Get the tissues ready. This is a powerful, emotional segment on the air that can turn into a promotion. It turns into a sort of Back to School Pay It Forward campaign.

In this article, I outline the details on how to execute Back to School Pay It Forward promotion. Including:

  • An explanation of what it is and how it works.
  • Variations and adjustments that make this idea fit almost any station in any format.
  • Detailed step-by-step instructions with copy examples for making this successful.

Back To School Pay It Forward Launch

The promotion starts with an email (or phone call, but starting with an email adds a layer to the story sequence).

A listener tells a story to encourage others to perform a Pay It Forward act.

The email or call starts a chain reaction, led by the show encouraging those who receive kindness to share their story.

The Letter

Here’s an example of an email that starts it:

Dear (show),

Here is a feel-good story of the day for you. Just more proof of how great the people of this community can be.

I was at the Dollar General with my daughter this evening trying to round up the minimum basics of school supplies with only $6 cash in hand and a negative $33 bucks in my bank account.

We picked out 1 binder, 1 pack of notebook paper, 2 comp notebooks…4 items….and we were at 5.75+tax. I told my daughter that pencils and pens will have to wait, I am sure there are a pencil and a pen at home somewhere.

At the checkout, I must have looked frazzled, the guy asked “One of those days”? I explained that yes, we were trying to get school supplies with $6……

The total was $6.12. I had $6.09.

The cashier was kind enough to cover the difference. I thanked him, and we headed to the car.

Apparently, a lady overheard our struggle, and unbeknownst to me, while I was paying for our stuff, she handed my daughter $10 bucks and whispered, ”Go buy some extra school supplies”.

My daughter thanked her and told me what happened. I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked and nearly in tears when we went back inside, and graciously thanked this lady, to which she replied, “just pay it forward.”

We were able to buy pens, pencils, another binder, comp notebook, dividers. I know there will be a lot more items she will need, but thanks to the generosity of one person in this community, that didn’t know us from Jack, I feel she has enough to start off the first day feeling okay.

So, if you would, share our story, and give a special shout out to this lady at the dollar store on the beach for making a little girl’s first day back to school a little brighter.

Next Steps

This starts a Back to School Pay it Forward campaign. Here are ways to promote it and spread the story:

  • Start a special Facebook page to share stories. Or manage it on a website.
  • Ideally, create a website for the promotion, or at least a section of your website for it. If on the show or station website, buy a domain name and point it directly to the campaign to make it easier to promote and for listeners to find.
  • Create an online form to make it easier to collect stories.
  • Use a hashtag to spread it through social media, tagging back to the show.
  • Create a downloadable/printable card or note listeners can include in their Back to School Pay It Forward gift…reminding them to call or email your show.
  • Be sure to record videos to explain and promote it well.
See also  End of School Year Ideas

Variation: Buy Lunches

If that seems like too much to take on, capture the same emotion by paying for school lunches. Most schools have a lunch program to feed hungry kids, but it often is not funded well enough.

When the school year starts, buy school lunches for kids who can’t afford them.

This is relatively easy to do, fairly inexpensive, and listeners can get involved to leverage the campaign for the greater good!

Normally, it costs less than $400 to buy school lunches for a child for a full year. That’s a low price for a great promotion, and this is one that can have an emotional impact with great stories.

Create memorable connections with parents by telling a back-to-school story through the experience of hungry children because the family can’t afford to buy lunch at school.

Even if the school lunch program is funded, there’s still opportunity because:

  • Some parents don’t want to take the “charity” because of pride.
  • Some just don’t know about the programs.
  • Others just don’t jump through the hoops or fill out the forms to get into the programs.
See also  Welcome Back To School

Don’t get bogged down in the administrative details. Work with an organization or school administration to manage the details.

Instead, stay focused on the generosity of feeding hungry children.


This promotion works for almost any format but is especially formats that appeal to women and parents.