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The Next 26: Revenue Generating Tips


Next 26: Revenue Generating TipsFollow along beginning April 2, as I begin to share 26 ideas over the course of 26 days to help you generate revenue for your program. Use these ideas in your school. Share these ideas with those in a school near you. Use the comments below to add other ways programs can find ways to meet their financial obligations.

Funding is an issue that affects us all, whether it’s to cover printing costs, upgrade technology or help fund a student’s way to summer camp. Generating the necessary revenue can be a daunting task. Below, advisers from around the country have shared how they generate revenue for their programs. While you might not want to try to tackle all 26 ideas in a given year, hopefully there will be some ideas below that will help you and your staff to take a multifaceted approach to generating the necessary revenue.

All the individuals below have agreed to share their approach and make themselves available if you have follow-up questions. Feel free to contact them directly, or contact me and I’ll connect you.

I encourage you to follow along the next 26 days. I encourage you to pick out a new approach or two to take. I encourage you to share this list with an adviser or staff that might be wanting/needing help as well. I encourage you to share ways you generate in the page comments below. The list of 26 that I give here is just the start.

Use this challenge to start a conversation. Use it as YOUR spark.

 The Next 26: Revenue Generating Tips

TIP #1
What does this business tip deal with? Subscription Sales
What is your name? Karl Grubaugh (@kgrubaugh)
Who are you? Gazette student newspaper adviser, Granite Bay (Calif.) HS (I also teach AP micro/macroeconomics
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. Get a newspaper subscription option on the same form parents complete at the beginning of the school year for PE clothes, locks, yearbooks, etc. I originally did this at the urging of my principal. When I suggested a subscription price of $10, he said no, $25, it’s a fundraiser in part, and many parents will pay it. Sure, I scoffed. (I’d never independently sold more than a dozen subscriptions in a year.) … First year we sold more than 300 subscriptions and netted, after mailing costs, more than $7,000. … The mailing’s a hassle (you’ll have to become good friends with the U.S. Post Office folks who work the bulk-mailing window in your area), but it’s well worth it.

TIP #2
What does this business tip deal with? Special Sections/ Supplement
What is your name? April van Buren (@ms_vanB)
Who are you? April van Buren, MJE, has taught journalism for a decade, including at Parkway Central High School in suburban St. Louis and at Mesa Vista Middle and High School in rural New Mexico. She served as the New Mexico director for JEA and as the Vice President of NMSPA from 2010-2013. She earned her National Board certification in Language Arts this year and studied journalism, education and library sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia. MsRyanPCHS@yahoo.com
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. Every year, before prom we put out a special supplement that is 60-80% ads combined with a few feature stories. We sell ads to dress shops, salons, tanning salons, florists, restaurants and other “prom-specific” businesses. This gives students a chance to continue to apply journalistic and business skills while also bringing in money for needed materials (like a new digital SLR camera, for example). This is a common practice for many newspapers around the country, most often called Special Sections or Business Supplements. Back-to-School issues (shoe stores, department stores, book stores, salons/ barbershops), Wedding Guides (more for adults), Car Guides (contact car dealers, driving schools, car/driver’s insurance companies), Summer Tourism, College Guide (Princeton Review/ ACT Prep courses, local colleges, Target/ shops that sell “dorm” living items, computer shops like Best Buy), etc. are all possible themes, depending on the area and age of your audience. Or figure out what businesses in your community aren’t advertising with you and find a theme that can bring in their business while also meeting an editorial/content need for students.

TIP #3
What does this business tip deal with? Advertising Revenue
What is your name? David Graves
Who are you? Yearbook adviser at St. Thomas’ Episcopal School in Houston for 15+ years. And first year newspaper adviser.
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. I’ve tried all sorts of ways to generate revenue: bake sales, car washes, etc. Nothing beats selling advertising. It’s hard work, but 1 full page ad in our book equals about half what we’d raise at a typical car wash.

My advice is simply this: put all of your fundraising energy, time, parental support into selling ads — and selling books. You’ll raise more money per person/hour than anything else. Our program is completely funded through book sales and advertising sales. Just like the real world. In fact, we’re probably doing better than the real world — we’re not losing money. And the credit for this tip goes to years of enthusiastic editors and staff members who put countless hours into bake sales and car washes in order to prove that selling ads is actually easier (but not easy) and makes more money.

