School fundraisers are some of the most popular and successful campaigns on Mightycause. We’ve seen everything over the years: dance-a-thons, read-a-thons, PTA fundraisers, personal fundraisers from teachers looking to buy supplies for their students. And while it seems that many schools have moved their fundraising efforts online, more old-fashioned school fundraisers are perennial favorites. Having students sell wrapping paper, candies, Yankee Candles and other items, collecting proofs of purchase, are mainstays at many schools. But who benefits most from these fundraisers? The school, the students … or the company making the products?
Doubts About Popular School Fundraisers
Analysis of these product-focused fundraisers show that the main beneficiaries are the companies. The Washington Post recently published a story that delved deep into popular fundraisers like Labels for Education, Box Tops for Education and Project A+. While these programs are beloved by teachers and parents, experts have long worried about the efficacy of these fundraisers.
“It’s just another form of junk-food marketing to kids,” Colin Schwartz, a senior nutrition policy associate at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told The Washington Post.
These school fundraising programs are pretty simple at face value. Students and their families purchase eligible products. Then, they clip off the proofs of purchase and bring them to the school. The school then collects a small amount in cash for the school for each proof of purchase. But when you dig deeper, these school fundraising programs are a little less simple. And experts point out that many of the products don’t even meet the health criteria for being served in schools.
In the case of General Mills, many of the eligible products are sugary cereals, cookies and potato chips. For Tyson’s Project A+, students and their families must provide proof of purchase for products like breaded chicken nuggets.
“The vast majority of these products can’t be sold in schools, so they shouldn’t be advertised in schools,” Schwartz told The Post.
Despite the enthusiasm schools put into these fundraisers, the payout is often small. General Mill’s Box Tops for Education program has an average payout of $750 per year, per school, according to The Post. Each “box top” proof of purchase is worth 10¢. A box of Cheerios, one of the eligible products for the program, costs $3.83 at Walmart. That means the school receives 2.6% of the purchase price of the box of Cheerios. The rest of the money? General Mills and Walmart take it.
Fundraising or Marketing?
When you consider all of this information together, it seems less and less like these kinds of school fundraisers are about schools at all. Whether it’s box tops, candy, or burritos, many school fundraisers seem to emphasize moving product more than education. With small payouts and profits generated for the companies that host the programs, it’s natural to wonder whether these are legitimate school fundraisers or marketing campaigns.
“There’s a reason companies want to get kids when they’re really young,”Jennifer Harris told The Post. Harris is a researcher at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut. “When aimed at children, whose minds are still developing, marketing can create lifelong preferences and habits that contribute to obesity and other conditions.” (Just to prove Harris’ point — any adults in the 25-40 age range have a soft spot for Pizza Hut because of fond memories of BookIt?)
These programs are also especially popular at low-income schools without much money to go around. Given that schools see less than 5% of the money parents sink into purchasing the products, are these school fundraising programs actually predatory? It’s a tough question without an easy answer.
School fundraising on Mightycause
Many of the schools that participate in these school fundraisers do so because they desperately need the money. Even if it’s just $750, it makes a big difference for them. And we get it! Many schools are underfunded, and teachers often have to buy supplies out of their own pockets. But there’s a better way that requires less effort, has a bigger payout and most importantly does not require buying any products.
Transparency About Fees/Costs
On Mightycause, schools can fundraise without strings attached … and without tough questions about what the end goal is. Any 501(c)3 nonprofit, public or private schools can use Mightycause to fundraise. And we’re upfront about how much it costs. Our platform fee is 4%. That helps us maintain the platform, offer customer support to your school and donors, and keep developing awesome products to help your school fundraise. There is a 2.9% + $.30 credit card processing fee, which we don’t keep. And donors have the option of covering these fees for you when they check out. So, at a minimum, your school would keep 93% of the money you raise. And odds are, you’ll see a much higher percentage come back to you from donors opting to pick up fees.
That’s practically the inverse of the Box Top for Education program, where schools see just 2% and General Mills and the stores where their products are sold take home the lion’s share. Think of all the money parents and grandparents are spending on snacks to collect box tops. Now imagine 93% of that money coming directly to your school, instead of just 2.6%. That’s the Mightycause difference.
Easy Fundraising, Easy Donating
Mightycause is designed for the everyday user. So, if you’re a Social Studies teacher and creating a website is not in your wheelhouse, no problem. Mightycause is simple to use and requires zero special knowledge. You can have a page set up in just a few minutes, and start fundraising. Now, imagine the time and effort invested in a product-focused school fundraiser: Getting it approved, creating fliers for parents, sending the fliers home with your students, creating signs for the school, collecting proofs of purchase for months, sending them in, and waiting on a small check from the company. Online fundraising through Mightycause is so much less time, and so much less hassle.
And the donation process is easier, too. Parents participating in proof of purchase school fundraisers have to go to the store, purchase specific products with their own money, clip the proofs of purchase, collect them and send the stack of proofs of purchase to school with their child. (And what if their kid loses it?! All that effort, and all those Cheerio boxes, for nothing!)
On Mightycause, parents and family members can donate to school fundraisers with a few clicks. Mightycause is mobile-responsive, so they can even donate from their phones. And they can easily set up recurring monthly donations to support their child’s school year-round.
The best thing about school fundraisers on Mightycause is that they’re able to make whatever you imagine work. Read-a-thons, dance competitions, PTA fundraisers, fun runs and walks, class competitions … you name it, we’ve hosted it on Mightycause.
One of the best ways to fundraise as a school on Mightycause is using our team fundraising product. By creating a team, you can have classes, parents, students, local business partners and/or sponsors, compete to raise the most money for your school. This takes the principle of many popular sales-focused school fundraisers, like candles, candy and wrapping paper, and takes it online. So, on Mightycause, you can build excitement and competition without pushing your students to sell products to their relatives. The fun, and competition, is focused on the school and education. And no one ends up with oodles of wrapping paper sitting around their houses.
There are successful school fundraisers every day on Mightycause, but we’ve profiled some of the most successful ones here on our blog. Read these case studies to get inspiration, ideas for your next school fundraiser and to learn how it’s done!
Talk to Us
Are you ready to move away from popular but questionable school fundraisers at your school? Let us know! If this is the first time you’ve considered online school fundraising, or you’re getting ready for your next big online campaign, we can help. We’re here to brainstorm, help with strategy, provide technical guidance and more.