We've all seen how excited students get when their school principals participate in campus events. But have you ever seen a parish priest joining in on a fun run with his students? At Good Shepherd Catholic School in San Diego, California, one of the school's priests did just that.
Tiffany Viloria, Good Shepherd's Parent Teacher Group (PTG) fundraising coordinator, has a unique opportunity to view fundraising from the side of the faculty as well as the parents at the annual GSCS Jog-A-Thon. "I'm a preschool teacher here," she says, "but my own kids also attend the school."
At Good Shepherd, pen and paper fundraising was always the way to go—until this year. "Historically we've always sent home envelopes to get donations from families." But Viloria and Good Shepherd knew they would be limiting themselves if they didn't try an online method, too. "Knowing there was money to be had out there through other channels, I thought it would be great to go digital this year."
Once Good Shepherd found PledgeStar, they leaped at the chance to save money up front. "We contacted a couple companies who took about 20 percent or more of the funds," Ms. Viloria tells us. "When I learned that PledgeStar charges 7 percent, and even caps with the potential to have our event for no cost to us, we decided to go with them."
Good Shepherd didn't just pick PledgeStar out of a hat—they had glowing references to go off of. "A couple parents at our school who are principals at other schools in the area told me that they use the same service." Knowing that trusted community members were already using the platform gave Good Shepherd the confidence to try PledgeStar themselves.
Ms. Viloria explains how beneficial it was to implement social media. "We were able to get parents to sign up and send requests via email, text and social media, which was huge, because in years past, it involved phone calls and asking friends and family in person." She explains that this method reaches a much broader group of people. "For me personally, I know I had at least five people donate who I wouldn't have even thought to ask—they saw the link on my social media."
Ms. Viloria explains that Good Shepherd's donations nearly doubled this year. "Our original goal this year was $8,500," she says. "But once we signed up with PledgeStar, we ended up raising $13,500."
After their dramatic increase in earnings this year, Good Shepherd is ready to leave the cash and check method behind. And their families agree. "Parents told us PledgeStar was really easy to use," says Ms. Viloria. "Those who were in charge of the Jog-A-Thon told us that next year, they'd prefer to just do it online without the envelope option."
So what exactly goes on at GSCS's annual Jog-A-Thon? "Our event includes stretching and warm-up laps," says Ms. Viloria. "Our parent volunteers track the laps, and at the end, every student gets a popsicle, and we take a school photo. We award our top 3 runners and fundraisers by classroom and individual students. "This year one of our priests even joined in!"
Ms. Viloria says that Good Shepherd will definitely be using PledgeStar again next year. In addition to the fundraiser's success, PledgeStar's customer support was appreciated at Good Shepherd. "We had a response within 24 hours whenever we had questions while working on the Jog-A-Thon," Ms. Viloria says. "The support was excellent."
The PTA website for Lincoln Elementary in Corona del Mar reads, "The spirit of Lincoln encourages kindness, inclusion, and positivity. Our motto says it all: 'Kindness, it's a Lincoln thing!' We are so proud to collectively call this school our home." This motto rang true during the school's annual Jog-A-Thon.
"The school really lives up to its motto," says Addie Zinone of Lincoln's PTA. "We really try to make our event less about running and more a community event. We have a contest for the most creative outfit at the Jog-A-Thon. The kids will wear tutus or ties or crazy hats. It's a festival-type vibe. We also play music while the kids are running. The older kids get to count laps for the younger kids. And everyone gets a popsicle at the end; it's amazing how much a popsicle will motivate a kid."
Lincoln is a school that cares about the arts. "The Jog-A-Thon money always goes toward our technology and art programs. Our district doesn't provide any art programs anymore so we help pay for that, including a part-time art teacher."
Lincoln has been using PledgeStar for five years and has seen huge improvements in the success of their fundraisers. Ms. Zinone explains: "It's very user-friendly and makes it easy to break down a lot of tedious numbers into categories that are easy to understand: who earns the most money, who reads the most minutes, which class is ahead, which student is ahead. Having PledgeStar track all those numbers and organize them so we don't have to makes it easier for us to focus on just executing the event."
In the past, sorting cash and check donations had been challenging and time-consuming. Once Lincoln started using PledgeStar, keeping track of incoming funds was a breeze. "We have a lot of money coming in and it's very easy to know where on the website to input cash and checks in addition to keeping track of electronic donations," says Ms. Zinone.
PledgeStar's automatic reminder system streamlined the process and cut down on the labor-intensive elements of the fundraiser for volunteers. "If someone pledges with a check, PledgeStar automatically sends those people reminders to send in their donation so we don't have to keep track of it," Ms. Zinone says. "It does all the annoying legwork, the hard, tedious stuff." Ms. Zinone explained that the website is very "user-friendly" and that it makes it "easy to break down a lot of tedious numbers."
Lincoln implemented many incentives to keep the students motivated during the fundraiser. "Every student who raised $300 or more got a pizza party," says Ms. Zinone. "It's called 'The 300 Bucks Club.' The kids love it and it's a big motivator. The student who raised the most overall got a pair of custom Nike shoes."
"We were hoping for $20,000 and ended up making more than $32,000," Ms. Zinone raves when asked if PledgeStar increased the amount of incoming funds for Lincoln's Jog-A-Thon. "If we didn't use PledgeStar, we wouldn't have been able to do all the outreach and make that much money. I know our students would have a much harder time reaching out to friends and family. You can literally send the information to anyone in your friends and family contacts, wherever they are, with PledgeStar."
Ms. Zinone goes on to explain why Lincoln parents love the fact that the PTA uses PledgeStar. "It's just so easy for the parents," she says. "What's so great about using PledgeStar is that I just send a quick note to parents outlining the simple steps to get registered and enter contact information for your friends and family. Once you've set up your page, you don't have to re-enter it the next year. It's already there. Parents don't always have the time or energy for working on fundraising anymore, so it's great that PledgeStar streamlines the process so much!" Parents can get signed up and start collecting money in less than 10 minutes.
It's hard to imagine children as young as six months participating in a jog-a-thon, but in Waxahachie, Texas, Funday School's annual "Funday Runday" does just that.
"Each student runs a race in our annual Tot Trot," says Krista Bartos, Funday School's director, who also managed the March 2023 event. "And we include ages 6 months through 5 years old."
Funday has a 40-year history in Waxahachie and nearly doubled in size over the past 10 years, with a current student population of 115. However, Bartos didn't let the size of her school limit the fundraiser's success.
"Our overall goal was $40,000 and we collected $46,000," says Bartos. "We are very blessed with lots of community support."
"It's a fun day for the whole family," Bartos adds. "There's chalk, bubbles, bike riding, basketball, and bounce houses. We even have a DJ."
And the fun run isn't just for the kids, Bartos says. "We have a silent auction sponsored by the community and classrooms. We also have a bake sale, which is always a big hit and brings the community together. Teachers, parents and grandparents bake things to sell—we even have a grandma who donates whole cakes and a woman who makes decorative cookies."
On top of fun activities sponsored by the community, every student received a T-shirt that their teachers helped tie-dye with their class colors to encourage participation. "Every kid gets a medal when they cross the finish line," says Bartos.
Bartos knows that when there's a fundraiser, PledgeStar is the way to go. "This was our third year with PledgeStar," she says. "My kids had used it at their elementary school and I really liked the simplicity of it and how easy it was for me to donate to their school."
"We've always had positive feedback," says Bartos of the reception of PledgeStar from her students' parents. "People really like how quick and easy it is to use. They don't always like to ask for donations, especially face-to-face, but with PledgeStar, even if you aren't active on social media, you can easily share it and get donations from people you wouldn't normally ask. Being able to share the fundraiser via text, email, and social media is a great option."
When the Runday rolls around each year, Bartos and her team go all out. "The majority of our prizes are in-house experiences rather than toys that get thrown away," she explains. "We offer a pizza lunch, an after-school movie where students can stay at school an extra hour, and a bounce house activity. Parents really appreciate that."
Perhaps the most popular incentive involves a little humility from Director Bartos: "Any student who raises more than $500 gets to pie me in the face at the run. That's always a big draw," Bartos laughs. "They get really excited to 'pie' their director. We'll definitely continue to use PledgeStar for years to come."
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."
"I come from a tech background, so automation is key," says Sonata Pérez, VP of Fundraising for the Valley View Elementary School PTA in Pleasanton, CA. PledgeStar's ease of use was key to the Fun Run's success, giving parents and admins alike the ability "to log in, interface, share things out electronically on social media channels, via email, via text." On top of being the VP for the fundraiser, Sonata is a busy parent of students at Valley View. She gushes: "Text was huge. I didn't send one email for my kids. It was all text messages. That's really, really incredible. Your reach is much further. I think that was a key determining factor for us to return to PledgeStar."
The Fun Run at the end of September marked Valley View's sixth event with PledgeStar—and the most money raised yet. With nearly $70,000 in pledges, Valley View exceeded its goal by roughly "74% more than anticipated." As VP of Fundraising, Sonata had estimated that the fundraiser could raise about $40,000. So, it was a welcome surprise when the school surpassed its goal well before the fundraiser finished! "One of the things that really was a game changer for us was streamlining communications." Going the extra mile, Sonata built a website and linked to PledgeStar to motivate students to register. The admins reached out to families weekly with instructions on how to register and to let them know how many students had registered as the event progressed. Sonata explains, "Registration meant participation. Students didn't have to raise any money, but they had to register. If they registered, and their teacher registered, and the whole class registered, then they got a prize. We were really driving it around being part of the community."
Valley View Elementary School is a Title I school, so Sonata and the PTA set their sights on increasing participation in the event, rather than only rewarding students who raised a lot of money. In order to catch every fish, Sonata says the school offered a multitude of sign-up incentives. The Fun Run had 11 different prize categories, which encouraged students from lower-income families to participate and feel involved. There were rewards for teacher participation, classroom participation, the student who ran the most laps, and the student who received the highest number of pledges. "Kids were making me laugh," Sonata says. "They were like, 'I'm just going to ask for $5 from 20 people so I can win this prize.' For them, it wasn't about raising the most money, but about, 'How many pledges can I get?' and 'Can I win that?'" Like any good PTA member and parent, Sonata knows how important it is to reward kids for putting in effort: "We really try to look at it from a lot of angles and we reward all of that hard work. Even if somebody raised a dollar, it's a dollar more that we had and we got them to participate. I just want everybody to be a part of the party."
Working with PledgeStar alleviates many of the administrative headaches for coordinators like Sonata. Sonata says that the responsiveness and knowledge of PledgeStar's staff made the process of fundraising easy and accessible. She laughs, "I came with this ridiculous request and it was handled in like, 15 minutes." Sonata says that PledgeStar simplifies administrators' jobs, in part because there are support reps who are ready and available to answer questions in a timely manner.
A friend of Sonata's works at a different elementary school whose fundraiser was running at the same time as Valley View's. Sonata says, "My friend was telling me that they collect pledges manually. In envelopes. The thought of it made me cringe." Looking out for her friend, Sonata highly recommended PledgeStar, saying, "I really want you to see PledgeStar because I think it's going to be a game changer for how you do your Fun Runs moving forward."
Hermosa Vista Elementary in Mesa Arizona is in for a bright new school year following its annual Color Run, which took place at the end of September. This year's fundraiser brought in approximately $22,000. "We're really really proud of our students," says administrator Trisha Marcum, beaming. "When you look at how about 180 students raised $22,000, it's amazing."
Hermosa Vista used PledgeStar in 2019 and excitedly returned in 2022 for its fundraiser. Trisha says the committee tried a different site in 2021, but that it was "a total disaster." She continues, "We decided we will never use them again. We came back to PledgeStar for the Color Run because it's so much easier."
Trisha says the school loves PledgeStar and that the PTO has added a note to all of its materials: "PledgeStar is the only site you need to do the Color Run."
Hermosa Vista found that PledgeStar is easy to use "both on the administrator side and the parent side." PledgeStar makes it painless for event coordinators to pull "the top classes, the top students, and to pull reports for which students get which rewards." Trisha notes how simple it is for parents and guardians to sign their kids up and send out donation requests.
Trisha points out that PledgeStar's new company match donation tool was "great" for Hermosa Vista's fundraiser: "We were able to understand the matching businesses' needs and sign up how they needed. It was easy peasy."
To motivate students, the staff put thermometer goal posts around campus. "We used construction paper to fill the thermometers when the students reached goals. We updated and listed the rewards for the kids every day or so, so that they had a visual and could say, 'We're so close to the principal prank' or 'to the dunk tank.'"
The hard work paid off: "It was a great day. Every student gets to participate in the Color Run. We had huge bins filled with water and water guns and we alternated between water stations and powder stations." To make the Run as fun and colorful as possible, each of the powder stations had a different color.
In order to go the extra mile for students, Hermosa Vista offered an alternative to their Color Run: a Color Glow Party. "We have balloons and tape and things that glow in the dark. There are blacklights and everything is off. We have music and the students get to dance and enjoy all that while the Color Run is going on. The kids party, then all of the students meet and take a picture for their grade. The kids all get popsicles to cool down, then change clothes and go on with their day."
When Bradshaw Christian School in Sacramento, California, shut down along with the rest of the world in 2020, Ann Gomez, development director, was nervous about the future of their 28-year-old annual fundraiser.
"We made plans to bring back the Jog-A-Thon in 2021," Ms. Gomez explains. "With all the changes at school and the need to do something different with students at home, we started looking at online opportunities. It just made sense to make the leap with PledgeStar."
Making a big change to the decades-old fundraiser wasn't without concern. "The Jog-A-Thon is our main fundraiser, our golden goose," Ms. Gomez says. "While looking for an online platform, we were also weighed down by thoughts that the old method had worked for so long. As much as online made more sense, including postage and paper savings, with the old way we were guaranteed the money we'd been earning for more than 20 years."
Those fears were quickly squashed once Bradshaw signed on with PledgeStar and the Jog-A-Thon profits increased—so much so that the event was PledgeStar's top earner of the year with $370,000.
Using PledgeStar also helped Bradshaw connect with current tech-savvy parents. After nearly 30 years of the pen-and-paper method, Ms. Gomez admits that the school's pivot to online was long overdue. "The ease of technology is what made our fundraiser with PledgeStar successful. The ability to send 20, 30, 100 emails or texts with your photo and your own webpage is really attractive to younger generations. With the rapid embracing of smartphones and apps, there is a generation of parents at our school that are used to doing things this way. It really speaks their language."
Despite Bradshaw's past financial success, Ms. Gomez recollects how labor-intensive their previous method was and how adopting PledgeStar was a game-changer. "We had teams of parents spend 2 to 3 weeks processing all the paper pledges. Each of our 1,500 students would turn in forms with handwritten addresses and we had to process them. With PledgeStar, we only need a couple volunteers because the platform does the work for you."
And for Bradshaw, efficiency is key. "This year, when we used PledgeStar for the second time," Ms. Gomez shares, "The parents were really pleased that their information had been saved, which made it very easy for them to register this year." She also recalls that the parents see it as money-saving with the elimination of paper or postage and raves about the dashboard and how easy it is to pull up reports quickly. The flexibility offered with PledgeStar allowed Bradshaw to keep the paper option for families who wanted it. It's no wonder that the school used PledgeStar for a second time in 2022, raising over $350,000, and plans to continue with the platform in 2023.
Even before they used PledgeStar, Bradshaw's Jog-A-Thon raised $160,000 a year, and that number almost doubled after the switch. They're able to fund athletics, technology, campus security, playground equipment, and curriculum with donations alone. "We make sure there's an item for each school level that funds will go toward including preschool, elementary, middle and high school," says Ms. Gomez.
The event itself is a school-year highlight for students, parents, and teachers alike. "We have prizes and parties based on financial participation for each school level," says Ms. Gomez. "Parents are invited to watch or even run with the kids if they want to. There's music and bubbles to make it fun. Some of the kids even have painted hair. It's something everyone looks forward to."
At Golden Elementary in Placentia, California, it's not just the kids who benefit from the Jog-A-Thon they've run through PledgeStar for the past three years—it's the teachers, too. “We also award the teacher from the classroom that raises the most money with a gift card,” says Jennifer Murphy, former Jog-A-Thon chair and current committee member. “We know how important it is for the teachers to help us promote it.”
Before Ms. Murphy found PledgeStar in 2019, Golden Elementary was running their fundraiser completely on their own, so they had no outside help with accounting for donations. “I called about 5 or 6 different companies,” says Ms. Murphy. “The lower cost of PledgeStar really stood out. Other companies took a percentage without a cap like PledgeStar. Another company I contacted took 30 percent.”
Ms. Murphy explains that Golden Elementary's team of volunteers didn't need the extra services that came with the higher fees of other companies. What they were looking for was a way to manage donations easily and efficiently. “We had lots of cash and checks going back and forth prior to using PledgeStar, and it was kind of a recipe for disaster.”
