with 8 oz. candle tins. They are easy to use and can minimize minor imperfections such as wet spots. We also suggest keeping your scent selection to 4-5 fragrances. Consider selecting scents that have year round appeal or scents that correspond to the season of your fundraiser.

3. Make your samples first.

To minimize your initial investment in supplies, it’s best to make a few samples. You can start with a kit and then select additional 1oz. fragrances for your sample candles. Once you’ve received your orders and payment, place an order for the materials needed to fulfill the orders.

Order Form Template

Thinking about starting your own candle fundraiser? This order form template from Chris can help you get started.

Download Now

Want to talk?

Whether you’ve got questions, want to share ideas for launching your own candle fundraiser, or just want to chat, we’d love to hear from you!

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