Should School Fundraisers Accept Checks?

A guide to accepting fundraising checks for schools

You’re at a crossroad. Should you accept checks for your upcoming fundraiser? If you haven’t experienced it already, dealing with bounced checks can be a nightmare. This was especially painful when schools used to do a lot of post-pay sales. Imagine receiving a bad check for a product that was already delivered. Needless to say, schools had little to no leverage. With no money in hand, the money was still owed to the company.

But school fundraisers that don’t accept checks don’t sell as much. This has been proven over time. Unlike selling candy bars for a buck, items in a brochure are more expensive. Everyone can spare a dollar, but $15?

In today’s world, paying for a brochure item on your mobile device has become common. Checks are used far less than they were in the past. In fact, many of today’s youth have only heard of a checkbook.

Yet many still us them. According to Qualtrics, a survey software company, 42% of millennials still write checks. The reasons are fairly obvious. A lot of businesses prefer them over other methods. Credit cards have extra costs associated with payment processing fees. The kid down the street who mows your lawn isn’t set up to be a merchant.

Many baby boomers who are technically-challenged prefer to use checks. Check writing also allow for us to follow the funds. Once it clears, your bank will have a copy or an image of the canceled check. This can be viewed online and helps both you and the bank keep track of your expenses.

Oftentimes it comes down to your community. Schools that wrestle with this tend to be in areas where bounced checks are more pronounced. They feel that having to deal with bad checks is not worth it.

Schools that decide not to accept checks ask us to put ‘No checks accepted’ in their parent letter. They assume everyone will read it. But personal checks inevitably end up inside some students money envelopes regardless.

Sponsors then have a choice. They can track down the buyer and attempt to collect an alternative form of payment. A second option would be asking the seller to do it. Or they can take a chance and deposit it.

But if you decide to accept checks, having to deal with a few bounced checks may be worth it. You're giving people another payment option. So what should you do?

Should Your School Accept Fundraising Checks?

Deciding whether to accept personal checks may come down to answering one question. What was the percentage of returned checks you received from your previous sale? You need to decide what you think you can tolerate.

If you only have to deal with a couple of returned checks out of a few hundred payments then it may be worth it. Still, determining what percentage you can handle is an individual choice. Some sponsors are willing to put up with more issues than others.

Employ a Check Payment Policy

It will help to have a check payment policy already in place before your fundraiser starts. This way you’ll have a plan in place to handle any issues that arise. We have tools available to help sponsors as well. An insufficient funds notice is provided inside our School Fundraising Guidebook. Simply make copies as needed and keep the master in your booklet.

Sponsors should make their policy clear up front. Warn everyone that returned checks will incur a fee. If your bank charges you, pass it along. Announcing this policy for some schools may not be necessary, but it will serve as a deterrent.

Since most schools collect money up front with the order, this allows extra time for checks to clear. Since you deposit checks before receiving your order. you can always hold individual orders until you receive proper payment.

How No-Check Policies Affect School Fundraisers

Before deciding what to do about checks, think about the potential impact on your sales. You're removing a source of payment from your fundraiser. It may be less hassle to not accept checks but will fewer people buy if you only allow cash or money orders? More than likely the answer is yes.
It stands to reason that the more you restrict payment options, the fewer customers you will have. Some people don't carry cash and obtaining a money order requires extra effort. Unlike cash, personal checks offer the advantage of a paper trail, and most like that security.

Should you allow personal checks for school fundraisers? If you can, it will most likely benefit your group from a financial standpoint.

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