With PledgeStar, Golden Elementary was able to eliminate the confusing back and forth of manually accounting for incoming funds. “With PledgeStar, we earned more money than we ever had before,” says Ms. Murphy. “The year before finding PledgeStar, we earned about $80,000-$90,000. Our first year with PledgeStar, we earned almost $140,000.”
The school's volunteers appreciated how PledgeStar established honest communication with the school. “We were able to take online donations but also continue with cash or checks if that's how people wanted to donate,” says Ms. Murphy. “There was no other fee associated with allowing us to do that. It was very transparent.”
Not only is PledgeStar transparent, they're also user-friendly. “Families at the school said it was really easy for people to use and was really great for donors who live out of state or even just out of the neighborhood,” Ms. Murphy says.
PledgeStar made it easy for classrooms to track their donations daily and engage in friendly competition. “It was a lot easier to do the accounting. Families were able to look on the leaderboard and see where they were ranked,” Ms. Murphy explains.
In addition to raising funds for their school, the students at Golden really enjoyed getting outside and exercising for a good cause. “On the day of the Jog-A-Thon, we have a DJ on campus playing music to get the kids excited to run,” says Ms. Murphy. “We have 3 different tracks on the campus and for each round, 2 classes run on each track, so 6 classrooms at once.” We incorporated sweet treats into their prizes—after they ran, everyone got popsicles,” says Ms. Murphy. “The kids had a great time.”
Ms. Murphy explains that Golden Elementary got the kids excited for the fundraiser with awesome prizes. “We give the students 2-3 weeks to get pledges,” she says. “We have different prize levels for money raised. Some kids win a game truck experience, some kids get a hot lunch delivered to school from a local restaurant, and in the past we've awarded kids with taking a limo to lunch or a laser tag experience.”
The parent volunteers also introduced class-wide prizes so that students would encourage each other to participate. “If a whole class participates, they get a pizza or ice cream party. We also give prizes for highest class earner and highest grade level earner.”
It wasn't just a fun day—the kids, parent volunteers, and teachers raised an incredible amount of money for their school. In the past, Golden Elementary has put the funds toward technology. This year, they're branching out. “We haven't decided exactly what to do with the funds yet, but will most likely put it toward what we've funded in the past: school field trips, teacher stipends, movie nights on campus, funding the school play, books for the classrooms, campus printers, and the Reflections program,” says Ms. Murphy.
PledgeStar always helped raise more with less work than any other online fundraising system, and three new features take it to the next level:
Rachel del Monte with Ulloa Elementary in San Francisco raves about PledgeStar’s donation matching feature. “Our families were thrilled with how easy PledgeStar makes corporate matching gifts count toward their children's goals,” she says. “Sometimes large companies take three months to process matching gifts, but with PledgeStar, it counts right away.” “Donation matching increased our fundraising 10%!”.
“PledgeStar's new mobile app helped make our fundraiser successful,” says Ann Gomez of Bradshaw Christian School. “The ability to easily email or text donation requests right from your phone's address book is really attractive to younger generations. With the rapid embrace of smartphones and apps, there is a generation of parents at our school that are used to doing things this way.” It was a long-overdue shift according to Ms. Gomez. “It really speaks their language.”
Finally, PledgeStar’s fee coverage option lets donors cover credit card and platform fees. Alia Hedges, from Cooper Mountain Elementary’s PTA, explained that this feature convinced her school to use PledgeStar. “We used PledgeStar’s Fee Coverage feature that lets donors elect to cover credit card and platform fees. It was amazing. It’s hard to give up any money during a fundraiser, and the donations we raised this year covered 100% of the fees.”
Each year PledgeStar finds new ways to help raise more and work less.
So what are you waiting for? Contact PledgeStar today to start your most successful fundraiser.
Emmanuel-St. Michael Lutheran School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, has taken a healthy lifestyle approach to fundraising. “We want our event to be two-fold: a healthy initiative for our school as well as a fundraiser,” says volunteer coordinator Janet Smith.
Appropriately named “Eagles in Motion,” evoking the school’s mascot, Emmanuel-St. Michael’s walk/jog-a-thon celebrated its third year using PledgeStar with a big financial plan. “We set a goal of raising $50 per student or $75 per family,” says Ms. Smith. “This puts us at the $20,000 mark, which we have been able to hit each year.”
Ms. Smith and the volunteers at Emmanuel-St. Michael credit their financial success to community support and using the PledgeStar platform. “Our families appreciate that they can share their personalized donation request with people from out of town and they don’t have to be a middle person who has to collect money. It’s very simple to use; that’s what’s nice about it.”
Emmanuel-St. Michael’s focus on health doesn’t end when the Eagles in Motion event is over. The PTL [Parent Teacher League] prefers to steer funds toward healthy purchases—both mind and body—for the school. “The earnings support our entire PTL and all the projects we support,” explains Ms. Smith. “Over the years we’ve purchased water-filling stations, replaced playground equipment, added awnings and a pergola, purchased classroom and library books, and funded special teacher projects.” This year, the school also plans to use a portion of their proceeds to purchase live-streaming equipment for school activities and programs.
The school extends the healthy slant toward student incentives as well. “All of our prizes are healthy and activity based, rather than junk food—things like headlamps, T-shirts, bouncy balls, cooling towels, lunch coolers, and water bottles.”
The PTL also discovered a way to tap into the 8th grade families who often don’t heavily commit to fundraising since it’s their last year at the school. “This year we allowed our 8th graders to use funds raised through Eagles in Motion for their trip to Washington, DC,” explains Ms. Smith. “The first $50 each student raised went to PTL and anything beyond that went into their trip account. It was a great way for us to get the 8th graders involved and to get their donors to cover their trip expenses. And with the PledgeStar platform, it was very easy to allocate those funds to each student’s account.”
Rarely do kids get a chance to laugh at their parents, but the 1,027 students of Belen Soto Elementary in Goodyear, Arizona, recently enjoyed this rare privilege.
“The kids just loved the color run itself because by the end of the day the parents who were throwing color were covered in the powder,” says Tabby Hatfield, PTA treasurer and FUNDRun co-leader at Belen Soto. “I was throwing the green color and by the end of the day I looked like Hulk. Our blue person looked like a Smurf and our orange person looked like an Oompa Loompa! The kids thought it was hilarious!”
This was the school’s first time using PledgeStar, a switch that was long overdue. “For this event, we had always used another company that takes half of what you raise. We wanted to stop paying so much money,” explains Ms. Hatfield.
Belen Soto has the unique experience of a principal with a personal connection. “Our principal also has a child at the school and used PledgeStar from a parent standpoint. She liked that she could follow the dashboard and keep up with the donation levels by classroom rather than having to run a report every day.”
Ms. Hatfield raves about how easy and convenient the PledgeStar website is to use. “I really appreciated that I could categorize the different prize winners based on the runner, the amount they raised, teacher, and that we could log our prizes on the PledgeStar site. It helped us keep track of who we had given prizes to and it was super helpful.”
As is typical with schools who make the switch to PledgeStar, Belen Soto did not expect such a dramatic increase in funds. “We were hoping to raise $50,000 and ended up raising $61,000.”
PledgeStar was a huge help in getting the kids and parents excited about Belen Soto’s event. “We announced the fundraiser six weeks in advance and opened up the fundraiser a week before the run. Every week we were sending some sort of notice home. We sent flyers home with the kids and sent emails. We had a big online packet we sent out through PledgeStar. The teachers were really instrumental in getting that out and reminding parents to check their email.”
Belen Soto’s color run this past February was called the Rainbow Fun Run. “Instead of a 5K where everyone runs at once, we had 2 grade levels come out at a time every 40 minutes. We invited the parents of those grade levels to come be color throwers.”
“The run was the last day of a week-long event we call Storm Week. Every day we had a character trait event. The “S” stands for service, so the kids did an act of service on Monday, like thank-you notes or picking up trash. Teamwork, ownership, respect, motivation. M was Friday and the color run–they were motivated to run and raise money for the school.”
Belen Soto worked hard to get the word out about the Rainbow Fun Run and motivate the kids to raise as much money as possible. “We made a few bumpers that we sent out in the morning announcements. We created videos and powerpoints with music and animations. We had prizes for $25, $50, $100, all the way to $1,000. We had 4 kids that all reached over $1,000 in pledges.”
“We are going to provide shade structures over the playground and a seating area outside,” says Hatfield when asked how they’ll use the funds from the event. “We will definitely use PledgeStar next year.”
Village Christian Elementary in Sun Valley, CA, has a history of success with PledgeStar. “We’ve been using PledgeStar for 4 years,” explains Parent Teacher Fellowship (PTF) president Kristen Reynolds. “We were searching online for a platform that would help us conduct our fundraisers in a better way when we found PledgeStar. We were looking for something very user-friendly.”
After spending a couple years using competing platforms for the school’s two major fundraisers, the PTF realized they could successfully use PledgeStar for both. “In the fall we have a Read A Thon,” Ms. Reynolds explains. “And in the spring we have Race for Education, our Jog-A-Thon. We’ve always used PledgeStar for Race for Education but were using another platform for the Read A Thon. Once we realized PledgeStar would work for both events, we switched both fundraisers to PledgeStar.”
As all schools know, online fundraising platforms can promise success, but they only work if families are on board with the program and schools find it easy to use. “PledgeStar is very streamlined, very user-friendly,” says Ms. Reynolds. “I love that I can always run a report for anything we’re tracking, and if I ever need anything the response is so quick and responsive. We get the most for our money with PledgeStar. We have no complaints.”
Ms. Reynolds credits PledgeStar’s ease of use with the school’s success. “It’s so easy for families to set up their page,” she explains. “All they have to do is personalize it and send it to their friends and family. They can use social media, text message, and email. It’s just so easy. We still have parents who write checks, but that is also easy to account for with PledgeStar.”
Like many schools, the past couple years have been challenging, especially when it comes to fundraising. Village Christian learned that with a great platform, anything can be achieved. “Last year, with school being online, we had the least amount of students involved in the Read A Thon than in the past but raised the most money we ever have—just over $28,000 with only half of our students participating.”
Once the Read A Thon concluded, Village Christian had to decide how to allocate the funds. Ms. Reynolds explains how the PTF makes those decisions: “We meet with the school to find out what they need, then bring those requests to the PTF board. This year, we used some of the money to provide tuition assistance for families struggling with employment during the pandemic. We also purchased outside seating and shade structures for the campus so that some lessons could be taught outside with fresh air. We are also building a new lounge for teacher aides.”
Part of running a fundraiser is fielding questions from families. This can take up valuable time, especially when you are relying on a group of volunteers who have other work and familial commitments. PledgeStar’s platform strives to significantly reduce this. “I’ve never had a complaint about PledgeStar,” says Ms. Reynolds. “In the past when we’ve used other platforms, there’s always been problems and lots of questions. PledgeStar is so streamlined, and there’s not a lot of room for error. I’ve not had any hiccups. It’s so simple, and no ever has any complaints.”
The PTA at Falcon Academy of Science and Technology in Brea, CA, know that their coding immersion program is a wonderful opportunity for students. They also know the value of having someone else manage the ones and zeroes when it comes to fundraising.
“When I joined the PTA, we were doing fundraising the old-school way with stacks of cash and checks. It was horrible,” says PTA treasurer Jim Bailey. “We got on board with PledgeStar the following year and got our feet wet. The next year we tried to do it ourselves, including coding our own website—that was a nightmare. I would tell others to not even try. We basically coded up and implemented a ‘poor man’s’ copy of PledgeStar and it was a massive endeavor. Had we continued down that road, it would have been an entire year of work to do it ourselves again the following year. We immediately decided not to do that and go back to PledgeStar.”
Falcon Academy also learned what happens when a school population used to writing checks becomes accustomed to using an online fundraising platform. “After using PledgeStar for a few years,” Jim explains, “our online pledges have gone from a quarter of the total pledges to over 90 percent. Having everything online is more efficient and less work for our small band of volunteers.”
Falcon’s 2021 fundraising event, the Falcon Olympics, was the best of both worlds: efficient for volunteers and financially successful. “Our goal was $40,000 and we ended up pulling in $50,000. This year we raised the most money we ever have.”
The students of Falcon Academy were duly rewarded for their financial success. The PTA offered many incentives to keep the students and families interested in the event. “We told the kids that if the school exceeded the overall goal we would have a BMX stunt group come to the school and do a demo. The students who exceeded our per-student goal get to visit a game truck we are bringing to campus.”
While Falcon is computer coding focused, funds raised through PledgeStar go to more than computer science. The PTA at Falcon wants to make sure that a wide variety of enrichment is offered to its students. “We fund a math program and a couple reading programs that the teachers want to use but the district and state don’t fund. We also recently funded the addition of a large climbing structure to our playground.”
When asked what’s best about partnering with PledgeStar, Jim is quick to respond. “It’s so easy and convenient for families to go online and make pledges. Using PledgeStar allows donations to come in from relatives and friends in other parts of the country,” he says.top image: https://cdn.pledgestar.com/info/images/Falcon.jpg
The staff and faculty of Butler Elementary in Avon, Massachusetts, pride themselves on not only offering top-notch academic instruction but also instilling important values in their students. This was on full display during the September 2021 Butler CARES Course fundraiser—a 10 day event that culminated in a fun run/obstacle course.
“We have 5 values we focus on during the year,” explains parent volunteer Shannon Coffey. “During the fundraiser, we highlighted one of those values each day: cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control. We asked community members, like the police chief and the fire chief, to make videos about a specific value and had the teachers show them in the classrooms to get the kids excited about the fundraiser.”
Clearly their enthusiasm paid off: Butler easily surpassed their $35,000 goal and completely funded all field trips and enrichment programs for the 2021-22 school year. Since donations exceeded expectations, they were also able to fulfill their dream of building an outdoor classroom that will be available to every student on campus.
Ms. Coffey credits this year’s success to the amazing Butler community but also the school’s partnership with PledgeStar. “After using another company for online fundraising,” Ms. Coffey says, “We had several parents frustrated that a lot of profit went to the company that ran it. A friend had posted on social media about using PledgeStar, so I looked it up and compared it to a couple other sites. We really liked what PledgeStar had to offer. Not having to upload all the names ourselves and allowing people to register on their own really appealed to us along with the lower cost.”
Ms. Coffey and her team of volunteers also realized they could reward students in more efficient and economic ways—and also more equitable depending on family financial circumstances.
“We tried to stay away from spending money on a bunch of trinkets and instead gave the students raffle tickets incrementally depending on how much they raised,” Ms. Coffey explains. “Some of the raffle prizes were a ride to school on a fire truck or police car, principal for a day, cupcake parties, tablets, FitBits, and hoverboards. The raffle gave every kid a chance to win no matter how much they raised.”
The volunteers at Butler also understood that not all family members would want to donate online and appreciated that PledgeStar also provided the option to raise funds the old-fashioned way. “With our prior vendor, we couldn’t accept checks or cash in addition to online donations,” says Ms. Coffey. “I think we definitely earned more by having that option with PledgeStar.”
One of the many surprises during this year’s CARES Course fundraiser was the dramatic increase in sponsors—from 5 to 26. By using the PledgeStar platform, Butler Elementary was able to acknowledge these generous donors and share their information with the community. “I loved that we could put our sponsors on our PledgeStar page,” says Ms. Coffey. “We could also put photos of the prizes on our page and I think it really helped motivate the kids.
While asking for money can be challenging, following up can be even harder. Parent volunteers are typically not comfortable playing the role of bill collector, and PledgeStar includes easy payment reminder emails as part of the platform, which the volunteers at Butler really appreciated. “We were able to follow up on outstanding payments via PledgeStar,” explains Ms. Coffee. “And by sending out reminders, we got the checks within the next day or two. PledgeStar was just so helpful in every way we needed.”
Cooper Mountain Elementary in Beaverton, Oregon, believes that all students should be able to read every book their heart desires, regardless of their family’s financial situation. This was even more important during their 2021 Cougar Run fundraiser, with many families still struggling.
“There’s a big literacy focus at our school, including the Oregon Battle of the Books state reading competition,” says PTO event organizer Alia Hedges. “But our school tends to never have enough money for the school library, so every year the PTO invests in books from the OBOB reading list. We want to make sure all kids have access to OBOB books without a financial barrier.”
This is where funds from the Cougar Run prove to be vital. “We made $24,000 last year, but this year we set a goal of $15,000,” says Ms. Hedges. “This lower goal was based on people being out of work and not wanting to put any strain on families. But in the end, much to our surprise, we ended up making over $30,000.”
Cooper Mountain credits this unexpected windfall with their use of PledgeStar.
“We used to send home paper envelopes with each student to collect cash and checks,” explains Ms. Hedges. “Then, a parent who had experience with PledgeStar through school sports suggested we modernize and use the platform at Cooper Mountain for a broader reach. It was awesome to see how easy it was to make significantly more money with less work.”
