Updated May 2019
Please note that after June 30, 2019 there will be no businesses offering school-based passive fundraising with toy catalogues.
Every year giant toy catalogues come home in my children’s school backpacks, and they spend hours circling what they want for Christmas. While it might be annoying for some, for many families these catalogues offer a number of benefits – but the main bonus is that schools can potentially earn or credit to spend on toys and educational supplies.
In a nutshell
Fundraising ideas: a huge range of toys
Suitable for: schools, pre-schools, playgroups etc
Profit: schools receive up to 25% of the value of purchases as credit
From a fundraising perspective, this is probably one of the easiest options available. Simply choose a company, request some catalogues, and send them home to parents. The school will receive a % of the value spent as vouchers. The actual amount varies between companies, but ranges between 10% and 25% – for example if a family buys $100 worth of toys, the school will get a voucher enabling them to buy $20 worth of toys or resources for students. If 100 families spend $100 each on toys, suddenly the school has $2,000 in credit.
Of course, it is not always that simple. Not all families will want to buy toys from the catalogues, and even if they do, it might not be $100. Still – apart from handing out the catalogues, reminding parents and distributing toys – there is little work involved. Families can order and pay online – and as long as they remember to nominate their school/club at the check-out, there is nothing more for the school to do.
The other thing to remember is that the school does not receive the money as cash – it is strictly credit only, meaning that the funds can only be used to buy toys, books, craft and resources and other things offered by the companies. You cannot use the money to purchase a new air-conditioner or computer for the library.
What can you buy?
Put simply, you can buy almost anything. Craft, puzzles, dolls, sports equipment, construction, baby toys, dress-ups, outdoor games, scientific equipment and more.
The quality is generally very good and the brands are all ones you would recognise from the department stores such as Little Tikes, Melissa and Doug, Ravensburger and Sylvanian Families.
The prices tend to be a bit higher than what you might find in the stores. ‘Sale’ products are limited and you probably won’t save a lot of money shopping this way.
However what you do get, is convenience – with (generally) very cheap shipping and all the toys you order will arrive at your school or on your door step in time for Christmas, without ever having to leave the house. Keep in mind though, that a volunteer from the school will probably have to deliver those toys to your doorstep, depending on what arrangements you make with the toy company.
Things to consider
Catalogues are generally released in August each year to ensure that orders are received and toys sent out in time for Christmas. Catalogues can be requested anytime from August to December.
To request forms is simply a matter of visiting the website, entering the school details and address and deciding how many catalogues are required (generally multiples of 50). The catalogues will probably be delivered then every subsequent year until you request otherwise.
Orders can be made online, via the post or over the phone. Encouraging people to order online is easiest, but some families will want to fill out the catalogue order forms, so you might need to set up a collection point at the school, and then post all the orders in together.
In addition to the 20% credit, some companies offer added bonus for orders (whole of school) in excess of $1,200 and some offer Afterpay facilities to make it easier when ordering.
Depending on who is running the fundraiser (ie the school or the P&C) the credit can be used by the school to purchase supplies for the studies, to top up craft consumables or purchase new equipment for various classrooms. Alternatively, the credit could be use to buy toys which might then be used as prizes or in raffles hampers to raiser further money at fetes and events during the year.
Every school will have a different experience with this fundraiser, depending on how many times it has been done before and how early it is promoted within the school. For maximum success you would need to let the community know when it is happening and send out the forms as early as possible, with lots of promotion, long before families start their own Christmas shopping. It has also been noted that the prices of some toys within the catalogue are often more expensive than comparable toys found in department stores or online, although the range provided by the catalogues are often much broader.
Some companies offer home delivery for a small extra charge, removing the need for volunteers at school to have to sort and distribute the orders. This makes it a great fundraiser for remote schools because your ‘customers’ can be spread across the country – buying their toys online and having them delivered to their door without ever needing to leave their home.
Toy Catalogue Fundraising Companies in Australia
Update May 2019: The business behind Parent Direct have indicated that after 26 years the fundraising business will close on 30 June 2019. All online orders up to this time will be honoured and vouchers still generated for schools. In this time Parent Direct have generated over $22million in vouchers for schools across Australia.
Offers between 10% and 25% credit depending on products purchased. Catalogues are colour-coded so customers know what % of their purchase will go back to the school. The school’s account will be credited with the points within 5 days of each purchase.
Schools can also earn bonus vouchers – a $200 voucher for every 20 orders placed with Parent Direct. The vouchers can be spent with Modern Teaching Aids, Kesco or Kangaroo (all educational suppliers) but not with Parent Direct. Therefore, the benefit to the school is not cash, but credit that can be used to purchase a range of items for classrooms.
Parents can opt to have their orders delivered straight to their doorstep. Schools can decide whether or not to receive parent orders, but it can be convenient for those who work full time and won’t be home to sign for their packages.
Update January 2019: the fundraising program previously offered by Educational Experience has now been replaced by an individual rewards point scheme, where points are earned on orders, which can be redeemed on subsequent purchases. While this may be useful for teachers who purchase their supplies, it means that it can no longer be used as a school-based passive fundraiser.