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Nothing beats getting paid for what you’re already doing, especially when it’s shopping! So, it’s no surprise that PTOs / PTAs usually promote several “shop to earn” or “school rewards” type fundraisers to earn as much “free money” for their schools as possible.
These “silent” or “passive” fundraisers can raise hundreds to several thousands of dollars a year for schools, and require relatively little effort to maintain and grow. They require so little effort, however that they sometimes slip off the group’s radar screen and get neglected. When that happens, these fundraisers can sputter and your group can miss out on easy earnings.
That’s the last thing we want, especially now that the peak holiday shopping months are here! With families expected to set new records for online shopping this year, focusing a little effort on your online fundraising will really pay off. So, here are some easy tweaks to get your online shop-to-earn fundraisers in tip top shape.
Raise your school’s online fundraising game with these 5 easy fixes
1. Make your online fundraising links impossible to miss
Too many PTOs/PTAs share their online fundraising info on one page only, usually a secondary page that lists all their fundraisers in one place. That is an important page, of course. Ongoing online fundraisers, however, should always be just a click away so they are super easy for families to support and super hard for them to forget. Here are some ways that schools are making it hard for families to miss their online “fundraise while you shop” programs:
2. Get rid of old fundraising info and broken links
If you still have graphics like this on your website, you are not alone!
With the built-in turnover that school groups deal with every year, things like keeping website content current can slip through the cracks. Unfortunately, this clutter of useless information and broken links hurts your online fundraising by distracting from active fundraisers and frustrating parents.
The good news is that weeding out the old information can be done in minutes. Besides Target, other recently closed shop-to-earn fundraisers that I've spotted on PTO / PTA websites include Kula.com (closed 2017) and OneCause (formerly SchoolPop - closed 2015). For your active fundraisers, test the links at least once a year to make sure they work. Fixing broken links keeps parents from getting frustrated and earnings flowing back to your group.
3. Add a new fundraiser that’s a good fit for your school
Even if your group is participating in a number online fundraisers, others have advantages that can help you increase your total earnings when added to the mix. Here are some popular online fundraisers worth checking out:
Amazon Associates & AmazonSmile
Over 40% of online shopping dollars are spent on Amazon so participating in one or both Amazon fundraisers is a “no brainer” for most groups. More PTO/PTA volunteers are familiar with AmazonSmile, but Amazon Associates is also open to non-profits and pays much more. (See how much PTOs/PTAs are raising with Amazon Associates in this post).
Benefit Mobile (electronic scrip)
Over 130 merchants, including major retailers, restaurants, grocers, entertainment, travel, etc. (Can be combined with eScrip)
eScrip (electronic scrip + online fundraising mall)
Hundreds of online merchants, including major retailers, regional grocers, regional retailers, restaurants, and more. (Can be combined with Benefit Mobile).
Goodshop (online fundraising mall)
Coupons and discounts from 30,000 merchants, including major retailers.
IGive (online fundraising mall)
1,700 online merchants, including major retailers, travel, finance, communications, entertainment, services, etc.
Mabels Labels (specialty online retailer)
Primarily labels for children's clothing and everything else they own. Clever way to reduce “lost and found” while raising money for your school. You'll see a boost in sales before vacation camps too.
Office Depot/Office Max (specialty retailer)
School and office supplies and technology. Earn rebates for in-person and online shopping.
Shutterfly/Tinyprints (specialty online retailer)
Popular service for photo gifts. Can increase earnings by promoting ahead of all gift-giving holidays.
For more details on each of these fundraisers, including how much you can raise and how schools are doing them, check out this post. Do you know of other online fundraisers that you’d like to share? Please do!
4. Have lists? Think fundraising links
Most school groups share a variety of lists with families during the year, including: teacher wish lists, school-wide wish lists (e.g., recess gear), charity drive collections, teacher “favorite things,” recommended reading, school supply lists, items needed for events and fundraisers, and more. Connecting these lists with your online fundraisers is the perfect opportunity to help your school, offer a convenience to parents, and raise money for your group, all at the same time.
Wherever you share the information, be sure to include a reminder about a fundraiser that would be a purchasing option.
Collecting school supplies for needy families? Remind families about the rebates you earn from Office Depot/Office Max.
Are room parents buying party supplies and food or gift cards to be given as gifts? Remind them to use Benefit Mobile.
Do you have Teacher Wish Lists? Remind parents to shop for items using your Amazon fundraising links. With Amazon Associates or AmazonSmile, you can also create the lists directly on Amazon. Not only will item quantities be automatically updated to eliminate duplicates, but your school will earn money from all items that families purchase after they click on your links, not just on the items you listed.
Here is a good example of wish lists created on Amazon and linked to an Amazon Associates fundraiser:
5. Update, thank, and repeat to grow your online fundraisers
Online shopping fundraisers are so low-maintenance compared to other fundraisers, that some school groups make the mistake (raising my hand, here ;) of thinking they can “set it, and forget it.” Even ongoing fundraisers, though, which make us think “everyone knows about this by now,” need regular promotion to keep growing.
Many school groups report that regularly updating families on the totals that have been raised through shopping fundraisers (on their website and in email newsletters) is enough to keep earnings growing. Parents see the results along with links to support the fundraiser, and many of them will click and shop the same day. Then, when they see the next round of results, they’ll be that much more invested in the program, knowing that they helped the school just through shopping for what they need.
Here’s an example of a PTO that is doing a great job updating families about their ongoing fundraisers, including some impressive results.
Online fundraisers are easy to promote, even during school holidays. That includes Thanksgiving and winter break which coincide with the busiest shopping days of the year! If your group has a Facebook page or group, you can schedule posts in advance so you don’t have to think about it during the holidays. Emails can also be scheduled if your group uses software like MailChimp, Constant Contact, and others. Even if you don’t have email software that offers scheduling, writing a brief message ahead of time will enable you send it out in minutes when the time comes.
Those are my five fast fixes to get your online fundraising game in shape – BEFORE holiday shopping peaks. Hope these ideas help your school raise more money for everything on your list.
What online fundraising is your school doing?
Care to share your thoughts? Have questions? Feel free to email me using the envelope icon below or message me through my School Volunteers Share Facebook page.