10 Easy Online Shopping Fundraisers for Schools

FYI - The free resources I provide are made possible by the volunteer appreciation gifts that I design and sell through links on this site that add no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Updated Sept. 2018

No matter how much “fun” we try to pack into our FUNdraising (duct tape, anyone?), it can still be a real grind, year after year. So, I’m always interested to see Facebook posts from PTO / PTA leaders asking for easy fundraiser ideas or ways to get more “free money” for their schools. They always get a lot of responses and excited “we’ve got to try that!” comments.

I hope that’s the reaction you’ll have when you check out this list of online fundraising ideas that PTOs and PTAs are using. Although you are probably already doing some of these, hopefully there’s at least one gem here that’s new to you or that you’ll see in a different light.

School rewards online fundraisers compared

Just about everyone knows about Box Tops, of course, which are collected in about 80% of schools, and other collection programs. Most schools take advantage of local store rewards, too, especially from grocery stores and restaurants. So, I will be skipping over collection fundraisers and store rewards/loyalty programs. I’m also skipping Shoparoo because they have been wait-listing schools for over a year. Looks like a good program for the schools that are currently participating, though ;)

This guide compares online shop-to-give fundraisers, the kind that raise money year around, with no set end date. PTOs and PTAs often refer to them as shop to earn, fundraise while you shop, school rewards, corporate givebacks, corporate rewards, shopping rewards, silent fundraisers, affiliate programs, passive fundraisers, free money, etc. Some of these programs also reward in-person shopping, but all of the fundraisers in this comparison guide, except Office Depot/Office Max, are primarily online fundraisers.

I created this list from personal experience with two of these online fundraisers (Amazon Associates and Amazon Smile), searching ongoing fundraiser pages of PTOs and PTAs, and weeding out discontinued fundraisers (e.g. Kula just bit the dust, August 2017). Note: There are no affiliate links here; I’m not getting paid for referring any traffic to these companies.

Here is a summary table. Further down, you’ll also find more detail on how each online fundraiser works, examples of schools that are doing them, and how much they are raising when that info's available.

10 Easy online fundraisers popular with PTOs / PTAs and how much they pay

PTO / PTA comparison guide of 10 online shopping fundraisers, including Amazon Associates Program, AmazonSmile, Benefit Mobile, eScrip, Goodshop, IGive.com, Mabels Labels, Mighty Nest, OfficeDepot / Office Max "Give Back to Schools", Shutterfly/Tinyprints.

Click here to download this list as a PDF with clickable links.

Amazon Associates Program - Online retailer affiliate program

Products/type of merchants: Products and services on Amazon.com.

How it works: School group signs up and shares Amazon fundraising links on their website and social media. A percentage of purchases that families make through links is paid to the group.

How much it pays: Up to 10%, plus bounties for shopping events (e.g., sign ups for Amazon Prime trials). Many PTOs / PTAs report averaging 4-6% in earnings. 

Pros: Amazon shopping is already very popular with families, and it's very easy for families to support groups just by clicking a special link; great way to earn money from lists (e.g., Teacher Wish Lists, Summer reading, School supplies); non-profits are welcome to participate, even if they are not registered 501(c)(3)s; started in 1996, so has a long track record.

Cons: Restrictive marketing rules; set-up information is geared more towards businesses than non-profits; purchases made through Amazon shopping apps or browser extensions are not eligible.

Other notes: The Amazon School Rewards program that closed in 2013 was part of the larger Amazon Associates program. New Associate schools can still use Amazon School Rewards fundraising links. You will find all the information that PTOs / PTAs need to start an Amazon Associates fundraiser in this email challenge guide.

Example schools doing this fundraiser:

McDonald International School PTA - raised $8,738 in 2016-2017 

Melrose Elementary PTO - raised $4,022 in 2016-17

Mason Rice Elementary PTO - raised $6,000 last year

Somerset Elementary School PTA  - Great example of raising money and helping teachers using Teacher Wish Lists and Amazon fundraising links.


Amazon Smile - Online retailer charitable donation program

Products/type of merchants: Products and services on Smile.Amazon.com.

How it works: School group signs up and shares Amazon fundraising links via their Website, social media, and (new in Aug. 2017), email or print materials; supporters choose school group as beneficiary; Amazon Smile foundation donates portion of supporter purchases made via school's Amazon fundraising links or directly on smile.amazon.com to the school group.

How much it pays: .5%

Pros: Easy for groups to set up and for families to support; started in 2013 and Amazon promotes widely so families are more aware of it; good way to help the school and earn money from lists (e.g., Teacher Wish Lists, Summer reading, School supplies); school groups that are registered 501(c)(3)s can participate in Amazon Smile and Amazon Associates at the same time.

