Gift Card Fundraising Blog

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Fundraising Incentives: The Good, the Bad, and the Funny

children eating donuts as a fundraiser incentive

Question: has your child ever received a prize or a food party after a fundraiser? Chances are, they’ve probably partaken in some celebration after meeting a goal. But have you ever stopped and thought about why fundraiser incentives are seemingly so necessary?

First and foremost, incentives are alive and well because no one wants to fundraise, especially not parents. PTO and PTA members know this, and they understand that fundraising is exhausting, and quite honestly a chore for busy parents who would rather just send in money for whatever the school needs.

But sometimes donations aren’t enough, and schools are still strapped for cash, so they have to run traditional product fundraisers. Knowing full well that parents don’t want to participate, the fundraising chairs and the PTO members think about ways to get kids excited about fundraising. This means dangling prizes, rewards, and principal punishments at the finish line to get the kids pumped up about selling.

Fundraising Incentives Are for the Kids

Fundraising incentives are almost always geared toward the kids, especially at the elementary school level, but is that who’s doing the fundraising? No! We all know it’s the parents doing the work, so sure, the kids are motivated, but that just means they bug their parents even more. Beyond that, the question to ask is if these fundraising incentives are healthy?

Think about it: is it good to reward these kids for accomplishing something they needed to do to get funding that will benefit them? It’s plausible that the student’s reward should simply be the money they’ve raised, instead of the current scenario where they get a reward of a party or event or prize for the real reward of raising money.

Now that we’ve established the reasoning behind incentives let’s cover what kind of incentives are out there.

Junk Food Party Incentives

Food incentives normally are of the junk food variety; a pizza party for the class who raises the most money, a donut party for the class where the most kids participated. Other likely food incentives are an ice cream sundae party, a cupcake party, or really anything else kids probably shouldn’t consume during the school day. Besides defying parents’ wishes not to pump their kids full of sugar, these junk food incentives also go against most public and private school food rules too, where sugar intake is limited.

While a lot of schools implemented junk food fundraising policies to keep things in check, it doesn’t account for the rewards parties. So even though some schools might not sell junk food for their fundraiser, kids will still get rewarded with it when their fundraiser is over.

"Punishing" the Principal

The other iffy incentive involves the principal or teacher having to do something bad or funny if the students hit their goal. Some principals promise to shave their head, some vow to get slimed or pied, others say they’ll even kiss a pig. And they always follow through.

Back in October, a Tennessee Principal even slept on the roof of the school! To make matters funnier, he was dressed as Batman. To be fair, the fundraiser associated with the reward was superhero themed, but on the scale from one to kissing a pig it still doesn’t seem like a whole lot of fun.

A lot of these incentives are harmless, but they still cloud the reason for fundraising. Instead of a kid working to sell something for the school, they are selling something so they can slime their principal or leave him stranded on the roof overnight. These over-the-top incentives are glorified even more since they’re often accompanied by news crews reporting on the principal smooching a hog.

Healthier Fundraising Incentives

While these incentives do their job at getting the students excited, it’s important that kids know why their fundraising matters. To make that the focus, create incentives around why the school is fundraising.

Are they raising money for new computers? Offer the winning class extended computer lab time. Fundraising for a new playground? Reward them with an extra 30-minute recess when the project is completed. Are they working toward refurbishing the library? Give them a book hour to read anything they want from the library! There are tons of incentives out there that help students reap the reward of the actual fundraiser instead of a junk food party or a pie-covered principal.

Incentives for Parents

Sometimes, your best bet for getting parents involved in a fundraiser is to create incentives for parents instead of the kids! Take, for instance, scrip fundraising. The gift card fundraiser is predominantly used by parents, seeing as they are the ones with purchasing power, so you need to find ways to get parents excited about fundraising.

As scrip coordinators know, with ShopWithScrip, families will raise a lot more money if they order online. Some might be skeptical of that idea, though, so a coordinator giving them a $5 gift card incentive or an entry in a drawing is a big motivator for parents. Coordinators of a scrip program can even have incentives for a family signing up for PrestoPay or for a family who refers another person to the program.

Not all fundraising incentives are bad. Just make sure the reason for the fundraiser doesn’t get lost in some crazy rewards.

Next Steps:

  • What are your thoughts on fundraising incentives for kids? Leave us a note in the comments below!
  • Want to learn more about scrip fundraising? Download our PTO Starter Kit!

Download the Public School Scrip Fundraising Info Kit

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