What happens when you let 16 year olds run a mission-critical fundraiser?

When Kimberly Ohlson’s daughter joined the Vandegrift High School Band four years ago, things were a lot different than they are today. Nestled in the rolling farmlands of the hill country surrounding Austin, Texas, the VHS Band serves their local community and supports themselves through a series of annual fundraisers. The largest of these by far is the Vision Mulch Fundraiser, delivering mulch to local farmers by the truckload in a drive that is the band’s primary source of funding.

In years past, delivering tons of mulch to remote farmland was an absolutely colossal task. Not so much in the delivery itself, but in the coordination and organization it took to get the orders from the farmers and turn those orders into shipped product.

Nightmares of Paperwork

Before Mrs. Ohlson and the parent volunteers of the the VHS Band Booster Club revolutionized the way the fundraiser was handled (more on that below!), it was truly a paper trail nightmare. Hundreds of teenagers traveled the countryside, paper order forms in hand. They were responsible for taking orders, getting those orders filled out properly, and collecting cash and credit card information. All of this of course had to be kept up with manually and delivered back to VHS. By teenagers 🙂

There parents would collect the forms and cash, sort, file, and then process them. It’s a pretty neat and clean procedure when you lay it out in typeface like that, but the actual mechanics of it were anything but. There were literally thousands of paper forms. Each had to filed and kept associated with their respective payment. Each had to have data transferred, by hand, into a spreadsheet so that the orders could be placed with the mulch companies. It was a long and arduous process that devoured hundreds of hours in the lives of dedicated parent volunteers.

Mrs. Ohlson and the VHS band team saw major room for improvement and took action. What they were able to accomplish is absolutely amazing!

Saving Time and Making Money with Digital Automation

Automation isn’t anything new- Henry Ford hit on it a while ago. Its adaptation and application at VHS was groundbreaking, though. Putting her knowledge of WordPress to work, Mrs. Ohlson helped the VHS Band bring their fundraisers into the modern era.

Gone are the paper forms that were the hallmark of the old process. Parents no longer spend long hours sorting, filing, and slaving over manual data entry. All that has been replaced by a sleek, pain-free digital solution.

Today VHS Band students show up at the door with a tablet or smartphone in hand. Orders are taken on a form that lives right on the VHS Band website. Student reminders for all the different details between mulch types, pricing, payment, delivery methods, and more pop up conditionally as the form is filled out so that they can’t be forgotten. With the click of a submit button, orders automatically populate a single Google spreadsheet. Students just have to keep up with one thing, and parent volunteers have much needed hours added back to their lives.

Last year the VHS Band raised over $200,000 with their Vision Mulch Fundraiser alone- a growth of over 600% since the digital solution was put in place. Waste due to lost or incomplete paperwork has all but vanished, and everyone has more time to devote to other tasks.

Marching On…

Mrs. Ohlson’s daughter graduated last year and she’s moved on from the Booster Club, but the digital process she and her team built is still in place. The work she’s done is flat out amazing and the gains for the Vandegrift High School Band have been tremendous. We’re wishing them all a bright future and are incredibly proud that Ninja Forms has been a part of that success! 🙂

Interested in the details behind how the VHS band uses Ninja Forms? Keep an eye on the blog. Mrs. Ohlson was gracious enough to do a followup interview with us and walk us through how she used Ninja Forms to build the band’s automated fundraiser. We’ll be publishing that story soon!