This year we’ve made significant changes to the Litter-a-thon fundraising.

We’ve introduced new two-part carbonless form booklets, withdrawn receipting for cash and cheque payments (still available for online payments), and changed some of our record-keeping processes behind the scenes. While we are confident that these changes will improve the Litter-a-thon experience, we also realize that it will cause some changes to donor behaviour as we all learn a new system for doing this incredible event.

Why the changes?

The Litter-a-thon annually takes in anywhere from $45,000 to $75,000 across 500 to 700 donations, collected by about 90 students. Receipting a project of this size is no small task, and there are very real and important implications for getting official charitable tax receipts “wrong”. When we write $45,000 worth of receipts based on hand-written student records that are hard to decipher, crumpled, incomplete, or uncollected the problems can compound. Our new books and our policy of only receipting online donations should help with this.

There are two important issues that these changes are intended to address:

  1. Receipting puts a significant administrative burden onto an already-busy team. Generating receipts for 700+ individual litter-a-thon donations is actually quite complicated. We certainly do use computer software for this, but a significant amount time is spent parsing hand-written student record sheets, compiling donor payments across multiple student sheets, understanding discrepancies between actual and recorded donations, counting cash, converting hand-written sheets into a numerous spreadsheets, connecting variant name spellings, and so on. Staff in our office invest anywhere from 35 to 45 hours in this aspect of the project alone (not counting teacher time in reconciling and reminding students to collect).
  2. Charitable tax receipting law requires that we have appropriate record-keeping and controls on the donations we are receipting. We simply cannot receipt $45,000 to $75,000 responsibly without ensuring that cash, cheques and online donations are appropriately controlled and accounted for. While we’ve invested the time in past litter-a-thons to ensure we’ve been responsible with these receipts, we are also committed to improving the process. The risk for significant error in receipting (especially when students have not kept good records) is very significant, and we need to mitigate this.

How did you decide to make these changes?

We met as an administrative team and brainstormed. We came up with a proposed system (and forms), role-played various scenarios, and then made changes. When we had a draft system assembled, we presented to High School teachers and asked for feedback. We got suggestions, incorporated those, and then role-played again. When we reached the final system we rolled it out.

Why can’t people just give cash or cheque?

They can. Cash and cheque donations are welcomed. However, only online donations will be given a charitable tax receipt. Do not give a student cash without having them give you your copy of the donation receipt (the white copy, which isn’t a charitable tax receipt).

Why do I have to give online to get a charitable tax receipt?

Online donations eliminate any possibility of students handling cash or cheque. With an online payment, it’s impossible for us to issue a charitable tax receipt for a payment that never arrived. It also eliminates the need for us to decipher student handwriting to write receipts, parse 90+ sheets of student handwriting to collect donations by one donor to multiple students onto one tax receipt, and eliminates the need to write receipts for small donations (we could have set a threshold amount for receipts, but this actually doesn’t significantly change the problem on a data-entry and record-keeping level).

I don’t do online banking or eTransfers

You don’t have to. The form takes credit card payments, and in some cases debit card payments. Online banking and eTransfers have nothing to do with our online donation platform.

Why can’t cheques be receipted?

While cheques are significantly better than cash in terms of traceability, we would still have a very large administrative task in tracing commitments to payments, matching donors to students, receipt entry and more. The sheer number of donations, students and donors makes this is daunting task. It’s possible that as we consider how to change and improve this system for next year we may be able to return to accepting cheques under some circumstances.

For donations not affiliated with the Litter-a-thon (i.e. year-end drive, general donations, tuition relief, etc.) we do receipt cheque donations. It is only for the Litter-a-thon that we are not receipting cheque donations.

Can we give feedback?

This is the first year we are using this new system. We will be assessing it and making changes for next year based on the feedback we receive. Email your feedback to us here. Suggestions that consider the issues identified above will be most helpful. We won’t respond individually to every suggestion. Instead, we’ll collect your feedback and review it at a group meeting after the Litter-a-thon.

Our deep hope

We truly hope that the changes we’ve made, while difficult, will improve the Litter-a-thon over time. This is an important event for our students and the community. Thanks for your understanding.