A question came up on an email list about a ‘rewards’ system for homeschoolers: My Homeschool Rewards I’d never heard of it, so I went looking.
A Who Is query showed that the My Homeschool Rewards site is registered to the Frankey Britton Group. Googling for that name gives a list of 12 sites (as of today), which isn’t many by Google standards, but Who Is gives the URL’s birthday as 1 April 2008. The “homeschool” site is young.
The common link between the sites listed in the Google results is an “about us” statement at a few of the sites:
This site, VFWGiftCards.com, is managed by the Frankey Britton Group LLC of Madison, WI. The Frankey Britton Group provides fundraising fullfillment and systems to schools and other charitable organizations under the program name Simplified Fundraising.
The company was founded as the School Times Network in 2003. School Times Network broke new ground with innovative ways for schools to save money through alternate newsletter distribution. Over time, Frankey Britton Group was formed and became innovators in the area of fundraising. Simplified SCRIP™ was the charter program presented by FBG and still operates today serving schools coast to coast. In addition to this program are many sister programs benefitting various charitable groups spread out through the United States.
Frankey Britton Group LLC’s continued mission is to provide schools and organizations easy and effective fundraising strategies that require minimal effort.
At the site, the user creates a “homeschool account” and a “customer account.” The homeschool account is not secure, but the customer account is. The homeschool account apparently lists purchases of cards and “earnings,” while the customer account is where the user buys the cards to shop at businesses.
To use the service, one pays for the card(s) with an electronic check, waits for the card(s) to be delivered to the home, then goes to the businesses to buy things as with any other gift card. A difference is that the purchaser of these cards is possibly specifically identifiable because the cards must be delivered somewhere. I presume cooperative businesses could track the cards by some kind of encoded inventory number. Compare that to the anonymous, over-the-counter, purchase of gift cards at a store. Lost cards are not mentioned at the FAQ, so I can’t tell if a process for replacing cards is possible.
As of today, I do not see anything at the site that is “homeschool” specific, so the appearance of “niche marketing” is an illusion. The “homeschool” name appears to be just an attractor with no more significance than My Golfing Rewards would be to golfers, or My Gardening Rewards would be to tulip fanciers. The businesses with gift cards are all mainstream, and the site is open to anyone.
I find it unlikely (but not impossible, of course) that a school or benefactor that wishes to remain anonymous would arrange “fundraising” for homeschooling families. I’m left with the conclusion that the service functions as do corporate loyalty cards. I’m guessing that payment for information collection is what funds the service. Who knows, in a few years an article might surface concerning the spending habits of people who use this “homeschool” site. The only guaranteed characteristics that I can see about buyers from this site are that they can get online, they have a bank account, and they buy gift cards.