In addition to the increase in money earned, Ms. Hedges explains how PledgeStar’s ease of use made a difference while planning the Cougar Run. “Technology can be overwhelming, but I couldn’t believe how easy it was to use PledgeStar—it’s definitely the easiest part of running our fundraiser. It also makes it easy to give: my mom is 75 and she can submit a donation in 2 minutes. It was also amazing to see the number of responses our kids got by sending out donation request letters through PledgeStar.”
Once the event concluded and donations were tallied, Cooper Mountain PTO wanted to practice the act of paying it forward. “We decided to put community support first,” says Ms. Hedges. “In addition to supporting teachers with the purchase of classroom technology, we partnered with staff to help families in need on our campus. We helped with rent, mortgage payments and even Christmas presents.”
Ms. Hedges discussed the process of getting the PTO and school on board with using an online fundraising platform and the concerns that often arise when paying for a service. “This year, we participated in PledgeStar’s pilot program to have donors cover the administrative fee. It was amazing. It’s hard to give up any money during a fundraiser, and the donations we raised this year with the pilot program covered the platform fee 100%.”
In these tumultuous financial times, Ms. Hedges reflects about the changing face of school fundraising. “It’s been awesome to see how we can keep fundraising significant,” she says. “If we weren’t using PledgeStar, I think it would be really challenging. Parents would definitely forget to donate, and I think the Cougar Run would have been somewhat disastrous. It’s almost ironic to think that in a period where we’d most likely be struggling to hit our targets, we are actually doubling them. I really attribute a lot of that to PledgeStar making it so easy, for families who are able, to give easily and give significantly.”
Considering PledgeStar’s new fee coverage program where donors can opt-in to cover our fee but have cold feet? Well, now’s the time to pull the trigger on this revolutionary concept. The results are in from our Fall 2021 test pilot program and the consensus is an overwhelming YES!
Schools across the nation demoed our opt-in program—where donors can add an additional 10% toward PledgeStar’s and Credit Card fees at checkout—and every campus was successful. Amazingly, every school not only covered PledgeStar’s fees but had a substantial amount left over to offset and in most cases completely cover their credit card fees. The best part was all overages went right back to each school.
The numbers say it all:
Still unsure? Keep reading to see a school's experience with the opt in option and how they raised 20 times more that previous fundraisers!
When Principal Tom MacDonald was approached by new parent and experienced fundraiser Matthew McDonald about taking St. Jerome School’s annual Fun Run campaign online for the first time, he was slightly skeptical. The small K-8 campus in West Los Angeles had collected donations the old-fashioned way for years, and MacDonald was concerned about getting involved with a company that would potentially keep a large portion of the school’s profit.
What sealed the deal for Principal MacDonald was PledgeStar’s new option that asks donors to pledge an additional 10% to cover administrative fees—potentially making the service free for St. Jerome’s. “This was significant for us because we had no idea how much we were going to raise,” says Matthew McDonald. “The school had been living in a manual, paper environment for so long. We didn’t want to bring the principal a high-tech digital method that was going to suck up all his profit.”
“I had used the additional 10% option with another platform at another school a couple years ago and found it to be hugely successful,” says Matthew. “When we heard it was an option with PledgeStar, it was a no-brainer. We saw over 50% of people selecting that option. Since most donations tend to be in the $10-$50 range, when donors check the box [to add 10%] they’re making the judgement that it’s only an extra one to five dollars. It tends to be easy all the way around. When people commit to paying $20, they’re not going to think too much about paying an extra $2.”
Once the event kicked off, Matthew suggested setting a goal of raising 10 times more than the year before. In the end, St. Jerome’s leap of faith paid off: by partnering with PledgeStar, the October 2021 Fun Run actually raised 20 times more than the year before.
“This year’s Fun Run brought in more money than the entire last two school years' total fundraising efforts [St. Jerome raises funds in many ways, such as selling Christmas trees and gift wrap],” explains Matthew. “The principal was blown away. We thought this year would be a big improvement [using PledgeStar] but we didn’t expect it to reach this level.”
When asked if PledgeStar contributed to this massive donation increase, Matthew agreed. “Ultimately, PledgeStar's ease of use was a key factor. The easier you can make something, the better chance you’ve got to get donations. You can reach people using PledgeStar in multiple ways, quickly and easily—email, text, social media posts. It also makes the somewhat uncomfortable task of asking for money easier. PledgeStar handles the followup requests, the gentle reminders. We saw a flurry of donations come in after reminder notes were sent, so clearly they have an impact. If it were left to the individual, I’m sure you’d get a really low percentage of people wanting to hit up a family member or friend a second or third time,” Matthew adds.
The excitement at St. Jerome over the fundraiser’s success wasn’t limited to the principal and event organizers. Since the Fun Run was so successful, every student was able to participate in almost every incentivized reward related to the Fun Run. Special rewards like a lunchtime dance party, a movie night and even watching the principal shave his head were enjoyed by the entire student body.
In the end, Matthew says it was the support of PledgeStar that really contributed to the Fun Run’s success. “I didn’t want to sign up with a company and then get lost in the mix and only have a few days to fundraise. PledgeStar really helped us get through everything and had great answers for all our questions.”
The students at Charles Wright Academy in Tacoma, Washington, have learned the valuable lesson that it’s often better to give than to receive. As Director of Development, Laura Rose, explains, the students and their families not only give their time but also share their good fortune each year simply because they care about their school. That giving took on an extra special meaning during this year’s annual Jog-A-Thon.
Charles Wright Academy has been using PledgeStar as it’s fundraising platform for several years. “It makes it really easy for families to participate,” Ms. Rose explains. “They only have to register once and don’t have to re-enter all of their information each year. The PledgeStar system gives them an option to send requests to everyone they did last year.”
Thanks in part to using the PledgeStar platform, Charles Wright Academy was able to surpass their goal of $20,000—raising almost $26,000 at this year’s event.
While many schools rely on prizes or incentives to motivate students, Charles Wright Academy takes a different approach with fundraising. “We’ve not done any big incentives [for the students] like prizes,” says Ms. Rose. “We’ve kept it focused on supporting their school. Everybody runs whether they’re participating in the fundraiser or not. It’s been a long-standing tradition for at least 30 years.”
Each year, the Academy designates Jog-A-Thon proceeds for a specific school need. Past projects have included new playground equipment, new bike racks, and even water bottle filling stations. This year, Jog-A-Thon proceeds helped with the extra expenses incurred to keep students safe and continue in-person learning on campus during the pandemic. Additionally, after witnessing so many food banks serving many more people than usual, the school made the decision to share their good fortune. “Normally all the money has gone toward the school for class parties or other special purchases,” Ms. Rose explains. “This year, we decided to give half of the revenue to one of our community partners, one of the local food banks [Emergency Food Network]. I think that fact contributed to people being much more generous this year,” says Ms. Rose. Charles Wright’s generous donation helped the food bank provide more than 60,000 meals to needy families in the community.
Charles Wright Academy parent, MarcKia Wilson, shared the school’s decision to pay it forward. “My son said, ‘Mom, if my family was in need, I hope that somebody in the community would step up to help us get back on our feet.’ He feels it’s our responsibility to give back to the community and help it grow because this is where we live.”
Ms. Wilson was also impressed with how easy it was to use PledgeStar. “A lot of parents have a lot going on—from work, to children—and the PledgeStar platform is simple. It was so easy that my son was able to pull email addresses from my contacts and put them in the system. It’s simple, quick, easy and I love that folks can leave little messages to support the kids.”
Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva day school proudly describes itself as a “warm community of learners.” Certainly part of that value is displayed in the students’ love of and dedication to reading. This past April, the school’s parent group (RPRY+) encouraged the more than 200 students of RPRY to not only read every day, but also help raise more than $20,000 for their school’s general fund during their annual Read-A-Thon.
“I did a lot of research and spent a lot of time going to different websites,” explains RPRY+ member Shoshana Lapp. “Price-wise, PledgeStar was definitely the best. The fact that they cap their fee was huge; it let us get as much profit as possible.”
As a busy mother of four, Ms. Lapp also recognized that simple technology would be important to other RPRY families. “It was just so easy to use,” says Ms. Lapp. “Setting it up was easy. The people at PledgeStar were really helpful. When I tried to set up a demo with other websites, it was just too complicated. I thought, ‘I don’t have time for this.’ Pledgestar was definitely helpful. We couldn’t have done [the Read-A-Thon] by ourselves.”
While the dedicated student body of RPRY are already avid readers, the RPRY+ team knew students would need an extra incentive to find sponsors for their Read-A-Thon account. Since the event was called “Pop Open a Good Book,” the answer was obvious.
“Any class that had 100% participation in the fundraiser got a popcorn party,” shares Ms. Lapp. “We got a popcorn machine and the kids got to watch it being made, which was really fun for them. They had the popcorn in movie-theater style bags and got to pick from a bunch of popcorn toppings. It was very messy but the kids loved it! It was a great incentive to get that last kid in the class signed up so the class could get the popcorn party.”
Like many schools have discovered with the PledgeStar platform, the ability to share event data in real time is incredibly valuable. “The reports were probably the most useful,” says Ms. Lapp. “The prize report was very helpful. I really liked that I could go into our PledgeStar account and see which kids had received prizes. When I ran a report, I could see who I already gave prizes to and who still needed to get theirs. It was very easy to export the report and sort by what I needed to do. It was also helpful to provide to our controller so he could cross-reference all the donations.”
While PledgeStar focuses on online donations during school fundraisers, they also realize that not all family members may have that capability—especially grandparents and older neighbors who want to support the school but are not comfortable using technology. “It was really great that we could also accept checks and cash in addition to online donations,'' says Ms. Lapp. “It was easy to enter cash or check donations into the PledgeStar system and give the correct student credit.”
At the conclusion of RPRY’s Read-A-Thon, each student who read every day of the event was eligible to win one of two spiritwear prizes. “The parents were able to use the reading log part of PledgeStar to keep track of their child’s reading progress and the kids who won the raffle were really excited,” says Ms. Lapp.
The families of All Saints School in Portland, Oregon, celebrates spring with an annual Jog-a-Thon fundraiser and auction. When the parent-run committee realized the auction wasn’t feasible this year, concerns grew about meeting the school’s fundraising goals. That’s when PledgeStar came to the rescue.
“Another Catholic school in Portland had used PledgeStar and reached out to us,” says Nathan Freeberg, a parent volunteer on the fundraising committee. “I can’t speak highly enough about [PledgeStar], and how great it was from every aspect. Put me down for however many stars are possible—I’ll give it 12 stars!”
Like many schools working with fundraising technology for the first time, the All Saints committee had many questions. “PledgeStar was so helpful and answered the million questions we had along the way,” says Freeberg. “Our school was still using the paper-and-pencil method of tracking fundraising and was very hesitant about doing an online fundraiser at all. But by the end, the school administration said they couldn’t believe they had any concerns and called PledgeStar a lifesaving tool for fundraising this year.”
All Saints had expected to earn $20-$40,000 from their Jog-a-Thon based on previous years’ totals, but decided to set a conservative goal for 2021 of just $25,000. After careful consideration and jumping on-board with the PledgeStar platform, the committee decided to shoot for the stars with a $50,000 goal and a commitment to follow PledgeStar’s recommended tips for a great fundraiser and hope for the best.
All Saints’ gamble—and faith in PledgeStar’s method—paid off: the school blew past its $50,000 goal on day 3 of going live. Riding high on the event’s success, the committee raised the goal on day 4 to $75,000—and hit it by the end of the Jog-a-Thon’s first week. The committee decided to raise the goal one more time—to $100,000—and not only reached it but exceeded it by several thousand dollars. “Our success by using PledgeStar exceeded our wildest expectations,” said Freeberg.
Besides the event’s financial success, the 350 students of All Saints School enjoyed the excitement of the Jog-a-Thon and were incentivized with prizes along the way.
“We presented the prize opportunities [a pizza party for the top earning classroom and top minutes class] at the kick-off event and it really motivated the kids. They got really competitive with asking for donations,” said Freeberg. All Saints teaching staff made checking donation totals part of their morning routine, and the PledgeStar leaderboard made it easy to incorporate into the school day without taking time away from teaching. “That feature of PledgeStar is so great, just to be able to see all that information,” said Freeberg.
All Saints has already decided to use PledgeStar next year. “It enables us to do our job so much more easily and in less time,” said Freeberg. “Before [PledgeStar] it felt like before we were just a bunch of cave people banging rocks together and now that we have PledgeStar it feels like we’re using an expensive stove. It was that different! It was life-changing.”
Sometimes, the best way to discover the benefits of web-based fundraising is by experiencing it from the receiving end. That’s exactly how German International School in Beaverton, Oregon, came to use PledgeStar for its annual “Fit for Fun” event.
“I found out about PledgeStar because my niece’s school used it for their Jog-A-Thon,” says Mandy Cohn, events coordinator at German International School. “I received an email asking for a donation, and I really liked the setup. I liked that they emailed a reminder, just in case I forgot about it after the first email.”
The 200-student elementary school near Portland, Oregon, hosts a student-led Jog-A-Thon each year to raise money for anything from special campus programs to larger structural needs. In 2021, GIS conceived of an outdoor learning center as a way to provide alternatives to traditional indoor classroom instruction. The small preschool-5th grade campus knew substantial funding would be necessary to make this dream a reality.
“We talked about doing a fundraiser,” says Ms. Cohn, “So I brought up PledgeStar and mentioned the email I received from my niece. I presented the concept to my boss and he really liked the idea.”
GIS’s June 2021 “Fit for Fun”—which had students visiting various physical activity stations and earning points—utilized not only the typical elements of PledgeStar’s online fundraising platform, but also the new multilingual offering (a perfect fit for the English, German and Chinese immersion school). The translation element proved to be a key factor in GIS’s financial success when trying to reach not only multilingual homes in Oregon but also international friends and family.
“We easily translated our PledgeStar page and donation requests to English, German and Chinese,” says Ms. Cohn. “It was easy for families to share with others by sending out requests and sharing on social media. It was a great way to get more donations than when we fundraised without PledgeStar.”
Ms. Cohn also explains how using PledgeStar made life easier for campus staff who were already busy with day-to-day responsibilities: “It was so easy for us at the school office,” she says. “We barely had to do anything. Parents signed up their kids, which was also really easy to do. It’s a great program and it reaches more people, which means more donations. If we hadn’t used PledgeStar, we wouldn’t have raised as much money. Even people from Germany donated!”
When all was said and done, GIS surpassed its $25,000 fundraising goal by almost $15,000. Armed with nearly $40,000 from the “Fit for Fun” event, GIS has already begun construction on its new outdoor learning centers. The school explains that these centers will not only provide alternative instruction space but also serve to inspire new and exciting learning opportunities for all grade levels for years to come. Thanks to a successful fundraiser, GIS will be able to further its mission of teaching the power of nature, spending time outdoors and taking care of the environment.
For the past 8 years The PledgeStar Online Fundraising System has helped schools, sports teams, and youth groups make the transition away from door-to-door fundraising and product sales to online fundraising which is easy, efficient, and saves money. Families and participants can sign up online, send out pledge requests, and start collecting donations in less than 15 minutes! Whether you are new to online fundraising or just shaking the dust off after a long lock down, here's a few features PledgeStar recently added to its already extensive list to help make your next fundraiser the best one yet:
For a list of more features click here. If you are looking for a specific feature that you don’t see or have any other questions please reach out to our fundraising team at email@example.com or (949) 215-4458.
For its March 2021 fundraiser, the Bathgate PTA took its endeavors indoors with the campus “Fun Run” reimagined as a Read A Thon. Armed with two school-wide goals—$25,000 earned and 250,000 minutes read—the students hit the ground reading. Though their goals were hefty, Bathgate families managed to exceed expectations and raise $55,000, more than double their original goal! Students had some amazing—and low cost—incentives that motivated them: virtual bingo with the principal, a tricycle race among the teachers filmed and later viewed in each classroom, and a teacher-created TikTok featuring said teachers dancing to “Chicken Wing” by Viral DJs. As an additional incentive, when the student body hit $25,000 in donations, the school mascot “Beau the Blazer” came to life and greeted students during drop-off and pickup! With PledgeStar managing the accounting end of the Read A Thon, the small but mighty group of Bathgate volunteers had time to go above and beyond expectations to create an unforgettable experience for Bathgate students during an emotionally challenging year.
When all was said and done, it was clear that PledgeStar won “best fundraising platform” for Bathgate’s students, teachers, and families. “At a school with 600 kids, tallying all of the money by hand is time consuming, and an event this size is difficult to coordinate. PledgeStar does the work for you,” said Sarah Menchaca, Bathgate PTA’s president. “You can run reports with a couple clicks, and PledgeStar lets you know how much money you’ve earned each day.” Menhaca explained that the school needed far fewer volunteers since the platform was so user-friendly and was able to take tasks off the hands of event volunteers.
