One of my kids' schools just did one for this school year for the first time. They used EPI, and the coordinator was very happy with them--said it was very easy to get going, and when the packages came in last week there were no errors. They sold them with a very small markup; it's more of a service than a fundraiser. In this first year, with a school with about 600 students, they sold 130--kindergarten and first grade parents had the highest rates of participation.
I would love to do this as a service during Open House or even Back to School Bash (that is a district thing for us). I just can't get anyone else to go along with it.
I assume you meant those fundraiser type kits. When I was in High School we had a "store" that sold supplies. I think that our student council was in charge of this. Now the high school doesn't even sell paper! At my kids school the principal bought a pencil/paper machine. I am not sure how that is going.
We're a k-5 and we have a "back to school day" that we set the cafeteria up as a sale. We have school supplies, spirit items, membership table, etc. It is held the same day that parents take care of registration and is about a week before school starts.
Our teachers have similar lists, not all the same, and they don't make their lists until June for the following year. We gather the lists and purchase the general items (pencils, pens, spiral note books, composition notebooks, rules, paper, etc) at a discounted rate from Walmart. We round everything up (to cover costs but not make much of a profit). For example, we bought folders for 8 cents and sold for 10.
We have talked about the "kits" but that would be custom for each class and the orders are needed way in advance. It just did not seem worth the hassle to us.
When I was an elementary PTO pres we did this - I wouldn't do it any other way! The thing to remember is you need to get it done early! Take orders (and get payment) before the end of this school year to have them in for next school year. The greatest school I've heard of has the supplies sitting on the kids' desk the first day of school. No shopping, no running from store to store, and it's very close to what you would pay if you did go to stores. I did my homework with many vendors - EPI won my business for price & service issues combined, and they didn't let me down.
How did I convince parents it was the greatest thing since sliced bread?
In writing or at a meeting - say something like this. You get a list of 25 items that the teachers need the kids to have. Some are brand specific, others by size. So you head to the grocery store to fill the list and they don't have the right brand of paints, but while you are waiting in line you pick up a couple of magazines - plus $5.00. Then you head to the drug store to find those 3 or 4 items that they didn't have at the grocery, still not the right brand of paints, but new color of Maybeline lipstick - plus another $5.00. So off to Target or WalMart you go for those flippin paints - o.k. - yeah - they have them, and look at this cute new bag - plus another $10.00. Savings from the impulse buying you'll do while looking for exactly what the teachers want! YUK.
Also - negotiate with your vendor for their return policy, and ask if they are willing to donate 3-4 packs per grade for those students unable to afford to purchase their own supplies.
I will tell you that the first year we used EPI their pencil sharpener vendor sent THEM defective merchandise which then became OUR defective merchandise. Within a week we received new pencil sharpeners from EPI for every kid in the school - since we had been lax in keeping records of who did and did not purchase their supplies through the PTO.
We marked the packs up I think $1.00 or $2.00 - made them nice round numbers, but didn't really do it as a fundraiser. Amazingly - they included paper towels, baby whipes and tissues - I mean they went above and beyond to get our business and get everything on those lists.
I do not work for EPI (though they've offered me a job in the past!) nor do I benefit from them at all - so please don't think this is a commercial.