By Natasha Baker
TORONTO (Reuters) - Children going door to door for fundraising programs - and parents having to respond to those hopeful young faces - may soon be off the hook thanks to a new app that converts grocery receipts into fundraising dollars.
Shoparoo, available for iOS and Android, lets people raise funds for community schools by taking snapshots of their grocery receipts - whether they're from large retail chains like Walmart, Safeway or CVS, or a local mom and pop shop.
"Schools just have a bigger and bigger fundraising gap and every solution that comes to solve it just takes more time and money for parents," said Jared Schrieber, chief executive of San-Francisco-based company Infoscout, which created the app.
Shoparoo aims to solve this problem by tapping into people's purchasing habits in exchange for providing anonymous consumer insight into products and brands, whose makers then donate funds.
Every school in the United States from kindergarten to grade 12 is listed within the app, and the user - be it a parent, relative or neighbor - is able to select the local school they would like to support.
The fundraisers begin by taking snapshots of their grocery receipts, which need to be from stores that sell grocery products as their primary line of business. Qualifying stores also include supercenters, drug stores, dollar outlets, pet supply and convenience stores.
Products purchased, including food and some non-food items, qualify to earn fundraising dollars. Gas-only purchases do not.
Receipts under $10 convert into a one-cent donation for the local school, those between $10 and $49 convert into a two-cent donation, purchases of $50 to $99 translate into a four-cent donation, and those over $100 into a six-cent donation.
"If (people) accept special offers or answer survey questions they can raise even more," said Schrieber, adding that behaviors such as referring friends, participating regularly and submitting clear receipts are also rewarded.
The app uses technology called optical character recognition to recognize products and stores on receipts and relies on manual transcription in some cases. Before submitting receipts, users also are able to cross off purchases for privacy.
The app's inspiration came from General Mills' Box Tops for Education program, in which tens of millions of Americans participate across 75,000 schools, with nearly 600 million product box tops redeemed every year, according to Schrieber.
He envisions Shoparoo as a complement to this program, and estimates that schools might raise approximately $10 to $15 a year per parent.
More than 200 schools plan to use the app this year as part of their formal fundraising programs, Schrieber said.
Funding for the initiative is provided by consumer brands in exchange for aggregate, anonymous consumer insights.
"It's the ability to understand how people purchase at a Walmart versus a Walgreens versus a Safeway, for example, that consumer brands are looking for and that's what we're able to provide with Shoparoo," said Schrieber.
Users also receive exclusive offers from supporting brands through the app, which could include coupons or recipes.
"That's a benefit for the brands because they can target offers based on a consumer's shopping history," he said.
The app, available in the United States, also supports select charities.
(Reporting by Natasha Baker; Editing By Patricia Reaney, Bob Tourtellotte and Steve Orlofsky)