Selecting the Right Incentives

Incentives are a daily part of our lives. Parents ease their children through agonizing trips to doctors and dentists with the promise of a milkshake or a visit to the park afterward. We all gladly deposit our paychecks after two grueling weeks on the job. We use incentives to motivate ourselves and others to take action and reach goals. So it is no surprise that incentives have become a daily feature of school life.

“We use incentives every day – in everything from reading programs to lunchroom discipline and yes, fundraising,” according to one PTSA president of a middle school in Silver Springs, MD.

Indeed, fundraising drives, unlike many school activities, are voluntary and should be promoted as such. Moreover, incentives or prizes offered by fundraising companies to students should be characterized as fun components to the program, and not presented as the overriding goal for participants, according to fundraising professionals. The key, they say, is to focus on quality products and activities that everyone – parents, faculty and students – can feel good about.

Important Questions to Ask

Answers to the following questions will help when evaluating the quality and appropriateness of incentive programs:

• Will the school or group leaders be proud to be associated with these rewards?

• Will the awards be delivered in a timely fashion with little or no classroom disruption?

• Is the incentive program structured fairly, encouraging everyone to participate even at a minimum level?

• Are the incentives of sufficient quality that a family or child will feel that it is commensurate with the effort put forth?

• Are the prizes excessive, detracting from your organization’s overall message?

• Will the incentive cause undue competition between students or potentially encourage inappropriate selling tactics?

• Who pays for the incentive program? Do not assume that incentive programs can be “traded” for extra percentage points or other special allowances. Each company will have a different policy.

• By doing your own incentive program rather than the program offered by the fundraising company, will you end up spending more valuable volunteer time?

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