With the help of PledgeStar, Menchaca explained, Bathgate was able to reach a broader audience and raise money without enforcing socioeconomic discrimination. “We are definitely using PledgeStar again,” said Menchaca, “and next time we’ll also use their translation element. We have a diverse student body, and this feature would be incredibly useful to us.”
In the fall of 2020, Manchester GATE Elementary School students had a special guest for their online “Groove-a-Thon” fundraiser. Former student Carlos Perez led the students in an exciting online dance program from the comfort of their homes in order to raise money for the school.
Manchester GATE Elementary is a second through sixth-grade magnet school in Fresno, California. It is identified as a “magnet school” because it is composed of gifted students from various districts and areas around Fresno. Students who pass the gifted and talented exam are challenged with grade level projects and courses designed for their special population. Perez was one of these students fifteen years ago and his decision to help out with the fundraiser was welcomed by the staff and families.
“One of the teachers remembered that Carlos does Dance-A-Thon fundraisers on YouTube for local non-profits. We decided to ask him because we knew we had to do something different this year,” said Principal Janet Gengozian. “He is just an energetic guy who is excited to give back to our school!”
Gengozian and school volunteers decided to call the event a “Boove and Groove” because it was held close to Halloween. Students were encouraged to wear costumes while they danced to Halloween-themed music in their living rooms. Parents sent pictures to school staff and posted them on the school Facebook page. Before the big party, students and parents used PledgeStar to collect online donations from family and friends. Students were able to raise thousands by just sending out a few requests each from their personal PledgeStar portal, all without leaving their home!
Manchester GATE is truly a unique school with a diverse student body. Because the students come from several areas in and around Fresno, they differ in socio-economic backgrounds. One thing they all do have in common, though, is that they are both talented and privileged to belong to such a unique community.
Like many schools dependent on annual fundraisers to help with curriculum and program costs, Redwood Christian Schools wasn’t sure what to expect from this year’s Jog-A-Thon fundraiser. Located in San Francisco, Redwood Christian Schools has a student population of over 700 students in grades TK-12. At the time of their annual Jog-A-Thon in January 2021, nearly 10% of their student population was not on campus due to COVID restrictions.
Mike Kady, Director of Advancement at Redwood Christian Schools, said “for this year’s Jog-A-Thon, our initial goal was $100,000. Normally we would set it a little higher, but with COVID I told the superintendent if we reached $100,000, that would be great.” In the end, despite the limitations that COVID placed on their Jog-A-Thon, Redwood Christian Schools still pulled in an impressive $145,000. “This was beyond our expectations!” Kady said.
While RCS has been using Pledgestar for the past five years with great success, something new and exciting about this year’s Jog-A-Thon fundraiser was Pledgestar’s new Multilingual feature. This new feature allows Pledgestar users to have event information and pledge requests translated into a different language via a simple drop-down menu. Currently, Pledgestar offers translations into over 50 different languages! To date, nearly 70 fundraising events, including the RCS Jog-A-Thon, have used the multilingual feature.
This year, RCS had a request to send out Pledgestar donation requests in Spanish. Thanks to the multilingual feature, RCS was able to reach a large number of their Spanish-speaking families, which undoubtedly contributed to this year’s fundraising success.
RCS has been using Pledgestar since 2016. Previously, they were exclusively using paper packets to send home with their students. When they began using Pledgestar five years ago, they didn’t immediately switch to 100% digital. Instead, they slowly worked their way to a more digital process ending last year at a roughly 50-50 split. However this year, due to COVID, it was 100% digital, 100% Pledgestar. “Per person, this was our biggest money year to date,” Kady said. On average this year, each participating student raised $222. Pre-Pledgestar, Kady noted that each participating RCS student raised $106, which shows that even during a challenging pandemic, using Pledgestar helped RCS increase their per-student average by 109%!
Another Pledgestar advantage Kady realized this year, when he faced running a fundraiser without his usual team of volunteers, was that he actually could run it himself. “Pledgestar has made fundraising much, much easier. Before COVID, I would have 5-10 volunteers working with me daily. Because of PledgeStar’s reporting tools, I was able to run it myself.”
While running a fundraiser single-handedly is not ideal, Pledgestar equips people with many features, tools, and exceptional customer service to run a successful fundraiser with fewer people, if the situation calls for it. “I have to give an A+ to Pledgestar for customer support. Either Emily or Erik would get right back to me,” Kady said.
When asked how he found Pledgestar, Kady replied that he found it online. “We were looking for a hybrid of paper/online. If we pulled in $70-75,000, it would be a good year. Other fundraising platforms were charging 10% off the top. I couldn’t bear to pay the $7,500 in fees. When I saw that Pledgestar charged $995 max, I wondered what happened after the $995. So I called Erik and asked him just that, ‘what happens after that?’ Erik said ‘the invoice stops there.’ And it did! The first year we used Pledgestar, we raised a little over $130,000!” That’s a 45% increase! “Imagine if we had to pay 10% off the top?! That’s money we could use for the students. With Pledgestar, low fees plus great customer service equals a very successful program. The kids are the beneficiaries.”
For PTO President Allison Dvorak and the other members of the South Oceanside Elementary PTO board, the decision to use PledgeStar was an easy one. They researched all their options and conducted interviews with online fundraising companies. Through their research they found some fundraising companies take 50% or more of the funds raised, which was not going to allow the fundraiser to meet their needs. Seeing PledgeStar’s incredibly low rate of 7% that caps at $995, they knew they found their match.
In 2018 they decided to add PledgeStar’s online fundraising system to their annual Jog-A-Thon and have since raised over $66,000 and kept over $62,000 (more than 93%) with the help of PledgeStar! Had Dvorak and the PTO board chosen another fundraising company, they might only have kept $33,000.
In 2021, after several successful years using PledgeStar for their Jog-A-Thon, the PTO Board members were eager to find new ways to add to the fundraising success. The school held annual Read A Thons for the past few years, but never thought to raise money using PledgeStar. The pandemic, with its sudden change to online schooling, pushed the need for a socially-distanced way to raise money. Fortunately, adding PledgeStar to their Read A Thon was a huge success! Earnings doubled from the year before, completely surprising the PTO members, families, and staff who weren’t sure a fundraiser would be as successful during the pandemic.
“We were able to hold a Read A Thon by using PledgeStar’s online reading logs from home,” said Dvorak. “PledgeStar made our fundraiser possible.”
To encourage participation in the event, they knew prizes were a necessity. However, they needed prizes that wouldn’t break the bank. Sticking to the reading theme, Dvorak and the PTO chose to deliver bookmarks to the students’ homes as well as gift cards for the top readers in each grade. To boost participation even further, students who entered ten or more donors were entered into a raffle.
This year’s Read A Thon earnings will continue to pay for PTO-sponsored programs, campus improvements, classroom supplies, field trips, and technological enhancements. Each student is estimated to cost the school an additional $80 per year after state funding.
“We used to spend so much time collecting donations and tracking the students’ reading. PledgeStar’s system made everything so quick and easy with their built in donation tracking and reading logs. Everyone really loved it!” Dvorak said.
Rancho Cañada Elementary School in Southern California has a long standing tradition of holding a super fun, super successful annual jog-a-thon. When COVID-19 hit in 2020, though, the school's PTA members knew that they needed to make some drastic changes in order to boost student morale and bring in much-needed funding for the next year. In 2020, Rancho Cañada's jog-a-thon focused on putting the "fun" in "fundraising" and unifying community members with school spirit and an exciting month-long event.
"Normally we'd have the kids run around the track at school and have a giant balloon arch with misters and fans," said parent volunteer Thorey Bauer. "This year we weren't on campus, but we wanted to incentivize kids to get outside for the entire month of October."
Rancho Cañada has used PledgeStar for its jog-a-thon for over three years after moving from a paper-based fundraising system. When the entire event needed social-distancing modifications, Bauer and other parent volunteers worked together to create Rancho Cañada's first ever "move-a-thon" in the fall of 2020. Students were encouraged to run, jump, bike, skip, or just play for as many days as possible during the month-long time period the event was held. They logged their hours on PledgeStar using the honor system and competed with each other to move as many days as possible.
"When we realized that we weren't going to have the big jog-a-thon like we had for twenty years," said Bauer. "We took a step back and asked ourselves ‘what's the goal?' We felt that the tradition upheld a sense of unity and we wanted everyone to feel a part of it."
Every student was given a move-a-thon T-shirt to wear at least once during their "moving days." The students also competed for prizes such as earbuds, online family nights, whiteboards for homeschool activities, and markers.
Over 400 students participated in the event, and Bauer remarked that setting it up with PledgeStar was easier than she expected: "It was pretty simple," she said. "We made a few adjustments to the verbiage on the website, but that was very fast. The fundraising aspect was hardly different at all and we just sent a few emails to remind everyone to sign on."
Historically, Rancho Cañada's annual jog-a-thon paid for high cost items and programs, such as a free end-of-the-year school carnival and a high-tech STEAM lab on campus. This year, though, these programs were put on hold, so the funds raised by the move-a-thon covered the necessities for schooling during a pandemic: online family nights, masks for students, and T-shirts.
"We really wanted the kids to get away from screens every day and have fun being a part of something," said Bauer. "I think we definitely accomplished that goal."
In the fall of 2020, St. Veronica Catholic School volunteers weren't sure whether their COVID-modified jog-a-thon would be successful, given the changes they had to make to the event and the difficult circumstances many of their families were experiencing. Little did they know their annual fundraiser would be their most successful in its twelve year history, and the prizes offered to the students would be the most unforgettable.
"We were set to hold the jog-a-thon last spring, but then COVID happened," said parent volunteer Vincene Caruso, "we had to completely change the logistics to keep the kids in their small groups and socially distance the activities."
Caruso and other parent volunteers admit they were a little nervous to modify their school's biggest fundraiser of the year, but they knew something had to happen to raise money for their school and promote much-needed unity when some families were clearly struggling. They decided to spread their event out over four days, renaming it a "Race for Education," assign morning and afternoon sessions to the classes, and set up activity stations for the small groups. The kids had a blast using hula hoops, playing soccer golf, and dancing to the limbo game. A DJ emceed the week's activities and school staff kept the stations organized.
The most exciting part of The Race, though, were the prizes that the students were competing to receive. Among the most popular was the initial offer for St. Veronica's principal to compete in a sumo wrestling match with another staff member on campus. When the students had reached their $50,000 goal, he would wear a sumo costume and challenge any faculty member willing to meet him in a duel.
"It was ridiculous, but so funny," recalled Caruso. "The kids thought it was amazing. We know that this is how we're going to have to do the event now. No one is going to want to run around the parking lot next year."
"We were amazingly successful," said Caruso. "Our goal was $50,000 this year, but in the end we raised over $102,000. Originally, we weren't sure if people would embrace the online system because of the technical differences from a paper-based fundraiser. It was such an easy process, though. It has been amazing."
The fun didn't end there, though. When one St. Vincent parish priest saw how successful the fundraiser was going, he wanted to keep up the momentum. He offered to sleep on the school roof if students reached a goal of $60,000 raised. When they did, he live-streamed a bedtime story from the campus rooftop, had all-night check-ins online, and waved to families from the roof as they arrived at school in the morning. The kids were beyond excited.
Caruso said that she knows other Catholic schools in her area are converting to PledgeStar for fundraising and plans to use the platform for her kids' football events in the near future. "It was really just the best decision for us," she continued. "It was just the best day."
PledgeStar's online fundraising system helped students at Saint Joseph's School in Los Angeles, California, hold a wildly successful at-home jog-a-thon in the midst of a global pandemic as well as a distance learning mandate across the county. The number of students who raised more than $200 doubled from previous years and three times as many students raised over $100. This was a complete shock to Principal Kevin Donohue, who knew that over 70% of the student population qualified for free or reduced-cost lunch and were also faced with the challenges of learning at home.
Last year, Donohue thought about doing something different for the school's annual jog-a-thon. He knew he wanted to expand the event to include more community members, so he invited them to come to campus to participate in a PE day at school. But COVID-19 quickly changed his plans.
"We started looking at, ‘well what can we do instead?'" he recalled. "We knew we were moving donations online anyhow, so doing the entire jog-a-thon online was worth a try. But to be honest, our hopes weren't that high."
Donohue was nervous for several reasons. First, COVID-19 had shut down many local businesses, and several parents and caregivers in his community were out of work. He wasn't sure many people would be able to help with donations. A majority of the students at the school came from families that struggled financially, so he knew that most people weren't in the position to donate even before COVID-19's impact on local businesses. What's more, Saint Joseph's school had never used an online platform before so he feared many of the families wouldn't participate.
"When I came to Saint Joseph, we weren't very modern," Donohue said. "We had a paper newsletter, the jog-a-thon was take home packet based with pledges written down on paper. It was really limiting our reach, especially in a digital world. I did some research on partnering with an online management system. It's confusing because there are a lot of options out there." Donohue eventually reached out to the Archdiocese of LA, where two of his colleagues recommended PledgeStar. "I was nervous because going online was a big transition for us, but Emily at PledgeStar was awesome," he said. "And in a big transition like that, customer service is the most important thing to me."
In the end, Donohue encouraged his students on social media platforms with videos of his early morning runs, challenging them to keep up with him. He ran over 57 miles in the two week time period allotted for the fundraiser, and students responded by biking, skating, jumping, and running to match his mileage. They sent in videos of their fun activities for school staff to repost on Facebook and Instagram, renewing the sense of community they had before their school closed.
"In the end, it was worth it," said Donohue. He is happy to report that the school offered more financial aid this year than ever before, and PledgeStar played a big part.
Nampa Christian School volunteer Sandra Skoksberg has served as her school's fundraising director for fifteen years, but she had never seen the annual jog-a-thon bring in as much money as it did this year with PledgeStar.
In 2018, Skoksberg estimated that the fundraiser brought in about $20,000 for the school. Last year, she decided to give PledgeStar a try. Needless to say, she was very happy with the outcome. Their money doubled in 2019 and tripled to almost $60,000 in 2020. Not only was Skoksberg blown away by the huge uptick in funds, but she was amazed at how simple everything was on her end as the fundraising director.
"We used to have to have flyers and paper packets that went home, but we don't even have to do that anymore. PledgeStar keeps track of money that's coming in and money that's due. It's so simple," said Skoksberg.
Skoksberg offered a few incentives for the students to participate in the online fundraiser, but she found that a little went a long way. Every student who brought in $100 or more was awarded a T-shirt and the elementary school classroom with the most money was rewarded with a pajama movie party. Even without expensive or elaborate prizes, students and families were ready and excited to donate.
"I think the families really wanted to give to the school," Skoksberg said. With the closure of movie theaters, gyms, and sports activities across the country due to COVID-19, Skoksberg believes that the Nampa community was excited to do something special for the children. "It was a huge success because of PledgeStar and, of course, the people supporting the school," she added.
Nampa Christian School is located in western Idaho and offers private education to children ages preschool through high school. With only about 765 students in its population, a $60,000 total was a huge success for the small community.
"Just having the kids run outside...it was awesome," recalled Skoksberg. She said that because it is a private school, Nampa will use the funds to help keep tuition low, pay for supplies, and fund enrichment programs for the students.
Every year, volunteer parents at St. Rose of Lima Academy (SRLA) have a fundraising goal to help keep tuition costs down. This year due to the COVID-19 required social distancing measures in place, they grew nervous when they had to cancel their silent auction and Walk-A-Thon events. They knew raising money was still necessary for next year, so they set out to do the best they could with the difficult circumstances presented and converted their fundraisers into an online Move-A-Thon with lowered expectations. Much to their surprise and thanks to the help of PledgeStar’s online fundraising system, SRLA doubled the amount of money they raised last year with their online Move-A-Thon, bringing in over $20,000 with a small student population of only 200!
Volunteer Catherine Peironi didn’t think that moving their fundraiser to an online-only event would be very successful and said, “We were really stressed out and nervous about asking for money.” Much to the volunteers’ surprise, it turned out that everyone was excited to have a little school and community spirit in the difficult times. To get families and students excited about the event, she and other parent volunteers drove from house to house drop off spiritwear T-shirts to every student. “It was a huge response,” said Peironi, “It was amazing.
Parents, children, and teachers were all thrilled that an event that didn’t require any in person fundraising made so much money for the school. Perioni also commented that, as fundraising chair, she wasn’t required to go to the school to drop off or pick up checks, reducing a huge amount of overhead for the event administrators. The school didn’t even need to spend money on any incentives for the students to donate.
To make the event extra special, the SRLA track coach filmed a warm-up video for everyone to watch on the morning of the Move-A-Thon. Students stretched and warmed up along to the video and then uploaded photos to the school Facebook group of themselves playing basketball, walking, and rollerblading. “It felt really good to see the kids. It was so cute looking at all their pictures,” said Peironi.
