M-O-N-E-Y For the Win! Playa Del Rey Spell-A-Thon

pdr-elementary-logo-outlinesThe winners of the 2016 Playa del Rey Elementary School Spell-A-Thon weren’t just the top spellers in each class. The entire school won this year when they almost quadrupled their past earnings and brought in over $17,000 in donations! Kids were thrilled about the exciting magic show they were awarded as one of the cool Spell-A-Thon prizes. Teachers and parents were pleased with the extra funds for physical education, Art Masters, teaching supplies, a garden program and much more.

The Spell-A-Thon is an annual fundraiser organized by the school’s Booster Club. It was held in November 2016 and the parents, teachers and students are still reaping its benefits.

While only about $4,000 was collected in the 2015 Spell-A-Thon, the 2016 revenue enabled incredible prizes like a Chromebook for the top earner, a Kindle for second place and a classroom Chromebook for any class that raised over $2,000. Moreover, students in kindergarten through fifth grade invested countless hours learning their unique spelling words for the competitions that took place in their classrooms. This fundraiser was undoubtedly a win-win for all involved.

What, then, could have quadrupled the amount of money the school brought in from one year to the next? The answer is PledgeStar. While the Booster Club was able to bring in about $4,000 offline as they had done in years past, online donations through PledgeStar added about $13,000 to the total money collected in 2016. After paying for prizes and a mere $695 for PledgeStar, the school was able to keep $15,000 for programs and educational resources.

Because the club had unsuccessfully tried raising money online before, they were wary that no one would participate, and the investment in an online fundraising system wouldn’t be worth the cost. With PledgeStar, though, fundraisers are only charged 7% of their schools’ donations, up to a maximum of $695. “It ended up being a really good choice,” McReynolds remarked, “we’ll definitely be using PledgeStar for our April Jog-A-Thon.”

McReynolds and other Booster Club members said getting starting with PledgeStar was easy. The volunteers created exciting incentives for students to use the PledgeStar online fundraising system. Every student that simply sent ten pledge requests to friends and family using PledgeStar was invited to attend the magic show school assembly. While McReynolds said that they didn’t expect much response, the magic show was “a huge motivator.” As a result, about half of the students used PledgeStar – a number that will undoubtedly increase when Playa del Rey uses it for their next pledge drive.

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SUMAC Elementary Nearly Doubles Their Fundraising Goal

jog-a-thon-logo-finalIn 2015, SUMAC Elementary School raised close to $40,000 at their annual Jog-A-Thon fundraiser. Unfortunately, the school ended up keeping only half of those funds. The full-service fundraising company they hired to run their Jog-A-Thon charged fifty percent of all earnings – in this case, around $20,000!

The next year, parent volunteer Megan Glynn said enough parents had voiced concern about where their donations were going for her to know that changes needed to be made.

In the spring of 2016, the school’s leadership made a small decision that created big waves: they would plan and execute the Jog-A-Thon without the help of a full-service fundraising company in order to maximize the donors’ contribution to the school. And maximize they did!

The Parent Faculty Association set a goal of $20,000, the amount they kept the previous year. With PledgeStar’s unique fundraising system, they ended up raising – and keeping – almost twice as much! With almost no changes in strategy, marketing, incentives and effort from previous years, the school was able to raise nearly $40,000 and pay only $695 (compared to nearly $20,000) when they used PledgeStar.

“PledgeStar just blew our goal out of the water,” said Glynn, “I know that it was the reason we were so successful.”

Glynn said she was also impressed with the help and tips she received from PledgeStar support. They gave her advice like keeping their fundraising site open even after their event had finished and other great suggestions to make the fundraiser more successful.

“I knew that for us to be successful doing this in-house, PledgeStar was the only way to go.”

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Groveland Elementary School’s Inaugural Read-A-Thon A Great Success!

GROVELANDFor their fall fundraiser, Groveland Elementary volunteers wanted to do something unique and unprecedented in their school’s history. Not only did they want to raise money for their academic programs, but they also wanted to incorporate a learning initiative in the fundraising process. The result was a highly successful month-long Read-A-Thon, a fun and educational way to get students involved in meeting the school’s financial needs.

Parent volunteers created a Read-A-Thon theme using the popular book “Where the Wild Things Are” to creatively market the event at school. Even the informational video shown at the kick-off assembly was created to match the “Wild Things” theme, along with promotional T-shirts and fun prizes for participants.

