After her kids returned home from summer camp in July 2019, Tobey Elementary PTO President Holly Hill saw in them something she knew her school needed: energy. The kids described their camp activities and group competitions with such enthusiasm that they inspired Hill to think bigger in her PTO leadership role. She had watched the energy and excitement drain from the school fundraisers she helped with in the past, so she looked to the summer camp ethos for a new, fun-filled way to raise money. Then, at their first meeting of the school year, Hill and her PTO colleagues decided to scratch the fall walk-a-thon that they had been holding for several years and replace it with an all-new “Slime the Staff and Grade Wars” event. Hill knew, however, that a good theme was not all that was needed to put on a great school fundraiser. She also needed a platform to make it easy to raise money and reduce the amount of work needed so she could focus more on the kids.
Hill said that after she received an email about PledgeStar from Tobey Elementary’s principal, she wanted to shop around for online fundraising competitors. “We knew that the high school in the area used a different company that charged so much more for its services,” Hill recounted. “PledgeStar has a cap on the amount you pay, which we liked, and it was still much, much lower than the other providers we’d seen. Plus, manually processing all the ‘stuff’ for a walk-a-thon is really a pain.”
With the fundraising platform taken care of, Hill turned back to how to get the most enthusiasm out of the participants. “Kids love slime,” Hill said, “I was thinking, what can we do to get everyone motivated?” She decided to create a simple fundraising competition between grade levels with one extra special incentive: to cover teachers in slime. It turned out that Hill was right. The fun challenge and PledgeStar were clearly the answer. Tobey Elementary raised about $9,000 at their 2018 walk-a-thon, but the 2019 Grade War brought in a whopping $20,000. And while the slime event was a new idea, 2019 was also the first year that the school used PledgeStar as a fundraising platform.
Hill also wanted to make sure that even kids who weren’t able to bring in donations were excited for the competition, so instead of focusing on individual prizes for the top earners, the classrooms and grade levels competed as teams to reach their fundraising goals. Each class was challenged with raising $1,000 per room for a schoolwide goal of $14,000. Because the students ended up raising over $20,000, every classroom reaped several rewards.
Students were able to decide on indoor recess activities for a snowy state: board games, puzzles, books, and other fun additions to their classroom for days that were too cold to play outside. Additionally, funding was allocated to school events like holiday parties and parent/student events like Muffins with Mom.
Not only did each classroom get to decide on a special party or games for their rooms, but the students also got to see every one of the teachers, principal, and even their campus officer slimed at a special event on the playground to close out the successful fundraiser.
“We wanted to encourage a community and a common goal among the students,” said Hill. “It was by far the best fundraiser we’ve ever had.”