The kids and parents also enjoyed a fun competition between classes to see who could raise the most money. Peironi recalled that some parents donated to outpace others. In the end, the class that pulled ahead in first place was the smallest in size and head count - kindergarten! With only twelve students, the kindergarteners managed to bring in more than any other grade!
"We were so glad we did an online fundraiser with PledgeStar! It was a surprising and absolute success!"
For the past 7 years The PledgeStar Online Fundraising System has helped schools, sports teams, and youth groups make the transition away from door-to-door fundraising and product sales easy, efficient, and money saving. Now, with schools and other activities starting back up under stricter guidelines this fall, the ability to fundraise from the comfort of home is more crucial than ever. Families and participants can sign up online, send out pledge requests, and start collecting donations in less than 15 minutes! Whether you are new to online fundraising or just shaking the dust off after a long lock down, here's a few features PledgeStar recently added to its already extensive list to help make your next fundraiser the best one yet:
For a list of more features click here. If you are looking for a specific feature that you don’t see or have any other questions please reach out to our fundraising team at firstname.lastname@example.org or (949) 215-4458.
For years, students at Los Feliz Charter School have been asking their gym teacher, Mr. Wegner, to participate in their annual jog-a-thon, but he always declines. It’s for the kids, he tells them, and encourages them to run as many laps as they can to raise money for the school. This year, though, when schools across the nation shut down due to COVID-19, Mr. Wegner knew he had to do something different to help out. So, equipped with a rowboat, a motorcycle, a bike, and other fun props to entertain the masses, Mr. Wegner set out to run in his own jog-a-thon alone on the school field while students watched online and participated at home in their own creative ways. His enthusiasm paid off. Los Feliz raised over $55,000, meeting their annual goal and exceeding PTA expectations.
“A small crew went to the school with masks to set up and film Mr. Wegner at the field,” said PTA volunteer Anita Sheridan. “The kids are always bugging him to do the jog-a-thon, so he did it on the empty track. He rode around on a bike, pretended to row in a boat, and had a motorcycle. The kids thought it was hilarious. Everyone needed a little cheering up and it really raised community spirit.”
2020 was not only the first year Los Feliz Elementary School hosted a virtual jog-a-thon, but it was also its first year using PledgeStar. Los Feliz PTA had used an expensive third party platform for its online fundraising in the past. Sheridan noticed that it was extremely complicated and expensive, so she wanted to look for a more user friendly and cost effective way to collect money.
“We raised almost the same amount of money we thought we would raise if we had the jog-a-thon at school,” Sheridan said. “It was a shockingly good amount for not even having an event at school. Thanks to PledgeStar, we saved money AND headaches.”
Sheridan knew that asking family and friends for money during an unprecedented quarantine might be both uncomfortable and unsuccessful. She was also worried that the school closure would make students less likely to participate in the fundraising. But, she said, PledgeStar’s automatically generated emails eliminated awkward phone calls asking for money, as well as any reminder emails for students to do so.
PTA volunteers and school staff didn’t stop at the funny gym teacher video when it came to lifting student spirit. An office administrator volunteered to host a live stream from the school on the day of the event while another parent manned the sound board and directed the filming for families to watch at home. The PTA president served as emcee, narrating the event on the school’s social media page and website.
“The virtual jog-a-thon turned out better than we thought,” said Sheridan. “The school was doing Zoom classrooms already, so we had the systems set up and everything was in place with PledgeStar.”
For the third year in a row, Truman Benedict Elementary School increased its earnings at their annual jog-a-thon, bringing in over $50,000 in 2020! Parent volunteers kept their costs low, with a small overhead of around only $1000. Local sponsors and a family friendly day made their event easy, fun, and exciting for all who participated.
As an active member of the PTA, volunteer Tina Kervick wanted to fill in the gaps she knew that the state funding would not cover. “Our school doesn’t get a lot of funding when we need it,” she said, “our PTA pays for a lot.”
At the same time, Kervick wanted to keep costs low. Her experience running the jog-a-thon in the past made her an expert on keeping the budget to a minimum. Parents were asked to volunteer at the event to tally laps, as well as stand in the sidelines to cheer the kids on. They brought a balloon arch for simple, yet cheerful decor, and snapped photos to create an exciting atmosphere.
Kervick had also learned to ask local families to sponsor food for the volunteers and pizza parties for students. Several successful businesses in the community were family-owned, so PTA members asked them to help in any way they could. Kervick knew that a parent volunteer to act as a DJ and another to guide the kids through pre-run stretching would make the jog-a-thon fun and low-cost for everyone. She even found a volunteer to wear their school’s mascot costume, so a furry bobcat danced with the DJ all morning as the kids ran the track.
“It’s not really a costly event. Room parents decided the themes for each class. We had balloons to decorate the tables, and a banner for pictures. When it comes to fundraising, choosing things that don't bite into profits is key, and PledgeStar fit the bill.”
In the weeks leading up to the jog-a-thon, parents and teachers got regular updates on pledges and registration totals. Top classes got a pizza party sponsored by a local family, and those with 100% online registration earned a popsicle party. The email reminders that PledgeStar sends out for the event kept the families on their toes, adding momentum to the competition between the classes. On the day of the event, themed tables and music kept the students engaged and the parents happy to help.
“It’s a fun family event,” said Kervick. “The kids love it and it’s all for them. The ease of the PledgeStar system, being able to edit things, apply checks online and overall just an easy system to work with made us super successful this year. Why would I go anywhere else?”
In the fall, Truman Benedict Elementary PTA will be able to pay for their K-3 music program, which didn’t exist before the organization raised the money to finance it. They also offer teachers a “bank” to purchase classroom supplies, substitute teacher funding, and several other costly necessities on campus.
In Long Beach, California, a Little League with a long, rich history, tried something new. Its neglected fields and out-of-date dugouts were in need of attention, but the fundraisers the players had been holding for several years just weren’t making the cut. After sixty years in the making and two Little League World Series championships, Long Beach teams needed a change.
Parent volunteer Demetria Hayward knew that there were over 550 registered players for the season whose family and friends would be willing to support them, but couldn’t always make it to the opening day events. She thought that online fundraising might help increase their revenue, so she came up with the idea for a LBLL “Hit-a-Thon,” where the players could ask for sponsors online and have fun raising money at bat. To her pleasant surprise, Long Beach Little League brought in over $38,000, knocking parent and player expectations out of the park.
“It was amazing,” said Demetria. “This was something we have never done before. Corporate sponsorships are really helpful, but only go so far. People had been on the board for more than ten years and had never seen anything so successful!”
Over 250 players participated in the event, ranging from ages 4-12 years old. Each player had three turns at bat and were awarded prizes for furthest hits in each division. Fans cheered from the sidelines and the players were given the chance to support their team with exciting, friendly competition. Fun prizes like free snack shack drink refills, custom T-shirts and buttons incentivized the kids and made their day extra special.
Before the event, Demetria knew that getting players to register with PledgeStar would be important for the fundraiser’s success. She said that PledgeStar staff support made all the difference in knowing what to do. The PledgeStar team provided Demetria with strategies for getting more players registered online and more pledges from their family and friends, like strategically timed email reminders and easy incentives for participation. The players enjoyed watching the “leaderboard” she said, and she set pizza party prizes for the teams that brought in the most money.
“Emily, our PledgeStar team member, was amazing,” said Demetria. “I would call her while navigating the site and making additions. I can’t tell you how supportive and responsive the PledgeStar team is. It was such a pleasure.”
The decades-old Long Beach Little League has a “laundry list” of things to improve with the money they made at their Hit-A-Thon. They will use the extra money to replant grass, buy new equipment, improve scoreboards, and update batting cages. Players want to be ready to win another Little League World Series Championship, and the fields need to be up-to-par for such a hefty goal.
“The Hit-A-Thon was a tremendous success,” said Demetria. “I would highly recommend any organization to use PledgeStar! Their system takes your fundraising to the next level, times ten!”
The COVID-19 pandemic caused millions of families across America to face unprecedented challenges. In addition to health and safety concerns, parent volunteers were worried about raising money for their schools. Cancelled Spring fundraising events meant schools would lack vital funding for future events, supplies, and programs when school resumed in the Fall.
When they realized their annual Jog-a-Thon would have to be postponed, PTA volunteers at Alderwood Elementary in Irvine, California acted quickly to plan a "shelter in place" fundraiser. Using PledgeStar and some simple, yet wildly successful ideas, they managed to raise over $85,000, more than their prior year's event!
In early March, PTA President Dawn Mortazavi talked with other parents in a virtual Zoom meeting as their annual Jog-a-Thon date quickly approached. "We knew that we had to postpone our Jog-a-Thon, but we didn't know what we would do without that money," she said. "In March, it was becoming clear that we weren't going to have any sort of finality for the kids, so we decided to swap the Jog-a-Thon for something else." Because PledgeStar's online fundraising system has always been “social distance” friendly, the PTA just had to change the type of event instead of figuring out another way to raise funds.
Mortazavi and other volunteers had already chosen a Lego Movie theme for the Jog-a-Thon when schools began to implement distance learning. The students were meant to jog around their field in April wearing Lego theme attire, but they knew that was no longer possible. They would need a creative idea to replace it... something that could be done safely from the kids' homes. So, the PTA board dreamed up an at-home Lego Build-a-Thon. They had no idea how it would work or whether it could raise a substantial amount of money.
On April 7, the Lego Build-a-Thon commenced in hundreds of Irvine living rooms. "We made our Owl mascot look like a Lego, bought Lego prizes, and everyone got a free T-shirt," said Mortazavi. "We had the students build creative Lego projects at home and their parents posted them on social media for friends, family, and classmates to see." Students loved the ideas of an at-home challenge that not only kept them busy, but created a feeling of community in a difficult and isolating moment.
Next year, thanks to the quick thinking PTA and PledgeStar's online fundraising system, Alderwood Elementary will have enough money to pay for their popular educational programs. With distance education looming as a possibility for the entirety of 2020, Mortazavi and other parents are trying to stay positive. "The Jog-a-Thon has always been by far our biggest fundraiser so the change made us nervous, but the kids got super excited for the Build-a-Thon. It ended up as a huge success!"
For over eleven years, principal JR West worked very hard to organize fundraisers for St. Peter’s School in Waldorf, Maryland. He put on elaborate galas, themed fun runs, family field days, and classroom Read A Thons. Planning, executing, and analyzing the success of the events has taken hours of his time, so he recently decided to simplify things. Instead of holding several events throughout the year, he cut the number of fundraisers down to two, and instead of using antiquated paper mailing campaigns for marketing, he switched to PledgeStar for online fundraising. “I saved $4,000 in postage and I can’t even calculate the man hours saved,” said West. “I just wish we would have done this sooner.”
At first, West decided to use an expensive big box company to set up his fun run online. He paid thousands of dollars for their service, but still he felt “desperate to find a more efficient way to run the events.” Recording all of the donations manually was a record keeping nightmare. It was a huge relief when West gave Pledgestar a chance for the first time.
“The best part is the tracking system that PledgeStar provides. I was getting so many phone calls every day from parents who wanted to know how much their child had raised. I thought, ‘Wait a minute, why don’t I kick that other company to the curb?’ I used PledgeStar and now I don’t get a single parent phone call.”
The administrative improvements weren't the only success West credited to PledgeStar. His initial fundraising goal was only $12,000, but with PledgeStar, St. Peter’s School raised over $62,000! Although raising 5x more was a very pleasant surprise, West also breathed a sigh of relief that he didn’t have to send hundreds of thank you notes and tax receipts in the mail like he'd done in the past, because PledgeStar does that automatically.
“We’ll definitely use PledgeStar next year!” said West. “I love it so much because it reduced my work and brought in more money.”
In the spring of 2019, Portland area parents and students received dismal news from the local school district: more budget cuts and a big hit for public school funding. Thousands of community members later staged a protest in the streets of downtown Portland and many wore “Red For Ed” T-shirts to demonstrate their concern.
Fortunately for Patterson Elementary School, an ambitious mother introduced the PTO to PledgeStar’s online fundraising system. After some hesitation, Patterson PTO decided to use the system and, with PledgeStar’s help, increased their annual "Panther Dash" jog-a-thon earnings by 40% in one year!
Jessica Thorpe knew that her kids had several years left in the district and wanted to do something to improve the quality of education for them in the years to come. So, she rearranged things at work, prioritized volunteering at school, and attended her first PTO meeting at Patterson Elementary School with the hope of making even the smallest difference.
“I spent the summer researching online fundraising platforms,” said Thorpe. “I just thought to myself, ‘oh my gosh there has to be a better way.’”
Thorpe had heard of online platforms for fundraising and knew that Patterson has used traditional methods in the past. She thought that switching to an online platform might help the school earn more money to pay for the programs that the district would no longer cover.
Although Thorpe was fairly confident that online fundraising would be the best option for her school, others weren’t so sure. She proposed the idea to the PTO and was initially met with some skepticism. Parents were unsure about whether the online route was practical, and some thought it was simply a bad idea. Fortunately, the naysayers were eventually proven wrong.
Using PledgeStar, Patterson Elementary was able to raise over $35,000 at their annual "Panther Dash" jog-a-thon - a 40% increase from 2018!
When Thorpe found PledgeStar, she compared it to the dozens of other companies that she came across on the internet. She liked the ease of use that PledgeStar offered and was very impressed with the personal support she received from the staff.
“I was so impressed,” she said. “I was really happy that PledgeStar had the data and wealth of testimonials to back up their claims.”
The jog-a-thon that Thorpe and the other PTO members organized was adapted according to PledgeStar staff suggestions. PledgeStar’s research had shown that offering flat donations in addition to per-lap pledges had the potential to bring in more money. Other small tweaks to the event proved successful and the parents were grateful for the easy-to-use system that allowed them to reach a wider audience for potential donors.
“A lot of people thanked me,” Thorpe recalled. “They told me stories of having to reach out to family members and sometimes they only got IOUs that were never paid. Online fundraising was a million times better.”
In the fall of 2019, parent volunteer and PTO Vice President Jamie Rosen wanted to simplify things. She worked hard on fundraising for her kids' school the year before and wanted a way to earn even more money for Maple Dale Elementary, all while spending less time volunteering. Surprisingly, she figured out a way to do both.
Rosen knew that there were more efficient ways to collect money from donors than the traditional cash and check system they used in the past. "We're living in a digital age," she said. Plus, the local middle school had used PledgeStar for their walk-a-thon and volunteers told Rosen that it was a very easy system to use and how much of a success their fundraiser was thanks to the online fundraising system.
Using PledgeStar's online fundraising system for the first time, Rosen and other parent volunteers helped their school raise almost double what they had earned the year before at their annual fun run event. Their total amount raised, a whopping $54,000, exceeded their goal by almost $30,000!
"We thought that using PledgeStar might help," said Rosen. "In the past, we had people turning in cash and checks and going to our PTO website if they wanted to make a credit card donation. It wasn't the easiest thing. Plus, my niece and nephew in Texas had sent me a request for PledgeStar in the past, so I knew how simple it was. The risk was so low with a small investment compared to our goal, so we thought, 'why not try it?'"
In the end, more than half of the school's donations were collected on the PledgeStar site. Rosen credits the ease of use and ability to post on social media with their huge success. She saw posts with links to the site on her Facebook and Instagram feeds and watched the money add up every week.
The Warrior Run, as they called it, was an exciting day for all five grade levels at Maple Dale. Rosen set school wide fundraising goals, each with a prize of an inflatable obstacle course the students could earn for the event. Thanks to far exceeding each goal, the students were able to earn all three courses. They took turns running over bouncy hills and weaving through inflatable race courses. The District Superintendent even made an appearance and students enjoyed seeing him slide down a giant bounce house before the day was over.
"They loved it," said Rosen. "The kindergarteners even got a little wet because of the rain, but they didn't care. It was a fun, really successful event."
Maple Dale will use the money to pay for fun programs throughout the year, including a Cultural Heritage Night, author visits, and a Family Social. The extra income was a surprise, so the PTO volunteers, along with school staff, are thrilled to have the chance to decide what to do with it.
"It was a win-win situation," said Rosen. "There was really no downside and everything went really smoothly. We will absolutely use PledgeStar next year."
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."
At Sherwood Charter Elementary School south of Portland, Oregon, a volunteer librarian was finally able to purchase new books for her students by organizing a PledgeStar Read A Thon.
Parent volunteer Shannon Burns has worked in the school's library for about two years when she had the idea. She was attending a PTA meeting when she heard about PledgeStar from another parent and recalled how much her school library could use money for books and supplies. As a charter school, Sherwood's library is completely donation-based, so most of the books on the shelves were used, falling apart, or outdated. Burns wanted more for her students.
