School Fundraising Incentives: What's Best for Your Group?

Discover which types of groups benefit more from traditional school fundraiser incentive plans

Private schools in general are known in the fundraising industry for maximizing their sales opportunities. Student participation can sometimes reach 80 to 90%, or even higher. Parents already understand that they are expected to fundraise to cover things like tuition fees and supply costs. There are other factors to consider, but we won’t consider them for this article.

One such small catholic school approached us because they were interested in further improving their catalog sale. They were initially excited about the idea of using our Big Event Reptile Adventures Show for their incentive plan because it was completely different from anything they’d ever done before. They figured that the uniqueness of this prize program would motivate their students to sell even more items. Their previous fall sale was already quite impressive. With an enrollment of 150 students, they brought in close to $30,000. And this was with a traditional prize plan.

They were excited about their plan until they came to the realization that many students would stop after selling 5 items. The reason was, in order to gain admission to the reptile show students only needed to sell 5 items out of their catalog. This feature is what attracts many schools to our Big Event Prize Programs. The idea is to get more students to participate in school fundraisers by offering an exciting prize at the lowest prize level in exchange for reaching an easily obtainable sales goal.

As a result, more students want to get involved. This has worked well for many schools. In fact, depending on the type of school, big event incentive programs significantly outperform standard (traditional) incentive plans (We refer to standard or traditional prize programs as those typically offered by most fundraising companies in our industry). Here’s a small sample of schools that initially worked with us using a traditional prize program, and then the following year switched to a big event incentive plan:

SchoolTraditional PrizesBig Event Incentive$ Increase% Increase
Webb Elementary$20,000$43,000$23,000115%
Noonan Elementary$8,000$27,000$19,000238%
Kostoryz Elementary$12,000$31,000$19,000158%
Milton Elementary$24,000$42,000$18,00075%
Meadowbrook Elementary$12,000$27,000$15,000125%

Big event incentives have been proven to enhance the sales of larger public schools (500 or more students) that already struggle to get their students to participate. Yet they may not work as well for our small catholic school because they already had a high level of involvement. This school was only attempting to improve sales even further by increasing the number of items sold per seller.

Granted, our reptile adventures show also offered higher prize levels designed to bring in more sales, just like traditional incentive plans. But the problem was our small catholic school was fixated on the idea that gaining admission to a live reptile show was at the lowest prize level, not the highest. And the show was going to be the center-piece. This is contrary to traditional prize programs which require students to sell more items to win the bigger prizes.

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Instead, they ended up selecting one of our traditional prize programs. And let’s face it, even if 100% of their students sold 5 items and stopped, their sale would have been lower than it was the previous year with the standard prize plan. This made us realize that some schools probably benefit more from our big event fundraising prize programs than others. This then begs the question; which schools should consider a big event program? To help answer this, here are just some of the differences between the two types of prize programs:

Traditional Prize Program Features

  • Students win inexpensive prizes at the lower levels.
  • Bigger and better prizes require more selling.
  • This may work well for schools who already have good participation levels that are looking to improve the number of items sold per seller.

The Big Event Prize Program Niche

  • Sellers gain admission to one of our big events in exchange for selling a small number of items.
  • Students can reach higher prize levels and win additional privileges and prizes, but getting to the big event is the most appealing feature to this type of program.
  • Big event programs work extremely well for larger groups that need to get more students involved in their school fundraiser.

3 Reasons Schools Want Big Event Fundraising Prizes

Why Schools Choose a Big Event Incentive

Parents don’t have to sell very much in order to get their students into a big event. This is why many schools choose our big event programs. In other words, parents understand they won’t have to work very hard to appease their students. Traditional prize programs only offer the cheap prizes for selling a few items from the brochure, which is why most students only want the higher level prizes.

So why did our catholic school opt for a traditional prize program? We know they already had a large number of students participating. They were still looking to upgrade their prize program; however, if they had chosen Reptile Adventures, their concern was that too many students would have been content at the lowest prize level. Going to the reptile show is what most students want.

Which Types of Schools Excel with Big Events?

Which schools benefit the most from big event prize programs? Larger enrollment elementary schools that are struggling with lower than desired student participation. Many schools hover around 10% on the low end, and consider it a major accomplishment if they can get 25% of their students to sell. Just think of the amount of money that can be brought in if they were able to improve it to say 50% or more.

Big schools have the greatest potential for sales gain because of the number of students that could be selling. Many have become disillusioned with traditional prize programs that force students to sell a lot more, just to receive a worthwhile prize. As it turns out, the majority of students who sell don’t end up trying for the higher levels.

How to Improve Schoolwide Fundraiser Participation

Our conclusion, larger schools with a lower student participation rate appear to benefit the most from big event fundraising programs. And smaller schools? It depends.

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