TIP #4
What does this business tip deal with? Yearbook Business, Senior Ads, Business Ads
What is your name? Mike Simons (@msimons)
Who are you? Co-adviser, Skjöld Yearbook @ West HS, Painted Post NY. Co-adviser, Logos Yearbook @ East HS, Corning NY. CJE, 2011 JEA YAOY Special Recognition Adviser, and 2nd VP Columbia Scholastic Press Advisers’ Assn.
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. We budget for about $14,000 in senior “baby” or memory ads in the back of our book, another $12,000 in business ads these are significant increases from just a few years ago.

About three years ago, we started hosting a series of Senior Ad Design Nights in our lab where parents come in and sit with a member of our marketing team (4-6 students, depending on the year) to draft a design of their senior’s ad. We host parents over four hours for appointments of about 20-25 minutes apiece. Parents bring their digital images and prints, a message, and payment, and they leave with a solid working draft in process and subsequent followups and proofs from our staff via email. On our two best nights in Dec. 2011 and Dec. 2012, we made over $7,500.00 in four hours.

We reach out to parents via mass email and a mass postcard mailing in September, announcing the three scheduled Ad Nights and giving them guidelines for planning and preparation. We’ll make suggestions about the length of message and number of pictures to include relative to the size of ad they want, and we’ll give them our team’s contact information so they can RSVP for a particular night.

The night of the event: We host Design Nights from 4-8pm, so we clear and clean our lab at 3pm. We get some light refreshments and sometimes a carafe of coffee set up outside our lab in a waiting area–we’re big on customer service and hospitality. Our staff is in business dress, and we prep the lab with adjoining desktops functioning as one workstation. On the left montior we put a slideshow of past ads for inspiration, and our staff has Photoshop loaded on the right workstation/monitor.

When a parent arrives, they’re greeted by one of our business managers who records their time in, name, and student’s name on a clipboard — imagine the host at a restaurant. We want to ensure no parent is left waiting too long. We collect prints that the parent brought and hand them off to the person manning the scanner–usually not one of our marketing designers, but someone we pull over from our photo or layout staff for the night–and get their prints scanned to our network drive and ready for the design session.

Our business manager/host pairs parents with designers and, with additional support from me, makes sure things keep moving. When we’re slammed (usually on the third of the three nights when everyone realizes it’s their last shot), I’ll intervene with cues and signals to the business manager to help designers wrap up their drafts with the parents and get the parents moving out the door.

It’s at this point that paperwork and good notes are CRUCIAL. We have scratch “Sketch It Out” pages so designers can make notes, parents can copy edit their messages, and more; those papers stay in the senior’s/ad’s folder in our filing cabinet. We have a contract that parents sign, we collect their payment, and make sure their prints are back in their hands. Our business manager will make sure we’ve got a signature and everything else we need in the file before the parent leaves–including contact information–and then we’ll see the parent out the door. A quick reset for our designer, and they’re on to the next parent.

Other notes:

We have actions in Photoshop that generate the five different ad sizes as blank .PSD templates. With the click of a button, the designer is off and running.

It’s not uncommon for a parent to change their mind or find “just one more picture” once they return home; we’ll make edits however they want. It hasn’t been a problem to date, but I’m aware of other publications with more stringent policies for pay-for-edits after the initial consultation.

When an ad is done on our end (designers wrap up their work during our class periods), we proof it to the parent as a PDF via email, and when they approve it, we generate a high-res JPG and lay it into our spreads.

The opportunity for our students to have a true customer service experience where they’re working one-on-one with a client is incredible. Too, we have significantly reduced issues we were having with parents submitted artwork they generated themselves–low resolution, wrong dimensions, and others. We’ve increased our communication with the parents, and with emails, automated phone calls (with help from the principal) and direct mailings, we’ve grown our senior ad sales by about $5,000 in three years.

What does this business tip deal with? Fundraising events
What is your name? Lorraine Gauvin
Who are you? I taught English and journalism and advised the newspaper at North High School in Eastlake, Ohio, for 38 years. Since retiring in 2010, I continue to serve on the OSMA board, judge for state and national scholastic press associations and work on independent projects.
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. Sponsor an event that will make much money in one shot–a spaghetti dinner, Chinese Auction (originated at other local schools), arts and crafts show, kids carnival, breakfast with Santa

