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Maximizing Impact: How Gift Card Fundraisers for Schools Boost Support and Funds

By Clay Boggess on Sep 16, 2023
Gift Card Fundraisers

Gift card fundraising offers schools an efficient and inclusive way to raise essential funds.

Gift card fundraisers for schools are innovative and efficient methods of raising funds to support various educational programs and initiatives. With a gift card fundraiser, schools partner with popular retailers, restaurants, and brands to sell their gift cards to parents, students, and community members. These gift cards can be physical or digital, depending on the fundraising program.

The concept is straightforward: when supporters purchase gift cards through the school's fundraiser, a percentage of the sale (typically around 2-15%) goes directly to the school. This percentage might seem small, but it adds up significantly when many people participate.

The funds collected from these sales can support various school needs, such as classroom supplies, extracurricular activities, field trips, technology upgrades, and more.

Their simplicity and convenience set gift card fundraisers apart from traditional fundraising methods. Supporters get something tangible (or digital) in return for their donation, making it a win-win situation.

Additionally, this fundraiser often requires less administrative effort and resources than other fundraising activities, making it an attractive option for schools.

Importance of Fundraising for Schools

Fundraising plays a vital role in the sustainability and growth of schools. While educational institutions receive funding from various sources, including government allocations and tuition fees, these funds may only sometimes cover all the expenses necessary to provide a well-rounded education. Here's why fundraising is crucial for schools:

  • Supplementing Limited Budgets: Many schools face budget constraints, and fundraising helps bridge the gap between available resources and the actual needs of students. It allows schools to provide additional resources and opportunities for students that their regular budget may not cover.
  • Supporting Extracurricular Activities: Sports teams, arts programs, and clubs are essential for a student's well-rounded education. Fundraising can provide the necessary funds for equipment, uniforms, and travel expenses, enabling students to participate and excel in these activities.
  • Enhancing Learning Experiences: Fundraisers can fund educational enhancements such as field trips, guest speakers, and hands-on learning experiences beyond the standard classroom curriculum. These experiences enrich students' education and make learning more engaging.
  • Technology Upgrades: In today's digital age, schools need up-to-date technology and resources to prepare students for the future. Fundraising can contribute to purchasing computers, software, and other tech tools that enhance the learning environment.
  • Community Building: Fundraising events and initiatives bring the school community together. They foster a sense of belonging, involvement, and shared purpose among students, parents, teachers, and local businesses.
  • Emergency Funds: Fundraising can create a financial safety net for schools. In unexpected expenses or emergencies, these funds can be a lifeline to ensure that essential services and educational opportunities continue uninterrupted.

Understanding Gift Card Fundraisers

How they work

Gift card fundraisers operate on a simple yet effective principle. Here's a step-by-step breakdown of how they typically work:

  1. Selecting Retail Partners: Schools partner with various retail brands, restaurants, and businesses to participate in the fundraiser. These businesses agree to sell their gift cards at a discounted rate to support the school's fundraising efforts.
  2. Fundraising Coordinator: The school designates a fundraising coordinator or committee responsible for organizing and overseeing the fundraiser. This coordinator works closely with the chosen retail partners to set up the program.
  3. Promotion and Sales: The school promotes the fundraiser to its community, including students, parents, teachers, and local community members, through various channels, including newsletters, social media, flyers, and school events.
  4. Ordering Gift Cards: Supporters interested in participating in the fundraiser place orders for gift cards from the available selection. Depending on the fundraiser's setup, these orders can be for physical gift cards or e-gift cards.
  5. Payment: Supporters pay the school for the gift cards they've ordered. Typically, they pay the face value of the gift cards, and the school retains a percentage of the sale as profit.
  6. Bulk Purchase: The school collects all the orders from supporters and submits them to the retail partners in bulk. Retailers then provide the gift cards to the school, either physically or electronically.
  7. Distribution: The school distributes the gift cards to the supporters who placed orders. The school may hand out physical gift cards while emailing e-gift cards is typical.
  8. Redemption: Supporters use the gift cards purchased at the respective retailers. They can use them to shop, dine out, or buy products and services as usual.
  9. Tracking Funds: The school tracks the funds generated from the fundraiser, including the profits earned from each gift card sale.
  10. Allocation of Funds: Funds generated from the fundraiser go to the school's designated purposes. For example, they fund specific programs, purchase equipment, or cover expenses.

