Penny Drive Scholastic Book Fair Success

Hi friends!

Wow! Our penny drive for the Scholastic Book Fair blew me away! Remember how I was hoping to make $500? We brought in over $1400! The top two classes each had over $120 in coins collected!

Along the way, I learned a few lessons. Here’s my advice, now that I’ve experienced this phenomenon for myself.

Plan Ahead with your Bookkeeper

Does anyone else remember staring at a poster like this when you were in elementary school?

plan ahead

I did not realize what would be involved in actually depositing that many pennies. Have you ever thought about how much 100,000 pennies weighs?  Have you ever been given the stink eye by your book keeper when you spring something on her? (No? Just me?)

It would have been a good idea to prepare my bookkeeper for massive coin deposits. I didn’t realize how many pennies we’d get. Our normal book fair deposit procedures were not enough, due to the amount and weight of the coins.

If you’re responsible for making deposits yourself, think about how you will transport a very heavy load to the bank.

Make Your Counting Count

As you count the coins for each teacher, organize the coins for your bank deposit too. I used sandwich sized zipper baggies for small groups, like 200 pennies; then I put those sandwich baggies into gallon baggies for large groups, like 1000 pennies. I labeled them all with my Sharpie marker.

I kept a list of each teacher and his or her total amount. I filled out my deposit slips as I counted, too. I did not want to count once for the teacher total and again for my bank deposit. I don’t think you do, either!

Half-Time Count

Ask your teachers to bring in what they’ve got in the middle of your coin drive. You can start the counting and depositing process early. You do NOT want to have to count every coin at the end of your drive!

I gave the teachers their empty containers back, with a sticky note telling them how much I counted for them. This also fueled the competition, as they learned how much other classes had collected.

Call It a Coin Drive

Although I said MANY times on our morning announcements that students could bring in ANY type of coin, 95% of our deposit was pennies. Maybe parents were happy to part with pennies and preferred to hang on to their silver coins. But I would call it a COIN drive instead of a penny drive next time, to see if I could get more silver coins and our deposit would weigh less.

Have I already mentioned how heavy pennies are?

Print Gift Certificates

Before you start this, print out your gift certificates. Here’s the Google Doc I created. You can view it, copy it and make it your own.

Scholastic Book Fair

I printed mine on bright pink paper so they wouldn’t get lost on the teacher desks. I filled them out as I counted the money from each teacher’s jar. I also kept my own master list of how much each teacher could spend, just in case those bright pink gift certificates got lost.

In your Scholastic Book Fair cash register box, you’ll find the instructions for accounting for the All for Books donations and purchases. It’s easy peasy!

Do it!

My teachers are over the moon happy right now! One told me she had dreams about coming to the book fair to spend her penny drive money. I can’t describe to you how delighted they are to be able to come to the book fair and buy books for their classroom!

Scholastic Book Fair

Even though I spent several late evenings at my desk, counting filthy, heavy coins, I will definitely do this again! It has been well worth it!

Your Feedback

I received several comments from librarians who have different twists on the coin drive.

  • Beth Schaefer said: I do something similar. I do a boy vs girl competition. Monday they bring pennies, Tuesday nickel, etc. each day a winner is announced during lunch as to who gets “special privileges” until lunch the next day. This means they get to line up first, go to recess first, some teachers have special things in their class s has raised over $2000, which buys new books for teachers classrooms. The kids get so excited to come in the library during recess to see the buckets of coins to see how close it is. The best part is that 100% of the money goes to teachers since the prize costs me nothing!!
  • Jen Daly said:As a former Scholastic employee and a current chairperson, I would love to point out that the money donated has three rewards: first, you ring it up as a “sale” which counts toward your total earned at the Book Fair; secondly, you purchase books with the amount directly from your own book fair, which also counts toward your total earned (So, if your kids donate $500, you will end up with a total of $1,000 more counted toward your book fair total – and you earn Scholastic Dollars on the entire $1,000.) And lastly – like Cari pointed out – Scholastic matches the amount contributed and donates it to some great charities that provide books to kids.

    All for Books is an AMAZING program! Ask your field rep about it if you are not already doing it. We have done penny wars at our school and the kids love it. I give out Book Fair gift certificates to the winning team.

Thanks for sharing. Together, we’re all better!

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    1. We are kicking off our Pirate Treasure drive this week! I haven’t done a focused All4books program in a coule years and I know there will be a huge difference in our donations. Winning grade level will get a pirate party in the library ☠

    2. Cari,
      I do a coin drive as well, and I changed it up this year (no pun there at all…). This year since my teachers are usually reluctant to participate, I make it a contest and have the kids gather coins. We count each day and put a post it in the jar so that the kids can see daily totals (these totals are also announced over the intercom during announcement time to spur them on). I give the winning teacher $100 in books off the fair and then randomly choose two students from that class to also receive $25 each. Then second place teacher gets $50 and one student from that class gets $25. Third place gets $25 and one student from the class gets $15. They want their students to get those books, so most encourage the drive. Additionally, parents come in during Open House and GP come in on GP day and stuff bills into the cups. I also made pennies negative this year so that if they filled up their opponent’s cup with pennies, it would subtract. Also, our bookkeeper turns in all the coins and runs them through the bank’s coin counter, so I just wait for the deposits to be returned to me. She is not stressed out and our library has some extra $$ to spend on books and technology. And yes…pennies and other coins are mega-heavy!

      1. Sheri, thanks for sharing what you’ve done. I like the ideas of making pennies a negative. I didn’t think of that! Also, having parents and grandparents come in and participate is a terrific idea!
        Thanks for your comment!

    3. Hi Cari,

      Before I reinvent the wheel, do you have a copy of the letter you sent home about the coin drive?


    4. You inspired me to do this, and it was a great success!

      I gave each teacher a container and counted their money each day. We have only 13 K-5 classes (and one Pre-K class participated). My library aide helped count and I just stayed late to count (I’m only half-time). I gave the teachers an update each day, which was a great motivator for some of them to remind their kids to bring in money. After all was said and done, our little school had brought in $1072! The trick has been to make sure the teachers get in and spend their money. I did a preview event with food on the afternoon I set up the fair and got about half the teachers in. Their prize is to have an extra library time with me one afternoon, to do whatever the class votes to do (centers with STEM stuff, video, quiet reading, etc).

      The one thing I’d do differently for sure (as of now…I’m sure there will be more thoughts to tweak this as time goes one): I’d make sure to reserve some of the money collected for non-classroom teachers like our resource and music and PE teachers. I felt badly that they didn’t get to go shopping, since there are things in the fair they can use in their teaching too.

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