“The kids celebrated the start of the the Read-a-Thon with a ‘Dress Up as Your Favorite Book Character Day,’” said parent volunteer Celeste Hill, “It increased awareness of the new Read-a-Thon event and also served to get the kids excited about it.”

Hill had been researching innovative ways to raise money on the popular social networking site, Pinterest. As she searched for Read-A-Thon ideas, she came across a pin for PledgeStar, an online platform for fundraising that could simplify the process and generate income from donors outside the Groveland Elementary student population.

Read-a-thon“As committee chair, I was tasked with vetting PledgeStar,” said Hill, “That involved researching their company online, as well as calling and interviewing a few schools which had already used their services.”

Hill and other Groveland collaborators were very pleased with the results of their decision. At $72,000, not only did they almost double the amount of money they raised previously, but they were able to reward students with exciting prizes for their efforts, too.

Hill recounted, “We had a raffle drawing three times per week, individual prizes and class prizes. The class which earned the most received a tour of the school roof. Also, the top fifty fundraisers and top ten readers received a thirty minute visit to a video game truck that came to the school. This was a highly popular incentive.”

“We received excellent feedback on how simple PledgeStar was for everyone, even those who were not technologically inclined,” said Hill. “The support from PledgeStar is phenomenal. They are extremely responsive and work very proactively. They gave us good advice and information on what has worked best for other schools. We are already planning for next fall’s Read-a-Thon with PledgeStar.”

Del Mar Schools Education Foundation Fills Gaps Left By State Budget Cuts

DMSEFFifteen years ago, when the State of California budget cuts threatened to limit K-12 students’ access to extra-curricular subjects like music and art, a group of concerned parents decided they wanted more for their children.

Along with the Del Mar Union School District, the parents worked to establish the Del Mar Schools Education Foundation (DMSEF), a not-for-profit organization whose sole function would be to raise money for credentialed music, art, technology, physical education and science teachers for each of the eight schools in the district.

While California schools are mandated to include these subjects in their regular curricula, the budget cuts had left these areas up to the classroom teacher to cover, cutting the credentialed musicians, artists and PE teachers from the payroll. Since 2000, DMSEF has helped fill in the gap where the state finances could not.

Funding the extracurricular programs for all eight schools in the district is not cheap, however. For the thirty-four specialized teachers employed, the DMSEF raises over $1 million of philanthropic money annually to cover its portion of the bill. To do so, every school in the district holds annual auctions, Jog-A-Thons and donation drives, the proceeds of which are collected by DMSEF and equally dispersed to each school for the specialized teachers’ salaries.

Last year, after two schools in the district had great success using PledgeStar online fundraising for their Jog-A-Thons, the foundation’s board members were convinced that using PledgeStar would be a smart choice to meet their ambitious 2015 goal of $2 million.

Parent volunteer Dave Wojtkowski said that not only did the district substantially increase its revenues from the Jog-A-Thons using PledgeStar this year, but the man hours spent tracking and managing the monies collected for his school alone were drastically reduced thanks to the online system. “When we were doing all paper fundraising we spent at least twenty hours gathering information before the event and then compiling it after. Now we don’t do any of that. With PledgeStar, the work is maybe three hours total…I would say PledgeStar is money well-spent.”

Allen Elementary Keeps the Fun in Fundraising

Run_for_The_Gold_logoTo make sure their 5th Annual “Run for the Gold” Jog-A-Thon event was fun for all her students, Principal Teresa Wilkinson of Allen Elementary School made sure they all had a chance to win prizes even if they were not able to fundraise for the event.

She encouraged students to bring in donations to help raise money for a new campus playground, which was the purpose of the run this year. For every $50 donation, students were given a raffle ticket, increasing their chances of winning prizes with each pledge. Students who did not collect donations, though, were still given a raffle ticket. VP of Fundraising, Chancy Green, said that maintaining school spirit and making everyone feel included was more important to the principal than dollar amounts raised.

Green, along with PTO members, used fun incentives to keep the students excited for the event. Classes with the highest percentage of participants, not the highest amount of money raised, were awarded a popsicle party and one lucky raffle winner became the principal for a day.

“Our principal is very particular about making sure everyone is included…because some people have the means to contribute more… it’s not fair, you know. Some kids just can’t do it. Giving each student a chance keeps them all motivated,” said Green.

