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Posted 08/01/2022 in Amazing Savings Stories

Coupon Book Fundraiser Made Easy for Schools and Nonprofit Groups

Coupon Book Fundraiser Made Easy for Schools and Nonprofit Groups

This article was written by the HR team to help newcomers get a sense of the company.  All names were removed from the online version for privacy.


It Started With Teacher Appreciation Week

In May 2021, a mother in Lithia, Florida talked with her kids about Teacher Appreciation Week and what they might gift their teachers that year.  Her fifth grader pointed out that teachers are typically given sweets, candy, coffee mugs, and the like.  Her eighth grader reflected, “We give teachers calories and fat.  I bet they’d rather have money, or at least the coupons you, Mom, get at work.”  The mother worked in the customer service department of CouponFindr.com, which resells the VIP Perks coupon app.

Snowball in Florida

When she shared the thought at work, CouponFindr.com’s founder agreed his customer service representative should gift free subscriptions to their coupon finding app, VIP Perks, to all of her kids’ teachers.  “But my eighth grader has seven different teachers.  And the founder and I started talking about all the support staff, the crossing guards, the cafeteria workers, and it snowballed.  And we talked about schools in poorer neighborhoods—it felt odd to offer a free coupon app to my kids’ schools when there were other schools with teachers and staff that might appreciate it more and get less during Teacher Appreciation Week.”  Within a week, the company had decided to gift a free VIP Perks coupon app membership to each teacher and staff member in Hillsborough County Public Schools, over 17,000 people.

It took the entire CouponFindr.com team driving their own cars all five days of Teacher Appreciation Week to reach each school in the county.  They dropped off tall stacks of a simple thank-you letter, giving login instructions and a list of locally included coupons to teachers and staff.  “Most schools weren’t letting people in yet, they just took the letters from us at the door.  Other schools, I’d walk in and stand in line behind parents bringing gift bags and baked goods.  When I got to the front of the line, I’d hand the receptionist 150 copies of the letter, and they probably barely noticed because the front desk was already covered with mountains of cookies, cupcakes, personalized water bottles, and flowers.”  Other schools didn’t have as much.

Not Every School Receives Gifts

One school stood out.  It was one of the quiet ones.  “As I was walking back to my car, the principal came out and asked me all these questions.  I’d had questions from a few receptionists but never a principal, and never had someone leave the building to come after me.  I wondered if I’d done something wrong.  Then the principal explained.  Her school’s team wasn’t expecting any Teacher Appreciation Week gifts.  This wasn’t a school where that happened.  The teachers and staff were greatly appreciated—and they knew it—but here the parents could not afford gifts.  She was really thankful a company was giving something to her teachers and staff.  Even though the teachers knew where they taught, they saw social media posts about what their peers were getting from wealthier parents that week, and it hurt morale.  This principal loved her team.  They meant a ton to her.  She was genuine and warm and stood out.”  This was exactly the kind of school the CouponFindr.com team had been thinking about when they expanded to gift to the entire county.

After the gifts were distributed, CouponFindr.com prepared to see a spike in use of their premium app.  But at first, it seemed nobody noticed the gift.  “We saw fewer than five new members log in each day of Teacher Appreciation Week.  We wondered if all the schools had just dumped the letters in a recycling bin instead of leaving them where the teachers would get them.”

But the next week, the IT department noticed a pattern.  At schools where someone had logged in the first week, the next week there would be three to six more log-ins from other people at that school.  Then a few more, and then it suddenly stopped.  “We imagined that first person was the school’s early adapter—usually someone from the front office who saw the letters when they first arrived or a couponista.  She gave the VIP Perks coupon app a try.  She probably used a coupon over the weekend, because who has time during the busy work week?  The next week at school, those first few mentioned it to their friends.  So a few more people tried it, and they mentioned it in turn to their friends, but then—bam!  It was the last day of school and everything got swept up to clean out the classroom for the summer.  Everything stopped.”

But not completely.  Some new members logged in over the summer.  Whether they had noticed the thank-you letter before school let out or they first noticed it while sorting through their take-home piles, CouponFindr.com didn’t know.  But newcomers logged in.  “And some of them called us, usually for help with typos in the login emails because their schools switched email addresses over the summer.”  The customer service team fielded questions from curious HCPS staff members, walking most through their first use of the app and even helping one teacher plan his vacation trip to Coco Beach.

Before that, all of their customers were paid VIP Perks coupon app members.  Usually they were people who had used the Entertainment Book coupons growing up and saw the thick book was now a coupon app.  With the gifting to HCPS, suddenly the majority of CouponFindr.com’s clients were free users.  

Auction Fundraiser Donation Leads to Ongoing Partnership

In early fall, one music teacher at a HCPS school reached out to CouponFindr.com to see if the company would donate a free membership for an upcoming auction fundraiser, and the customer service team also offered the music teacher a referral code.  The idea was that instead of a one-time fundraiser, the referral code would be active long-term, earning the school’s music department a referral fee with each transaction.  The customer service rep asked if she could offer the same fundraiser program at other schools.  

Remembering the school with the stand-out principal, the customer service representative drove back there with the fundraiser materials in hand.  To her surprise, the principal said, “No.”  As much as she would love additional funding for her school, she didn’t want any pressure on the school’s parents to participate in a fundraiser.  She knew they couldn’t afford it.  A fundraiser would only work if it didn’t target the parents, and who else could it possibly target?

The customer service rep took that quandary back to CouponFindr.com and repeated it to the team.  Nobody had a great answer.  But there was one not-so-great answer.  “One of the writers suggested we could create a fundraising referral code for the school and instead of asking the school to promote it, we could just include it in an article we were scheduled to write anyway.”  So they did.  The referral code would give the customer a 50% discount on their transaction, and 50% of the money collected would go back to the school.

Fundraising Creativity Pays Off

When the code was used by a new, paid subscriber in November 2021, everyone at CouponFindr.com was happily surprised.  “Using the referral code, the customer only paid $5 for a monthly subscription, so we put $2.50 aside for the school.”  The IT department loved that the use of the referral code gave the company a better understanding of where and how the customer had decided to look at the VIP Perks coupon app, a win-win for tracking customer insights and fundraising.

The second time the code was used was months later, February 2022.  “This was for an annual subscription, so we were able to set aside $10 for the school.”  CouponFindr.com delivered the $12.50 to the school and explained about inserting the referral code in an online article.

They saw at least one transaction per month after that.  The next check delivered to the school was a little bit higher but still under $30.  Embarrassed to be donating so little, CouponFindr.com was surprised at the thankful reaction from the school.  The receptionist asked the person dropping off the check to wait a moment, then told the principal, who actually hugged the Couponfindr.com customer service rep.  “These tiny checks mean something to that school.  The same amount probably wouldn’t mean much at most schools, but here it got a hug.”   


Any School or Nonprofit Can Have a Referral Code for Fundraising

Since then, CouponFindr.com has created fundraisers for several schools and nonprofit groups.  It’s an easy process, set up internally, with marketing materials created for each fundraiser in less than 24 hours.  “No obligations.  No questions about how big the school or group is.  We make the artwork and we handle all of the online transactions.  And we try to be generous.  It’s so easy for the fundraising groups because, really, that first school’s fundraiser was set up to be as simple as possible, and we just keep repeating from there.”  The more a school promotes its fundraising code to potential customers, the more money the school raises.  The higher inflation goes up, the more people look for coupons, and the more they appreciate a fundraiser that helps them save money, instead of buying things they really don’t want.

If your school or nonprofit group would like a referral code to start your own fundraiser, simply contact blanche@couponfindr.com and suggest a short referral code for your group.

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