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.

Title I School Uses PledgeStar for Jog-A-Thon Fundraising; Exceeds $30,000 Goal


With the help of PledgeStar, students at San Juan Elementary, a Title I Spanish Immersion School in San Juan Capistrano, exceeded their ambitious fundraising goal of $30,000 at their annual Jog-A-Thon in November, bringing in a total of over $37,000.

As a Title I School, over 40% of the student’s families qualify for reduced price or free lunch. This didn’t deter school volunteers from reaching out to families for donations and participation in the fundraising effort.

“The parents realize what a great opportunity this is and what a great community we’ve built for this school; all the parents – Spanish speaking and English speaking,” said PTA volunteer Denise Thatcher, “so there’s more of an effort there…Everybody pitches in however they can…Our school is very special that way.”

SanJuanImageThere are 750 kids at San Juan Elementary, and about two-thirds of them participated in the fundraising effort – an extremely surprising rate for a school that is identified as having a high-poverty population.

PTA board members worked diligently to incentivize the entire student body to bring in donations for the Jog-A-Thon. Every donation, large or small, counted toward raffle prizes.

Not only does San Juan Elementary have a Spanish Immersion Program, but over 60% of its students are identified as English language learners.  While this could have created a difficult communication barrier for the jog-a-thon campaign, Thatcher and other PTA volunteers found their way around it. A former San Juan parent was recruited to help create flyers and other information sent home for the parents who did not speak English. Volunteers were also available on the school campus to offer assistance to families who needed help setting up their online fundraising page.

Thatcher also said that using PledgeStar for online fundraising helped with their school’s unique demographic. Many families would not normally ask for Jog-A-Thon pledges from relatives living in other countries. PledgeStar’s email pledge requests and online payments helped bridge the gap between San Juan students and their families who live abroad.

With PledgeStar, Wagon Wheel Elementary only needs one fundraiser

Wagon Wheel logoIn 2013, Wagon Wheel Elementary’s fundraising consisted of gift wrap sales, See’s Candy sales and a Jog-A-Thon that raised about $18,000 in donations from parents, family and friends using a traditional cash and check collection system.

In the Spring of 2014, PTA President Kim Bernabe added PledgeStar’s online fundraising system to their Jog-A-Thon “just to see if it would make a difference.” When their donations rocketed past $32,000, it was clear that PledgeStar was the way to go. That success gave Kim the confidence to propose a radical idea. She wanted to eliminate all fundraisers except for one: a Fall Jog-A-Thon.

“Both the gift wrap company and See’s took 50% of what we raised. With the Jog-A-Thon, we keep it all,” Kim explained. If the Jog-A-Thon raised enough money to cover the PTA’s 2014-2015 costs, she promised they would not hold another fundraiser until the next school year. “Parents were skeptical,” she said, “but they agreed. How nice would it be to only have one fundraiser?”

WW6The Fall 2014 Jog-A-Thon proved to be a huge success, raising over $55,000.  Not only did it bring in more money, but it proves online fundraising is superior to the old cash and check collection system. Students who collected donations online brought in over $45,000 of the $55,000 raised.

“PledgeStar is a huge key to our success, because the system works easily and everybody loves it.” said Bernabe, “It’s just such a great system.”

With PledgeStar’s help, Bernabe was able to keep her promise: Only one fundraiser!


Oregon School Doubles its Previous Years’ Earnings, Raises Over $110,000 Using PledgeStar

Findley Elementary School volunteer Leslie Hmura used some creative marketing techniques along with PledgeStar online fundraising to double last year’s earnings for her school’s jog-a-thon, raising over $110,000 in one fell swoop.

The “Dragon Dash,” as the jog-a-thon has been named, consisted of over 800 grade K-5 runners taking turns running around the school’s track throughout the day in an effort to raise money for their school’s yearly expenses.

In years past, Hmura said, the school had used several fundraisers to pay for “extra” costs, like technology improvements and the International Baccalaureate program. But after she conducted a parent survey, she found that most families (around 70-80%) preferred to hold once-per-year fun-based fundraiser that could generate large amounts of money.

dragon dash

To meet her large goal of $131 per student and with only one shot to do it, Hmura wanted to streamline the process for families and expand their donor networks. To do this, she turned to PledgeStar and found that students who used the program earned significantly more than students who did not.

“What I love about it is it’s really designed for schools,” Hmura said, “It was just an awesome system.”

Throughout her intense marketing campaign, Hmura urged families to sign onto PledgeStar using small signs with her campaign logos placed on the street, banners and balloons, daily email communications with families, information packets sent home at the summer registration and even a creative promotional video seen on the Findley PTO website ( The students were offered incentives, too, ranging from commemorative water bottles to limo rides and Wii games with the principal.

School mascot Sparky the Dragon and his pal, Sparkles, were not only used in the video campaigns, but made regular surprise appearances on campus and at weekly assemblies to add to the Dragon Dash excitement.

Teachers, who were incentivized with restaurant gift cards, played a big role in the campaign to get students signed onto PledgeStar and bring in their donations. They were sent a daily class total every morning and encouraged to recognize students who met goals or brought in donations. The result: a whopping 92% student participation rate among Findley students.

“Our PTO had given us an ambitious goal and we couldn’t have reached and actually beaten our goal without PledgeStar,” Hmura said. “The online features, the instant receipts, the tracking features and especially the customer service, well exceeded our expectations. There is no question that we’ll continue using PledgeStar in the future at Findley Elementary.”