Support Your School Between Events with Online Shopping

12 Dec 2022 By Korri Piper

Support Your School Between Events with Online Shopping

As a PTA or PTO parent, you’re likely looking for new, exciting ways to fundraise for your school. While school fundraising can be challenging, it’s essential for schools to cover costs and provide additional resources for students, teachers, and administrators. Many PTAs will put in the time and effort to plan fundraising events for their schools due to the revenue they can bring in and how students and parents alike can get excited for them and participate.

To continue bringing in revenue between events, though, you’ll want to look into year-round, easy fundraising ideas for your school. While there are a number of options you could explore, an online shopping program can work particularly well as an ongoing school fundraiser.

Shopping fundraisers allow families in your community to easily raise funds for your school over and over by doing an activity that likely is part of their regular routines—online shopping. In this guide, we’ll walk through how to get started with an online shopping fundraiser for your school by answering these questions:

  • What is an online shopping fundraiser?
  • How can an online shopping fundraiser benefit your school?
  • What are the steps to set up an online shopping fundraiser?
  • How do you promote an online shopping fundraiser to your school community?

Online shopping is considered a passive fundraising method since the actual running of the fundraiser is hands-off—all you have to do is partner with an online shopping fundraiser platform, spread the word, and track the results. Let’s dive in!

What is an online shopping fundraiser?

An online shopping fundraiser is just what it sounds like: members of your community raise funds for your school by making purchases online as they normally would. These fundraisers are one form of what ShopRaise refers to as ethical shopping, which allows shoppers to make positive impacts through their buying decisions.

One essential fundraising tool you’ll need is an online shopping platform. These programs have access to wide networks of online retailers and will handle the necessary negotiations for your school. Your shoppers will then use the program’s app or browser extension to contribute to your school when they make online purchases.

As far as school fundraising goes, you’ve likely considered hosting product fundraisers or creating an online merchandise store. While these fundraising methods also involve buying items where a portion of the proceeds goes to benefit your school, online shopping has the added benefit of being a no-ask sale. Shoppers don’t have to spend any extra money, and they can contribute by making normal online purchases rather than having to buy specific products.

How can an online shopping fundraiser benefit your school?

Online shopping fundraisers require little effort and virtually no risk-taking on the part of your school, yet they’re highly rewarding as far as school fundraisers go. They also have multiple benefits for supporters as well as for your school, which helps encourage participation.

Benefits to participants

When members of your school’s community participate in your shopping fundraiser, they benefit in three main ways:

  • They don’t have to spend any extra money. When shoppers use your fundraising platform’s app or browser extension, the items they buy online will be the same price as usual. They’ll also have access to any coupon codes or discounts they would have been able to use otherwise. This means that shoppers can basically contribute to your school for free.
  • They may feel better about their buying habits. During a shopping fundraiser, participants spend the same amount of money they likely would have anyway. But they now have an ethical motivation to purchase items and can rest assured that some of the money they spend will go toward a good cause at your school.
  • They can incorporate it into their regular routines. Participants don’t have to go out of their way to contribute to your school with a shopping fundraiser. Instead of taking the extra time to participate in a school fundraiser and buy the items they need and want online, they’ll take care of both activities with one quick transaction. Also, rather than giving to your school just once, they can contribute every time they shop online.

Once participants in your school’s shopping fundraiser see these benefits, they can share information about the fundraiser with their friends and family, expanding your reach and helping you bring in even more contributions.

Benefits to schools

Besides the benefit that comes from shoppers sharing your fundraiser, online shopping has two main benefits to your school:

  • It can bring in funds all year round. Your school likely hosts a few major fundraising events at specific times during the academic year, but shopping fundraisers can earn money between events—and even over the summer. Accumulating funds through online shopping takes some time, but they can serve as a reliable source of income throughout the entire calendar year, bringing in revenue even when parents aren’t focused on school fundraising.
  • It’s a source of unrestricted revenue. Many school fundraisers require that you designate the funds they bring in for a specific purpose or project. But with a shopping fundraiser, there are no such limitations, so you can put the revenue toward any underfunded areas of your school’s budget.
  • The actual running of the fundraiser is simple. Once you’ve connected with a fundraising platform and gotten started, all you’ll need to do to keep the fundraiser running is market it to community members.

