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Shoparoo promises a fun iPhone-alternative to box top school fundraising

If you're a parent like I am, you may be collecting box tops for your school. Box tops are great -- they help schools raise funds in a really effective way. For those who don't know, select merchandise in grocery stores contain a redemption value for school fundraising, usually a few pennies per item bought.

Due to the labor of dealing with these box tops, they can also be a big pain. Someone has to collect them, bundle them, count them and track them.

Now there's a new entry in the school fundraising arena. The free Shoparoo iOS app isn't intended to replace box tops. It offers another distinct avenue for parents to raise money for schools.

Today, I had the pleasure of talking to Jared Schrieber, the Co-Founder and CEO of InfoScout, the company behind Shoparoo. "Box top fundraising is wonderful," he told me, "but it could be so much better."

Shoparoo has partnered with Proctor & Gamble and Unilever, who produce brands like Dove, Suave, Ragu and Skippy, to raise money for schools. Consumers essentially donate their purchasing habits. You use the app to submit receipts from super-centers, groceries, clubs, pet stores, dollar stores, convenience stores and drug stores.

The data is as anonymous as you want to make it. You can scratch off credit card numbers, names and even embarrassing purchases. None of the information is tracked directly to you. You snap a pic (within seven days of purchase) and your school benefits.

What companies like P&G and Unilever get out of this is a way to evaluate purchasing habits by household. Seeing entire real-world receipts puts purchases into context. They get to see how families buy, both across retailers and across time.

In return, your school earns about 2 cents per $10 purchase, up to 8 cents for purchases over $100. That doesn't sound like a lot, but (1) you don't have to actively buy anything specific, and (2) with enough parents participating, the money can grow over time. Plus, Shoparoo intends to offer "bonus purchase" items, so parents can earn more by picking preferred brands.

InfoScout plans to cut its first set of checks each year on July 31st, delivering them to schools during the first few weeks of August. Leaderboards allow schools to track their most proficient donors, and social networking encourages parents to spread the word. See Shoparoo's Facebook page for more details.

How can you get your school involved? Chances are good that Shoparoo already lists your school in its data base. Just submit an email address (it can be as throwaway as you like) and start shopping.

Schrieber suggests that you contact your current box tops coordinator, your PTO/PTA and email your principal to get started. Many schools highlight the program on their websites and Facebook pages to support the effort.

Even small amounts of money can make real differences in schools. Whether you're supporting a music program, providing field trip grants or donating to a winter coats program, schools know how to make parent fundraisers pennies count. Shoparoo promises to help earn those pennies.

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