Many homeschool groups bring in needed income through fundraisers. Through experience I have found that some fundraisers are much easier to conduct than others. Although very common, selling products door to door is one of the hardest ways to raise money because managing the orders, delivering the product, and storing inventory is a lot of hard work. My group had tried selling products in the past, but we wanted an easier way to bring in funds. We found several ideas that have worked well including reward and coupon programs, dinners, donation drives and website income.
Coupon and Reward Programs
There are several grocery stores and retail businesses that make donations to nonprofit organizations as a reward for shopping with them.
Box Tops for Education: This General Mills program is a coupons-for-cash program. Your members cut off a small 10-cent coupon from GM cereal box tops (or other products), collect them and turn them in. In exchange, GM will mail a check made payable to your organization. What could be easier? Little organization is needed-just applying to the program and finding someone to be responsible for collecting the coupons. Everyone in your organization can do their part, and even small contributions add up. Here are some tips to get Box Tops working for you:
Give an incentive for participation. For every donation of box tops, our coordinator gives a piece of candy or a sticker.
Use a visual display. Make a poster with the goal and chart progress as a thermometer or perhaps a big box of cereal!
Have a financial target. Perhaps you need to purchase equipment for preschoolers or want more school supplies. Collect box tops with a financial goal in mind to motivate the collection.
In order to participate, your group should fit the description on the Box Tops for Education website: “Accredited home school associations, K-8, in the United States that are organized and operated primarily for educational purposes and have 15 or more students.” General Mills does not define “accredited,” and many groups use this program as an easy fundraiser.
Shopping Reward Programs: Reward programs return a portion of a shopper’s purchases (typically 2-4%) to a nonprofit of their choice. My co-op of 50 families received $500 one year when we participated. The amount earned can vary widely based on your members’ participation. Typically the store issues a pre-paid card. The card is then used to make purchases and can be reloaded for more purchases. These reward programs are easy because your organization doesn’t sell products door-to-door.
E Scrip is a program, similar to the store reward programs, where businesses contribute a percentage of your credit and debit card purchases to the organization of your choice. One group in California earned $1,468 from E Scrip. Visit the E Scrip website to learn how it works.
Food as a Fundraiser
We have pizza day once a month at our homeschool co-op. It has been an enjoyable and easy way to generate income. We announce a week beforehand that pizzas will be ordered the next week. We take orders for whole pizzas for $10. To keep it simple we only order two types: cheese and pepperoni. Everyone brings their own drinks, paper plates and napkins. Pizza day has been very popular in our co-op. The kids love the food; moms love the low price and our co-op makes about $1.00 in profit on each pizza even after tipping the delivery man. It adds up every month!
Other groups host dinner theaters and spaghetti suppers to raise money. I wouldn’t classify these as easy fundraisers, but some groups enjoy the collective efforts of putting on a production. The children can help serve and clean up after the meal. Some groups like to combine the dinner with a program such as a play, talent show, or an end-of-year show and tell.
Nonprofits have been raising money for their mission through donation drives for generations. Homeschool groups could follow their pattern with a unique angle. Nancy Carter’s support group in Kentucky has a read-a-thon each year. The kids find sponsors who make donations for every book they read for two weeks. The support group asks local businesses to donate prizes and then they have a party for all that participated. It has been a great fundraiser and a fun time for Nancy’s group!
When Kristen Fragala was a support group leader, she wrote a simple fundraising letter for members to send to grandparents, friends and neighbors who were supportive of the family and homeschooling. The letter asked these friends and relatives to make a donation to the support group for any amount. This approach is very straightforward and can be quite successful. Your organization must be a 501(c)(3) IRS qualified charity in order for these donations to be tax deductions to the donor. If your donation drives are successful, your group should consider obtaining 501(c)(3) status. This status usually increases donations because the donor receives a tax deduction for their gift. Visit my website listed below for more information.