Easy Ways to Fund-raise

No time to bake cookies or organize an auction? Try one of these ďpassive fund-raisingĒ programs.

By Caroline Grannan

Itís time for another school fund-raiser. Parents, start your ovens. Remember to bake brownies for the bake sale. And donít forget to solicit donations for the silent auction and volunteers for the Spring Carnivalís Beanie Toss.


Thereís an easier way. Itís called ďpassive fund-raising,Ē which involves less community-building but also far less labor than the old standbys. Hereís how it works: Your local school or parent group registers with a fund-raising program. You sign up as a supporter. You shop. A percentage of your bill kicks back to the school as a donation.

Passive fund-raising can work so well that the PTA at San Franciscoís diverse Lakeshore Elementary School budgets for about $10,000 a year from passive fund-raising methods (a total of $80,000). The foundation that raises funds for Mill Valley K-8 schools, called KIDDO, raises $192,000 a year for 2,200 students. Across the bay, the 485-student private Prospect Sierra School in El Cerrito makes $20,000 a year from a mix of passive fund-raising programs such as SchoolPop and eScrip.

The key to such fund-raising success is getting the word out. These sources can help:

  • Albertsonís Community Partners: With this program, customers register their Albertsonís Preferred Savings cards to kick back a percentage of purchases to their registered school or parent group. See for details.

  • eScrip, parents can register their existing debit and credit cards, and participating merchants automatically contribute a percentage of purchases to the designated school or group. eScrip also offers an online mall. To register a parent group, sign on as a supporter or get information, including a list of participating merchants such as Safeway, go to

  • General Millsí Boxtops for Education program rebates money to schools in exchange for box tops and labels from selected products. This isnít strictly passive fund-raising because it requires a massive collection effort. But the program also offers a Visa card that rebates 1 percent of all purchases to a designated school.

  • The Office Depot 5 ack to Schools Program rebates 5 percent of purchases to the school indicated by the shopper at the checkout counter. The school must register, but the shopper doesnít need to. and are separate online malls where shoppers generate money for schools when they buy from a wide array of top online retailers. The school or parent group registers, and then supporters sign up and specify the organization they want to benefit. If a shopper at L.L. Bean, Nordstrom or any of dozens of other merchants goes to the retailerís site via the online mall, a percentage of the purchase goes to the school or group. To register, visit either SchoolPop.comor

    †††††††† Through Targetís Take Charge of Education program, Target donates 1 percent of purchases made at Target and, using either Target Card or Target Visa, to the designated school, and .5 percent of Target Visa purchases made elsewhere. Target offers more ways to support education at their website.

  • WaMoola for Schools lets Washington Mutual customers benefit schools with a rebate on purchases made with the Washington Mutual Visa Check Card.

  • The old paper scrip is still available here and there, though it has largely been replaced by eScrip and similar setups. With this system, the school or group buys gift certificates at discounts and sells them to supporters at face value. This has been a lucrative fund-raiser, especially in communities where families can make a significant scrip purchase. The downsides are that paper scrip requires a massive up-front investment (depending on how much you want to sell) and potentially risky handling of large amounts of cash. In San Francisco, two natural-foods retailers Ė Rainbow Grocery and Good Life Grocery Ė are examples of local business offering scrip to schools.

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