She decided to plan an online Read A Thon to raise money for the library. The Read A Thon was held over two weeks, and students tracked their minutes read at home using PledgeStar’s helpful Read A Thon tools as well as collected donations from family and friends for their efforts. "It was so easy to do online," Burns said. "It's nice for parents to collect money that way, especially from grandparents and family in other states."
The Read A Thon was a great success. Burns and other parent volunteers were able to purchase about 250 new books from a warehouse and local toy store. Because students had been reading used and older books for several years, Burns had compiled a wish list based on student recommendations. After the Read A Thon, almost all of the books on the list were placed on the Sherwood library shelves. Burns said she plans to buy all of the remaining recommendations in the near future.
"The Read A Thon left us with a huge budget for next year," she said. "We can also pay for processing supplies, labels, a new bookshelf, and a rounder for the library." In the past, Burns had visited a Scholastic Books warehouse to pick up books that she purchased herself. But there was no way she would be able to fund everything the students wanted and needed to enjoy reading as much as she did. She knew the Read A Thon was needed to make that happen.
Next year, Burns plans to keep her position as librarian at Sherwood and will use PledgeStar for her 2020 Read A Thon.
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.
South Oceanside Elementary school, or South O', as the locals call it, brought in a record-breaking $22,000 this year at their annual jog-a-thon, surpassing last year's dollar amount by $8,000 and increasing their 2017 average by almost seven times!
Before the addition of PledgeStar's online fundraising platform, the jog-a-thon at South O' used to bring in about $3,000 every year using traditional donation request methods like going door to door and calling relatives to ask for sponsorships. Two years ago, however, PTO volunteers decided to move the fundraising to an online platform. They thought their earnings would increase at least a little, but didn't have high expectations because South O is a Title I School, where over 56% of the population qualifies for free and reduced lunch. The results of the jog-a-thon after including PledgeStar went above and beyond their expectations.
"It was like night and day," said PTO volunteer Sara Johnson. "We thought it was going to be hard to use. Some people were nervous, but it was a lot easier than we expected and we earned more than we thought was possible. It was incredibly successful."
When Johnson and the other PTO members saw that their first year using PledgeStar had quadrupled the jog-a-thon's earnings, they set their bar even higher for 2019. She said that there were a few people who were doubtful that the school would ever be able to raise more than $20,000, especially since over half of the families in the school were low-income. They were wrong. After raising more than $22,000 this year, Johnson said that the PTO volunteers are aiming even higher in 2020. "We hope to earn over $25,000" she said, "We're hoping to continue to see this grow and we feel confident that it can."
Johnson and a handful of PTO volunteers used incentives and an exciting superhero theme to get the kids excited to participate online. When students signed up on PledgeStar, they received rewards like gift cards, sweatshirts, or a free yearbook. Each class had a team color and the students were encouraged to dress as superheroes on the day of the event. "We wanted to make it fun for the kids, so we had music, prizes, and bubbles at the jog-a-thon," Johnson said. "Two volunteers dressed up as superheroes and ran with the kids, and prizes had a superhero theme."
Johnson said that PledgeStar's customer service is one of the reasons she plans to use the service again next year. "Even the smallest issue had a fast response time. It was user friendly and easy to navigate from year one." If anyone is hesitating to use PledgeStar, she added, "Just go for it!" She is hopeful that with PledgeStar, next year can be an even more successful event than ever before.
Every year since they began using PledgeStar, students at Sunset View Elementary school in Point Loma, California, have seen their earnings increase.
The 2019 annual jog-a-thon at Sunset View raised more money than students, teachers, and parents volunteers expected thanks to PledgeStar and several dedicated volunteers. The event had historically brought in about $40,000 before PledgeStar was introduced as an online fundraising platform. In their first year, the amount doubled and its second year earnings totaled about $90,000.
"We didn't change much else," said parent volunteer Jill Wyatt. "PledgeStar really helped us reach a broader audience of parents, family, and friends."
Wyatt also attributed much of this success to the number of volunteers that the school had to make events happen. Several parents organized donations for student incentives. One family even owned a graphic design company and offered to design a t-shirt logo for event, which was "Live Aloha" theme. Volunteers passed out floral leis, sunglasses, and other Hawaiian theme prizes when students met their fundraising goals.
Organizing and executing the Sunset View jog-a-thon was no small feat. The event ran throughout the entire school day, and jogging around the track was just a small part of the affair. Parent volunteers coordinated a karate instructor, lacrosse games, a gymnastics coach, and other fun activities to get the kids excited to raise money for the school. "It was a fun one for the kids to get behind," said Wyatt. "It's hands down the most fun day of the year."
The volunteers at Sunset View didn't stop at creating fun events for the kids. Their non-profit foundation, KidsFirst at Sunset View, also pays for enrichment classes like art, music, and cultural experiences like Spanish lessons. Once a month, students rotate through the enrichment classes while teachers hold a meeting day to align their curriculum and work together. KidsFirst has also paid to hire an additional teacher when class sizes are too big, as well as for classroom supplies and campus beautification projects.
"Others want to know how we do it." Wyatt said when asked about the multiple programs the foundation funds at Sunset View. "PledgeStar is the first thing we mention." Wyatt also said that Sunset View definitely plans to use PledgeStar next year.
When Rachel Hatch joined Urban Discovery Academy in 2017, she had ambitious plans for the big city charter school that started as a small gathering of families and grew into a diverse institution in the heart of San Diego.
Hatch knew that charter schools only receive about 72 cents for every dollar a public school receives from the state, and fundraising at Urban Discovery Academy in its early years had been challenging. Its first jog-a-thon brought in about $4,000, which was hardly worth the effort it demanded, but Hatch recognized that the event had potential for becoming a major source of revenue for the school. She had seen PledgeStar used at her own child’s school, and knew that an online platform, with access to social media networking, was definitely the way to go.
It turned out that Hatch was right. After using PledgeStar for the first time, UDA increased its earnings by about five times, bringing in a whopping $20,000 in 2018 and again in 2019. What started as a fun event to bring in a little extra money for the school turned into one of the school’s major fundraising events for the entire year!
“It was incredibly simple,” Hatch said, “We went from expecting close to nothing to knocking the socks off the foundation. It really blew the doors off for this event and I see the possibility of potentially doubling this amount.”
After the 2019 jog-a-thon, Hatch saw one key aspect of the event that she believed could unlock the doors to success in the next few years. Only about 50% of the school population registered on PledgeStar in 2019 and Hatch knew that getting students to register on the platform was the first step to accessing donations from their friends and family. Next year, Hatch hopes to campaign to get at least 80% of the students using PledgeStar for the jog-a-thon. She is confident that encouraging community participation is the best way to get families involved in the fundraising process.
“We really want the parents to feel invested in their children instead of just asking them to throw money at the foundation,” Hatch said. “Getting grandma, grandpa, aunts, and uncles to donate small amounts feels different to the parents. They know that the money is going directly to their child rather than some other company thanks to PledgeStar’s unbelievably low fee. We want to work on creating those experiences for them, and PledgeStar is one way we can do that.”
Hatch and other school staff plan to rev up their jog-a-thon campaign for 2020. Their ideas range from inviting Storm Troopers to visit students at the jog-a-thon to having the students dress in costume on the day of the event to get them excited and motivated to support the school. With a goal of doubling their $20,000 average, programs like engineering, art, PE, theater, and their transitional kindergarten classes will continue to be funded with the community’s help. Using social media and online platforms like PledgeStar, Hatch said, “is able to make great things happen. We’re undertaking a big endeavor in downtown San Diego and PledgeStar is helping us every step of the way.”
In the winter of 2018, Hope Elementary School Principal Richard Tubbs had a radical idea: he would shave his head if students raised over $40,000 during their next annual Jog-A-Thon. Even one dollar more than $40,000 and the clippers would come out, he promised. When they exceeded their goal with over $57,000 in revenue this year, Principal Tubbs was true to his word.
“I like to do fun things for the kids,” Principal Tubbs said, “So I had all 650 kids outside to witness it at recess.” To top it off, he allowed the top five fundraisers to help with the shaving. “I took a razor blade afterwards to help with the stubble” he said. Parents and teachers took pictures and the whole crowd cheered him on.
The campaign to get rid of Tubbs’ hair started with the surprise increase in money that the school Jog-A-Thon raised in 2018. This was the first year the Hope Elementary had used PledgeStar as an online fundraising platform. Typically, the school raised about $15,000-$20,000 per year from the event. In fact, Tubbs has been the principal at Hope for over fifteen years and said that the amount had remained pretty stagnant during his entire tenure. Then, in 2018, when PledgeStar was first introduced to the school, their numbers doubled to almost $40,000.
Tubbs knew that the school could do better. He had also heard from the community that they loved the new online system. So, he decided to motivate the students to raise more money the next year by offering the ultimate no-cost prize: make your principal bald at recess. This year Hope Elementary School went above and beyond to triple their average earnings, raising nearly $60,000.
The head-shaving incentive wasn’t the first time Tubbs had used fun and creative ways to get his students excited. Hope Elementary School is known for being one of the founders of the Great Kindness Challenge, a now-international online crusade to promote exactly what its title implies: kindness. He inspires students to get involved, excited, and energized every week in his school’s TV show, HopeTV. Tubbs has been known to rap about Red Ribbon Week, make a music video about vegetables, and sing original songs about reading on the show.
Offering fun and creative ways for students to get involved at school isn’t the most unique thing about Principal Tubbs. Unlike many other school fundraisers that are organized by parent volunteers, Hope Elementary School’s annual Jog-A-Thon is organized and executed by their principal. Tubbs said that after fifteen years of fundraising and sending over 40% of the revenue back to cookie dough and gift wrap companies, he chose PledgeStar because it charges a minimal fee for its services. In fact, Tubbs decided that PledgeStar would be its only outside vendor used for fundraising in the future. “It allows us to keep almost all of that money,” he said, “Our goal is to provide the students with the best possible programs we can. Parents have thanked me tremendously for using PledgeStar in order to do that.”
Hope Elementary School uses the money raised on Pledgestar to fund their music, physical education, and technology programs. Tubbs reported that the Jog-A-Thon is now their biggest fundraising event, and that using Pledgestar to raise money has made it easy to keep track of donations. “It’s been wonderful for us,” he said, and having students help to fund the programs “really gives them ownership in that.”
The Friends of Third Booster Club in Los Angeles held its second annual walk-a-thon and, with PledgeStar’s help, far exceeded its ambitious goal of $50,000 by $18,000 for a total of $68,000! They accomplished this by using creative and fun incentives for both the students and teachers.
Booster club president, Patricia Alexander, thought that such high hopes for the walk-a-thon might be overzealous, but the event’s proceeds far surpassed her expectations. Before using PledgeStar for online fundraising, the annual walk-a-thon had raised about $30,000.
“Once we went to an online system our fundraising almost doubled,” Alexander said, “It just increased so dramatically!”
To encourage students to register on PledgeStar, Alexander knew to get the teachers involved, a step often overlooked during pledge drives. In order to encourage teachers to increase classroom participation, she offered a $100 prize to each teacher achieving 100% online participation. This caused the number of online participants to multiply daily.
Alexander and her volunteers visited classrooms with prizes for participating students during their fundraising campaign. “Sometimes the students were really surprised they were getting a T-shirt or a bag that they didn’t even know they won,” she said. Seeing their peers receive prizes inspired other students to step up their game as well. As a result, Alexander estimates that over 70% of the student body registered on PledgeStar, and many of the students exceeded their individual goals by several hundred dollars.
Parent volunteers focused on making the fundraising campaign a fun experience for students. A few weeks before the walk-a-thon, volunteers organized a dance party for all students who raised over $100. The exclusive party included silly string, glow sticks, and other exciting rewards that kept energy levels high and generated a buzz for the remainder of the campaign. Their strategy proved to be brilliantly effective.
When searching for online platforms for the Booster’s fundraiser, Alexander said the choice was easy. “The value of PledgeStar was really there in all aspects,” she remarked, “We were able to capture everything we needed through PledgeStar’s reporting system, making it incredibly easy and simple for our fundraising chair.
The Friends of Third Booster Club was thrilled with the results of their annual walk-a-thon. Every year, they aim to support programs that total over $250,000, including a technology lab, music enrichment, and physical education. “Exceeding our walk-a-thon goal means were are able to increase our budget and increase the programs we can offer,” said Alexander. She is happy to report that the Booster Club will fund all of these programs and more at Third Street Elementary School this year.
After five successful years of using PledgeStar for their jog-a-thon fundraising, PTA members at southern California elementary school Aviara Oaks wanted to bring in more money than ever before. Thanks to the advice and help of the seasoned PledgeStar team, they were able to achieve just that!
Since 2015, Aviara Oaks Elementary School has more than tripled its earnings of their annual jog-a-thon, raising the bar from about $20,000 per year to over $71,000 in 2019. PTA volunteer Krissy Otten says that they owe all their success to the PledgeStar online platform and helpful fundraising tips provided to every PledgeStar event.
For the first few years of their jog-a-thon, volunteers stuck to the tried and true offline donations and per lap pledges, but they knew more could be done. After careful research they decided to give PledgeStar’s online platform a try. To Otten’s delight, their first year of online fundraising doubled the school’s average earnings and inspired PTA board members to stick with PledgeStar as they moved forward.
After several years of successful events using the same techniques, however, Otten noticed that their jog-a-thon fundraising amount had plateaued, so she sought the advice of the PledgeStar fundraising team. “PledgeStar gave us two pieces of advice that really made all the difference,” Otten said, “switching from per lap pledges to flat donations and focusing on getting the kids to sign up on PledgeStar.” The changes were easy to implement and made running the event even easier. “We were able to stop screaming at the parents and instead focused on the kids,” said Otten. The volunteers encouraged competition between classrooms and did their best to make the event more enjoyable for the participants. Instead of running laps around the track for thirty minutes, they set up an obstacle course that the kids were far more excited about. Rather than hounding parents to collect donations, they focused on encouraging competition between classrooms (not individuals, as the PTA members knew that not everyone could participate) and offered prizes for the classes in the lead. One morning after seeing their updated donation numbers on PledgeStar’s leaderboard, a group of second graders saw that they were $8 behind the leading class. By that same evening, they had raised over $300 because they were so motivated to take the lead, Otten said.
“I cannot recommend Pledgestar more strongly to our fellow PTA/PTOs,” said Otten, “The ease of the website and PledgeStar’s guidance helped our fundraising numbers grow to heights that our principal and PTA volunteers could only imagine.”
Aviara Oaks must earn $150,000 per year to cover the costs of a PE, science, and music teachers, as well as two tutors for their campus. Their jog-a-thon covers about one third of their specialty teachers salary, and for this reason is especially important to the students, staff, and community members. Thanks to the help of PledgeStar they have been able to continue to grow and sustain their extra programs. “We really want to expose our kids to everything,” Otten said. “With our diverse program, they can try everything, do everything…and the PTA covers the cost.”
Otten says that she plans recommending PledgeStar for other sports teams and schools as her children get older. For now, she is very happy with the changes and success she helped bring to Aviara Elementary.
The 2018 annual fundraiser at Deer Run Elementary school raised more money than students, teachers, and parent volunteers ever expected thanks to PledgeStar and some calculated planning.
Parent volunteer Lauren Heft had her first experience with PledgeStar and organizing a fundraising event in 2017 for her school’s “Deer Run Run-A-Thon”. She was pleasantly surprised when the school raised $20,000, but learned a few lessons along the way. Applying these lessons her second time running the event as PTO president helped the school raise over $28,000 in 2018.
Heft knew that students who registered on PledgeStar were more likely to collect contributions from family and friends than students who didn’t use the system at all. She decided to offer small incentives to get students and parents to interact with the system and send out pledge requests to family and friends.
She also wanted to reduce administrative overhead for the event to help it run as smooth as possible. In 2017 she found that counting laps was tedious, time consuming, and had room for error, so she took a risk by only allowing students to collect flat pledge donations in 2018. “We were a little worried at first to eliminate per lap pledges,” she said. However, thanks to PledgeStar’s extensive reporting tools Heft knew that flat pledges had worked extremely well the year before before because “PledgeStar had generated so much data for us to analyze”.
Based on their experiences as Deer Run volunteers, Heft and other parents created incentives and prizes to encourage participation in the PledgeStar system. Each student who collected at least $5 on PledgeStar was offered a coupon for a free frosty from Wendy’s. The offer was enough to get students introduced to the system who may not have used it in the past. “We noticed last year that most of the money we earned was collected on PledgeStar, so this year we really pushed for students to just get online since it was so easy,” Heft said.
Along with individuals prizes, Heft offered spirit awards for the class with the most school spirit at the event, a pajama and movie day for the class with the highest percentage of participation, and a school-wide goal that she knew students couldn’t resist: the installation of a Gaga Ball Pit if the school raised over $25,000 collectively.
