Local teachers turn to WeWIN platform for supplies

On average, teachers spend nearly $500 of their own money on classroom supplies each year.

Donations are piling up from friends of Arch Academy.Submitted photo

Donations are piling up from friends of Arch Academy.Submitted photo

Axle Digital wants to help with WeWIN, an online fundraising tool that allows schools and teachers to create WinLists, soliciting items needed in the classroom from a large online audience.

Mike Mulry, a Hamilton Elementary School parent, is one of the brains behind WeWIN as vice president of business development. The company is based in New York, but it’s taking off here in the Twin Cities with the Coon Rapids Day Care Center, Minneapolis’ Arch Academy and St. Paul’s West Side Summit among its clients.

The premise is simple: Educators log in to create lists of Amazon products that their school or classrooms need, anything from hand sanitizer to Popsicle sticks, construction paper to new shelving.

Lists can be circulated using email and social media sites.

Right now, it’s easy for teachers to reach parents with requests, Mulry said. “We’re trying to reach grandma, and grandma’s in California somewhere,” he said. “We’re expanding the giving universe.”

If parents share classroom lists on Facebook, friends and family may decide to help fund science experiments and holiday crafts, or just send a box of Kleenex every other month.

It’s easy to use, too. WinLists link to Amazon.com where donors type in a provided address and ship their items without leaving the comfort of their own home.

“I’m a generous person, but I’m not going to make a special trip to Target when it’s 10 below,” Mulry said.

Because WeWIN drives business to Amazon, the retailer cuts WeWIN a check.

WeWIN then splits that money 50-50 with schools, but not individual teachers, that maintain an account.

There is no charge to create an account, so schools ultimately receive donated supplies and funds from WeWIN at no cost.

“It’s a win-win,” Mulry said. “There’s no downside to this.”

Kim Creasey, co-director of the Coon Rapids Day Care Center, agrees.

“Social media is such a big thing these days, so it’s nice to be able to pop [WishLists] on Facebook and just let parents know what we’re doing,” Creasey said. “I’m super excited about it.”

The center began using WeWIN a month ago and has received three packages in that time.

Right now, with cold and flu season in full swing, Creasey is requesting hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, Kleenex and more, she said.

Books that include an audio CD for toddlers, as well as educational toys for infants will be online soon, she said.

Sanford Middle School in the Minneapolis Public School District created WinLists this month, too. The school’s media center is hoping to acquire more e-books and graphic novels.

Soon, WeWIN hopes to dive deeper into crowd sourcing, providing an outlet for principals to request donations for capital equipment without asking students’ family and friends for money directly.

Donors might feel more comfortable putting money toward something more specific, like “lug nuts,” “mirrors” and “seats” – theoretical pieces of the bus.

“People don’t want to hand over a bunch of money,” Mulry said, so WeWIN’s plan is to devise hypothetical products.

The Axle Digital team has worked in social commerce for years and began working with charities in the last two years.

When Mulry’s wife, a former Minneapolis Public School teacher, brought educators’ needs to his attention, the company began gearing up to format a platform already serving other nonprofits to fit educators’ needs.

To learn more about WeWIN visit www.wewin.com.

Olivia Koester is at olivia.koester@ecm-inc.com

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