Bay of Plenty schools received more than $6.2 million in donations last year.
Figures released by the Education Ministry show donations to schools in the region have jumped by 14 per cent in the last three years, up from $5.5 million in 2009.
The Education Ministry defines donations as voluntary contributions identified by schools in their annual reports. They include parental contributions plus donations from other sources. The figures cover the whole of the Bay of Plenty, including Tauranga and Rotorua. Top schools in the region have consistently raked in the most donations over the past three years.
Donations to decile 10 schools averaged $1.5 million in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Tauranga's decile 10 Bethlehem College received the region's largest donation total last year - $1,323,424.
Principal Eoin Crosbie said donations enabled the integrated school to employ extra staff. "We have a director of music and director of sport, we have specialists who help in reading recovery and we employ guidance counsellors at years one to six."
Donations were combined with government funding to provide better services for students, Mr Crosbie said.
Mission trips overseas and student leadership programmes all benefited from donations to the school.
Otumoetai College principal Dave Randel said the school collected $93,547 last year.
The amount received by the school was less than in previous years as many families struggled to pay, he said.
The contributions allowed the school to subsidise materials and activities that were not covered by Ministry of Education funding.
Mount Maunganui Russell Gordon said his school received $45,280 last year.
Nationally, schools raked in nearly $104 million in donations last year, up from about $99 million in 2010. Over two-thirds of this went to schools in the three largest cities. Auckland donations topped the country, with its schools registering more than $41.2 million in donations last year.
Schools in the Wellington and Christchurch regions received about $15.8 million and $10.5 million respectively.
Principals' Federation president Paul Drummond said donation amounts were set by individual school boards.
"That amount can range from nothing to hundreds of dollars, depending on what that school community has agreed upon.
"Schools are very careful that they do it at a level that is going to be well received by their community."
Figures show boys' schools have received the largest amount in donations for three consecutive years.
Hutt International Boys' School received over $2 million in contributions last year. The decile 10 Wellington school also took top spot in 2009, raking in $1.9 million in voluntary contributions.
Auckland Grammar, a decile 10 college, reaped the most in voluntary contributions in 2010 with $1.8 million.
Gisborne's decile one Cobham School received only $15 in donations last year - the lowest tally in the country.
At $18, donations to South Island primary school Clutha Valley was the lowest in 2010, and Bay of Plenty primary Kawerau North School received only $13 in contributions in 2009.
Clutha Valley is a decile nine school while Kawerau North is decile one.
Mr Drummond said many schools relied on parental donations to cover basic operating costs, making it even tougher for communities. "We haven't got a free education system that equates to what parents and students want it to be."
Schools in the mid-decile ratings often struggled the most with donations and funding.
Equity-targeted funding ensured decile one to three schools in poorer areas received more help from the Education Ministry, he said.
"But decile four, five, six and seven schools do not - they get nothing.
"They might well be the schools most likely to struggle because they neither get the extra ministry funding nor the community that is able and willing to make donations."
Total school donations nationally
Total donations to Bay of Plenty/Rotorua schools
Source: Ministry of Education