When choosing an online shopping platform for your school, you’ll want to consider several options to get the most out of your fundraiser. Depending on the program and purchase, your school could receive anywhere between 0.5% and 10% of sales totals. Research your options carefully, and choose a program with connections to retailers your supporters already shop at that will also provide the highest value possible.

What are the steps to set up an online shopping fundraiser?

You can get started with an online shopping fundraiser for your school in four easy steps:

  1. You partner with an online shoppingplatform. This program will provide all the necessary tools to get your fundraiser underway. They’ll also walk you through the onboarding process and offer support. Don’t worry—although the process sounds intimidating, it isn’t!
  2. You spread the word about the fundraiser. Marketing is essential to a successful shopping fundraiser. Use multiple communication channels to get the word out to as many supporters as possible.
  3. Participants shop as they normally would. The only difference between regular online shopping and participating in a shopping fundraiser is that shoppers need to remember to use the app or browser extension at participating retailers, which is why continuing to market this fundraiser over time is so important.
  4. A portion of the proceeds goes back to your organization. You’ll be able to track the results of your fundraiser through the shopping program as they come in. Your school will see which retailers supporters are purchasing from, but not the exact items they bought. This feature protects shoppers’ privacy but still allows you to analyze which marketing methods are working well and where you could improve your strategy.

Once your fundraiser is up and running, remember to continue marketing your shopping program by providing periodic updates and thanking participants for their contributions. Letting your supporters know how their participation in your shopping fundraiser has impacted your school can help you retain their support over time.

How do you promote an online shopping fundraiser to your school community?

Spreading the word about your fundraiser is key to its success. Many members of your school community likely haven’t participated in a shopping fundraiser before, so they’ll need instructions to get started. To keep your fundraiser running over time, you’ll need to remind participants regularly to use the app or browser extension as they shop online.

As is the case with many school fundraisers, marketing your fundraiser will be most effective if you use multiple communication channels, such as:

  • Your school website. Put a link where community members can download your fundraising platform’s app or browser extension in a prominent place on your website, along with a short explanation of the fundraiser. If your school’s website has a News section, get in touch with one of the writers about posting an article to promote your fundraiser.
  • Email. Email blasts are a great way to reach all of your school’s parents at once. In an email, you can easily explain how to participate in your fundraiser and include relevant links to your school’s website and shopping platform.
  • Flyers. Re:Charity’s guide to fundraising flyers explains that printed marketing materials are a cost-effective but memorable way to market your school’s fundraisers. Post flyers in areas where many community members will see them, like by the front desk or in the cafeteria, and send a copy home with each student. Include a QR code where participants can download the app to start fundraising right away.
  • Text messages. Texting is one of the quickest ways to get in touch with supporters. Use a mobile giving line to send out a concise message and a link to your fundraising platform’s app so supporters can learn about the shopping fundraiser and conveniently use their smartphones to get involved.
  • Social media. If your school uses any social media platforms, they can be a great tool to make the community aware of your shopping fundraiser and include links to more information.

The other aspect of your school’s online shopping fundraiser that is hands-on is reviewing and analyzing the data you collect, which you can use to inform your marketing efforts going forward and have a more effective fundraiser overall.

Hosting fundraising events is a great way to generate a lot of revenue at one time and get your community excited about supporting your school. By adding online shopping to your school’s fundraising strategy, you can bring in contributions all year long, especially between events. When your school partners with the right platform, your shopping fundraiser will be easy for you to run and for participants to incorporate into their everyday lives.