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How Schoola makes clothing donations a good fit for school funding (+video)

One mom, who happens to be a former school administrator, has created a way to turn gently-used clothing into money for schools, and good deals for shoppers.

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    A website allows parents to donate gently used clothes for their school to raise money, not just as a charitable donation.
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One mom has become the Rumplestiltskin of school funding by helping parents spin old clothes into money for schools by selling them on a website she named Schoola.

A fellow parent recently approached me about doing a story on Schoola as a possible post-holiday idea for what to do with all the clothing that gets replaced with new holiday gifts and also perhaps for all the clothing items we wish we could return.

I imagine the suggestion may have come my way in part because I have recently expressed my deep frustration with the many school fundraisers lining the pockets of big companies via multiple school picture days and book fairs that sell pricy goods to parents who can often not afford them.

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While I want very much to help my child’s school raise money, I am not made of it. These fundraisers not only drain our resources, but when we can’t afford them they can cause conflict with our kids who are disappointed.

Schoola just might be the fundraiser my family can get behind, one that helps our schools while facilitating closet cleanouts.

I called Schoola founder Stacey Boyd of Boston, Massachussetts to find out more about the organization. By the way, there is no magical story behind the company’s name, it’s just School with an “a" on the end, according to Ms. Boyd.

Boyd is the mom of two girls, ages nine and six, a former teacher, and principal who in 1987 founded the charter school, the Academy of the Pacific Rim in Boston, Massachusetts.

“I saw firsthand how school funding for art, PE, music, and languages were the first to get cut in the recession,” says Boyd. “Children who struggle in math come alive in music class. Art, physical education, and foreign language could have a profound effect on students. Those programs were the first to go. We needed a solution.”

Just over a year ago, Boyd approached parents and PTAs at five schools to donate their gently used kids and moms’ clothing which she would then sell on her new website giving $2 of every $5 to the school each parent chose.

Name brands are generally preferred. This may leave my family out since our closets are generally filled by Walmart or Target. By saying that they prefer a “name brand” with its label intact, I suspect they do not mean a label reading “Property of Quin Suhay” inside the collar.

According to the site, Schoola explains, “We accept all brands. However, we prefer name brand clothing as our goal is to help your school raise as much as possible. We've found that the market price on used discount or non-name brand clothing just does not move the needle enough to raise funds for schools. It often costs more to process and sell them than the price for which the item can be resold.”

There are two ways to donate clothing to Schoola, through the mail or through a clothing drive at a school.

For a personal donation through the mail, go to the Schoola website and request one of their pre-paid shipping bags. Fill the bag (which holds about 15-20 items), seal it, and leave it for the mail carrier to collect. Schoola can only send and pick up donation bags in the 48 contiguous United States and Hawaii. 

For a larger impact, organize a school clothing drive. Request pre-paid shipping labels from the Schoola site. Fill boxes with the clothing, seal, label, and call Schoola for a FedEx pickup.

“When the clothing arrives at Schoola’s warehouse each item is photographed, tagged and when it sells the $2 goes directly to the school of your choice,” says Boyd.

Boyd explained that she has a team of industry experts on hand that help ensure each item is priced at the appropriate value. “We want to give parents a great deal and help schools out at the same time,” Boyd said. “Our resale prices vary on the quality of the piece, but will generally be 30-90% off of new retail value.”

When asked how it’s going just over a year into her effort, Boyd proudly says that now more than 6,000 schools nationwide are participating in Schoola fundraiser, adding “Schools make thousands and thousands of dollars. It’s really that easy.”

There are some provisos listed on the website regarding the quality of the clothing and how items with inappropriate language on them or missing their designer labels will be rejected. 

I have spent a fair portion of my weekend in a clean-out of all four of my sons’ drawers and closets. Mine are next.

I intend to contact other parents locally and give this fundraiser a shot to see how we do for my teenage son’s high school orchestra program which can’t afford new instruments, or even rosin for his cello bow.

Also, this seems like a good opportunity for all of us to not only clear the clutter, but perhaps re-home new clothing items we receive as holiday gifts that may not fit wither our bodies or style sense. Hopefully not too many ugly Christmas sweaters will wing their way to Schoola, but I understand from watching NBC News these items are all the rage and may even fetch a high price. One mom’s ugly elf pullover is another’s fashion find for the season. 

If we do well, I may finally stop being known as that mom who isn’t a team player, but rather as the parent who helped fund our schools without draining the resources of dedicated parents who might need them after the holidays.

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