Cons: Restricted to non-profits that are registered 501(c)(3)s in the United States;.5% ($5 donated for every $1,000 spent) takes a long time to add up to a substantial amount; purchases made through Amazon shopping apps or browser extensions not eligible.

Example schools doing this fundraiser:

AmazonSmile participation in schools is growing fast, so it's easy to find examples of schools participating by searching "Amazon Smile PTO" or similar. Here are a few that stood out in my searches:

Discovery Elementary School PTO - This school really went all out to show parents what to do, step by step.

Goodnoe Elementary PTA - Great explanation for parents and use of the custom banner AmazonSmile provides.

Los Compadres de Escuela Longfellow - Interesting use of Teacher Wish Lists with AmazonSmile. Check out this "how to" flyer they gave to teachers.


Benefit Mobile - Electronic scrip

Products/type of merchants: Over 130 merchants, including major retailers, restaurants, grocers, entertainment, travel, etc.

How it works: School group signs up; supporters download mobile app and sign up; supporters buy gift cards using the app that can be instantly redeemed at checkout, or online, or given as gifts/prizes; a percentage of the proceeds from gift cards is donated to the school. Note: eScrip supporters can link their account to Benefit Mobile to increase earnings.

How much it pays: % varies by merchant and whether the customer's account is linked to a bank account or credit card, e.g., .5-2% Amazon, 0-1% Walmart, .5-2.5% Target, 2.5-5% Starbucks, 1-2% Whole Foods, 1-3% Home Depot.

Pros: Wide variety of merchants; coupons/discounts for families; good marketing tools for school groups; can be combined with eScrip to increase earnings.

Cons: Must have at least core group of savvy shoppers who are comfortable managing a phone app while shopping in person or on their computer; started in 2015, so does not have a long track record. However, they are partnering with eScrip, which does have a long record.

Example schools doing this fundraiser:

Louisa Boren STEM K-8 PTA - Combining eScrip with Benefit Mobile. 

Jackson Elementary PTO - Good information page for parents.

Desert Mountain High School PTO

 


In June 2018, eScrip discontinued its OnlineMall, which allowed groups to raise money by shopping online with hundreds of merchants. They do still offer fundraising for groups shopping at local merchants.

eScrip - Electronic scrip

Products/type of merchants: Hundreds of merchants, including major retailers, regional grocers, regional retailers, restaurants, and more.

How it works: School group signs up, supporters sign up and register at least one store/debit/credit card, supporters shop hundreds of merchants in-person only. Users can link their accounts to Benefit Mobile to increase earnings.

How much it pays: % varies by merchant, e.g., .6% Walmart, 1.2% Target, 1.2% Barnes & Noble, 2.4% Bed, Bath & Beyond, 5.4% Champion, 6% Go Daddy, etc.

Pros: Started in 1997 and has very long track record compared to other charity malls that tend to go out of business after relatively short time; wide variety of merchants; coupons/discounts for families; users can link their accounts to Benefit Mobile to increase earnings; good marketing tools for school groups; well-suited to schools with at least a core group of savvy shoppers willing to optimize shopping behavior to maximize earnings for the school.

Cons: Families have to register at least one card to use with participating merchants in person or when they shop in the online mall. Doesn't sound like a lot to ask, but regular family education needed, especially if want to combine with Benefit Mobile online fundraiser.

Example schools doing this fundraiser (these results were all reported before eScrip closed its online shopping mall in June 2018, but schools can still raise funds with eScrip and also link it to their Benefit Mobile accounts)

Bubb Elementary School PTA - Raised $5,362 in 2016-17.

Ross School PTO - Raised $5,000 last year.

Riverview Elementary PTO - Good information page for parents, including how to use eScrip's "Auto Earn" tool to be automatically signed in (or reminded to sign in) whenever visiting a participating eScrip merchant's website.  

 


Products/type of merchants: Coupons and discounts from 30,000 merchants, including major retailers.

How it works: School group signs up as a "cause" if not already listed; supporters choose a cause and make purchases on Goodshop using discounts and offers; a portion of the proceeds is donated to the cause.

How much it pays: % varies by merchant, e.g., .875% Target, .5-2% Walmart, 1% Office Depot, 1% Etsy, 1-4.5% Hotels.com, 3% PetSmart

Pro: Started in 2006, so has a long track record; wide variety merchants; coupons/discounts for supporters; offers an automatic coupon finder to install in web browser. Goodshop also offers Goodsearch, the company's search-to-give tool (powered by Yahoo!) which pays causes a penny per search and is integrated into the Goodshop pages.

Con: Groups only earn if supporters find a coupon/discount that fits their needs.

Example schools doing this fundraiser:

North Barrington Elementary PTO - raised $246 in 2016

Plympton Elementary School PTO 

Schofield Elementary School PTO 


IGive.com - Online fundraising mall

Products/type of merchants: 1,700 online merchants, including major retailers, travel, finance, communications, entertainment, services, etc.

