Laurel Elementary School in Fort Collins, Colorado was one of the first schools in town to adopt the Run-A-Thon concept for fundraising. While the event has been consistently successful, volunteer families were seeking ways to make the annual Laps for Laurel event more efficient.
"Traditionally, we have always done everything ourselves. But the old school way of using pen and paper and handling cash and checks was time-consuming and challenging, especially because not all parents were able to contribute and volunteer equally," says Dana Knight, Laurel's PTA president and event organizer.
The Laurel PTA discovered that using an online fundraising platform could help streamline the process and reduce volunteer burnout while also raising more for the school. "We tried using an online platform for the first time two years ago, but the amount of money that company kept just didn't feel right. This year, we used PledgeStar and we will definitely continue to for years to come. Their support team was fantastic and always ready to answer any questions we had. It was the perfect fit for our needs," explains Ms. Knight.
In the end, the bottom line tells the true story of success at Laurel Elementary. "Our goal was to raise $25,000 and we ended up with $42,000," says Ms. Knight.
The Laurel PTA credits the ease of distribution offered by PledgeStar as one of the key elements of the event's success. "Family members were able to easily share the PledgeStar link and people could donate easily with multiple payment options. It opened up so many more possibilities than kids walking door to door with paper and asking for cash or a check," says Ms. Knight. "The fact that details about our fundraiser could get spread so quickly was great. PledgeStar isn't a complicated platform and it really does everything that you need it to do."
Even Laurel's volunteers had a great time getting the students excited about the Fun Run. "We had a kick-off assembly where one of the parents dressed up as Lenny the Lynx, our school mascot, and another dressed up as a dinosaur. One of the moms even led dance parties in the morning before school with Lenny. We really tried to do all of our publicity before school so as to not disrupt the classrooms. We promised the kids that if we reached our goal we would turn our vice principal into a human sundae—and because the event was so successful, the principal also joined in. Each student was able to cover them with whipped cream, sprinkles, cereal, cherries, and other toppings. Everybody loved it!"
Laurel Elementary is a special place with a diverse population, and the PTA is sensitive to the needs of the students. "Because we are a Title 1 school as well as having a substantial special needs population, we try to promote the Fun Run as more than a fundraiser and really just a community event. All the kids get a T-shirt and a water bottle the day of the event rather than having to earn them through financial pledges," says Ms. Knight.
Once the event concluded, the PTA was tasked with distributing the profits. Laurel and its PTA use a unique method to disburse funds earned from the Fun Run. "We automatically support Eco Week—the fifth grade week-long trip to the mountains—but for the rest of it, our PTO has a grant process," explains Ms. Knight. "Teachers, staff, and families can submit requests, and the PTO uses a rubric to evaluate each one. Because we did so well this year, we are also considering helping out some of the other schools in our area that weren't able to pull off such a successful fundraiser. We hope this will show our kids how to give back to others who may need our help."