Over the Rainbow

Fundraising has a reputation for being a necessary evil: It’s essential for keeping an organization’s bills paid, but often a difficult undertaking, even in the best of economic climates.

But don’t tell that to the PTA at Spark Matsunaga Elementary School in Germantown, MD. The group’s participating parents and teachers have combined their collective business and marketing know-how to plan and run numerous successful fundraising events, including a fun run, health fair, silent auction, field day, book fair, class parties and field trips. Additionally, at virtually every event, they make sure a wide variety of branded items – what the school calls Gecko Gear after its reptilian mascot – are available for sale. Students, parents and staff can shop for vintage tees, polka dot umbrellas, even shoelaces.

But the school’s most popular promotional item by far is the Matsunaga Class Level Tee. Back in 2009, the PTA decided to launch a consistent fundraiser for the school, and settled on different-colored tees for each grade. Sonic Promos (asi/329865) was asked to screen print them.

“The kids commit the color chart to memory,” says Lindsay Hixson, brand manager at Sonic Promos, “and even the youngest students will happily tell you which color is next for them at any given time. They’ve been great for the school. Before the tees, Gecko Gear pulled in roughly $3,400 per year. In just 12 months, that figure rose to nearly $10,000.”

In addition to the financial benefit for the school, parents say the anticipation of a new T-shirt enthuses their kids in the days leading up to the beginning of the school year. “Every month, the school holds Spirit Day,” says Hixson. “Students who wear the class or school colors can earn special treats or class parties. Any clothing item in the right colors counts toward the goal of 100% spirit participation, but many of the kids choose to wear their Class Level Tees. They remind each child that they’re part of a class, a school and a community larger than themselves, and that’s the real benefit of an active and involved PTA.”