Fundraising doesn’t get much more old-school than clipping out labels and box tops. But PTOs and PTAs are finding that modern digi-tal tools can significantly increase how many they collect—and how much money they raise—through clip-and-save programs.

Whether it’s emailing parents with links to product coupons, promoting sweepstakes on Facebook, or submitting grocery receipts through a smartphone app, the Internet has changed how clip-and-save fundraising works.

Email and Social Media

No matter which collection programs your school adopts, true success lies in keeping families informed and up to date on goals, achievements, and everything in between. Electronic newsletters are replacing traditional printed newsletters sent home in backpacks these days, and social media has become an increasingly important way to communicate with parents. Clip-and-save programs have taken note. The Labels for Education and Box Tops for Education websites offer numerous downloadable logos and graphics to jazz up school Facebook pages and emails. Many schools incorporate them in inventive ways to draw attention not only to corporate sweepstakes but also to their own classroom contests. In addition, many schools use the “event” feature on Facebook to remind parents of their school’s deadline for box top collections.

The PTO in Bedford, Mass., which supports several schools, has used Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to promote participation in its clip-and-save program. On the Facebook page for Bedford Box Tops for Education, PTO leaders regularly posts collection results, contest reminders, Box Tops promotions at local stores, and loads of encouragement. There’s even a photo of a student dressed up as a Box Top for Halloween. Since their PTO encompasses a middle school whose community uses Twitter, they also started a Twitter account devoted exclusively to the program.

To encourage more parents to shop online at the Box Tops Marketplace to earn Box Tops credits, called eBoxTops, program coordinators Meg McAllister and Jenn Goldman created a video tutorial. Find it by searching YouTube for “Bedford Box Tops.”

“Ever since we started our Facebook page and made our YouTube video, our online profits from Box Tops have skyrocketed,” Goldman says. “Cyber Monday [the Monday after Thanksgiving] was great. We pulled in more money than we ever have. I’d say about 25 percent of our earnings are now online earnings.”

Other PR moves the pair have made include getting press coverage in a local newspaper and scheduling a parent information night, as well as talking up eBoxTops every chance they get. While awarding a traveling trophy to the classroom boasting the highest collection rate of eBoxTops, they never downplay the value of box tops clipped and collected the traditional way.

Another social media outlet that can boost collection programs is the popular pinboard-style photo-sharing website Pinterest. Coordinators are using it to share collection sheets, promote current programs, and share promotional ideas with each other. In addition, brands are using it to share recipes. Tyson Foods, for example, provides recipes along with information about Tyson’s Project A+ program. If you use Pinterest, you could direct busy parents to this source of quick dinner ideas or have them post some of their own. It might spur more purchases of the product and result in increased label collection and profits for your school.

Electronic Point-of-Purchase Gains

Another veteran of clip and save, Labels for Education, supplements its regular program by awarding additional points at checkout upon purchase of qualifying products using a participating retailer’s shopper card. Individuals must go to eLabelsForEducation.com to sign up and begin adding more points to the ones they already compile by clipping and saving Labels for Education product UPCs and caps. All points can eventually be redeemed for merchandise.

Receipt Rewards

While you’re encouraging families to buy qualifying products and to clip and save labels and box tops, make sure you’re also taking advantage of any school reward programs at grocery store chains in your area. Traditionally, grocery stores with receipt collection programs have given cash rewards to schools for collecting paper receipts. Now, many stores allow customers to link their shopper discount cards to a certain school, with the school typically receiving a percentage of sales.

Although such programs are widespread in the grocery industry, don’t assume that parents already know about them. You can maximize returns by promoting local programs well within your school community. It’s especially important to get the word out at the start of the school year. Some school reward programs require shoppers to register their cards each school year.

While some stores still do accept paper receipt collections from schools, smartphone technology has changed the way some schools fundraise with grocery store receipts. One smartphone app for Android and iOS called Shoparoo allows users to upload a photo of a store receipt. Schools receive rewards based on the total amount of the purchase, as well as additional rewards given by specific brands.

Schools can receive rewards from Shoparoo and continue to earn grocery store rewards and credits for clip-and-save programs. As with other shopping programs, the key to success is getting shoppers enrolled, so be sure to explain how each program works and how important it is for families to participate.

Coupons

Appealing to thrifty shoppers could help boost your collection rate with clip-and-save programs. Since many of the programs offer money-saving coupons on their websites for featured products, spreading the word to the avid coupon clippers in your community could increase sales as well as subsequent box top and label returns.

Money-saving coupons can be printed directly from the Box Tops for Education and Labels for Education websites. The Tyson Project A+ program, another popular clip-and-save program that gives schools 24 cents for each collected label, offers coupons on its main website, Tyson.com.   

Online Contests and Games

Visitors to the Box Tops for Education website can often earn points by playing games or entering contests. Humboldt Elementary 3rd grade teacher and Box Tops coordinator Christina Higdon is a big fan of entering contests online. She encourages other teachers at her St. Joseph, Mo., school to enter Box Tops’ online sweepstakes, which award tens of thousands of bonus points to winning schools. Sending teachers to the site has led to more staff shopping online and earning eBoxTops, as well.

“We don’t get a lot of parent participation and have trouble raising money,” Higdon says. Humboldt parents will, however, clip and send in box tops. Between their efforts and those of the staff, the result is a modest but helpful fundraiser benefiting their student council.

The Box Tops for Education site often also has online games where visitors can earn money for their school. The games aren’t big earners; in fact, players only earn one eBoxTop for their school and after that, they play just for fun. But the games do a lot to keep Box Tops in the conversation—and that’s the point.

Staying Ahead of the Game

The electronic age continues to enhance clip-and-save programs. Using online channels to communicate with your school community can significantly enhance your program. And the electronic tools now being offered can also make a difference. Follow some of the ideas from other leaders or explore some of your own. Just don’t get left behind!