  • If your school allows (and doesn’t sell breakfast), sell doughnuts in the morning. If you can get them donated, even better.
  • Sponsor an eating contest (your local Chic-Fil-A might help here) with an entry fee.
  • In conjunction with your Homecoming week, (and with the administration’s permission), sponsor a “smash the opposing school” event–students pay to sledgehammer a junker on the school’s front lawn.
  • Have students and staff donate items for a “garage sale” held in your school’s gym or commons on a Saturday. We netted more than $1,000 on this.
  • Sponsor a student vs. faculty volleyball game–especially if students pay $2 to get out of the last period of the day to watch! Our Student Council did this to raise money for United Way.
  • If you have at least a few local student or former student bands, sponsor a battle of the bands.
  • Arts and Crafts Show – Advertise for vendors and charge a fee for a certain size space in your commons, cafeteria or gym. Charge a small admission price as well.
  • Eating Contest – Students can obtain sponsors ahead of time (ours was a HoHo eating contest, with pledges for so much per HoHo).

What does this business tip deal with? Fundraiser
What is your name? Meghan Percival
Who are you? I advise The Clan yearbook staff at McLean High School in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. The publications staffs at McLean sell compatabilty surveys to our students. Companies like iflurtz.com will send you scantron type sheets for your entire student body to fill out. you send them back and then a few weeks later they send you the results. Kids can buy their results (we usually charge $5) and find out who their best and worst matches are and who would be their best friend. The best thing about his fundraiser is that there is no risk — if you sell no result sheets, you are out absolutely nothing.

What does this business tip deal with? Fundraising, ad sales
What is your name? Scott Geesey (@yearbookScott)
Who are you? Jostens Yearbooks representative, central Pennsylvania. Journalist for 31 years in all fields – radio, TV, print, now 14 years with yearbook and my own website at www.jostenscentralpa.com. CJE pending.
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. Instead of selling ads piecemeal for yearbook and/or newspaper, sell ad packages to simplify the work and raise more revenue. In the commercial world they always sell packages – the advertiser makes one larger purchase and gets ads placed in different places and/or at different times designed for the most exposure possible. Speaking especially for yearbook, why sell an ad that virtually no one reads in the yearbook when you can offer a package that will keep the advertiser’s name and info in front of folks for a year or an extended period of your choosing via multiple avenues? Or come up with a version to support both newspaper and yearbook and they share the $$. This idea is adapted from my previous commercial experience along with ideas from a few other Jostens reps.
(Here is a handout Scott shared that can give you more information about setting up a plan like this.) 

What does this business tip deal with? Fundraiser
What is your name? Jesse McLean (@jmclean3)
Who are you? I am a broadcast journalism teacher at Waterford Kettering High School.
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. Last year we started doing “Supporters” for our programs. Students were required to get at least 2 supporters and after that I would split half of anything with them for any conventions or field trip costs. To be a “supporter” of our program, individuals or groups must donate $15 (or more, if they’d like) towards the program. We then take all of those people, list their names on our website and social media accounts. We also gave them a shoutout at the end of a few of our episodes.

Anyone can be a supporter – staff members, students, family and community members. The idea is that they’re supporting WKHS-TV and our goals.

What does this business tip deal with? Fundraiser
What is your name? R.J. Morgan (@rjmorgan33)
Who are you? Newspaper, yearbook and broadcast adviser at Starkville High School in Starkville, Mississippi.
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. We host a community roast. Our state press association does one every year down in Jackson and usually roasts the governor or some other VIP. I co-opted the idea to fit my needs at the local level. I get my parents to help me identify a roastee (retiring coach, outgoing mayor, etc.). I like for them to have some tie to our school, but not necessarily an employee. Identify 5 or 6 big personalities close to the roastee that wouldn’t mind ribbing them for around 5 minutes apiece. Alert the press, they’ll usually come cover it. We play it off as an honor, and present the roastee with a plaque. You need a fancy chair for the roastee, and a podium. Simple to set up. We host our event in a local banquet hall and serve a meal. Parents prepare the food, kids serve it. We charge $15 a head, and last year we made over $600. There’s very little cost (risk) on your part, and it could just as easily be done in an auditorium without a dinner component. Plus its good PR. Plug your publications at the beginning and the end, sell yearbooks in the foyer, etc. It’s a fun night with a huge payoff.

