With ever-deepening cuts to school districts across the country, schools have come to depend on local fundraisers to fill their coffers. The usual suspects — the cookie dough sales and the box top collections — have popped up, but so has a new kind of fundraiser.
Eighty percent of schools have endured budget cuts, and the effects already show. American children consistently rank behind their international peers in subjects such as math, science and reading. With more than 10,000 schools already signed on to the platform, Schoola combines the ever-popular daily deals style of Groupon with traditional fundraising. The company connects parent groups with local businesses for deals on any product, from clothing to food to a service.
But Schoola is unique from other fundraising styles for a couple of reasons. First off, although the company has partnered with large national brands like Walgreens and Shutterfly, the emphasis is on local businesses. The decision to connect locally ensures that people in the community are actually receiving deals on things that they need and would buy anyway — as opposed to another tub of cookie dough or endless boxes of cereal.
Additionally, there is no set discount rate, so businesses have a say in each deal. They negotiate directly with the parent groups to determine how much of the deal revenue is donated to the school. Schoola recommends that businesses donate 15 percent of the proceeds, but they are under no obligation to do so, and the group has reported businesses giving back up to 85 percent of the proceeds.
Once the specifics are decided on, Schoola takes over, facilitating the deal and donations online and ensuring that the participating businesses receive their due payments. The company, based in San Francisco, has already accrued around $3 million in investments. The company launched its pilot last spring with a school in Dallas, Texas, and in the months since then, participating businesses are expected to bring in $25 million, which will result in around $13 million in donations to schools.
According to the startup’s projections, if 30 percent of all U.S. schools participate in the next three to five years, it could raise $851 million to go to fund elementary and high schools. As schools continue to take the brunt of the country’s economic woes, programs like Schoola present a fundraising option that is often more lucrative than pleading with the state legislatures.