Monday, September 12, 2011

In Praise of Scrip

Since it's the beginning of the year, and I know that pretty soon all those Parent Teacher Organizations and athletic teams are going to be looking for ways to make a little money, I want to shine a spotlight on scrip.
Scrip programs are programs where you buy gift cards at face value for something you would need anyway, but you buy the gift cards from the scrip coordinator at your school or nonprofit. The school buys them at a discount rate, so they get a percentage of the total. So, for example, you know that you are going to be eating out, buying groceries, getting gas, or getting winter coats.

In our example today, let's say that the scrip nets the school 5%.
You order:
$50 in scrip for Lands' End
$50 in scrip for Marathon gas
$50 in scrip for People's Food Coop
$50 in scrip for Applebee's
At the end of the day, you spent $200 on things you would have spent money for anyway--and the school has made $10.

It took me a long time to realize how easy this was to do--and even longer to realize that I should especially be buying scrip for gas! I have to say that I have seen lots of schools and nonprofits try scrip, but very few really apply themselves to selling scrip as if it were worth the time and money.

What does it take to make thousands of dollars for your school?
Well, first of all, it takes a dedicated person or two.

What you need is a dedicated math-nut who loves the job.

The best scrip store manager in town is very likely the scrip store manager at Ann Arbor Open. Ann Arbor Open raised thousands of dollars from scrip last year. I asked Vanessa what it takes, and she said that "what you need is a dedicated math-nut who loves the job."  Seriously, I think that most schools probably do have a math-nut or two available. In other words, there is a technical aspect to the job.

There are two other things that I think are important. First, you need to develop a system to get the scrip orders to the people, and the scrip manager--or his or her assistants--needs to be available at certain times or places. That might mean showing up at school events to sell scrip.

In addition to presence at events, you need to have a P.R. presence--can you download the order forms from the school web site? Are there articles in the school newsletter? Although I was already buying movie scrip (great for kid birthday presents) and grocery scrip, it wasn't until the third or fourth time that I saw "gas station scrip" mentioned in the school newsletter that it occurred to me that I actually buy quite a lot of gas.

Vanessa does some of her promotions by writing poems, and I'm not going to do that today, but I will try a tongue-twister....

Sally Sells Scrip Smashingly at the School Scrip Store.

By the way, Vanessa says that there is no "magic solution." She believes you can be successful with a math-nut, a system, some scrip stock, and some presence/awareness in the school community, but she has generously offered to give advice to those of you who are thinking about dipping your toes into the Sea of Scrip. You can email her at aaoccscrip (at)

Seriously, it is much easier to buy scrip for things I would buy anyway, than it is to sell chocolate.

Try it, you'll like it.

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