How to Engage Parents and Raise Funds

Engage first-time donors with DipJar: North Allegheny Foundation's success story

March 27, 2020

Founded in 1989 to support the North Allegheny School District north of Pittsburgh, PA, the North Allegheny Foundation’s mission is “to enhance and enrich the educational experience of North Allegheny students, create vital connections with the wider community in supporting North Allegheny Schools, and provide scholarship monies to graduating seniors.”

Back in May 2019, Abigayle Tobia, MNM, CFRE approached the Foundation’s strategic planning for the next school year asking the board to complete the sentence, “Wouldn’t it be great if…” The results lead them to focus their efforts on engaging more parents in their mission. The next question they asked themselves was: “How do we define success?” and this is where DipJar became an essential part of their plan.

The strategic marketing committee, made up of community experts and leaders, considered other options to engage first-time donors but they found most platforms were difficult to set up in a way that would look nice. Tobia described the payment terminals "like a self check out" and rather wanted to focus on how the Foundation could make the donor experience a novel and good experience.

In their research, the team “looked at [the DipJar] website, then saw several posts in a peer to peer Facebook group” said Tobia, but explained their hesitation: "it's hard to be that first one in your community that's stepping out that way.” Ultimately, they purchased a single DipJar to be included in their 2019/2020 fundraising strategy.

At the start of the school year, Tobia and her team put their new DipJar into action at a Kindergarten Family Mixer. Parents dropped their kindergartner off for an abbreviated first day of school and then gathered at a local mall to be welcomed into their new role as North Allegheny School District parents. The event introduced the Foundation and amidst the celebration, shared their mission and asked for donations via DipJar. Once the first person dipped to donate, many others followed and the crowd encouraged each other to donate.

After that key first point of contact, Tobia dove into the reports in her DipJar dashboard to match up the parents’ names to the school records, recorded the donation in Bloomerang and thanked the donors personally with hopes of developing a long term relationship.

DipJar helped the small team overcome their biggest challenge: to find and engage first-time donors. The device helps identify who's willing to support their cause and the reporting tools allow them to follow up and further engage. The funds raised from their DipJar only account for about 1% of their total budget but the key strategic metric that they’re working towards is new donors engaged - not dollars raised.

As the DipJar team continued to develop new ways for nonprofits to grow their donor engagement, North Allegheny Foundation helped test new features and products. Prior to the launch of Spark, the Foundation used a beta version of the feature at their January gala to help raise funds to cover past-due lunch balances for students on free and reduced lunch programs. The DipJar was set to $25 and each dip was representative of one student’s account. The Spark display projected on the main screen at the event lit up one dot out of the 123 dots on the screen to show the progress of funds raised. As a result, the Dipjar drew a crowd while attendees dipped multiple times and donating in other ways to cover all of the balances!

Tobia looks forward to using their DipJar device and the software features in upcoming events. She values the open communication she’s able to have with the DipJar team whenever she has questions, feedback, or needs training for a specific task. She adds, "I have been extremely impressed by how willing the DipJar staff is to having conversations...the staff at DipJar responds right away. When I cite areas for growth, they're willing to have that conversation with us."

We love hearing from our customers and can’t wait to see what North Allegheny Foundation does next!


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