At first glance, clip-and-save programs seem like the ideal school fundraiser. No researching fundraising companies, selling raffle tickets, or taking months to organize an event. With clip-and-save programs, your school can receive credits or cash to purchase supplies, services, just about anything—and participating families only buy what they’d normally buy. But before signing up, it’s important to understand how a program works and how your school can make the most of it.

Choosing the Right Programs

Many schools are tempted to join every clip-and-save program available with an attitude of “the more, the merrier.” Unfortunately, the volunteers who coordinate the programs might not be merry! When selecting programs, there are several things to consider:

Do our school families use these products? Consider taking a survey to see which participating products families use. Think about not only what products families use but also their weekly label total (how many they purchase per week). A wide variety of products will increase weekly collection totals.

Are we earning what we want? Will you be happy shopping for rewards from a catalog, or does the school need cash? Also consider shipping. Will you be paying $20 in shipping to earn a “free” product you could buy at a local store for $15?

How much will it cost our organization? Be realistic about the cost in time, money, physical space, and even goodwill. Some programs involve detailed shipment prep, have unexpected shipping costs, take up too much storage space, or have families grumbling, “Another thing to do!”

Getting the Word Out

Another key consideration is how familiar a clip-and-save program will be to your school’s parents. The granddaddies of clip and save, General Mills’ Box Tops for Education and Campbell’s Labels for Education, benefit from their longevity and their own advertising. Angela Morgan, who coordinates collections for both programs for the Cumby (Texas) Elementary Student Council, says most parents were already aware of them. “I would say that 75 percent were familiar with both of those programs, and 25 percent I had to start at square one to explain the program and how it worked,” she says.

Other lesser-known programs often get off to a slow start. Most program coordinators send home letters outlining the programs, but try to reach as many outlets as possible: school websites, PTO meetings, open houses, and displays in school entryways. Many coordinators include a line in their emails encouraging families to forward it to extended family and friends to get more people involved in the programs.

Although program websites provide ideas, some coordinators come up with creative ways to reach people. Les Balgavy, principal and program coordinator for Valley and Millboro elementary schools in Bath County, Va., handed out magnets with a gentle reminder to collect items.

“I just thought if parents had a daily reminder plastered up there on a refrigerator, it would be an ‘aha’ moment for them to make sure they tear off that box top, cut out that soup label, or save that...bottle cap,” Balgavy says. He also prods families to continue collecting during the summer at the “Movies Under the Stars” night held during summer vacation. The outdoor screen used for the event was purchased using Box Tops for Education revenue.

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Many schools hold contests to encourage families to participate. Contests run a wide gamut: monthly, annually, individual winners, class winners. Periodic contests are often a reminder to students to turn in saved labels. Balgavy recommends a special focus on the programs right before Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks and summer vacation. A combination of visits to extended family and purchases for special meals may lead to increased numbers.

Coordinators also try to keep families up to date on annual goals, monthly totals, and what is ultimately purchased with the earnings. In addition to informing parents, they also point out to students when special products or events are paid for using collection earnings so that students (and parents) appreciate the results of the programs.

Successful collection programs also reach beyond the school family. Many coordinators encourage local newspapers to run stories on their programs and enlist local businesses to place a collection box for labels in their building. Morgan approached the local telephone provider to include billing inserts about Cumby Elementary’s collection programs in monthly statements.

Secrets for Success

It’s important to provide multiple ways for families to hand in labels. Most families send them to the classroom, especially if contests are involved. But you should also have collection points in the school entryway and office and at school events (a convenient way for the public to contribute labels). Many coordinators highlight their collection boxes with a chart to keep track of the number of labels collected.

Coordinators agree that making collection easy for teachers increases participation. Since Balgavy’s schools participate in multiple clip-and-save programs, he devised a way for teachers to keep items organized. Each classroom has a small organizational box with drawers labeled for each collection program.

