I recently had a conversation with the president of a parent teacher organization in the US.  She had questions about how to allow the parents at her school to make donations to their group on their website and also in the mobile app that we provide support for.  After a five minute tutorial she was able to quickly set up a donation that parents could add to their shopping cart and then pay for.  The donation was in the amount of $100.

Towards the end of our conversation I asked if she had read about the Bells and Whistles fundraising feature of our program.  This is a feature where parents make donations to their school and receive add on features to the app and website that are educational, challenging and fun for parents, students and teachers.  She replied with concern because there is a $25 deduction from Bells and Whistles donations and felt that if they offered plain donations in flat dollar amounts they would not be subject to the $25 deduction.

Sure, $100 minus a $25 deduction nets her $75 while a $100 donation with no deduction nets her $100.  What she did not consider is the appeal factor of the different donations.  If your parent teacher group makes a $100 donation available that is simply a $100 with nothing else to offer, how many parents in her school are going to be excited to share that option with other parents?  How likely are they to even think about it when talking with other parents in her school?

On the other hand, if a parent makes a Bells and Whistles donation for $100 and the school receives $75, that parent now has features available on her app that are going to motivate that parent to participate more.  That parent now has features on the app that will enlighten and challenge her students.  This parent now has features on her directory app that will drive her to use the app several times each week.

In addition to this, her students will now be able to participate in directory app features that will challenge, educate and reinforce learning in a manner that is so much fun that both she and her students will be talking about it over and over again with their friends.  Talking about it is just the beginning.  Sharing it online in their social media circles will trigger more opportunity for other parents in their school to make the Bells and Whistles donation.

This leads us to wonder how much excitement there will be among parents and students in a school community where they can make a $100 donation?  How often will these parents and students talk about a plain $100 donation with their friends?

We also wonder how much eagerness will there be among parents to make a $100 Bells and Whistles donation that nets their parent teacher group $75?  How often will these parents and students show their friends the fun and interactive features they now have on their school directory app?

In closing our conversation, I asked this PTO president to multiply the number of plain donations she thinks she will get by $100 and then multiply the number of Bells and Whistles donations she thinks she will get by $75.

We can all apply our own math to these equations.  Regardless, the keys to making a school fundraising idea effective are human emotion and momentum.  You can ask for a donation or you can ask for a donation that will appeal to both students and parents.  If it appeals to students, their parents will quickly create the momentum it needs to be a very successful school fundraising idea.

Michael Kerin is the founder of Paperless PTO, one of the first providers of e-Commerce websites and mobile apps for schools and parent teacher organizations.

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