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Box Tops Champs Share Collection Tricks

Box Tops Champs Share Collection Tricks

How one group collected more than 88,000 box tops, using the earnings to purchase teacher and classroom supplies.

by Janice Arenofsky


Susan Stratman decided to try some new strategies when she and her husband, Ken, took over coordinating clip-and-save programs at W.J. Zahnow Elementary in Waterloo, Ill., in 2006. By the 2007-08 school year, the Stratmans had collected 88,000 General Mills box tops, raising $8,801 and ranking ninth in the nation for total earnings.

Those funds have been put to good use. The PTO designates one-quarter of the box tops proceeds to be used for grade-level reading materials. Last year, each teacher also received two printer cartridges and $200 for supplies.

This year, the preK-2 school set a goal of raising $10,000. Before the fall semester ended, the school’s 650 students had amassed more than 45,000 box tops.

The key to the school’s success is student rewards. “Rewards work,” she says. “We have supportive teachers who give us feedback on what incentives work, but it’s the kids’ enthusiasm for prizes and parties that keeps motivation high.”

Together, the Stratmans throw an escalating series of class parties geared to increasing levels of accomplishment: Popsicles for 500 box tops; fruit snacks for 1,000; ice-cream sandwiches for 1,500; popcorn for 2,000; milk shakes for 2,500; and pizza for 3,000 box tops.

Other inducements come straight from the Box Tops for Education website—prizes like lollipops, notebooks, and pencils. Parents also made suggestions, such as giving students stuffed animals of the school mascot, a bulldog. Students may also receive gift bags containing Wal-Mart or McDonald’s coupons and game tickets for the school’s winter carnival.

In addition to the prizes, students are motivated to compete against classmates and other classes at the school. A bulletin board near the front office charts class contributions so kids can see how their classes compare with others.

Stratman uses Microsoft Access to record daily class and individual totals. “It’s a big timesaver,” she says of the database software. This close tracking enables students in each class to compete for the top class prize and then vie for one of five “bests” in each grade level. Although Stratman’s knowledge of computer bookkeeping has reduced the time needed for administrative tasks, she still spends seven hours a week on the school’s high-volume clip-and-save program.

Students receive seasonally themed collection worksheets with instructions to families to paste or staple the labels onto the pages. Parents cooperate because they knew their involvement helps earn money for the school.

As coordinators, the Stratmans keep everyone’s eyes on the goal with timely status reports. They alert students and teachers to special bonus collection opportunities and circulate a newsletter every six weeks; in between, emails and telephone calls work as reminders. When a class reaches a benchmark, the principal announces it over the PA system. This recognition inevitably arouses renewed interest from other students.


# Jennifer 2010-02-01 01:43
That's great, but how much did she have to spend on incentives? As co-ordinator of our school, I have to be very aware of not giving away the profit we've just earned.
# patricia herrera 2010-02-23 00:04
Our school would like to sign up for box tops can you let us know how to get started
# Debi 2010-08-18 14:00
I am so glad for them !! They are very fortunate to raise up their school !! Way to go guys !! How is one supposed to raise our monies up if our principal has put the ca-bosh on doing contests ??? I was able to do them for 2 years & then told "no more" . She sited that it did not go with our PYP studies ... yet she still allows us to do ice cream parties for the kids that read 25 hours for our "Read To Feed" program ( for The Heifer Program) ... seems like a double standard to me ! :-( I mean holy-moly the box tops etc are for the school !!! One would think that a "thank you for your help" ie hat or pj day at the least would be nice !! Sorry , venting ....
# Debi 2010-08-18 14:07
PS : I forgot to say that I am as visible as I possibly can , too , at open houses , PTA meetings , other school functions where I can set up a table .... I have posters all over the hall ways . I talk "labels" where ever and when ever I can ... I think people are beginning to think I am possessed !!! ;-P So it is not like I am doing nothing , I just think even 2 contests a year would be helpful .
# Amy 2011-07-29 07:01
Our whole school district is no longer allowed to do contests for Box Tops. They say it is not fair for the students who are financially unable to purchase the Box Top products. Therefore, we make very little money from our Box Top donations.
# deneen 2011-10-13 20:36
when I became coordinator I stopped offering junk food parties as the prize. Instead, each month the class with the highest total of Box Tops for the month in their grade wins extra RECESS! The kids & teachers love it, and it promotes good health at the same time. Plus, since classes compete as a class, children who may be unable to contribute Box Tops can still be a part of the fun--nobody knows which child brings in what--all Box Tops are placed in the class container. We raised $3000.00 last year this way, from 725 students.
# rebecca 2012-09-02 03:29
I am a first time coordinator this year for our school. we are not allowed to have any parties or anything like that I was wondering if anyone had any good easy ideas for incentives that cost very little to nothing as our school needs every bit of money we can get but i would like to offer the kids something
# Laura 2013-08-26 00:39
This is my first yr. as coordinator at my daughters school. Incentives work well. I purchased a traveling trophy and all the teachers want it in their classrooms. That helps the teachers give a little more attention to the cause. Collected $220.40 worth of box tops our first week back to school. That's 75% of what we were collecting on a yearly bases. Talk and talk some more. Before you know it, the kids are so excited and passionate that the parents do their part too. Don't give up.
# Rose Hamilton 2013-08-26 10:50
Great message, Laura! Thanks!
# Kate 2013-09-12 15:18
I love the idea of using extra recess as an incentive! I appreciate that idea as well as the traveling trophy idea and the other suggestions listed here for incentives. I would really like to have prizes that don't involve candy or sweets. I'd also like to see other figures for schools. I think my school earned around $400 last year for about 180 students. Hoping to increase that a lot this year with a good marketing strategy that we follow throughout the school year.
# elisa 2013-09-23 23:37
so much of the "food" that these collectables are on is unhealthy! highly processed, sugar and salt filled---we are encouraging kids to raise money competitively by encouraging the constant consumption of junk food---

what kind of "education" is that?
# melissa 2013-10-15 15:36
I am a first time box top coordinator for my pto at school I am trying to find out how I sing on the box top web site as a coordinator and not just a person and also how I make sure that my schools pto will get the credit for this instead of my school
# Lynn 2013-11-04 01:34
Our school is having a problem with the teachers holding their box tops until the next year if they don't think they will win. How do I stop this? It really makes the contest unfair.
# Rianne 2013-12-03 21:36
Not all the food is unhealthy, nor is it only on food. You can now find boxtops on Avery brand school and office products as well as Hanes clothing. Green Giant vegetables now have them on as well. So you can still collect and eat healthily at the same time.

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