The PTO also introduced a few changes to the Run For The Gold this year. To celebrate its 5th anniversary, the event was themed a “color run”, which involved dousing students in different colored corn starch  as they ran along the track, resulting in a messy, colorful, exciting day for students and grown-ups alike.

photo 1This was also the first year that Allen Elementary collected donations online using PledgeStar in addition to the traditional paper pledge packets. With $25,000 raised online, PledgeStar increased the school’s revenue this year by an impressive 131% while it greatly reduced the volunteer workload for tracking money and prizes.

“PledgeStar was fabulous to work with.” remarked Green, “There just isn’t anybody out there who will do what they do for such a low fee.They don’t punish you if you make more money. We thought their pricing model was great.”

Church Sports Ministry Uses PledgeStar to Double its Fundraising Goal

boys 2When Dana Wakamoto was placed in charge of fundraising for the Wintersberg Sports Ministry this year she knew she had a big task in front of her. The youth basketball program includes boys and girls teams ranging from grades 2-8, and fundraises annually in order to keep costs down.

Dana Wakamoto recognized the need for reaching a new demographic of donors to support Wintersburg Basketball. In the past, the Ministry held an annual golf tournament to raise money, but when Wakamoto and other church leaders noticed that golf tournament participants were mainly men, and specifically men who liked to golf, they wanted to do something that reached more people.

Dana remembered using the PledgeStar online fundraising system for her children’s school Jog-A-Thon and wondered if it could be used for the basketball program. She called PledgeStar and was pleased to learn that they also help youth sports leagues. With that information, she created their first annual “Shoot-A-Thon.”

Basketball team members were sponsored by local businesses, family, and friends as they attempted to shoot as many baskets as possible for the event. The players collected flat pledges from their sponsors via PledgeStar.

“We didn’t have any expectations…we did this fundraiser to help lower the fees because it’s really expensive to run a basketball program. Our goal was $10,000 and we had no idea how it would go,” said parent volunteer Dana Wakamoto, “but it turned out to be very successful.”

The Wintersburg Presbyterian Church Sports Ministry more than doubled its fundraising goal this year, bringing in over $24,000 in donations at its first annual “Shoot-A-Thon.”

PledgeStar helped expand their donor base and maximize the number of donations they received from family and friends. “The problem is that you tend to hit the same people over and over for donations. We really like the fact that PledegeStar makes it easy to reach extended family and friends out of state that you don’t see all the time,” said Wakamoto.

In all, 180 participants raised an average of $133 each; 80% of which was raised online via PledgeStar.

logoA member of the South East Youth Organization, Wintersburg Sports Ministry was one of the first South East Youth Organizations established in 1964. Some of the parents who currently serve as team coaches initially began their involvement with the ministry several years ago when they were children playing in the league themselves.

Small Elementary School Fires Big-Name Fundraising Company; Doubles its Profits at a Fraction of the Cost

ChesnutChallengegraphicChestnut Charter Elementary School has been holding its annual “Fun Run” fundraiser for several years, but was never able to keep much of its profits, or raise much money at all — until now.

In the past, the small school hired a big-name fundraising company, Boosterthon, to put on their fun run. In return, Boosterthon kept almost half of the school’s fundraising profits. When the company announced rate hikes in 2014, parent volunteer Melissa Marion-Landis knew something had to change.

“It worked out that Boosterthon was keeping about 70% of what we raised. It was laughable,” Marion-Landis said, “I was like, ‘who is going to take that?’”

Less than a month away from the Chestnut Challenge fun run, and desperate for a less expensive alternative for her school, Marion-Landis stumbled upon PledgeStar, an online fundraising site that capped its fees at $695. Compared to the $8,000 her school had paid to Boosterthon in the past, Marion-Landis was intrigued.

Unlike Boosterthon, PledgeStar doesn’t put on the fun run, it only provides the online fundraising system. With help from PledgeStar’s how-to guide, Pledge Drives Made Easy, Marion-Landis knew she and her volunteers could organize their own event.

Not only did Chestnut Charter pay less to use PledgeStar, but the school was able to raise almost twice as much as they had the year before, bringing their total amount raised to $33,542.

“It was fabulous,” she said, “it is super easy to use and it allowed us to simplify our process. We were very happy and I have referred PledgeStar to other schools I have contact with.”

When volunteers and staff realized they had raised more than enough to cover costs for science, math, English and technology programs, they went ahead and invested in items that the school wanted, but could never afford before. They bought a fun cougar costume, the school mascot, to use at assemblies and other school spirit events. The decision was also made to cut back on fundraising events for the rest of the year; easing pressure on parents to come up with more money and donation solicitations from family and friends.