Two days before the event, Heft and other volunteers weren’t sure that they would reach their goal, but Heft had planned for a last minute push. She knew that momentum would build if students and parents felt the urgency to participate in the final fundraising days, so she displayed a large thermometer at the front of the school to announce the need for action and the time limit for collecting pledges. Parents and participants were spurred on by the display and were able to raise $10,000 in just 48 hours!
Heft, parents, and teachers were thrilled with the results. In the end, Heft says that over 90% of the $28,000 they brought in was collected via PledgeStar.
PTO member Kristen Van Hull had one goal in mind when volunteering to run Primrose Hill Elementary School's Jog-A-Thon for her fourth year, raise more than ever in order to fund a new playground. In the past, Van Hull worked exceptionally hard to organize an event that was both fun and raised money for the school, however the school's proceeds never exceeded $3,500. In order to reach her goal, she knew she had to do something different, so Van Hull took to the internet to research the best online fundraising platforms out there.
"I searched for hours," she said, "and I kept coming back to PledgeStar as the best system, cost and feature wise. It was user friendly and cheaper than any other option, so I went with it. We were able to reach so many people, and it did the work for you! We raised over $3,000 in just one day from our family and friends in a streamlined way. Our families found the website so simple to use, and extremely effective in raising money! The old door to door paper system was just so archaic compared to PledgeStar."
The Jog-A-Thon's results thrilled Van Hull. After using PledgeStar for the first time, students at Primrose raised over $13,500 -- four times the amount they had raised in previous years! For a small preschool through 3rd grade campus, the number was very impressive. Over 90% of all donors used PledgeStar to make their donations, increasing their revenue by almost 400%.
In order to focus on her goal, Van Hull kept the event simple and let PledgeStar do the heavy lifting. She was able to keep her expenses low because she didn't need a theme or expensive prizes to get the kids interested in such a fun event. She offered simple incentives to get the kids excited to raise money, such as an extra recess to the top earning classes in each grade and a movie day for the top earning class overall. "Free incentives were all we needed to please the kids and get them excited to raise money."
To celebrate, the town held a Playground Launch Party one month after the Jog-A-Thon. Parents lined the Main street of town celebrating their success. "Thanks to PledgeStar we reached Phase I of our playground project quicker than we ever expected," Van Hull said. In early November, an Oodle Swing and a shade structure were installed at Primrose Hill Elementary School.
"We will definitely be using PledgeStar next year for our Jog-A-Thon and for our upcoming Bowl-A-Thon too!" Congratulations, Primrose Hill students and families!
Making math fun for kids can be challenging, but Ventana Vista Elementary School recently figured out a way to get kids excited about learning AND raise money for their school at the same time.
Every year, the school holds a fun and educational Math-A-Thon during regular class hours. Students are given a packet geared toward their math level and challenged to solve as many equations as possible before their time is up. Packets are then graded and students collect money from family and friends according to the number of problems they answered correctly.
Parent volunteer Carmen Mazza explained how the school decided to hold such a unique fundraiser at their school: “There is a really big emphasis on reading and I think the parents wanted to see more emphasis on math. So we sent home a practice quiz packet and... it’s definitely something different. It’s largely conducted during the school day so there’s really no extra setup compared to a typical school day, other than collecting the pledges.”
Ventana Vista’s annual Math-A-Thon had been a regular event for several years. The kids got excited to take a special math quiz on the big day and parents got excited because kids were practicing math for weeks to prepare. It had always seemed like a win-win for everyone. One parent volunteer, though, knew that using an online platform to collect money could help the kids increase their earnings by connecting them with family and friends all over the country. After carefully researching and weighing all of the competitors, parent volunteer Carmen Mazza decided to use PledgeStar.
“Having the online platform was extremely helpful, all of my family is on the east coast,” said Mazza, “if there wasn’t an online portal, I’m simply not going to call… and an automatic PledgeStar email makes it even easier.”
Mazza and other volunteers were thrilled with the online system even before the event was held. In years past, they had to wait until after the Math-A-Thon was over and math packets were graded to figure out how much money was being raised. Once they set up PledgeStar, though, they got excited to see the money coming in right away. Family and friends were pledging flat donations online immediately and students and parents enjoyed watching their totals go up daily as the event drew near.
“Once PledgeStar opened to our donors we started earning money, long before any deadlines we established. You just don’t get that when doing a paper fundraiser. It was exciting to watch it grow. Our treasurer kept texting me saying, ‘Oh my gosh there’s so much money coming in!’”
The faculty, parents, and students were thrilled with their results. The school earned a record-setting $24,000, $10,000 more than previous years.
When parent volunteer Amy Crookston noticed a PledgeStar online fundraising sign hanging at a neighboring elementary school, she thought it might be something interesting to look into for her own kids’ school. She contacted PTO members for their experiences with the company. One year later, when when she added PledgeStar and their Walk-A-Thon doubled the amount of money it had raised in the past, she was glad she did.
Eagle Hills Elementary School in Idaho raised over $20,000 in their Walk-A-Thon with the help of the PledgeStar online fundraising system. They were able to allot twice as much money for their playground equipment.
“We are already having conversations about what we can do next year,” Crookston said, “The system was really well received and we wished we had used it earlier.”
Last year, before adding PledgeStar, only about one third of the six hundred students at Eagle Hills raised money during their annual Walk-A-Thon. And, while Crookston recognized that many families are unable to contribute, she boasted that over half of the student population contributed when they implemented the online system this year.
“Anybody that tries it loves it,” she said, “it is so easy to use.”
The Walk-A-Thon had a simple premise: walk as long as you can for as much money as you can. Children started their laps at 2:30 pm, one hour before school was dismissed, and many chose to stay through to the end of the event at 5:30 pm. Crookston’s own son walked a total of sixteen miles in three hours, raising over $500 for the cause. Other children raised over a thousand dollars doing the same, totaling over $20,000 when the event was over.
“PledgeStar’s staff is fantastic,” Crookston recounted, “administration is super simple and our parents loved how easy it was. It’s just a great addition to our Walk-A-Thon.”
After running Randolph Elementary’s annual walk-a-thon for the third year in a row, PTA President Kathy Hansen wanted to do something different to encourage her participants to raise more funds than ever before.
Months earlier, her children had participated in the school’s annual magazine sale fundraiser, but they complained that they didn’t win any prizes for their efforts. That gave her an idea. For the 2018 Walk-A-Thon, everyone would win a prize for participating. Not only did this tactic help Hansen and the other volunteers get more students to participate, but they raised almost $10,000 - an impressive feat for a Title I school where an estimated 50-60% of the student population qualifies for a free or reduced-price lunch.
“We wanted to be able to reach each kid,” said Hansen. Every student who participated earned a gold medal and had a special visit from an Olympic gold medalist after the event. The students were thrilled to have both. “When I visited the classrooms in the days after the walk-a-thon, some of the kids were still wearing the medals,” Hansen said.
Hansen also credits PledgeStar for their success. Each of their top earners collected the majority of their pledges online rather than donation packets, she said. Hansen encouraged students to use the online donation system to connect to family and friends who weren’t local. She was also thrilled she could take advantage of PledgeStar’s ability to share her kid’s donation pages on Facebook since she doesn’t usually connect with many of her relatives via email.
Randolph Elementary’s new principal was the one to encourage Hansen and the PTA to adopt PledgeStar since she had such a great experience with it at her previous school. After seeing the incredibly low price and the amazing service offered, she was convinced. “I am not the one who has to create the spreadsheets, PledgeStar does it for us, and their staff is beyond helpful,” she said. For all of the services she was provided, Hansen said that her small, Title I school was amazed that they only had to pay $400 for PledgeStar costs. Since then, she’s recommended the amazing online system to others on a social media page for other school parent leaders.
Way to go, Randolph Elementary!
As another school year draws to a close, we look back on a record-breaking year, and forward to new features designed to make your 2018-19 school-year fundraiser your best one yet!
This year, we helped schools and other youth organizations raise more than $20 million, with kids raising an average of $140 each. PledgeStar’s automated pledge request system helped kids solicit donations from over 1.2 million family and friends around the world.
Best of all, PledgeStar customers retained an average of 95% of what they raised, thanks to our high fundraising totals and low fee cap.
And we plan to break even more records next year with new features to help you work less and raise more:
Our goal is to make the next fundraiser your best one yet. Congratulations to all our customers who worked less and raised more this past year.
St. Hedwig School in Los Alamitos, California used PledgeStar to help raise more money during the school’s inaugural Jog-a-Thon fundraiser.
Co-Jog-a-Thon Chair and PA Board Member Erin de Lucia was first made aware of the PledgeStar online fundraising system after hearing rave reviews about the service from one of her friends at Lowell Elementary School in neighboring Long Beach, California.
“We were impressed with how much more money Lowell earned with PledgeStar than they had in previous years. My friend at Lowell totally sold me on PledgeStar, and I knew we had to give it a shot,” de Lucia explained.
St. Hedwig’s Jog-a-Thon was a huge success, bringing in over $51,000. De Lucia credited the success to Pledgestar’s email system which helped the school reach family and friends who would otherwise not have been asked to donate. “We loved how PledgeStar gave relatives an opportunity to contribute and be involved. Grandparents living in different states were able to directly impact their grandchild’s school in a positive way.”
St. Hedwig’s incentive program also helped the school exceed their fundraising goals. Students were given prizes based on how much money they brought in; the more they raised, the better prizes they received. At $100, students were given customized socks with the school’s Celtic logo printed on them. “It was crazy, the kids were really motivated to reach the $100 mark to get those socks!” recalled de Lucia.
In the past, the school put on several fundraising events throughout the year including wrapping paper and holiday wreath sales. After adding PledgeStar to the mix, St. Hedwig will now be able to do away with the other fundraisers.
Crocker Highlands Elementary in Oakland, California has used the PledgeStar system for the past two years. This year, they raised over $122,000; more than double the amount the school earned in the same event without PledgeStar.
PTA member Colleen Orfuss researched several online fundraising platforms before last year’s Walk-A-Thon. She wanted a system that was simple, easy to use, and affordable. After interviewing local PledgeStar schools in her area and discussing the site’s features with PledgeStar personnel, she made the decision to use the service at Crocker Highlands.
The school relies on the Walk-A-Thon as its main source of fundraising income. Devastating cuts in California, and in particular the Oakland area, have forced parents to maintain the educational budget themselves. “Without the Walk-A-Thon, our music and arts programs, field trips, P.E. classes, and more would be cut from the curriculum,” explains Orfuss. “The fundraising success we’ve had with PledgeStar these last two years has been absolutely huge for our school.”
Orfuss credited the school’s robust prize structure, as well as the PTA’s promotional efforts, as the keys to motivating the students to seek the most donations and raise as much money as possible. PledgeStar’s donation dashboard made it easy for her to keep track of what prizes were owed to what student. “Having all the donation and prize data in one place was amazing. Pledges, payments, prize reports, all in one place, all easy to understand. It was perfect for our needs.” Crocker Highlands parents and staff held a Kick-Off ceremony to get students excited about the event and sent out email blasts to remind parents to register on the school’s PledgeStar site. Additionally, Orfuss used PledgeStar to generate class participation reports, and sent them to parents to make sure they registered their family on the school’s PledgeStar site. At the end of the event, the class with the highest participation percentage was awarded a pizza party.
Crocker Highlands plans on using PledgeStar for all their future fundraising needs. “It’s perfect for our community. No one has time to go door to door collecting money. PledgeStar is just so easy. We raised $60,000 from this event three years ago. PledgeStar is responsible for helping our school double its fundraising earnings,” raved Orfuss.
By utilizing PledgeStar to reach out to more friends and family, the Sunset Youth Football and Baseball leagues of Portland, Oregon raised tens of thousands of dollars.
It all started when SYFL Coach Frank Krause was made aware of the PledgeStar system by a friend who had used it successfully at his school’s Jog-a-Thon. Krause decided to give PledgeStar a shot for his league’s annual fundraiser.
The fundraiser put on by Krause and the league allowed families and friends to donate a flat pledge or per yard amount. Ultimately, the event raised $15,000, more than triple the amount raised in years past.
“It’s a more logical way to reach out to people than sending out letters,” explained Krause.
Krause applauded PledgeStar’s customer service, explaining, “They did a lot of the work for us. It was really great.” In addition, he praised PledgeStar’s ease of use in setting up, carrying out, and analyzing the success of the event.
After the success of the fundraiser, Sunset Apollo Youth Baseball league treasurer Brooks Newsom took notice. He hired PledgeStar for the league’s Pitch & Hit fundraiser that aimed to reduce league registration fees. “Without our Pitch & Hit fundraiser, our registration fees would double,” recalled Newsom.
The Pitch & Hit event achieved the same success as the football league’s fundraiser, raising over $14,000. Newsom credited the success of the fundraiser to PledgeStar, citing the service’s reporting and tracking functions as timesaving, helpful features.
“PledgeStar is an outstanding fundraising tool. It just works,” concluded Newsom.
Two years ago, the PTA at Rogers Middle School in Long Beach, California hired an outside fundraising company to run their annual pledge drive. After the company took 50% of the school’s fundraising earnings, PTA member Leslie Anderson decided to run the event herself.
Anderson learned about the PledgeStar fundraising system from a friend, and immediately knew the service was right for Rogers. To get the student participants excited, Anderson and the other parents threw a kick-off assembly. Parents and faculty hyped up the student crowd by dancing to old hip hop songs before a video was shown informing the students of how the pledge drive would work. “We made a video and PowerPoint presentation to teach the students about PledgeStar, and showed them all the cool prizes they could earn!”
Along with PledgeStar’s automated pledge reminders, Anderson and the PTA sent out weekly email reminders to participants’ families, posted daily Facebook updates on the fundraiser’s progress, and shouted out students for reaching certain prize goal levels.
By keeping the student body engaged, Rogers raised over $44,000, money they put towards the purchasing of Chromebook laptops and water bottle filling stations for the school.
Anderson praised PledgeStar’s ease of use and affordability during the fundraiser. “Because we put the event on ourselves, we really needed a service that was easy to use and allowed us to keep the majority of our donations. After handing a big name fundraising company a check for 50% of our donations earned, we were pleasantly surprised to pay PledgeStar only $995.”
Additionally, the included offline pledge donation tracker and real time prize reporting tools meant less work for Anderson and the PTA at Rogers. With PledgeStar, they worked less, and raised more.
For the past three years, Rumsey Station Elementary in Papillion, Nebraska has used Boosterthon, a full service fundraising company, for its annual Rumsey Run Jog-a-Thon event. However, after parents began voicing concerns over Boosterthon’s high fees, PTA member Kristi Waszak knew it was time for a change. “Raising almost $33,000 and then writing a check to Boosterthon for almost $10,000 really left a bad taste in our mouths. Our parents felt like the money wasn’t going where it should be.” recalled Waszak.
Waszak first heard about PledgeStar from her relatives who had successfully used the service at a neighboring elementary school. PledgeStar’s fee cap and intuitive prize reporting tools persuaded the initially skeptical PTA to give the service a shot, and Waszak hit the ground running to launch the event.
Waszak and her volunteers set up the event and directed parents to use PledgeStar. Then, something interesting happened: “We actually had more parents willing to donate because of PledgeStar’s low-cost pricing structure. Once parents realized the money was actually going to the school, donations, as well as parent involvement in the event, increased dramatically.”
This year’s Rumsey Run was a complete success, bringing in even more than last year’s Boosterthon event. Best of all, thanks to PledgeStar’s fee cap, the school retained over 95% of their fundraising earnings!
Director of Advancement at Redwood Christian Schools, Mike Kady, has been running his school’s Jog-a-Thon for the last 21 years. This year, after researching online pledge drive systems, and being made aware of PledgeStar by his district’s superintendent, Kady decided to give the service a shot.
For over 40 years, Redwood Christian has relied on their annual Jog-a-Thon as one of their top fundraising sources. Without the Jog-a-Thon to supplement the school’s budget, Redwood could not offer the same level of quality programs that it currently does. “Funds raised through our Jog-a-Thon are used for program enhancements, and help fund tuition grants for families who otherwise could not afford a quality private education,” explained Kady.
Until last year, the school used traditional paper pledge sheets. By adding PledgeStar to the mix, Kady saw numbers unlike any he’d witnessed in his previous 21 years. “Our prior record for the event was about $73,000. When we added PledgeStar to the equation, we raised over $102,000.”
Kady credited PledgeStar’s donor email request system for the new fundraising record. “PledgeStar makes it a lot easier to cast a broader net, and invite more people to participate in the event.”
PledgeStar’s donation tracking system also garnered praise from Kady. “PledgeStar’s dashboard makes it easy to track the fundraiser’s real time progress, and it’s fun to see an increase every time I refresh it! PledgeStar definitely makes peer to peer fundraising easy and fun.”
Several Corona Del Mar High School sports teams raised hundreds of thousands of dollars using the PledgeStar fundraising system.