What does this deal with? Entrepreneurship.
What is your name? – Logan Aimone (@loganaimone)
Who are you? Logan Aimone is the executive director of the National Scholastic Press Association, based in Minneapolis. He was a high school journalism teacher in Washington state from 1997-2007, where he advised the newspaper and yearbook staffs that earned top national honors. He is the co-author of the most recent revisions of two textbooks, “High School Journalism” and “Junior High Journalism,” both from Rosen Publishing.
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing.
As with their commercial and professional counterparts, student media staffs must look ahead and plan with entrepreneurship in mind. The 20th century model was that staffs were producers of a product — a yearbook, broadcast, magazine or newspaper — funded by advertising or through institutional support. That model is not sustainable. The 21st century model is one where staffs consider themselves as information brokers and use the raw components they have — information in the form of facts, images, video and audio — plus various delivery platforms to sustain the operation.

Be the information experts. The student media operation should be the first source people think of when it comes to facts and data about your school community. For some topics like clubs or non-varsity sports, your media are the only ones documenting and covering the events or history. You have a responsibility — an obligation, even — to do a good job. Having quality information and thorough coverage develops your organization as the top news source. These also build an audience.

Develop multiple platforms. When deciding how to cover a topic or a story, every staff needs to have an array of options for presenting them to the audience or readers and viewers. Aside from the print or broadcast, a Web presence is almost mandatory. Beyond at least a bare-bones website, consider social media as well. How can people engage with the stories? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest — all of these are opportunities to connect, share and develop the story. Today, the conversation occurs in both directions with the audience providing key aspects of the story and discussion.

Monetize in new ways — no more candy sales or after-game dances. Information plus distribution equals opportunity. How can the student media staff wean itself from advertising? If the traditional ad money is dwindling, find a new revenue stream. Sell photos through a site like SmugMug.com, allowing parents, students, alumni and friends to purchase the photo prints or other items. Create new special editions/sections with advertising or sponsorship opportunities. Special editions such as a back-to-school guide, graduation special or music issue can provide themed coverage and ways for new advertisers to connect.

None of these suggestions should happen in isolation. They rely on each other and will combine for success. They keys are training the staff to think in a native 21st century way rather than modifying old thinking while attempting to keep up today. You don’t want to keep up; you want to get ahead. Discover the free or inexpensive tools that will help the students and adviser to do that. Then, go out and use them to do great work.

What does this deal with? http://www.donorschoose.org/
What is your name? Stacy Haynes-Moore (@haynesmoore)
Who are you? I’m a journalism adviser at Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids, IA. I teach language arts and journalism. I worked as a news reporter before beginning my career in teaching. I feel now that I have the best of both worlds by working with students and helping teach/coach writing and media.
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. This year I made the foray into doing a better job of seeking grants and supplemental funds for our school journalism program. It is a year of cuts for our district. Supplemental funds are necessary. There are a variety of sources for helping journalism programs acquire equipment, assisting students to attend conferences, and participate in summer programs. Hearing (and somewhat disbelieving) legendary stories of Donorschoose.org awards, I decided to try it this year — and it succeeded.

I encourage advisers to sign up and experience the grant-writing process of DonorsChoose.org — there is not much to lose other than the time spend in generating an online account and writing a brief document that supports your rationale for funds.

Some tips:

  • Just do it. It doesn’t take much tine to complete and application, but take care to read the directions fully and to craft an application that will appeal to students’ improvement and practice of 21st century skills — after all, that’s what journalsim is all about. Our programs are excellent examples of the 21st century literacies and Common Core in action. Use this language to explain your program needs and wants.
  • Carefully consider what you want for the program. Here’s the case: I asked for five small video cameras so that my journalism students could use for online media production. I actually recommend that you shoot slightly lower than higher on what you want for funding. For example, if I asked for 6 cameras and raised funds for 5, then DonorsChoose.org would say that I don’t reach the goal set in my grant application.I don’t get the funds — even if I’ve banked pledges for five cameras. Be wise when making your final application decision. If your funds fall short, you loose the pledged money. This is not necessarily clear when you start your application process.
  • Promote your cause. Friends, family, colleagues, alumni…Use social media to get the word out about the positives of your program. Talk with others about what you hope to achieve. This is not the time to be modest. Use Facebook, Twitter, ask your j-students to report about the effort — talk loudly about what you hope for the journalsim program. Several of my friends, family members, journalsim alumni, and teaching colleagues (thanks Gary Lindsay) swooped in as generous donors after reading about the project for Torch on my personal Facebook page.
  • Have hope. Even after these generous donations — and any amount is a fantastic and appreciated amount — I was a few hundred short of raising funds for the cameras. It didn’t look like this project was going to work. There is a deadline for DonorsChoose.org and the clock ticked toward the DonorsChoose deadline. A few weeks remained. I was delighted to discover that Starbucks.com selected the camera project as worthy and fulfilled the remaining funds. Thank you — and yes, I’ll have another coffee as a toast to this corporate kindness. If the project you design is on its last legs, it may be accelerated into ‘action mode’, which means DonorsChoose will promote it for you on the DC web site and ask for pledges to keep it afloat. Again, have hope.
  • Success? Then you must follow-up. DonorsChoose.org requests that your students (and you) take time to write thank you notes. Submit these letters to once the funds are received and project is underway. Doing this keeps DonorsChoose happy; it also helps you be happy as an adviser. You are able to continue the relationship with DonorsChoose because you have credibility and reliability. You demonstrate that you can fulfill the agreement and this means that you are able to move forward and create another project with DonorsChoose.org.