Benefits of using gift cards for fundraising

Gift card fundraisers offer several advantages for schools and their supporters:

  1. High-Profit Margins: Gift card fundraisers often yield higher profit margins than traditional fundraising methods. Schools can earn a percentage of each gift card sale, which can add up significantly with active participation.
  2. Simplicity: The process is straightforward for both organizers and supporters. There are no products to manufacture or distribute, reducing administrative overhead.
  3. Appeal to a Wide Audience: Gift cards cater to a broad audience since they can be used for various purposes, such as shopping, dining, or entertainment, making them attractive to many supporters.
  4. Customization: Schools can tailor the selection of gift cards to match the preferences and interests of their community, further increasing participation.
  5. No Upfront Costs: Unlike some fundraising activities that require an initial investment, gift card fundraisers usually don't have upfront costs for schools, minimizing financial risk.
  6. Builds Relationships: Collaborating with local businesses and retailers for gift card fundraisers strengthens the school's ties with the community. It's a win-win partnership that benefits both parties.
  7. Convenience: Supporters receive a tangible or digital product (the gift card) in exchange for their contribution, which adds value to their donation.
  8. Flexible Timing: Schools can run gift card fundraisers year-round or during specific seasons or events, making it adaptable to their fundraising needs.

The Need for Fundraising in Schools

A. Overview of the Financial Challenges Faced by Schools

Schools across the United States face many financial challenges that often result in budgetary constraints. Some of the key financial challenges include:

  1. Insufficient Government Funding: Many public schools rely heavily on government funding, which may only sometimes meet the growing needs of the education system. Budget cuts or fluctuations in government allocations can significantly impact a school's ability to provide quality education.
  2. Limited Resources: Schools often need more resources, affecting everything from classroom supplies to technology infrastructure. Outdated textbooks, insufficient classroom materials, and inadequate technology can hinder effective teaching and learning.
  3. Teacher Salaries and Retention: Attracting and retaining qualified educators is essential for a successful school. However, budget constraints can challenge offering competitive salaries and benefits, leading to teacher turnover.
  4. Maintaining Facilities: School buildings and infrastructure require constant maintenance and renovation. Aging facilities may face costly repairs or upgrades that strain the budget.
  5. Extracurricular Programs: Schools aim to provide a well-rounded education, which includes extracurricular activities such as sports, music, and arts programs. These activities require equipment, uniforms, transportation, and coaching staff funds.
  6. Technology Needs: In the digital age, access to up-to-date technology is essential for students and teachers. Modern education needs funding to provide computers, software, and internet connectivity.
  7. Special Education and Support Services: Special education programs and support services are vital for students with diverse learning needs. These programs require specialized resources and trained staff, which can strain budgets.
  8. Safety and Security: Ensuring the safety and security of students and staff is a top priority for schools. Funding is necessary for security measures, emergency preparedness, and personnel.

Importance of supplemental funds for various school programs and activities

Fundraising in schools serves as a lifeline to address these financial challenges and enhance the educational experience. Here's why supplemental funds are crucial for various school programs and activities:

  1. Enriched Learning: Supplementary funds enable schools to improve learning by providing access to updated textbooks, educational technology, and hands-on learning experiences.
  2. Extracurricular Opportunities: Fundraising funding supports extracurricular activities, allowing students to explore their interests and talents through sports, arts, and clubs.
  3. Teacher Support: Supplemental funds can offer competitive salaries and benefits to attract and retain skilled educators, promoting stability and excellence in teaching.
  4. Modern Facilities: Schools can use additional funds to maintain and upgrade facilities, ensuring a safe and conducive learning environment.
  5. Equity in Education: Fundraisers can help bridge the equity gap by providing resources for disadvantaged students and schools in underserved communities.
  6. Innovation and Technology: Schools can stay at the forefront by investing in innovative teaching methods and technology that enhance student engagement and learning outcomes.
  7. Community Engagement: Fundraising activities foster community and involvement among parents, students, teachers, and local businesses, strengthening the school's support network.
  8. Emergency Funds: In times of unexpected crises or budget cuts, supplemental funds provide a safety net to ensure that essential programs and services continue without disruption.

