How Online Fundraisers Can Help Schools During the Crisis

Your ultimate guide to virtual school fundraisers

The Covid 19 learning curve has been steep and ongoing. Every walk of life has been affected. No one is immune to the consequences. Intense pressure is now on our schools. How are they going to handle reopening? Everyone seems to have a different take. We know on average younger people fair better than older adults, but what about teachers? Health and safety is a top priority and should be factored into every decision.

Some areas are delaying bringing children back to school. Waiting to see what happens, they’re starting off by incorporating distance learning. There’s talk about the government withholding federal funds if schools don’t open up. Regardless, schools are going to need money to cover essentials not already covered.

The traditional ways they’ve raised money in the past are being questioned. Historically effective, many schools are uncertain about face to face selling. This leads some to consider ways around this. What about online fundraisers?

On the surface this option appears intriguing. Raise money without person to person contact. This option should solve the problem and get schools over the hurdle.

Technology continues to propel us forward. Everyone’s looking for new and better ways to do things. Most understand that as fundraising evolves, more sophisticated methods are inevitable. Covid 19 has caused companies to invest millions on digital solutions. Those in the school fundraising industry know they need to keep pace with society. The pandemic has created a greater ‘sense of urgency’ to step up their game.

How Do Online Fundraisers Work?

There are 2 ways groups can raise money online. Ask for donations or sell products. In this article we’ll focus on the latter. Groups that sign up for an online fundraiser are promoting the company’s webstore. The goal is to get people to support a school by inviting them to shop.

Many companies now have ‘email generators’ that are preset templates. This eliminates the extra work of having to create an email message from scratch. Once the student registers, the template populates with their name and unique code.

The recipient receives a personalized email with a link to the store. This will ensure the student also receives prize credit. And since they’re registered, the school receives the profit for the sale.

Social media is also an effective way to spread the word. Online dashboards allow both students and sponsors to track likes and shares. And of course if a share results in a sale.

Texting the online store link with a short message is another method that’s used. Since all webstores are mobile-ready these days, phone transactions are common. A few companies also automate this to make it easy.

The key to driving online sales is to get as many students to register as possible. The greater the registration percentage, the better the sales. This is necessary so students and parents can access the online tools. And most fundraising companies require it so students can also receive prize credit.

Online Only Fundraisers

This is an option for school groups that are only doing remote learning. Group participants are able to register online so they can reach out to friends and family. The goal is to invite them to visit the group’s online store. Once someone buys a product, the group makes a profit off the sale. Flowers Online is an example of an online only fundraiser.

Groups can use email generators with preset templates. A friendly and to the point message is already set up and ready to go. The students name and code are automatically inserted into the message. This way, the recipient knows exactly what to do. This way, students don’t need to create emails from scratch. Student codes are also important so the sponsor can track sales progress.

There’s one important caveat to consider. Since everything is virtual, someone with access to the entire group must be involved. They'll need to be able to communicate digitally with every student. Periodic emails that are vital to the group’s success are sent by the company throughout the sale.

This form of communication should happen with every fundraiser, whether virtual or not.

Some companies give both the sponsor and student access to track their activity. Social shares, emails, and texts updates can be viewed on the dashboard along with sales.

To help you run a better sale using the internet, see our online fundraising ideas & tips.

The Pros & Cons to Online Only Fundraising

With today’s technology, anything is possible. Selling online can raise groups more money than they ever could before. But this doesn’t always happen. In fact, many online sales end up falling short of their goals.

Here are a few reasons your group may experience a less than satisfactory outcome:

  • Online Only Fundraisers are Impersonal: You can have great communication online. Emails, texts, social media, and Zoom meetings are effective. But there’s something to be said about face to face interactions. The same is true when selling to a customer. Sometimes sales need to be made personally.
  • Not Enough Student’s Register: Getting students to register will drive product sales. Once registered, the online sales tools can be utilized. Like anything else, the key is getting your group to buy in. Do they believe in your cause? How will they benefit from the money raised? Then it’s a matter of constant follow up with your students.
  • Failure to Track Online Sales: This falls completely on the sponsor. If you don’t take the time to log in and check your dashboard on a regular basis, you won’t know what your students are doing. This leads to seller apathy as well. If they don’t hear from you during the sale, why should they bother to push it themselves?