Good luck, and please let me know if you have questions or I might help your program with the grant application. Best of luck, Stacy

What does this business tip deal with? Fundraiser
What is your name? Mary Morrow (@StClairion)
Who are you? I am the yearbook adviser for the St. Clairion, St. Clair Co HS Odenville, AL
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. Every year we host a Dodgeball Tournament in the spring. We let teams of six sign up and create a bracket. We encourage the teams to come up with a unique name and wear matching “uniforms.” A couple of days before the tournament we post the round 1 bracket. Students pay $2 for admission. Sometimes we even have teacher teams….the students love this. Sometimes we will even schedule grudge matches (seniors vs. juniors). The dodgeballs we use are safe and made of foam. We play music to keep the crowd going. The students really get into it and it is very entertaining. We have a trophy that the winning team takes a picture with for the yearbook. We usually raise $700.

What does this business tip deal with? Fundraising
What is your name? Katie Yon
Who are you? I teach Journalism I, Newspaper production, English III and Creative Writing at Brashier Middle College Charter High School.
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. The newspaper students sell Chipwiches that a bakery in town makes. We make 50% profit from them. We sell one day a week and spend the three days prior advertising them. They are a great fundraiser in the fall, but not as good in the Spring because everyone goes on diets 🙁 This is not an original idea. MANY schools in Greenville County sell these for different organizations. The key is to be the only group in your school that sells them and pick one day of the week that the students can look forward to them.

What does this business tip deal with? Selling newspaper subscriptions
What is your name? Danielle Ryan (@CbadNewsTeacher)
Who are you? I am the newspaper adviser- online and print- at Carlsbad High in California.
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. I ask my students to sell subscriptions to friends and family across the country. Originally I just sold them for $15.00 for the year but I then realized that if I asked for more I might get more so I offered a progressive donation scale. I was amazed at how many people readily offered our highest level which is $100. I inspire the students to sell more by telling them that every dollar they raise over $100. can go towards conference attendance. We also give away t-shirts and sweatshirts to the top sellers. [You can download the progressive scale and subscription form here]

What does this business tip deal with? Community support
What is your name? Mitch Eden (@cmeden)
Who are you? Kirkwood H.S. adviser
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. We have a patron program for both the newspaper and yearbook. Basically, we ask community businesses and families to help support the student-run J program. In newspaper, the support helps off-set printing costs. In yearbook, the support purachses yearbooks for seniors who would otherwise not be able to afford one. The senior principal and counselor provide this list.

Philosophy behind our patron program (or in newspaper “Friends of Call”):  In the Call, ads take up space in our paper or on our website. We would rather that space go to our kids’ work. And most advertisers are supporting a student-run publication, so we’d rather ask them to support us in a non-space-eating manner.

In yearbook, our goal is always every senior should leave KHS with, at minimum, their senior yearbook. So our Patron Program in yearbook ask local businesses to donate a book to a deserving senior. The attachment should explain. We were able to give just over 20 books to deserving seniors this year.

[You can download more information about Eden’s patron program here]

What does this deal with? Yearbook ordering
What is your name? Lizabeth A. Walsh, MJE
Who are you? I currently teach sophomore English and Advanced Publications:Yearbook at Reno (Nev.) HS. I have taught high school journalism for 21 years, and I’m a proud member of the journalism nerd herd.
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. Instead of pre-buying a set number of yearbooks and struggling to sell them all, wasting your money and the planet’s resources, consider pushing pre-sales hard instead. Order only 50+/- books more than you have pre-sold by your company’s final ordering date (usually January or early February with most companies) and when those are sold, you’re finished with yearbook sales. Run a very aggressive marketing campaign Aug-Jan to support early sales (see handout below).