How it works: Group makes sure it is listed as a "cause." If not, it can request to be added. Supporters sign up and choose school group as their cause; supporters shop with over 1,700 online merchants using the IGive button browser extension, using the mobile app, or starting at IGive.com, or clicking on links the school group shares; a percentage is paid to the cause.

How much it pays: % varies by merchant, e.g., 1.6% Walmart, .4% Target, 1.2 Bed, Bath & Beyond, 4% PBS Kids Shop, 3.2% Scholastic-Teacher Express, 2.4% Groupon, 1.6% Lands' End.

Pros: Supporters get coupons / discounts; wide variety of online merchants; easy for supporters to participate; good fundraiser management tools for school groups; open to all kinds of causes, even if not a 501(c)(3).

Cons: Small payouts. They are very transparent about the checks they send to causes (see list). There are LOTS of schools on the list with payouts well under $100, which probably reflects small rebate percentages as well as light marketing efforts by schools.

Example schools doing this fundraiser:

Brophy Elementary School

R. Brown McAllister Elementary

Ben Franklin Elementary PTO


Mabel’s Labels – Online store rewards

Products/type of merchants: Primarily labels for children's clothing and everything else they own.

How it works: Schools sign up; supporters purchase items online and a portion of the proceeds is donated to the school.

How much it pays: 20%

Pro: Very easy for schools to sign up and families to participate; clever way to reduce “lost and found” while raising money for your school; you'll see a boost in sales before summer camps, too.

Con: Narrow product line.

Example schools doing this fundraiser:

Hemenway Elementary School PTO

Northfield Elementary School PTO

Longfellow Elementary School PTO


Mighty Nest – Online store rewards

Products/type of merchants: Safe, non-toxic products for homes, kids, wellness, cleaning, gifts, toys, etc.

How it works: School group provides payment details to claim payments. Most schools already listed, but can ask to be added if not already. Supporters purchase items online and a portion of the proceeds is donated to the school.

How much it pays: 15%

Pro: Very easy for schools to sign up and families to participate. Customers tend to be real fans, so even a small group of regular supporters can generate a good return.

Con: Relatively small number of products from a single retailer.

Example schools doing this fundraiser:

University Elementary School PTO - raised $100

John Baker Elementary School PTO - with only one person participating, raised $40 in a year.

Lovett Elementary School PTO


OfficeDepot / OfficeMax "Give Back to Schools" – Store rewards (online and “brick-and-mortar”)

Products/type of merchants: School and office supplies and technology.

How it works: Schools are already on the list of eligible recipients; supporters buy qualifying school supplies in store or online and provide school ID at checkout; school receives 5% back in credits towards supplies.

How much it pays: 5% store credit.

Pro: Raises funds for items schools always need; easy for families to participate at a popular retailer.

Con: Rebate as store credit limits school purchasing options.

Example schools doing this fundraiser:

Colvin Run Elementary PTO

Lawrence Intermediate PTA 

Desert Canyon Middle School PTO

 


Shutterfly/Tinyprints – Online store rewards

Products/type of merchants: Photo gifts.

How it works: School groups sign up and create a Shutterfly storefront webpage; supporters buy photo gifts from storefront and a portion of the proceeds goes to the group.

How much it pays: 13%

Pro: Popular service for photo gifts; can increase earnings by promoting ahead of all gift-giving holidays.

Con: Relatively small number of products from a single retailer.

Examples schools doing this fundraiser:

Foster Elementary PTO

Little School PTO

McCarthy Elementary PTO


What do you think about online shopping fundraisers?

What has been your school's experience with online shopping fundraisers? Which ones do you recommend? Do you have questions about any of these? 

I would love to keep updating this list, so please let me know if you have questions or feedback. Comment below or drop me an email. I would love to hear from you!

Bonus

If you're interested in starting your own profitable Amazon Associates fundraiser, be sure to check out these resources: 

Be sure to check out these resources: 

Amazon Fundraising Challenge – Free email course steps you through the process of starting your own profitable Amazon Associates fundraiser. Course delivered in 6 emails.

Amazon school fundraising results – Real-life Amazon fundraising results from schools across the country.

Infographic – Amazon Associates v. Amazon Smile Comparison Guide – How they work, how much they pay, and how to get started.

Care to share your thoughts? Have questions? Comment below or send me a note by clicking the email icon below. I would love to hear from you.

10 EASY Online Shopping Fundraisers for Schools - PTO / PTA comparison guide of 10 online shopping fundraisers, including Amazon Associates Program, AmazonSmile, Benefit Mobile, Goodshop, IGive.com, Mabels Labels, Mighty Nest, Shutterfly/Tinyprints. #PTO #SchoolVolunteersShare #fundraising