How Affiliate Marketing Can Help Put the Fun Back in School Fundraising

HandsCharityStockPhotoIf you have ever walked door-to-door selling wrapping paper or made a hundred cupcakes for a bake sale, then you know just how time-consuming school fundraisers can be. Rewarding? Yes. Significant ROI? Not so much.

But just like any organization, schools occasionally need to raise money. Fortunately, with the advent of email, social media, and online shopping, fundraising is actually easier than ever. Plus, there’s little-to-no risk of blisters or burnt fingers.

Here’s how it works. Through affiliate marketing, a school can sign up to promote online merchants via the merchant’s affiliate program. These merchants are usually companies that families are already interested in and currently shopping at.  Using special affiliate links, the school can then share products, promotions, and coupons for that merchant through their social media channels, email, and their school website.

Every time someone clicks on that special affiliate link, goes to the merchant’s site, and makes a purchase, the school receives a percentage of that purchase, which is also referred to as a commission. As a result, a school’s fundraising initiative can be conveyed to an unlimited number of people with little time or effort involved. What’s more is that it makes it possible for schools to generate hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars in commissions for their schools each year.

Here’s an example of how Shutterfly helps schools and other groups fundraise for their cause.

How is school fundraising made possible with affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a merchant rewards an affiliate (a school in this case) for each customer that they bring to the merchant via their own marketing efforts.

So an actual school, a school employee, teacher, or parent could sign up as an affiliate with a merchant that has an affiliate marketing program. From there, the school or individual leverages social media, email, and even the school’s website to promote the merchant and communicate that by purchasing products on the merchant’s website, a percentage of the sale will go directly to the school.

This type of fundraising makes parents, friends, and family feel good about making purchases through the retailer as they know that some of the money will go back to the school to help enhance kids’ learning experience.

Fundraising through affiliate marketing channels benefits merchants as well. They are directly reaching their target audience, driving sales, increasing brand awareness, and strengthening their brand. Cost-per-acquisition is also low for the retailer as they only pay the affiliate when someone makes a purchase.

Best Practices for Fundraising Success

Schools

  • Join affiliate programs that fit your school’s demographic, interests, and budget.
  • Tune in to timing. Be thoughtful about when you promote merchants and their products. For example, if BuyCostumes is the merchant, it might be a good idea to initiate fundraising a month before Halloween when everyone is buying costumes for their children, or Tiny Prints in November when families are creating their Holiday cards.
  • Clearly explain to parents why you are using affiliate links and how they work to ensure an easy, efficient, and profitable fundraiser.
  • Communicate to parents how commissions are earned through the affiliate links and how they will be used in their schools (e.g. new computers, new playground structure, new books, etc.).
  • Appoint a school employee to manage social media posts about the fundraiser and to get the affiliate links up on the school website. Better yet, consider creating a landing page just for affiliate offers.
  • Send merchant promotions out to parents via email 1-2x each month. Be sure to include information about the merchant’s discounts along with coupon codes.
  • Ask families to help with the fundraising effort by emailing the affiliate links and the coupon codes to their friends and families, as well as posting them on social media.
  • Ideally, work with affiliate managers to secure special coupon codes that are earmarked just for your school.

Merchants

Reach out to schools about your affiliate marketing fundraising options. In doing so, it’s important to:

  • Email your existing customer list to let them know that schools are welcome to join your affiliate program.
  • Invite schools to join your affiliate program by posting on your social media pages.
  • Create a dedicated landing page just for schools. This is not only great for SEO, it’s also incredibly helpful to schools and reduces the number of questions you need to answer.
  • Provide schools with marketing materials and tools that will help them be successful, including fundraising-focused banners, sample emails, and social posts in newsletters, etc.
  • Give schools content that converts, such as exclusive discounts or promotions (e.g. exclusive promo codes twice per year and free shipping with no minimums).
  • Allow schools plenty of time to plan and get organized (remember, their full-time job is teaching kids, not affiliate marketing).

The fundraising opportunities offered by affiliate marketing are greater than they’ve ever been. It’s not only much more convenient and cost-effective than walking neighborhoods and baking until 2 a.m., it’s also a lot more fun to have people from Seattle to Syracuse – even around the globe – supporting your school with just a click of a button.

Working with schools and other non-traditional affiliates also gives merchants the ability to work with an energized and enthusiastic new marketing channel and boost their bottom line, brand awareness, and benevolence in the process.

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