[You can download more information on how to push presales of books here]

What does this tip deal with? Photography sales
What is your name? Aaron Manfull
Who are you? I’m the Director of Student Media at Francis Howell North High School in St. Charles, MO. I’m the JEA Digital Media Chair. This is my site.
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. I’ve posted about this on the JEA Digital Media site so I’m going to just link to most of what I’ve said there, but briefly speaking, staffs need to use Smugmug.com to host photo galleries. Smugmug recently decided to allow non-profits to use their service for free. The site allows users to upload photos, set prices and make a profit off of photos that are purchased. With their annual fee removed, it really is a great no-risk venture for staffs. If staffs do a good job of posting photos and promoting the availability it could generate a good amount of revenue. My staff has used them for a few years, focusing on posting sports photos and pics from big events like assemblies and dances, and had some nice success. For more information and to sign up, check out the article on JEADigitalMedia.org here.

What does this business tip deal with? Advertising
What is your name? Scott Winter
Who are you? Scott Winter is in his eighth year as an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He specializes in feature/sports writing, ethics and page design, but has taught everything from social justice journalism to magazine editing. His job has also taken him on teaching gigs in Kosovo, Ethiopia and India. Winter taught high school journalism and English for 10 years in North Dakota, Minnesota and Colorado. He also was a professional journalist for five years, working in sports writing, feature writing, graphic design and feature editing.
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. Get all your advertising for your publication done in two weeks through the ad draft process. Modeled after the NFL and NBA drafts, students research and pick their clients via a one-day draft event, which is treated with all the hoopla of the sports event. Two weeks later, you’ll be drowning in money, ad have to hire three extra business managers to keep the IRS off your backs.

[Winter has shared a PowerPoint presentation he made that speaks about executing an advertising campaign.]

What does this business tip deal with? Penny Wars – A look at how two different advisers run this

Adviser #1
What is your name?
Jeff Willauer
Who are you? Yearbook Adviser – Waunakee High School
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. Homecoming Penny Wars – Very simple to carry out.
Materials: 5 Containers – we use five gallon water jugs one for each class 9-12 and a staff container
How it works. Students put change into the various containers.

  • one penny = 1 point
  • one nickel = -5 points
  • one dime = -10 points
  • one quarter = -25 points
  • paper bills = -amount of the bill

How the war works:

Students put pennies into their respective containers to try to get the most points. They can also put silver/paper bills into any other jug to try and reduce the amount points scored by the other classes. This has worked out very well over the years. We choose to split the winning class’s jug with them so that they can have some money put back into their class officer fund for dances and other events. All other money is put into the yearbook account. We have had some good success as the student council has made it part of the games to win our school “spirit stick” which is announced at half time of the football game.

We usually run it Monday – Thursday and tally up the score on Thursday night by taking the money to the local bank. We split out the pennies from the silver for each grade then subtract the two amounts. The grade with the highest score wins. If the staff wins we donate it to a local charity.

Variations we have also done is to cover up the jug so students cannot see who is “winning” at any given point.

Adviser #2
What is your name? Matthew LaPorte
Who are you? I teach at Southwest Career and Technical Academy. I advise the Southwest Shadow Online News Site and The Howl Yearbook. I am also the co-President for the Southern Nevada Society of Journalists.
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. Penny Wars is a competition that taps into friendly rivalries amongst grade levels, student groups or gender. It’s up to you how you structure it, but this can net you a “pretty penny.” Pun intended.

[Matthew has shared a handout that you can download here that discusses how his Penny War works]

What does this business tip deal with? Fundraiser
What is your name? Sarah Nichols
Who are you? Media adviser, Whitney High School (Rocklin, Calif.)
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. Based on an idea from an NSPA/JEA convention session, my journalism students host the Mr. WHS Competition, a pageant-like event for males based on talent, dance, interview, style and coin voting from students to help determine the winners. We generate at least $2,500 in profit from one night, giving us money to offset printing costs and add more color to the news magazine. Students design marketing materials and plan/produce the entire event, which also offers opportunities in reporting and producing visual coverage while contributing to the school culture with a fun, sold-out event on campus

Proceeds come in from a few sources. We sell tickets to the one-night event ($5 presale and $7 at the door) and all journalism students are required to sell at least three tickets. Generally we sell out the 400-seat theater. At intermission, we sell baked goods donated by journalism parents. We also sell a small number of the black tuxedo T-shirts associated with our event, as those return annually in black and the contestants’ shirts being colored based on that year’s theme.