It all started in 2015, when Assistant Football Coach Kevin Hettig utilized PledgeStar for his team’s Lift-A-Thon. In the past, team members sent handwritten letters to family and friends asking for donations to pay for everything from equipment to transportation. Hettig noted that this process was slow and did not yield a great return.
When Hettig heard about PledgeStar and how it automatically sends pledge requests by email, he decided to try it. The football players were able to lift their earnings high above their goal.
“We were very impressed with the overall efficiency of the system,” said Hettig regarding PledgeStar. “The ease of use was the most impressive part. We didn’t have to sit there and watch kids lick stamps and seal envelopes. Overall, it was just awesome.”
Over time, word spread about the football team’s fundraising success with PledgeStar. The Girls and Boys Water Polo teams both used PledgeStar, bringing in $36,000 each. Dave Strauss, a water polo booster, remarked, “We raised more money than we ever raised with a single fundraiser! The families loved the fact that it only took about 15 minutes to complete the entire set up and email process.”
Since 2015, several other sports organizations at Corona Del Mar have enlisted PledgeStar’s help for their fundraising. Boys Basketball, Girls Volleyball, Girls Soccer, and the Boys Lacrosse team all used PledgeStar to help lessen the burden of the high athletic costs facing students and their parents.
In the two years that PledgeStar has been used at the school, CDM athletics has raised almost $300,000. They continue to serve as a case study in how high school sports fundraising should be. With PledgeStar, they’ve worked less, and raised more.
When Stephany Dawson took over as co-chair of Cypress Elementary School’s annual Eaglethon fun run, she had one goal in mind: bring recess back to the school. The school’s playground facilities were virtually nonexistent, and students weren’t afforded the luxury of unstructured play. This led Dawson and other parent volunteers to take up the cause themselves.
Dawson was introduced to the PledgeStar online fundraising system by her co-chair on the Eaglethon board. After extensively comparing PledgeStar’s pricing and features to other fundraising companies, the Cypress Elementary parents knew it offered the most bang for their buck. “The fact that PledgeStar costs a maximum of $695 made the decision easy,” reveals Dawson.
In preparation for Eaglethon, Dawson and her staff set up a unique prize system designed to maximize student donation requests. “We gave prizes to the kids, but what really helped us was awarding prizes to the teachers who motivated their students to seek the most donations.” Massages, facials, and other rewards were raffled off to the Cypress Woods faculty members whose classes sent the most donation requests.
This year’s Eaglethon was a massive success, earning the school over $45,000, more than doubling the previous year’s profits. The fundraiser’s success initiated a multi-year project to completely revamp the school’s recreation area. Shaded spaces, basketball courts, athletic fields, and playground areas will soon be enjoyed by the student body of Cypress Woods; a massive victory for Dawson and the parent volunteers that worked tirelessly to make the 2017 Eaglethon fundraiser the best one yet.
Tom Renger became familiar with the PledgeStar fundraising system during his time as Kettering Elementary School's PTA Treasurer. Their Fit Fest Fundraiser was a massive success, prompting Renger to apply PledgeStar’s services to his Cub Scout Pack’s annual Poinsettia Fundraiser.
In years past, Cub Scout Pack members would go door to door in their community, seeking donations for their pack and selling poinsettias to give to a local church, as well as a veteran’s hospital, to spread some holiday cheer.
This year, with the help of PledgeStar's online fundraising, Renger and his scouts were able to reach out to family members and friends from across the country making this fundraiser their best one yet.
By the end of the fundraiser, Renger was pleasantly surprised his pack had raised over $12,000, a figure that doubled proceeds from years past. With the extra money the scouts earned, they were able to purchase a new Pinewood Derby track and other campout necessities.
“By using PledgeStar we doubled our profits with half the effort,” recalled Renger, praising PledgeStar’s convenience and ease of use. Renger was also impressed with PledgeStar’s guidance and customer service throughout the event. “My emails were answered immediately, and help was just a phone call away. PledgeStar truly is a game-changer.”
For their fall fundraiser, Groveland Elementary volunteers wanted to do something unique and unprecedented in their school’s history. Not only did they want to raise money for their academic programs, but they also wanted to incorporate a learning initiative in the fundraising process. The result was a highly successful month-long Read A Thon, a fun and educational way to get students involved in meeting the school’s financial needs.
Parent volunteers created a Read A Thon theme using the popular book “Where the Wild Things Are” to creatively market the event at school. Even the informational video shown at the kick-off assembly was created to match the “Wild Things” theme, along with promotional T-shirts and fun prizes for participants.
“The kids celebrated the start of the the Read A Thon with a ‘Dress Up as Your Favorite Book Character Day,’” said parent volunteer Celeste Hill, “It increased awareness of the new Read A Thon event and also served to get the kids excited about it.”
Hill had been researching innovative ways to raise money on the popular social networking site, Pinterest. As she searched for Read A Thon ideas, she came across a pin for PledgeStar, an online platform for fundraising that could simplify the process and generate income from donors outside the Groveland Elementary student population.
“As committee chair, I was tasked with vetting PledgeStar,” said Hill, “That involved researching their company online, as well as calling and interviewing a few schools which had already used their services.”
Hill and other Groveland collaborators were very pleased with the results of their decision. At $72,000, not only did they almost double the amount of money they raised previously, but they were able to reward students with exciting prizes for their efforts, too.
Hill recounted, “We had a raffle drawing three times per week, individual prizes and class prizes. The class which earned the most received a tour of the school roof. Also, the top fifty fundraisers and top ten readers received a thirty minute visit to a video game truck that came to the school. This was a highly popular incentive.”
“We received excellent feedback on how simple PledgeStar was for everyone, even those who were not technologically inclined,” said Hill. “The support from PledgeStar is phenomenal. They are extremely responsive and work very proactively. They gave us good advice and information on what has worked best for other schools. We are already planning for next fall’s Read A Thon with PledgeStar.”
Fifteen years ago, when the State of California budget cuts threatened to limit K-12 students’ access to extra-curricular subjects like music and art, a group of concerned parents decided they wanted more for their children.
Along with the Del Mar Union School District, the parents worked to establish the Del Mar Schools Education Foundation (DMSEF), a not-for-profit organization whose sole function would be to raise money for credentialed music, art, technology, physical education and science teachers for each of the eight schools in the district.
While California schools are mandated to include these subjects in their regular curricula, the budget cuts had left these areas up to the classroom teacher to cover, cutting the credentialed musicians, artists and PE teachers from the payroll. Since 2000, DMSEF has helped fill in the gap where the state finances could not.
Funding the extracurricular programs for all eight schools in the district is not cheap, however. For the thirty-four specialized teachers employed, the DMSEF raises over $1 million of philanthropic money annually to cover its portion of the bill. To do so, every school in the district holds annual auctions, Jog-A-Thons and donation drives, the proceeds of which are collected by DMSEF and equally dispersed to each school for the specialized teachers’ salaries.
Last year, after two schools in the district had great success using PledgeStar online fundraising for their Jog-A-Thons, the foundation’s board members were convinced that using PledgeStar would be a smart choice to meet their ambitious 2015 goal of $2 million.
Parent volunteer Dave Wojtkowski said that not only did the district substantially increase its revenues from the Jog-A-Thons using PledgeStar this year, but the man hours spent tracking and managing the monies collected for his school alone were drastically reduced thanks to the online system. “When we were doing all paper fundraising we spent at least twenty hours gathering information before the event and then compiling it after. Now we don’t do any of that. With PledgeStar, the work is maybe three hours total...I would say PledgeStar is money well-spent.”
To make sure their 5th Annual “Run for the Gold” Jog-A-Thon event was fun for all her students, Principal Teresa Wilkinson of Allen Elementary School made sure they all had a chance to win prizes even if they were not able to fundraise for the event.
She encouraged students to bring in donations to help raise money for a new campus playground, which was the purpose of the run this year. For every $50 donation, students were given a raffle ticket, increasing their chances of winning prizes with each pledge. Students who did not collect donations, though, were still given a raffle ticket. VP of Fundraising, Chancy Green, said that maintaining school spirit and making everyone feel included was more important to the principal than dollar amounts raised.
Green, along with PTO members, used fun incentives to keep the students excited for the event. Classes with the highest percentage of participants, not the highest amount of money raised, were awarded a popsicle party and one lucky raffle winner became the principal for a day.
“Our principal is very particular about making sure everyone is included...because some people have the means to contribute more… it’s not fair, you know. Some kids just can’t do it. Giving each student a chance keeps them all motivated,” said Green.
The PTO also introduced a few changes to the Run For The Gold this year. To celebrate its 5th anniversary, the event was themed a “color run”, which involved dousing students in different colored corn starch as they ran along the track, resulting in a messy, colorful, exciting day for students and grown-ups alike.
This was also the first year that Allen Elementary collected donations online using PledgeStar in addition to the traditional paper pledge packets. With $25,000 raised online, PledgeStar increased the school’s revenue this year by an impressive 131% while it greatly reduced the volunteer workload for tracking money and prizes.
“PledgeStar was fabulous to work with.” remarked Green, “There just isn’t anybody out there who will do what they do for such a low fee.They don’t punish you if you make more money. We thought their pricing model was great.”
When Dana Wakamoto was placed in charge of fundraising for the Wintersberg Sports Ministry this year she knew she had a big task in front of her. The youth basketball program includes boys and girls teams ranging from grades 2-8, and fundraises annually in order to keep costs down.
Dana Wakamoto recognized the need for reaching a new demographic of donors to support Wintersburg Basketball. In the past, the Ministry held an annual golf tournament to raise money, but when Wakamoto and other church leaders noticed that golf tournament participants were mainly men, and specifically men who liked to golf, they wanted to do something that reached more people.
Dana remembered using the PledgeStar online fundraising system for her children’s school Jog-A-Thon and wondered if it could be used for the basketball program. She called PledgeStar and was pleased to learn that they also help youth sports leagues. With that information, she created their first annual “Shoot-A-Thon.”
Basketball team members were sponsored by local businesses, family, and friends as they attempted to shoot as many baskets as possible for the event. The players collected flat pledges from their sponsors via PledgeStar.
“We didn’t have any expectations...we did this fundraiser to help lower the fees because it’s really expensive to run a basketball program. Our goal was $10,000 and we had no idea how it would go,” said parent volunteer Dana Wakamoto, “but it turned out to be very successful.”
The Wintersburg Presbyterian Church Sports Ministry more than doubled its fundraising goal this year, bringing in over $24,000 in donations at its first annual “Shoot-A-Thon.”
PledgeStar helped expand their donor base and maximize the number of donations they received from family and friends. “The problem is that you tend to hit the same people over and over for donations. We really like the fact that PledegeStar makes it easy to reach extended family and friends out of state that you don’t see all the time,” said Wakamoto.
In all, 180 participants raised an average of $133 each; 80% of which was raised online via PledgeStar.
A member of the South East Youth Organization, Wintersburg Sports Ministry was one of the first South East Youth Organizations established in 1964. Some of the parents who currently serve as team coaches initially began their involvement with the ministry several years ago when they were children playing in the league themselves.
With the help of PledgeStar, students at San Juan Elementary, a Title I Spanish Immersion School in San Juan Capistrano, exceeded their ambitious fundraising goal of $30,000 at their annual Jog-A-Thon in November, bringing in a total of over $37,000.
As a Title I School, over 40% of the student’s families qualify for reduced price or free lunch. This didn’t deter school volunteers from reaching out to families for donations and participation in the fundraising effort.
“The parents realize what a great opportunity this is and what a great community we’ve built for this school; all the parents - Spanish speaking and English speaking,” said PTA volunteer Denise Thatcher, “so there’s more of an effort there...Everybody pitches in however they can...Our school is very special that way.”
There are 750 kids at San Juan Elementary, and about two-thirds of them participated in the fundraising effort - an extremely surprising rate for a school that is identified as having a high-poverty population.
PTA board members worked diligently to incentivize the entire student body to bring in donations for the Jog-A-Thon. Every donation, large or small, counted toward raffle prizes.
Not only does San Juan Elementary have a Spanish Immersion Program, but over 60% of its students are identified as English language learners. While this could have created a difficult communication barrier for the jog-a-thon campaign, Thatcher and other PTA volunteers found their way around it. A former San Juan parent was recruited to help create flyers and other information sent home for the parents who did not speak English. Volunteers were also available on the school campus to offer assistance to families who needed help setting up their online fundraising page.
Thatcher also said that using PledgeStar for online fundraising helped with their school’s unique demographic. Many families would not normally ask for Jog-A-Thon pledges from relatives living in other countries. PledgeStar's email pledge requests and online payments helped bridge the gap between San Juan students and their families who live abroad.
In 2013, Wagon Wheel Elementary’s fundraising consisted of gift wrap sales, See’s Candy sales and a Jog-A-Thon that raised about $18,000 in donations from parents, family and friends using a traditional cash and check collection system.
In the Spring of 2014, PTA President Kim Bernabe added PledgeStar’s online fundraising system to their Jog-A-Thon “just to see if it would make a difference.” When their donations rocketed past $32,000, it was clear that PledgeStar was the way to go. That success gave Kim the confidence to propose a radical idea. She wanted to eliminate all fundraisers except for one: a Fall Jog-A-Thon.
“Both the gift wrap company and See’s took 50% of what we raised. With the Jog-A-Thon, we keep it all,” Kim explained. If the Jog-A-Thon raised enough money to cover the PTA’s 2014-2015 costs, she promised they would not hold another fundraiser until the next school year. "Parents were skeptical," she said, "but they agreed. How nice would it be to only have one fundraiser?"
The Fall 2014 Jog-A-Thon proved to be a huge success, raising over $55,000. Not only did it bring in more money, but it proves online fundraising is superior to the old cash and check collection system. Students who collected donations online brought in over $45,000 of the $55,000 raised.
“PledgeStar is a huge key to our success, because the system works easily and everybody loves it.” said Bernabe, “It’s just such a great system.”
With PledgeStar’s help, Bernabe was able to keep her promise: Only one fundraiser!
Findley Elementary School volunteer Leslie Hmura used some creative marketing techniques along with PledgeStar online fundraising to double last year’s earnings for her school’s jog-a-thon, raising over $110,000 in one fell swoop.
The “Dragon Dash,” as the jog-a-thon has been named, consisted of over 800 grade K-5 runners taking turns running around the school’s track throughout the day in an effort to raise money for their school’s yearly expenses.
In years past, Hmura said, the school had used several fundraisers to pay for “extra” costs, like technology improvements and the International Baccalaureate program. But after she conducted a parent survey, she found that most families (around 70-80%) preferred to hold once-per-year fun-based fundraiser that could generate large amounts of money.
To meet her large goal of $131 per student and with only one shot to do it, Hmura wanted to streamline the process for families and expand their donor networks. To do this, she turned to PledgeStar and found that students who used the program earned significantly more than students who did not.
“What I love about it is it’s really designed for schools,” Hmura said, “It was just an awesome system.”
Throughout her intense marketing campaign, Hmura urged families to sign onto PledgeStar using small signs with her campaign logos placed on the street, banners and balloons, daily email communications with families, information packets sent home at the summer registration and even a creative promotional video seen on the Findley PTO website. The students were offered incentives, too, ranging from commemorative water bottles to limo rides and Wii games with the principal.
School mascot Sparky the Dragon and his pal, Sparkles, were not only used in the video campaigns, but made regular surprise appearances on campus and at weekly assemblies to add to the Dragon Dash excitement.
Teachers, who were incentivized with restaurant gift cards, played a big role in the campaign to get students signed onto PledgeStar and bring in their donations. They were sent a daily class total every morning and encouraged to recognize students who met goals or brought in donations. The result: a whopping 92% student participation rate among Findley students.
“Our PTO had given us an ambitious goal and we couldn't have reached and actually beaten our goal without PledgeStar,” Hmura said. “The online features, the instant receipts, the tracking features and especially the customer service, well exceeded our expectations. There is no question that we’ll continue using PledgeStar in the future at Findley Elementary.”
A pledge drive is a fundraiser where your students ask for donations from family and friends to help fund programs and equipment that enrich their education. A pledge drive can be an event like a Jog-A-Thon or Walk-A-Thon, but it can also be a Read A Thon or Donation Drive that doesn't occur on a specific date.
Pledge drives are the easiest way for schools to raise big money. Unlike product sales, they don't require your students to sell and distribute products, and your school can keep every dollar raised.
Kids raise an average of $140 each. Students using PledgeStar generally raise twice as much as those who don't.
Grandparents, aunts, uncles and close friends would happily donate if asked, but many parents feel uncomfortable soliciting them. This deprives your school of thousands in donations. PledgeStar solves this problem by making it fun and easy to ask. Parents simply enter family and friends' names and email addresses or text message numbers, then PledgeStar sends pledge requests from the children that are so cute and effective, over half result in donations. Parents can even post the pledge requests on social media. PledgeStar also streamlines the process with secure, online donations that go directly into the school's account.