Get Started

 How to Build a School with Coffee

 The Cuppa Change
How-To Kit

Welcome, from the Cuppa Change team.

We’re so glad you’re planning to build a schoolhouse with fair trade coffee.  The idea is simple, fun, and can run as long as you want.

Before you read this, visit our website,  You’ll see what we’ve done, who we’ve worked with, and what we’re up to now.

You’ll also want to check out the following forms attached in this kit:

  • the Coffee Order Form (one page, double-sided)
  • the Donations Tracking Record

You will find a box at the bottom of this page with both forms and a copy of this How-To document.  Just right-click and download each document.

Now that you have everything you need, read on.

  1. Get set up.

Hold a meeting and decide to build a schoolhouse in a developing country with the help of Cuppa Change and Craig Kielberger’s wonderful organization, Free The Children.

Elect a point person and get him or her to contact us.  We will send you some materials to get you started, including posters to track your progress.

  1. Make a plan.

Each month, you’ll alternate order days and delivery days.  When we raised money for a schoolhouse through a church, our order days and delivery days were Sundays.  When we raised money through a public school, our order days and delivery days were Wednesdays.  Each month has two order days and two delivery days, like this:

  • 1st Sunday or 1st Wednesday – an order day
  • 2nd Sunday or 2nd Wednesday – delivery day
  • 3rd Sunday or 3rd Wednesday – an order day
  • 4th Sunday or 4th Wednesday – a delivery day

The most convenient way to collect orders is to get customers on a several-month schedule.  Generally, people know how much coffee they use in their home and/or office.  If they need extra coffee for a special event, they can submit an extra order form.  This way, you’ll be able to see how much coffee you’ll be ordering, far ahead of time.

  1. Make a schedule.

Make a schedule.  Generally, here is the pattern we follow:

We start our projects in October, after the busy time of people getting their kids back into school in September is over.

We run the fundraiser right up to the end of December; fair trade coffee to build a schoolhouse makes for excellent holiday teacher gifts.  If you have people in your group handy with a sewing machine, ask them if they’ll make up simple gift bags from donated fabric.  These bags can be sold for $2 or $3.  Even though the bags may not contribute much themselves to your earnings, they make the buying of holiday gifts that much easier.

Offer gift cards, which offer gift recipients key information about your project.

Take a break over the holidays and in the first couple of weeks of January, to catch your breath.

Run the program from the end of January to the end of June, to capitalize on people’s desire for end-of-school-year teacher gifts.  Encourage people to stock up for the summer, and then take a break over the holidays.  If you have one volunteer who will be around during that time, see if he or she will continue to provide coffee to corporate clients, whose offices will still need a regular supply of coffee.

  1. Photocopy and distribute the forms you’ll need.

Distribute your order forms.  Give people a deadline to get in their order forms, reminding them that they can also hand in extra orders at any time.

  1. Get the word out.

Promote your program at least one full month before you’re ready to roll it out.  Note that getting the attention of coffee buyers is easiest when you’re dealing with them directly (for example, through church), and is more challenging when you’re obliged to send notices home with students.

We found that it was easiest to reach the parents of primary school kids (who tend to have a greater touch on life in elementary schools).  A more focused and sustained effort is required to reach parents of students in middle or secondary schools.

In all cases, newsletters (online or hard copy) are a big help to get the word out.  You can also set up a table at your school’s curriculum night in September, at the school’s music concert, at a group BBQ, etc.

  1. Work out your distribution and record-keeping process. 

Getting coffee to coffee drinkers can be a pretty simple path at church or at work, but it requires a little more infrastructure at school.  You’ll need the buy-in and assistance from not only the school administration, but parent and student groups as well.  We were able to make use of established class reps to collect order forms and distribute the coffee once it arrived.

Keeping good, clear records is essential. Cuppa Change can help you organize your binder to store all of your orders, a contact list, and any notes you keep on donations.  As you make your way through the delivery days, cross off what coffee has been delivered to what customer.

  1. Don’t overlook donations – welcome them.

Some people may not want to order coffee, but would be happy to make a donation to Free The Children for your specific project.  These contributions will get you to your fundraising goal much faster than relying solely on coffee sales.  Use the donations tracking form provided.

If you’re working with a group of kids, make a fun event of handing over your donations.  Take your group to the Free The Children offices with a giant cheque the kids have made themselves.  Take photos.  Get the kids to tell their peers about it at an assembly.  Free The Children will provide donors with charitable receipts.

  1. Coordinate special events

Encourage additional fundraising events: bake sales, car washes, penny rolling, holiday party fundraisers, collecting pocket change.  Here are some events we’ve held:

Brick Laying Days: about once a month or every 6 weeks, we made announcements of our progress, or people who had donated to the project.  We invited different participants to put up a brick with their name on it, and talk about how they felt about the project.  Tip: if someone made a personal donation, we listed their name on the bricks, but not the amount they donated.  This way, it’s not a competition about who has brought in what, the focus is on participation.  We had children who donated their piggy bank contents ($24.55), and others who donated hundreds or even thousands.  All donations were viewed the same way – with excitement and accomplishment.

The kids in one group drew a poster with a big schoolhouse ruler (in place of the typical thermometer), which we used to keep track of our earnings.

People organized their own mini-events to raise money.  A couple of teenagers in one group bag-piped and drummed and passed the hat – and single-handedly raised hundreds.  Given Free The Children is a very youth-oriented organization, our teenagers were empowered and inspired to find creative ways to raise money for the project.

Penny rolling: we placed a jar in the foyer, and people brought in pennies and loose change for rolling.  This became a fun group activity – we all hung out and rolled pennies together, discussing the project.  We raised hundreds of dollars this way.

Two tips around penny rolling:

1) Don’t use those machines in grocery stores – they take a service fee.  Rolling pennies yourself is much more fun, and someone might have one of those little gadgets to help make the counting and rolling process faster.

2) Find someone in your group who works at a bank to deposit the penny rolls, so the teller doesn’t look at you cross-eyed (or try to charge you a fee).

And finally, we held a potluck dinner to celebrate achieving our goal.

And that’s it.  Once you get the hang of it, this project runs very smoothly, and it’s a win-win-win situation: people get coffee (which they would buy anyway) at competitive prices; we support fair trade coffee producers in developing countries; and we build a much-needed schoolhouse in a developing country.

If you come up with ways to improve this kit or its blank forms, we’d love to hear from you!  Please feel free to e-mail us at

Much luck to you – and may you too have grounds to celebrate!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s