Each clip-and-save program has its own guidelines for preparing items for shipment, which can be a time-consuming task. Box Tops for Education requires that labels be bundled in groups of 50, either bagged or rubber-banded. Labels for Education can be bagged in any amount so long as each bag only contains labels with the same point value and the point total is on the bag. Many coordinators reuse bags that families use to send the labels to school. Labels for Education also offers optional sheets to tape 19 labels to, but many people find that the method is time-consuming and increases shipping costs.

In an ideal world, parents would send in labels neatly trimmed, but coordinators echo again and again that they would rather get labels they have to trim than not get any at all. According to Cindy Chase, co-coordinator for the Garrison Elementary PTA in Dover, N.H., the key is time and volunteers. “I have a large list of volunteers who are willing to help clip and count them, so I will send them out well before the due date.”

Balgavy, who never sits down to watch TV without a bag of labels to trim, encourages others to tackle label prep often and not get bogged down by a huge job at year’s end. But, he admits, “Nothing is more frustrating than when you get a gallon-size Ziploc bag full of Box Tops, Campbell’s soup labels, Tyson chicken, etc.” Tell your parents: Separate bags for separate programs. Please!


Box Tops for Education

Labels from products are redeemed for 10 cents each. Labels are sent to the company in bundles of 50 (either bagged or rubber-banded).

Perks:

  • Well-known program.
  • Wide variety of products.
  • Labels are exchanged for money.
  • The eBoxTops program gives shoppers cash for every $10 spent online at more than 150 stores.

New brands: The program added Land O’Lakes, Welch’s, and Brita to its lineup of participating products in December 2010.

New online: Members can earn eBoxTops every time they shop at online stores such as Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Staples, Avon, Southwest Airlines, and Snapfish. Shoppers can earn between 5 cents and $1.75 for every $10 spent. Participants must register at www.boxtops4education.com/earn/marketplace.

Labels for Education

UPC product labels worth 1, 5, or 10 points each are sent to the company. Labels can be sent on provided sheets with space for 19 labels. For each completed sheet, the school receives one free label. Some schools feel the sheets add to their shipping cost and instead bag their labels. Mark each bag with the number of labels and point value. Points are redeemed for products from the program’s catalog.

Perks:

  • Well-known program.
  • Special bonus point programs for purchasing Campbell’s cookbooks (125 points per book) or organizing a “learning, caring, or sharing” event. Fire safety programs, food drives, and nutrition lessons earn schools 500 points per program, up to 2,000 points each year.
  • By signing up for eLabels for Education, shoppers can add points to their school’s total by using their shopper card when purchasing participating products.

New brands: Post Cereals joined the program in November 2010. Pop Secret and Bic stationery products joined earlier in the year.

New online: Through the eLabels for Education program, your school can receive credit for products purchased without collecting and submitting labels. Parents go to www.elabelsforeducation.com to sign up for a shopper card and learn which stores participate in the program. Shoppers show their card each time they buy groceries, and the school automatically earns points for participating products.

More School Reward Programs

My Coke Rewards

Codes on bottle caps or wrappers of 13 brands of Coca-Cola products are entered on a website. Points are redeemed for products. Codes are worth between 3 and 30 points each.

Perks:

  • Shoppers can enter codes and direct them to the school’s account, cutting out a step for the program coordinator.
  • Schools can get the community involved by placing collection containers next to vending machines.

TerraCycle

Groups sign up to collect different types of waste packaging, such as drink pouches and certain brands of food packaging. Schools usually receive 2 cents per piece.

Perks:

  • Participants earn cash.
  • TerraCycle pays shipping costs.
  • Because the packaging is recycled to make new products, the program can be used in conjunction with classroom environmental lessons.

Tyson Project A+

Special labels from participating Tyson frozen food products are redeemed for 24 cents each.

Perks:

  • Labels are exchanged for money.
  • Labels have a high value compared with other programs.