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Survey Reveals 99% of Teachers Use Personal Funds for School-Related Purchases

Sixth Annual Teacher Shopping Study Shows Teachers Prefer Brands That Help Offset Budget Shortfalls with Exclusive Teacher Offers

Portland, OR – August 23, 2019 – According to a new survey of K-12 teachers across the US, out-of-pocket spending continues to be necessary in the face of inadequate school funding. Published today by SheerID and Agile Education Marketing, the sixth annual teacher shopping study reveals that 99% of teachers spent personal funds for school-related purposes, from science kits and art supplies to snacks for students, during the 2018-19 school year. The survey also indicates that teachers feel compelled to ensure students have an excellent learning experience, no matter the cost. Ninety-seven percent of survey respondents said that budget shortfalls have a negative impact on students, so teachers are stepping up with their own money: four out of five teachers spent $100 or more to support their teaching needs, while nearly half (48%) spent more than $250, 15% spent more than $500, and some invested as much as $5,000 into their classroom. 

Inadequate funding has a ripple effect extending beyond school supply shopping. Eighty-eight percent of teachers spent their own money on classroom supplies, but it doesn’t stop there. Teachers covered the cost of student rewards (74%), instructional resources (67%), and reading materials (41%). While the average out-of-pocket spend among teachers dropped from $652 in 2018 to $418 in 2019, the amount is still significant. 

Mallory Speers is a sixth grade science teacher in southern Washington, whose school provides a $70 annual budget for classroom supplies. With 90 students, she notes that this amounts to “less than one dollar per student for the entire school year.” As a result, she spends more than $500 annually, out of her own pocket, not only on basic supplies, but also on snacks, hands-on projects, and even lighting for her classroom. “Being a teacher sometimes means spending your own money,” she said. “It’s important to me to create a comfortable and engaging place that will help my students learn and have memorable experiences.”   

For brands that want to support teachers, gated, exclusive offers are a great way to engage them for both professional and personal spending: 95% of teachers said they are more likely to purchase classroom supplies and 81% are more likely to buy personal items from a company that offers a teacher discount. With classrooms chronically under-funded and many teachers feeling under-appreciated, educators need support, and brands are in a position to deliver—64% of survey respondents said teacher discounts make them feel “valued.”

“The message to brands is clear—educators want to be recognized and feel valued. Those brands that heed the call set themselves up to win the business of this important customer group, and they have a direct impact in classrooms by giving educators what they need to teach our children,” said Jake Weatherly, CEO of SheerID. “We have entered into a new world of marketing, where it’s not just about the purchase; it is about the person. By tapping into teachers’ sense of identity, gated offers deliver the perfect entry point for brands to create an authentic, emotional connection with teachers to foster long-term loyalty.”

Give teachers what they want

With 4 million teachers in the US, educators are a high-value customer group who shop often and gravitate to discounts across all product categories. The 2019 survey revealed that:

  • Teachers want discounts on virtually everything. While office supplies, instructional materials, and computers/electronics top the list, there is an opportunity for brands to offer teacher discounts across virtually every product category, from finance to travel to entertainment.  
  • Teachers are motivated by various promotions. According to the survey, 73% prefer “buy one, get one” (BOGO), which makes sense considering they buy multiples of many school supplies. Brands can also make waves with a 25% single item discount (preferred by 69% of teachers), free shipping (62%), or 10% off their entire purchase (46%).
  • Teachers shop all year round. Over half (58%) shop at least monthly for classroom materials—a more than 2x jump from 2017, when only 28% of respondents said they shop monthly. 

Michaels, which operates more than 1,200 stores in 49 U.S. states and Canada, delivers on these shopping preferences by offering an everyday 15% discount for educators, along with a wide assortment of teacher and classroom products. The year-round offer makes it easy for teachers to save on everything they need to set up, organize, and decorate the classroom, such as arts and crafts supplies, classroom storage, and bulletin board materials.

“Our support for teachers extends well beyond the start of school with a 15 percent discount available every time they shop, all year long,” said Steve Carlotti, Michaels Executive Vice President of Marketing. “Our teacher discount is one way we show our commitment to educators, as we serve as the go-to headquarters to help them create one-of-a-kind environments that are creative and inspiring places for students to learn. Convenience is a top priority, and we make it easy for teachers to receive the discount both online and in the store.”

Teachers are influential

The survey reinforced that teachers are a tight-knit community who love to share a good deal: nearly three in four (71%) said they would tell their colleagues about a teacher discount. They also learn about discounts from both peers and brands. Friends and colleagues are vital to word-of-mouth marketing: 48% of respondents said they rely on educator blogs/websites, while 78% learn about teacher discounts from a friend or co-worker. And increasingly, teachers are seeking out discounts directly from brands: 65% learn about discounts via email (a 35% jump from 2018) and nearly half (49%) via the company’s website (an 88% jump from 2018.)

“To break through the noise, marketers need to make teachers feel seen and valued, and gated offer programs are emerging as an effective strategy to accomplish that,” said Verlan Stephens, Founder and Managing Partner, Agile Education Data. “This year’s survey reaffirms that out-of-pocket spending is becoming increasingly normalized as teachers struggle to come up with the funding to effectively teach. Brands willing to listen to what teachers need and to deliver on those expectations have significant opportunity to build long-term relationships with this lucrative and influential customer group.”

For more survey results, view the infographic

Survey Method

This national survey was conducted online by IESD during June and July 2019 on behalf of Agile Education Marketing. 300,000 K-12 teachers in the US were invited by email to participate. 253 classroom teachers completed the survey. The margin of error for results from the respondents was approximately ±6% at the 95% confidence level. 

About SheerID

SheerID’s leading digital verification platform instantly verifies the identity of individuals and businesses, enabling enterprises to deliver gated offers and experiences to high-value customer segments while mitigating fraud and minimizing friction. By using authoritative data sources to verify credentials in real-time within an organization’s brand experience, SheerID delivers a seamless customer experience that reduces churn and fuels loyalty to drive revenue growth. As a result, the world’s biggest brands – including Amazon, Lowe’s, Spotify, and T-mobile – rely on SheerID as their trusted verification partner. Founded in 2011, SheerID is backed by Voyager Capital and Centana Growth Partners. 

About Agile Education Marketing 

At the intersection of market intelligence and business, Agile Education Marketing is top-notch marketers backed with industry expertise. We harness market intelligence to enable our clients’ innovative programs built on database intelligence, data services, targeted outreach, and multi-channel optimization.

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