Online only selling has its limitations. The hurdles can be overcome, but there are other available options as well.

Hybrid Fundraiser Alternatives

Every school has its own unique circumstances. Due to the pandemic, districts are implementing different strategies to reopen their schools. They can be summarized into 3 main categories:

  • In-person instruction
  • Combo (Remote and in-person)
  • All remote learning

Fundraising companies are attempting to respond to help address these diverse needs. The goal is a successful fundraising outcome, but with minimal in person contact.

At this point, there are 2 basic alternatives.

Ship Fundraiser Orders to Sellers

There are ways to safely handle school deliveries for fundraisers. For example, even larger school-wide groups can plan for a ‘drive-thru pickup’. Just like the pizza commercial. As parents drive up, they provide their student’s name, the box is then retrieved and placed in the trunk.

But this requires some coordination, and of course volunteers. We’ve heard from a few PTA’s so far and they’re not being allowed into their schools. This makes handling a product shipment impractical.

Yet these schools may not want to do an online only fundraiser. They see the value in being able to sell out of the brochure as well. To respond to this need, a few companies have added a student address section on the order form. Kitchen & Home brochure now offers this feature.

Schools still need to collect the order forms and count the money. But once the orders are submitted, most of the administrative work is complete. With ship to seller, the school no longer receives one large order. Instead individual orders are sent to the students. Sellers will receive boxes within a 3-4 week time-frame. This is around as long as it takes for a normal school delivery.

Instructions on handling product issues can be found inside the order. Or the sponsor may receive instructions to pass onto their parents. There are 2 ways companies typically handle this:

  1. Submit a missing & damaged form. The sponsor collects any notifications from parents and records them on the form. Parents are given a deadline for reporting any issues. The sponsor then submits the form to the company and the order is processed. Any replacement items are usually sent to the school.
  2. Refer parents to customer service. Companies place an information sheet inside the order with a toll-free number to call. Some parents forget and still contact the school. The sponsor would simply provide the number to call. The seller normally receives the replacement items at their home.

Data shows that missing or damaged items account for about 0.1% of the entire order. Many large orders may have less than 5 item issues.

Schools that choose this option receive a reduced profit. This is necessary to cover the extra cost of shipping individual orders. The profit increases based on total sales. Group profit starts at 30% and can go as high as 35% depending on the shipper. This compares to a school delivery option where groups make 40%.

Sponsors can always switch delivery methods. For example, if their situation changes, they can move to a regular school delivery. But they would need to notify the company by a certain point in the sale. If the group switches to a school delivery, the profit would change to 40%.

Ship Fundraising Products to Buyers

One company has developed the technology to ship brochure orders direct to the buyer. So what’s the difference between this and an online only sale? With online only, students only reach out to people virtually. With ‘ship to buyer’ students have 2 options. Virtual and in person. They’re also able to show the brochure to family and friends.

Once the customer reviews the items in the brochure they can view it right from their phone. By tapping on the item it’s placed in their shopping cart. The virtual catalog allows them to scroll to find more items. Studies have shown that people buy 3 times more items this way than writing it on an order form.

In fact, customers don’t even have to view the physical brochure. Students can share the store’s web address and brochure name. The customer can then go to the digital brochure.

‘Ship to buyer’ eliminates the need for order forms. There is no money changing hands. It’s all done through the buyer’s phone. This removes the need to collect order forms and count money altogether. Many school sponsors will love this!

Customers receive free shipping once a certain dollar amount is reached. The buyer receives instructions for handling any delivery issues with their order.

We currently offer 1 program that has a ‘ship to buyer’ option. For more information, see our Season’s Greetings brochure.

Unique fundraising options are available to help schools navigate the Covid 19 waters.

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