Jason Reed, a 15-year teacher in the Stow-Munroe Falls School District, is not a fan of children going door-to-door selling “overpriced, unwanted” items like magazines, wrapping paper and cookie dough for school fundraisers.
He views such fundraisers as unsafe for kids, unfair to buyers who feel pressured and ineffective for schools, which typically only receive between 5 and 50 percent of the gross sales.
That’s why Reed and a business partner have created an alternative: YourSchoolBucks, an online discount certificate program that donates a minimum of 70 percent of its gross sales to participating schools and groups.
“Typical fundraisers provide no help to the local businesses that are the backbone of support in each district,” Reed said. “YourSchoolBucks benefits both businesses and schools by encouraging people to buy discount certificates that can be redeemed at local businesses for things they actually want.”
The reading teacher teamed up with longtime friend Steve Thompson to create the online school-fundraising alternative. Thompson, a Stow resident, spent the last 15 years doing a Cleveland-area television show called “Dining with Steve.”
“I promoted restaurants and offered discount certificates that viewers could buy. I realized we could use the same concept for school fundraisers and kids wouldn’t have to be out on the streets selling things,” Thompson explained.
So far, 11 area school districts — including Stow-Munroe Falls, Kent and — and numerous area businesses have jumped on the YourSchoolBucks bandwagon. The website has been operational since last spring, but a full-on launch of the program just started this fall.
“The biggest sign of encouragement we’ve seen is feedback from schools. They think it’s a good idea,” Reed said. “Another great sign is businesses love it because it’s free advertising for them. Now we need to tell parents they can use the site, save money and raise funds for their child’s school all at the same time.”
Reed said another advantage of YourSchoolBucks is that it “brings all of the fundraising for a district under one umbrella by allowing sub groups such as band, football, a building, drama club or any other group to have a link. Each month the participating districts will receive a check and a spreadsheet showing the breakdown for each group. It’s that simple.”
Business owners can join the program themselves for free, or they may be asked to join by a school group.
“For example, in Stow we have 33 groups between school buildings, sports teams and clubs. The goal is that each of those groups — rather than doing the silly fundraisers they’re doing — get one business to participate in the program. If each group did that, we’d have 33 new businesses on the site and we would be raising an enormous amount of money,” Reed explained.
Each participating school group, club or program can benefit directly by promoting the program. When a discount certificate is purchased on the site, buyers can select from a drop-down menu exactly where they want their money to go.
Reed and Thompson are hopeful the program succeeds — not only for the safety of area children, but also for the benefit of local schools and businesses.
“In this day and age, you don’t want your kids going door to door selling unwanted items. With this program, you can buy what you want, when you want, save some money and support local businesses and schools at the same time,” Thompson said.