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The Season of Giving

Matthew Good, MS, RD, LD
The holidays are upon us, and as the season’s spirit opens our hearts, many of us are also looking to open our wallets to good causes. We even have a globally recognized designated day of charitable offering, known as “GivingTuesday,” observed the week after Thanksgiving. Additionally, according to Donorbox, roughly 31% of all donations come in December, with 12% donated in the final three days of the year. A Scrooge might point out that this surge may be more about year-end donations for tax relief than the holiday spirit, but the result is the same either way. Is this the perfect time for your school district to make an appeal?
Though still one of the top beneficiaries of charitable donations, K-12 school fundraising has dropped in recent years. While a frustrating statistic, now more than ever, a solid plan of appeal to your donor base needs to be both effective and efficient. It’s possible that your school district’s nutrition operation has yet to get involved in fundraising historically, but initiating one now might make sense.
In years past, I’ve witnessed cafeteria staff engage in traditional fundraisings such as baked goods sales, pizza sales, and scratch-made soup sales (especially popular in these cold months in the Midwest). Preselling items like these is a great way to control costs and maximize profit, and might be an excellent way to test the waters if you’re new to the fundraising game.
There are other ways for a school’s nutrition department to engage in fundraising. Many states continue to hash out how to handle lunch shaming and unpaid meal debt. School districts are still on the hook for reconciling these unpaid meal charges, and charitable donations remain the most significant contributor. Now might be a timely opportunity to generate funds for such a cause.
A wealth of online knowledge is dedicated to strategizing and rolling out an engaging and successful fundraiser, especially when simply accepting monetary donations. For example, GoFundMe has a section on its site dedicated to this.
Selling physical items such as baked goods or soups can be a similar process, with the added step of order-taking. Don’t let this extra step scare you off.
Whether the sale of physical items or the collection of charitable donations, there needs to be a system of capturing the payment. i3 Education is rolling out a new feature that, on top of its other functionality, can also make fundraising a breeze. Advanced Fees is a considerable upgrade to the “Fees” tab in PaySchools, which districts have historically used to collect standard fees for labs, textbooks, laptops/tablets, etc. Advanced Fees will allow for creating advanced attributes and general ledger (GL) coding and integration. Without getting too technical, understand that this allows for creating items for which a district would like to charge money. For example:
Want to continue to collect standardized district fees? You can still do that.
Want to sell a commerce item like apparel or even event tickets? You can do that.
Want to create an item that allows for the collection of charitable donations? You can do that too!
Possibly the best new feature, customers do not need a PaySchools Central account to capture their payments. The new “Guest Checkout” functionality takes care of that.
To sum up, with this new Advanced Fees feature through i3 Education’s PaySchools Suite, you could create a charitable donation item for unpaid meal debt and even set that item to have multiple attributes, like $10, $25, $50, etc. Or you could create a baked good fundraising item like a nut roll and set multiple attributes like one for $10 and three for $20. You could then drive your donor base traffic online to these items through guest checkout and capture their payment (which could be GL coded to your preference), all without needing the donor to have a PaySchools Central account.
Of course, fundraising was just one thing that came to mind when discovering this new feature. With the sophisticated fee options and streamlined accounting features, there are countless ways your district could utilize i3’s PaySchools Advanced Fees. If you’re already a PaySchools client, make sure to reach out to them to activate this new feature (it’s completely free), or take a more in-depth look (advanced fees flyer) at what it can do for your district.
Matthew is a private practice registered dietitian and freelance content provider for i3 Education, with over a decade of experience in K-12 nutrition.

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