Whether you prefer the traditional fundraiser or “no hassle” pledge drives, there is a passive fundraiser you should consider. It’s administered by Amazon (they call it the Amazon Smile Program) and they return part of purchases to the shopper's charity of choice.
Here is how it works:
- Instead of shopping at www.amazon.com, customers go to www.smile.amazon.com. It’s the same products from Amazon, sold at the same prices. The only difference is part of the purchase price is donated back to the shopper’s favorite charity, like your PTO, PTA or booster club.
- On the first visit, customers login with their Amazon account and select their charity.
- Shop just like normal. Your PTO/PTA receives 0.5% of the purchase price as a donation.
The donations will only be counted if a customer starts by first visiting www.smile.amazon.com. You can see this, and your prefered charity, on any product page. That way you know your purchase will count to toward a donation. Each time you start your shopping visit at smile.amazon.com, it remembers the charity you previously selected. You will not have to re-enter it each time.
How to register for, and get the most from, the program:
- Visit the Amazon Smile website to read more about the program requirements.
- Click the ‘register now’ button’ (or search here) to see if your PTO/PTA is already in their system.
- If your PTO/PTA is listed: Fill out the registration form. You will need to supply your PTO/PTA bank account information for the direct deposit. They will not mail paper checks.
- Promote, promote, promote! This is the key to getting a good result. I’ve included some tips at the end of this article that will help you get more parents participating.
- If you have any questions about the program or the registration process, visit this FAQ page.
If your PTO/PTA isn’t listed in the Amazon system:
it probably means your organization isn’t a registered non-profit. Amazon pulls their list from GuideStar, who rates all non-profit charitable organizations. It will require a little more work to set up a 501 3(c). PTO Today has a great article on how to make that happen.
If your PTO/PTA is listed but it has incorrect information:
You will need to update your profile in the GuideStar database. Make sure the name is easy for your parents to find when they search for their preferred charity. Parents may not be able to find you if they know the school as “LBJ Elementary” but the database calls you “Lyndon Baines Johnson Elementary PTO.”
So how do you get great participation?
The key is to mention it frequently. Studies have shown people may not act on information until they have heard it at least six times. If you only send one letter home at the beginning of the year, participation won't be very good. A busy parent may see the letter and intend to sign up, then forget about it the next time they shop on Amazon. But they may sign up next month after reading about it in the school newsletter. Or the following month when they see it on Facebook. Maybe they won’t sign up until you remind them about it during the fall festival, or during the family fun night in December... or during the spring book fair. Keep talking about it and you will get better participation each time it's mentioned.
How to keep the message in front of your parents:
- Download this letter. Edit as you see fit (red text definitely needs to change) and ask the teachers if they will send it home with every child.
- Print out a stack of the letters and leave them in the front office for parents to pick up when they visit the school.
- Post a link to the smile page on your social media accounts at least 1-2 times per month.
- Take 30 seconds to talk about it at each meeting or school event. Never have a meeting or event where it isn't mentioned!
- Ask the Principal if you can place a reminder in each school newsletter throughout the year.
- Ask if you can get a link added on the school website.
I mentioned it earlier but it’s so important I’m going to say it again… make sure parents know how to find your organization! Many schools have similar names. While the Kennedy Elementary PTO on the other side of the country may need the funds, you would prefer donations from your parents come to your Kennedy Elementary. Each time you mention the program, make sure you tell parents exactly what to search for and select.