But most of the money comes from the penny wars. During lunch for two days prior to the show, we have a display of the guys’ voting buckets. We use large plastic containers the contestants personalized and decorated in advance. Students toss in money to vote. Coins award positive points for each value (in other words, a nickel is five points) but dollar bills take away that many points instead. Kids get really into the idea of voting for and against people, and we continually post point totals so that they feel compelled to throw in another dollar to slow down someone in the lead. During the night of the show, the voting buckets are in the theater lobby for voting. The final opportunity to vote is at intermission based on the talent segment. This year, we had more than $300 in coins donated just during the 10-minute intermission period.

Expenses are minimal. We do a crown for the winner from Stumps (a company selling prom accessories), ribbon sashes for the top three contestants, a trophy for the talent winner, thank-you gifts for the three teacher judges, pizza for the night of the dress rehearsal, and free T-shirts to the guys who compete. Our expenses are generally around $300.

The competition itself includes a dance segment, talent competition, style and interview. Each round has score sheets for the judges, and an audience member is randomly selected to act as a guest judge. Those scores combine with the coin voting totals to determine winners.

Students design the tickets and promotional materials, run the social media campaign, recruit the contestants, choreograph the dance, learn how to use the spotlight, sound booth and other theater equipment, sell tickets, work the concessions and coordinate with the judges. In addition, some of them are responsible for coverage during the event.

Here is a link to this year’s story.
Here is a link to a slideshow from a previous year.

What does this deal with? Specialized Advertising/Notes
What is your name? Steve Hanf
Who are you? Pine Whispers newspaper adviser and Intro to Journalism teacher at R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, NC. Former sportswriter (13 years) and current freelancer for area publications.
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing.
1 – In late April, I begin hitting up parents of graduating students for “Senior Classified Ads.” These ads are $10 for a message of up to 50 words in our May paper. Most messages are standard “We’re so proud…” but a few are funny: “Can’t wait to redecorate your room…” The cost also includes two copies of the paper. We considered doing photos as well, but that adds a headache in terms of file conversions and design issues. In our first year doing this (2012), with the idea coming a bit late, we sold 37 and filled more than half a page. This idea came from the JEA listserv, Barbara Tholen, Lawrence (Kan.) High School. You can download the Senior Classified Newspaper Ad form here.

2 – Businesses that may not normally buy print ads in a student newspaper should jump at the chance to peddle their wares to students during prom season. As such, we designed a special “Prom Promotion:” eighth-page ads with free color for $50. Kids targeted tux rentals, dress shops, flower shops, limo rentals, restaurants, hair/nail places. In theory, it should be an easy $400 for that page — $50 to reach that many kids for prom is a steal — but we only got $150 from it this year. That did leave plenty of room for our prom info box, at least. This idea seems too good to scrap, so I hope to have increased luck next March and April. Good luck to you! You can download the Prom ad form here.

3 – This seems to be done in many papers, but for the first time this year we sold happy hearts — and broken hearts! — for $2 each in the February issue. Hearts contained Twitter-sized messages and appeared on our double-truck. We were VERY careful about messages being appropriate; a favorite of mine was a broken heart that a teacher bought for her class after a bombed test! We only made $100 on hearts this year, which didn’t really pay for the color, but it was fun and very well-received. Next year’s hearts may be a touch smaller to get more than 32 on a page in order to raise more money… You can download the Hearts Fundraiser form here.

What does this deal with? Bidding the Yearbook every few years
What is your name? Aaron Manfull
Who are you? You can find me on Twitter @manfull. This is my site.
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing. Journalism staffs should get in the habit of bidding out their print publications every few years. Many districts have guidelines about how often this should occur. I generally work to bid printing services out every three years for the school’s newspaper and yearbook. Obviously, there are numerous factors that play into selecting a printing company ranging from customer service to product quality, however, one of the biggest benefits for me has always been shown in my publication bank accounts. Bidding the yearbook and newspaper out every few years helps you to make sure you are getting the best possible deal for your staff and the school community — and sometimes it can save you quite a bit of money in the process. If you’re not sure what to ask for or how to go about bidding out your publication, here is a generic yearbook bid spec sheet you can download and use as a starting point.

