LAKEVIEW — Raising money for schools may soon be as easy as shopping at places like Amazon, Groupon or Nordstrom's if a new start-up has its way.
All for Schools, launching in Chicago in the next few weeks, is aiming to keep school fundraising a year-round, automatic process by sending portions of purchases at 30 different online retailers to local schools, founders Laurel Rundle and Jesse Reif said.
Already the site has partnered with Nettelhorst Elementary School, 3252 N. Broadway, as a part of beta testing.
"The idea is effortless fundraising," Rundle said. "You're shopping for things you normally shop for, but your school is benefiting."
Here's how it works: Parents and community members visit the site and find their local school. They then choose online retailers on the site to buy from, including Groupon, Walmart, Macy's and Best Buy.
The retailer donates anywhere from 4-10 percent of the purchase to All for Schools. All for Schools is aiming to donate 60 percent of the funds it earns back to the schools, depending on the retailer and how many people are making purchases, Rundle said.
The only catch is that the school's administration must agree to be a part of the program, Rundle said. Initially, All for Schools is targeting Illinois and Wisconsin schools but hopes to be nationwide eventually.
Early focus groups predicted that schools could raise anywhere between $800 and $5,000 a year through the program, Rundle said.
Nettelhorst, known for its actively fundraising parents, hopped onto the idea at the suggestion of parent Kristin Cunningham, who knew Rundle in college and has a son at the school.
With budget cuts, parents now feel the pressure to raise money for basic needs like teacher salaries, Cunningham said.
Each year, Nettelhorst sets a $80,000 fundraising goal as part of a campaign in the fall. Last year, the parent organization raised more than $50,000, Cunningham said.
But the fundraisers need to strike a balance with parents, and if All for Schools takes off, it could be an easier way to raise money throughout the year, she said.
"Some people feel comfortable writing a check," she said. "Other people have strong feelings that that’s not what public schools is about."
Previous efforts to partner with companies like Amazon have taken up too much manpower and paperwork to succeed, Cunningham said. Comparatively, registering for All for Schools was simple, she said.
That's the experience Rundle and Reif, who still have day jobs at Aha Marketing, hope all schools have.
"Sometimes fundraising is not the most pleasant word," Rundle said. "There is fundraising fatigue. We want to position ourselves as someone who's really helping schools and complementing the actions they're already doing."
Schools and parent organizations interested in partnering with All for Schools should either have their principal register on the site or contact them at email@example.com.