Martin’s A+ Rewards Program Provides Helping Hand to Richmond-area schools
By Bonnie Newman Davis
Thanks to the Martin’s A+ Rewards Program, several Richmond-area schools hit the jackpot to the tune of nearly $20,000 during the 2014-2015 school year. The funds, part of an overall $3 million pot that the Pennsylvania-based Martin’s makes available to participating schools in several states, are used to purchase much-needed items such as books, computers, software, musical instruments and more.
“It’s essentially free money for schools,” said Serena Corrigan, Martin’s marketing manager. “Schools can use the money for computers, smartboards, field trips and other activities.”
Schools in Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield counties that won big during the program’s last cycle include St. Bridget’s School, Mills E. Godwin High School, Holman Middle School, Longdale Elementary School and Grange Hall Elementary School.
Here’s how the program works, according to Martin’s website: Area schools encourage Martin’s food store shoppers to register their BONUSCARDS with a specific school to receive A+ School Rewards points each time they shop. For each shopping visit, A+ School Rewards points are rounded per transaction to the nearest whole dollar amount. For example: If a customer’s bill totaled at $3.49, it would earn three A+ School Rewards points for their selected school. If a customer’s shopping bill totaled $8.69, it would earn his or her school nine A+ School Rewards points. The more points earned by a school the more of the percentage of the total award they will receive. At the end of each month, each school’s dollar amount is determined using the following formula: A school’s monthly A+ School Rewards points are divided by ALL participating schools’ monthly A+ School Rewards points.
In an era when many schools have seen cutbacks in programs for art and music, the A+ Rewards program can be a lifeline, agree several school administrators who benefit from the program.
Brian Fellows, the principal at Holman Middle School in Henrico County, carries unabashed enthusiasm for the rewards program. Holman, which has 900 students and about 400 registered BONUSCARD participants, received $2,666 last spring after the program ended during the school year. “It’s an outstanding program that Martin’s does,” said Fellows, noting that his school uses the funds for faculty and staff development, as well as for guest speakers and equipment.
Holman has participated in the rewards program for six years. Fellows said the school’s winning strategy has been to “inundate the community with emails and requests once or twice a month.” Back-to-School-Night is also a great time to encourage parents and others to register their bonus savings card, said Fellows, who considers it part of his job to study other schools’ methodology for winning. For example, one school in Pennsylvania averages about $20,000 a year. So he called the school’s principal to determine the secret of its success. “The principal said there aren’t that many grocery stores around, so it’s become part of the community’s culture to focus on the rewards program rather than other fundraisers,” said Fellows.
While pleased with the funds it has raised, Fellow believes his school could increase its winnings if it were closer to a Martin’s store. He points out that Mills E. Godwin, which received $4,543.47 from the rewards program, is fairly close to a Martin’s store, which means that it is more likely to register Godwin parents, friends and neighbors who shop there.
Fellows offers this advice for Richmond-area schools with low rates of participation. “Take advantage of the program and ask parents to sign up,” he said. “It’s free money!”
George F. Sadler, principal of St. Bridget School, says students are familiar with the school’s large check bearing the numbers $4,571.49. Beyond that, he isn’t sure whether students realize that the “real” check will help provide books and other instructional needs for the school.
Sadler said St. Bridget’s success in securing the funds is based on getting parents to sign up for the rewards program. “Once that’s done, we reap the benefits,” he said. Parent orientation night is a great time to publicize the program, which largely is handled by St. Bridget’s PTO. St. Bridget’s has 280 families and about 80 percent of those families participate in the rewards program.
“They see the benefits to the program,” said Sadler. “The money goes right back to the classroom. We are very fortunate to have a business like Martin’s in our community that chooses to give back to local schools.”
Diane Harring, president of the PTA at Grange Hall Elementary School in Chesterfield County, is pleased the school received $3,458.74 from the Martin’s rewards program at the end of the last school year. She said that because Grange Hall’s PTA has nearly 100 percent participation, it is easier to get parents to register for the program. “We’ve got really great parents,” said Harring. “When we ask them for something, they’ll do it.”
Friends, grandparents and other relatives also help the school accrue points for the program, which is publicized via various forms and email alerts. Funds are used to purchase subscriptions for learning programs in language and math, or for teacher programs and activities, said Harring.
Because the school system does not always provide funding for certain needs, the funds from Martin’s help lessen the strain, Harring added. “We appreciate Martin’s,” she said. “They’re one of the few companies that continue to offer rewards programs.”
Winning Richmond Area Schools (2014-2015)
St. Bridget’s School – $4,571.49
Mills E. Godwin High School- $4,543.47
Longdale Elementary School- $4219, 47
Grange Hall Elementary School- $3,458.74
Holman Middle School – $2,666.55
Photo Credit: Ervin Clarke