We surveyed our top Group Orders schools, some of whom earned more than $500 in credit! Here is their advice.
It can be a lot of work for one person to do, especially if you haven't done before. Consider having two people paired together—a parent coordinator who manages the marketing/communications with parents and Montessori Services and order processing. Also, a staff administrative partner at the school to manage details around shipment delivery, distribution to families, and financial payment management
Make it as easy as possible for parents to fill out the form. If a process is too time consuming for parents, they won't do it.
Include a "favorite things list" of items that the school recommends, would be useful, or worth investing to have at home. Vary the list by age level. Print the lists and hand out with the catalog and promotional flyer.
Consider highlighting good games/items for specific ages (Early Childhood, Toddler, Elementary). Remind families that these items make great gifts for young nieces, nephews, friends, etc.
Let parents know what their child is working on in the classroom.
Give yourself time to put the order together so you are not rushing to meet the group order deadline for free shipping.
Give the catalogs directly to parents at pickup so you can be sure they get them, and you can answer any questions. In addition, leave a stack of them where parents can grab one if they lose theirs, or want extras to share with friends or relatives.
Give a time frame of about 2 weeks for families to submit their group orders—too long and families forget about the fundraiser and too short and they don't get a chance to be reminded to put in the order.
As the orders come in, check the math on the order forms for accuracy.
Spend time creating systems to keep all of your orders organized, especially as supply chain issues can create a trickle of backorders over time.
Create a system for tracking backorders – a master order with notes or an Excel spreadsheet.
Communicate immediately about backordered items and give families the option to wait or cancel (check the Stock Updates page).
Streamline the process by accepting orders and invoicing all at once after a cutoff date, then have a payment deadline prior to actually placing the order. This saves office staff frustration and confusion.
Do not wait until the last day to enter the orders.
Over communicate. Send many, many reminders. It's a short fundraiser.
Consider using multiple ways to communicate (email, newsletter, flyer, social media, posters, or school app) to reach more parents.
Communicate early to let them know the promotion is coming, send details closer to the deadline, and follow up during and after the promotion has been completed.
Ensure that parents know that they can help your school simply by purchasing items for their children. Remind them it is a great way to shop for the holiday rush far ahead of time!
Start talking about the program early, encourage parent leaders to promote the program via word of mouth.
Encourage families to share the order forms with their own friends and family to increase coverage.
Have parents with first-hand experience talk about the quality and educational value of the items in the catalog. Bring samples for them to see. Emphasize the variety of non-toy items that enrich their cultural awareness, music and art appreciation, hands-on science and real-life skills to empower their child's growth and independence.
Promote the hands-on aspect of the materials and the fact that with a group order there is free shipping.
Distributing the orders
It takes more time than you might think to divide up all the items and package them for individual families. Have a few organized parent volunteers sort the order with an experienced volunteer or staff member (if you have run the promotion before).
Wait to sort group orders on a weekend or when you have a large block of time. You will need table space.
After orders have been sorted, verify the orders, staple the bags shut with a copy of the family's submitted order form, and then notify the families that the orders are ready. Do not distribute the orders prior to checking for accuracy.
Arrange for items to be picked up discreetly so gifts remain surprises.
Consider reporting the total credit amount raised at the end of the promotion in a thank you to parents.
You might include general categories of how the school intends to spend the credit, or post pictures and a list of the items purchased.
Teachers can let the children know when new materials come into the classroom how excited they are that their families raised the funds for these materials.