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Burlington Boom – Fundraising Success at St. Timothy Catholic School

January 14, 2010

Ray Richards: Hi Dianne, thanks for helping us out with this interview. Can you start by telling us what your fundraising project is all about?

Dianne Gora: I run this program for St. Timothy Catholic School in Burlington. In grade 7 the kids go to Ottawa and in grade 8 they go to camp. So, a few years back, I bought some gift cards through my nephew who is doing cheerleading in Mississauga and then I approached the principal at school and asked “why can’t we do gift cards to cut down the cost of the grade 7 and grade 8 trips?”.

Ray: So how many people are actually involved in your fundraising efforts?

Dianne: I would say at least 25% of the grade 7 & 8 kids participate

Ray: And how many kids are in that group?

Dianne: There’s 5 classes of between 25 and 30 kids

Ray: So what do you do to gain their participation?

Dianne: When we have our welcome night BBQ, we put out information. There was a slideshow for the entire school and we just asked the grade 7 and 8 parents to hang behind so that we could tell them about what’s available to them. Then I printed off all the paperwork from FundScrip, photocopied it and sent it home to every affected student.  The forms are also always available in the office, so the kids can come and pick one up anytime. We also have on our school website the link to FundScrip. Our school is very active with the using website; so about once a week we usually get an email from the school, and at the bottom there is a link into the website, and right on the front page of the website is a link to FundScrip. So if they then want to access that, they can get there through that method. So that, I think, is helpful too.

Ray: How do you maintain supporter interest of people that are participating in the program?

Dianne: Parents know that on a weekly basis if they spend a little bit of money – instead of you know, putting it on a MasterCard or Visa, debit or whatever – the more they participate, the more they make. We go into the classrooms every week and distribute the cards; so all the kids know that other kids are picking them up, and like I said, the forms are in the classroom at all times. Every once in a while in a newsletter we’ll revisit the FundScrip program by mentioning that it’s available.  We also did send out a blanket email to all parents of the grade 7’s and 8’s saying that instead of going to the mall to buy a gift card, buy it through your child.

Ray: Ok, so how have you found the performance of the FundScrip program?

Dianne: Great! No concerns. Parents order online – we have a lot of people ordering online which is the preferred way, but then there’s some people that order online but pay by cheque to the school, so that’s the two options that they have. A third option is that they give me a paper form and I order in bulk and then they submit a cheque to the school, so I guess there’s three ways.

The site is very friendly – no issues that way. I don’t have many parents sending me questions about issues that they’ve had.

Ray: What’s the feedback you’ve received from them?

Dianne: They’re all very pleased and they enjoy seeing their accumulations in their accounts and getting their cheques in June towards their trip.

Ray: So if you were to start the program again, knowing now what you didn’t then, would you do anything differently?

Dianne: I actually have investigated other companies, outside of FundScrip, but I’d heard some issues… I guess they weren’t very organised, and it took longer for the cards to arrive. With FundScrip I place my order on Monday and by Thursday it’s at the school. Another company I looked at delivered the cards in a big clump, whereas FundScrip is nice because it’s delivered in individual envelopes and it’s labelled, so I just have to pass them out to the kids.

Ray: So you’re saying you investigated other possibilities and it sounds like you’ve made your selection, but in terms of implementing the actual FundScrip program, would you undertake any actions different from those undertook at the outset?

Dianne: Not really; it’s very simple once you get started and set up. The administrator that I use from FundScrip is always available when I need to talk to her. Any issues with any kind of gift cards that were you know, somebody was saying for instance that the gift card wasn’t activated or whatever – when I went to the Admincare site and sent a question at 7:30, by 10:00 they already had an answer for me. The website and the support system is very good. So that is one big plus in dealing with FundScrip that I’ve noticed – any issues that we’ve had are taken care of…  you aren’t waiting 24 or 48 hours for a response.

Ray: Considering other people that are setting up a similar type of program in their school, what advice would you give them in order to achieve the maximum results?

Dianne: Ideally, you want to get as many people on EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) as you can, so you don’t have to worry about payments or a cheque bouncing. Signing up as many people as you can on EFT is the simplest way of doing it.

Ray: So, do you have any issues getting people comfortable with that payment method?

Dianne: Um, well we do understand that there are people who don’t want to do EFT; and that’s why we do offer the cheque option. I know there’s one mom in particular who doesn’t want to do any kind of online banking – that’s her comfort level – so we do allow the cheques.

Ray: But in general it’s not proven to be an issue for you?

Dianne: No. Nobody’s ever had any issues with EFT [once they signed up]… absolutely nobody.

Ray: Any final thoughts on how new programs can maximise their fundraising output with FundScrip?

Dianne: One mom at another school was mentioning to me that she was going to be starting up again [the FundScrip gift card fundraising program] and is saying that she is going to have one day to pick up cheques from parents which is also the day she distributes cards – so that’s a good idea; whereas we currently allow them to send cheques until Friday at 3pm. So that will minimize your trips into the school.

Ray: Do you know how much money you folks have raised overall?

Dianne: Yes, $3,226.

Ray: Over what period?

Dianne: From September to last week. [interview conducted January 14, 2010]

Ray: Wow! That’s very impressive! So, any other comments you’d like to add for people that are looking to get a new program going – just by way of advice?

Dianne: What makes our program strong is the fact that what the parents put into it, is what they get out of it. So our incentives are very strong; that’s why our program works well.

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