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  1. #1
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    Fundraising With Affiliate Programs
    Been doing affiliate stuff for quite a while, but just got thinking today about setting up a website for fundraising for my son's school. Has anyone done this? Is there some big service out there that sets up links to various affiliate programs for the benefit of fundraising for organizations? Are typical CJ, Performics, Linkshare merchants going to mind? I wouldn't think so... but was just wondering if anyone had messed with anything like this before.

  2. #2
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    There are some companies that offer to share affiliate earnings with nonprofits as a fundraiser, but most have defaulted on payment promises; some appear to have been scams from the outset, while others simply weren't able to make their business models work.

    In addition, some of these outfits use parasitic toolbars, or otherwise violate the rules of many merchants' and networks' affiliate programs. I think the most famous of these is SchoolPop, which has been given its own forum under the "suspicious activity" category: http://forum.abestweb.com/forumdisplay.php?f=172

    Be careful when signing up your school-related organization as an affiliate -- there may be legal and tax complications. In addition, it's not as simple as just joining a network as posting some links -- merchants will close their programs or terminate your relationship, and others may change the affiliate link codes. Some merchants will default on payment promises, too. And when your child moves on from the school, who will take over the management of the affiliate accounts and links?

  3. #3
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    I don't get how they would have payment problems. My checks arrive from reputable affiliate companies like clockwork. Over aggressiveness I guess? I'm sick and tired of overpaying for groceries from my son's school's "Market Day" to raise a few bucks.

    Didn't know why I couldn't do a site with links to like 500 retailers and merchants, and do a bi-weekly newsletter home to parents informing them of coupons and specials at the various stores and reminding them that when they are going to Circuit City, to instead go to the school site and buy online for in-store pick-up etc.

    As for the time commitment, updating, programming etc.... I already belong to tons of programs. Thought I could just program a page to send parents to and see if it gets any interest. If it worked at our school, I would go to the next one on a revenue share. Seems like as long as you were staying on top of your affiliate account and kept good track of your merchants that it wouldn't be too difficult.

    Am I wasting my time here?

  4. #4
    Newbie PublisherZilla's Avatar
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    I really love this idea. I've been working with the school my wife works at recently. Possibilities are endless. Amazon has a pretty good set up to do Summer and Semester-by-Semester reading lists for each grade. You could also make a page on the school site devoted to fundraiser shopping and get affiliate with a shopping comparison shit like Shopzilla (hint) and tell parents to shop via that page whenever possible to raise money for the kids. Etc. etc. The list goes on...

  5. #5
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    I'm sorry if I confused you. I thought you were asking about working with another company that would serve as the "affiliate intermediary," where they would aggregate sales and collect the earnings, then allocate a portion of that money to the charities that referred those sales. Most of the companies set up to fill that role have failed to pay as promised.

    You certainly seem to understand the work involved, but as I mentioned, there are some tax and legal issues that can arise. And you'd need to carefully read merchants' policies to determine if your plan is excluded as a "loyalty" or "incentive" site.

  6. #6
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    You asked if there was a company that would do this for you. The payment problems Mark referred to would be with such a company.

    It's unlikely that what you are proposing would generate much income if your primary source of traffic (and maybe your only source) are those affiliated with the school. Too small of a userbase.

  7. #7
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    I have worked with some fundraising programs but not with the companies that Mark mentioned with questionable practices with toolbars, etc.

    The trouble I have with affiliates like that is they do not have the IT to back them up. They are usually Mom-Pops trying to raise $$ for a good cause. I had a person who was raising some money for the school football team, but his website was below average and putting links up is just a "small" part and puzzle of affiliate marketing.

    Updating the content, managing the merchant accounts and school members so that they come back and shop are something that you have to look into. You want to have the members coming back and visiting your site every week right? IDEALLY You need to have the ability to send emails or notifications based on their browsing patterns, etc and collecting a DB about your members does help. But, before doing that, how are you going to grow your DB or email list?

    Other elements to look into as Mark mentioned, what happens when your son/daughter leaves the school? Who is going to manage it?
    Also, how are you going to market your website and compete with the school endorsed "Market Day"?

    I think if you have a good idea and with a clean program, right marketing + IT, plus many supportive members, you might do well.

  8. #8
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    Do the majority of larger retail type affiliates allow loyalty programs? I've never checked b/c I never had a need to and don't really feel like going back and reading 300 T&C's for a hairbrained idea.

    What I am thinking is more like the intermediary approach, but testing it on my son's school at 100% to the school just to see if parents would use it. Seems like a bi-weekly flier sent home with the other junk the kid brings home might keep parents reminded and involved.

    If you could just remind the parents when they are getting ready to drive to Circuit City to buy online and pickup for their school's pocketbook, it would work. If you are hoping parents just happen upon your links by having them linked from a school website without any offline promotion... it won't.

  9. #9
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    Fairfield Getaway.. you identify the correct issues.. although I doubt my kid's school is going to be building a new wing from $10 commissions from the 2-3 parents that might go on a fairfield getaway each year, I appreciate your input b/c it is accurate.

    The whole key is whether the school would actively promote it. The answer to that depends on whether it makes the schoool any money... which depends on whether the school promotes it. Chicken or egg.

    Seems like I could create a site and manage all linking issues, then just do cobrand sites for the various schools so it is plug-n-play for the school. I could send a sample marketing letter to the school with some promo or something every week or two and hopefully they would promote it.

    Just don't know whether enough people would buy to make it worthwhile. If every other parent spends the same money at shoebuy each month at 17% that my wife does... it would be a gold mine.

  10. #10
    Merchant & ABW Ambassador
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    Most merchants will allow loyalty programs but you have to check those merhcnats out. If you are serious in doing that, just browse around some loyalty sites and see what merchants are there.

    But as Snowman said, how big is your user base?
    Also, is it scalable? If you have 3000 kids at your school and everybody gets a marketing ad to take home? How many would really take it home as opposed to make an aeroplane from it? At best, I would say 15% would hit your website = 450 unique.
    How many will buy via those affiliate links? How many would return in the future?

    If you are successful at your school, how are you able to grow that to other schools?

  11. #11
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    Think grade school first. Parents are far more loyal and stuff actually makes it home usually. Somehow my school make it work by sending home catalogs for overpriced frozen foods that I have to go to the school and pick-up certain Saturdays.
    Last edited by kdobson99; May 24th, 2007 at 08:24 PM.

  12. #12
    ABW Ambassador JudiMoore's Avatar
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    You might actually do better with a one-product approach that everyone could get behind without a learning curve. Thinking about photo prints or custom teeshirts, perhaps something like Imagekind.

    Maybe one kind of food product or home necessity. I think the most effective way to do it would be to limit options instead of expanding them. Offer everything and they'll buy nothing. But all could be guilt tripped into buying one photo print from an event or buying one teeshirt that says Westview Mom or whatever.

  13. #13
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    kdob, I'm not sure if your program would be a success. To help may your decision, is there anyway you can do a quick market survey of the parents to see what value they would place on your service?

  14. #14
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    How did it go?
    Kdobson,
    I know this is an old thread, but am curious if you ever launched the school fund raising site and the results. I tripped across your thread while researching a similar idea. I'd love to hear where you ended up with the project.

  15. #15
    Newbie bassfishin's Avatar
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    man that is a brilliant idea!

  16. #16
    Certified Affiliate Manager sunshiner's Avatar
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    Have you ever looked at the site for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools Mall. I don't know if I can post the link or not, but google it. They have a huge fundraiser shopping program.
    Cindy Ballard, VP of Operations, Greg Hoffman Consulting
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