On Melrose Avenue in the heart of Los Angeles, California, a unique school with a diverse population managed to do something extraordinary at its annual jog-a-thon this year.
In February of 2019, the Melrose Elementary Stars, as they are called, raised over $68,000 at their jog-a-thon, more than doubling their earnings from 2017. The school had recently adopted PledgeStar as their online platform for fundraising, and PTO volunteers quickly figured out the best way to use PledgeStar to best meet their school's unique needs.
Melrose Elementary is located on a famous street in Los Angeles, surrounded by million dollar homes and famous landmarks in the community. Like much of Los Angeles, the population is diverse, and the school is identified as a "magnet," meaning that it is designed with unique programs and classes meant to attract students from all across LA. And, because over half of the student body comes from low income families, fundraising at the school can be a challenge.
PTO volunteer Katie Weber said that in the past, jog-a-thon fundraising had been competitively focused on which students could bring in the most money, but that this didn't sit right with her or other parent volunteers. "We felt that was a little too exclusionary and we wanted to be able to include more students," she said. So, Weber and her PTO partners devised a new strategy in which all of the students could feel included.
The 2019 jog-a-thon fundraising competitions were altered to include participation competitions. Weber divided the classes into teams and challenged them to get as many students as they could to sign up on PledgeStar, and any small donation could put them on the map.
"We wanted to spread out the incentives so it would reduce competition," said Weber. "Even a donation of $5 counted with the new setup. Maybe with the other way we would see a larger average donation, but with the new structure we were able to encourage more students to participate." Students were no longer discouraged if they felt their donors would not donate big bucks, and with the PledgeStar system, the more students participating and sending out at least 10 requests is what makes the difference.
Weber's strategy proved successful. Students in every class logged onto PledgeStar to collect donations, and any donation was counted toward class competitions. With close to $70,000, the school will fund its unique programs like ballroom dancing and Garden Rangers, furthering its goal to attract students in the future.
"Everyone had great things to say about PledgeStar," Weber said. "It's super easy to use and it's very user friendly, which is essential for our school."
Weber said that Melrose Elementary will use PledgeStar next year for its jog-a-thon. As the school continues to grow and attract new students, the PTO will adapt to serve the student body the best way possible, which was an undoubtedly successful this year.