Tim and Cathy Shalvey may not live in Rhode Island anymore, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help raise money for local schools. Through a website the pair developed called MySchoolSwap.com, the Shalveys can help schools not just in Rhode Island, but around the country, all from the comfort of their new home in Gainesville, Va.
MySchoolSwap.com, a brand new, classified advertisement website with a twist, aims to give advertisers great exposure while putting cash in schools’ coffers.
Cathy Shalvey said she drew her inspiration from being a parent and active volunteer in her community.
“I thought it would be great to have a communication tool that could reach school communities and have schools reach outside their own school for fundraisers,” she said.
Shalvey, noting the growing popularity of sites like Ebay, Craig’s List and Etsy, decided to brainstorm her own website. She realized that the millions of ads posted on those sites could be redirected elsewhere, and for a good cause, namely education.
“Some of those [millions of] people have to be connected to schools either through their kids or because it’s their alma mater,” she said. “So what if a percentage went to the schools?”
And that’s where the idea for MySchoolSwap.com came from.
It took a year-and-a-half to conceptualize and create the website, which was designed in part by Shalvey and developed by Blue Key, Inc.
The site did a soft launch in January, and had the official launch in April. Since then, Shalvey said things have been steadily picking up.
On MySchoolSwap, people can purchase credits for advertisements on the site. Each basic advertisement is $1, and each credit is $1. Each ad runs for one month. Half of an advertiser’s total purchase goes to the school of their choosing. Shalvey said it’s a great way to get advertisers to the site, not only so they can support schools, but also to increase their visibility from the school community.
“It’s great for tutors, dance studios or even realtors,” she said.
And for the schools, it’s a win-win.
Schools and community groups can advertise fundraisers and events for free on the site.
“We encourage people to use it as a community forum,” said Shalvey.
Shalvey said MySchoolSwap is different from other classified ad websites in that it’s very community-oriented and doesn’t include personal ads or discussion boards.
“It makes it familiar for people,” she said. “It’s a school and family type environment. Safety and security are our priorities.”
The MySchoolSwap database currently has 134,000 schools, so although it’s based in Virginia, Shalvey said donating to a local institution won’t be a problem. People can also add schools to the database.
Shalvey said she’s not sure how many users and viewers the site has had but knows there are 125 members. Last month they sent out their first batch of checks to seven schools, six in Virginia and one in Vermont.
The grand total of the seven checks was $232.
The money raised is sent out every four months, and schools must earn at least $20 before they receive their first check.
The checks are mailed directly to the school unless otherwise specified.
So far, most of the users have been from Shalvey’s home state of Virginia. Both Cathy and Tim Shalvey are originally from New England; Cathy having grown up in Fall River and Tim in Warwick, where he attended Pilgrim High School. The pair spent some time living in Cranston before moving to Virginia for Tim’s job. Despite their local ties, there are no Rhode Islanders on MySchoolSwap just yet.
Shalvey said she is producing materials to distribute to schools so they can promote MySchoolSwap in order to fundraise for their school.
“We hope in five years’ time if just 10 percent of those [134,000] schools in the database post an ad, that becomes 13,000 schools. That’s a lot,” she said.
She went on to say that if each school has an average of 50 supporters who buy $10 in credits, that would bring $3.25 million to supported schools. It’s a long way away from $232, but Shalvey is hopeful it will happen.