What does this deal with? Patron support ads
What is your name? Cindy Todd
Who are you? I advise the El Paisano yearbook and teach photojournalism at Westlake High School in Austin, TX.
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing.
Because we sell so many senior tributes, we discontinued selling business ads several years ago; however, last year, we needed a way to add a bit more to our activity fund. After seeing patrons listed in a few yearbooks, we began selling Patron Ads because we knew there were folks who wanted to help support us financially but not necessarily advertise with us. The only costs we incurred were a couple of hundred sheets of colored paper, envelopes and postage, and the ads themselves only took up about a page of space in the yearbook. We named the local newspaper a patron in exchange for advertising space to recognize and thank our patrons in May. We also offered our top patrons, who receive a free book, the opportunity to donate that book to a student who wouldn’t otherwise get one. Win, win, win. You can download a handout that about the patron program here.

What does this deal with? Sports Photography Packages
What is your name? Aaron Manfull
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing.
You have lots of sports photos being taken each week. While smugmug.com is a nice option to make the photos available for sale, consider targeting teams and parents specifically, or even talk to your school’s athletic booster club to see if they’d get you some equipment in exchange for some better gear to get great photos at sporting events. Here is a handout Beth Phillips developed at Francis Howell North in 2012 when we teamed up with the booster clubs and started offering sports packages to families.

What does this deal with? Videotaping Graduation
What is your name? Bobbi Templet, Jeremy Brandt, John Lawrence, Chris Holcomb, Tim Bode, Matt Morin
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing.
I asked a question on the RTNDF Listserv and got quite a few good responses. I’m going to share tips that were shared with me. The names above are all people who have contributed to the following ways you could generate revenue by videotaping graduation:

  1. Videotape and sell DVDs for $25 each
  2. We shoot graduation with 3 or 4 cameras. We sell the DVD’s for $35 each. The DVD’s have about 1.5 hours of the ceremony and another 1.5 hours of other senior related content (senior interviews, prom highlights, pep rally skits, tribute music video, etc). I send out the master DVD for duplications along with graphic artwork for the discs and cases.
  3. We have been live successfully  streaming events with ustream for about 5 years. We record graduation to a Ustream and provide that version for free.  We also record to tricaster  and then convert the file to flash and sell and distribute it thorough Dropbox.
  4. We record graduation using 3 cameras and sell copies for $20. This is still a little low considering that we mail the copies. We recently went up on the price of other events to cover costs and fundraising.
  5. We used to sell graduation DVDs, but last year we started doing something different. Since the office always gives the seniors a key ring or something, they instead gave each senior the graduation DVD (that the kids and I shoot with three cameras and switch on location.) The great thing is that the Broadcasting Department gets reimbursed for each DVD. It worked out great. We ended up with a lot more money, didn’t have to have kids stationed throughout taking orders, and the seniors were able to leave with a DVD of their graduation.
  6. We use a Tricaster to stream up to 4 cameras.  We sell DVDs of all events, $10 each.  We are in a economically challenged area so any more than that would hurt sales.

What does this deal with? Be Creative — Be Entrepreneurial
What is your name? Aaron Manfull
Briefly describe the tip you are sharing.
The tips above are a great start, and most have been time tested and are effective if executed well. However, as our mediums change, revenue models need to evolve as well. Too many mediums, including professional ones, worked to rethink how to tell their stories as they moved to the web, yet didn’t put the same thought into generating revenue based off the new model. It’s something that the media is still working to address. I was speaking with a newspaper editor the other day and he explained something to me. He said it’s not that there isn’t money out there for advertising. He feels there’s the same amount, if not more from advertisers. What the professional news media has to do today is find new ways to get a piece of the pot. If you think about it, high school media is working to do the same thing. It’s not that there isn’t money out their for high school journalism programs. We just need to find ways to get a share of it. Use the above tips as a guide and definitely don’t turn away from something that’s working in your community. Having said that, keep Tip #26 near the front of your mind. 

Be creative. Be an entrepreneur.  Try some new ways to generate revenue for your medium. Maybe you’ll be the one to solve the equation that the professionals have been working to solve for years.

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Thanks so much for reading these tips. Hope they helped. Did you get something out of it? Would love for you to give back. Have an idea for content generation that’s not listed above? Do you think you’ve found a great solution to the revenue equation? Please take a minute to add it to the comments below. Your share will definitely appreciated.



One thought on “The Next 26: Revenue Generating Tips

Emily J. LaytonPosted on  3:47 pm - Jun 20, 2013

We love locker decs (decorations). You can come up with a half-sheet of paper saying who has bought a yearbook. You could use it for your website and say who has posted a comment or whose picture is on there. Kids love to have the outside of their lockers covered with locker decs.

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