Running a successful gift card fundraiser requires careful planning, practical strategies, and robust promotion.

Strategies to Maximize Participation and Sales:

  1. Set Clear Goals: Define and communicate specific fundraising goals to your school community. Having a clear target can motivate participants.
  2. Select the Right Retail Partners: Choose a variety of popular and relevant retail partners that will appeal to your target audience. Consider local businesses in addition to well-known national brands.
  3. Offer a Diverse Selection: Provide various gift card options for different interests and preferences. Include gift cards for restaurants, stores, entertainment venues, and online retailers.
  4. Incentivize Participation: Create incentives for participants, such as prizes for top sellers or discounts for bulk purchases, boosting motivation and competitiveness among students and parents.
  5. Engage Students: Encourage student involvement by making the fundraiser a friendly competition between classes or grade levels. Offer rewards or recognition for the most engaged classes.
  6. Utilize Online Tools: Leverage online fundraising platforms and tools to streamline ordering and payment. Online sales make it more convenient for supporters to participate.
  7. Set a Realistic Timeline: Plan your fundraiser well and establish a clear start and end date. Shorter, focused campaigns often generate more urgency and participation.
  8. Promote Through Multiple Channels: Use a combination of promotional channels, including social media, email newsletters, school websites, flyers, and announcements during school events. Cast a wide net to reach your entire community.

Promotion and Marketing Ideas:

  1. Create Compelling Content: Develop engaging content highlighting the benefits of participating in the fundraiser. Share success stories, testimonials, and videos to connect emotionally with your audience.
  2. Social Media Campaigns: Launch targeted social media campaigns to raise awareness and promote the fundraiser. Encourage supporters to share posts to increase visibility.
  3. Email Marketing: Regularly update the fundraiser's progress, special offers, and important dates. Personalize emails whenever possible.
  4. Host a Kickoff Event: Organize a kickoff event at the school to generate excitement and enthusiasm; feature guest speakers, games, and opportunities for supporters to make their first purchases.
  5. Use Visuals: Design eye-catching posters, banners, and digital graphics that showcase the gift cards and the fundraiser's purpose.
  6. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising: Encourage supporters to recruit friends and family to participate. Offer rewards or recognition for those who bring in new participants.
  7. Regular Updates: Frequently update participants about the fundraiser's progress. Share milestones, acknowledge top sellers, and thank supporters for their contributions.
  8. Local Media Coverage: Contact local newspapers, radio stations, and community websites to promote your fundraiser. Highlight the positive impact it will have on the school and community.
  9. Engage Businesses: Partner with local businesses to promote the fundraiser. They can help spread the word to their customers and even offer incentives for participation.
  10. Express Gratitude: Show appreciation to all participants and supporters. Recognize their efforts through thank-you notes, social media shout-outs, and public acknowledgments.

By implementing these strategies and marketing ideas, your gift card fundraiser can achieve its financial goals and foster a sense of unity and support within your school community. Effective promotion and engagement are vital to the success of any fundraising initiative.


In conclusion, gift card fundraisers offer schools an efficient and inclusive way to raise essential funds while fostering community engagement. They provide convenience, a broad appeal, and financial flexibility.

Beyond immediate financial gains, gift card fundraisers empower schools to enrich education, build stability, and forge lasting local business partnerships. Moreover, they teach students valuable life skills and instill a sense of community pride.

Embracing this fundraising method can transform schools into vibrant centers of educational excellence and community cohesion, making it a valuable avenue for schools to explore.

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Author Bio Clay Boggess, Author

Clay Boggess has been designing fundraising programs for schools and various nonprofit organizations throughout the US since 1999. He’s helped administrators, teachers, and outside support entities such as PTAs and PTOs raise millions of dollars. Clay is an owner and partner at Big Fundraising Ideas.

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