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Did you give up on the Box Tops For Education program after it went all-digital a few years ago? Many participants did, and schools across the country have paid a steep price. Now, the program is making changes to help encourage more participation, by making its all-digital program – well – all digital.

The General Mills-run program, which provides money for schools when participants buy promoted products, has introduced “Connected Accounts.” Similar to savings apps like Ibotta, which let you link a store loyalty account, Box Tops Connected Accounts will allow you to earn money for your chosen school automatically when making a qualifying purchase, without having to scan and upload a paper receipt.

So far, the only “Connected Accounts” participant is Walmart. “However, Box Tops for Education plans to bring the feature to more retailers,” a General Mills spokesperson told Coupons in the News.

You can connect your Walmart account from within the Box Tops app, or create a Walmart account if you don’t already have one. Make sure you have a payment method saved to your Walmart account, and then any time you make a purchase at Walmart, online or in-store, any eligible earnings will be credited to your Box Tops account, automatically.

Box Tops, as a generation of students, parents and school administrators well know, used to be printed on the packaging of participating products. You’d cut them out, turn them into your school’s designated coordinator, and they’d be redeemed for cash that schools could use to help pay for things their budgets didn’t ordinarily cover, like new computers, books or playground equipment.

In 2019, though, General Mills decided it was time to update the nearly quarter-century-old system of clipping, collecting, sorting and redeeming those tiny pieces of paper. It phased out printed Box Tops for a receipt-scanning system instead. Upload a receipt showing the purchase of eligible products, and you’d get the corresponding Box Tops credited to your account, which you could then direct to your chosen school.

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“We’re making this change for many reasons, but primarily to modernize the program for the next generation of participants,” General Mills explained at the time.

And many once-eager participants hated it. Some complained that using the app was too difficult, some objected to having to share their receipts and all of their purchase data with General Mills, and some simply preferred the fun, camaraderie and school spirit associated with clipping and collecting printed Box Tops.

Lest anyone dismiss those concerns as coming from a minority of Luddite grumblers, the numbers don’t lie. At the program’s peak a decade ago, schools earned more than $78 million from Box Tops in a single year. At the end of the 2018-19 school year – the last before the program went digital – schools earned a lesser but still significant $31 million. As reported in General Mills’ just-released annual Global Responsibility Report, total earnings for the 2022-23 school year have plummeted to a mere $5 million.

By General Mills’ count, 76,433 schools benefited from the program this past school year, which means each school earned an average of just $65.42 – hardly enough to buy a new computer or piece of playground equipment. “More than 4.7 million people have downloaded and opened the Box Tops app,” General Mills also said – which means each user earned an average of just $1.06 for their schools.

So making the process easier and more seamless, by making the digital program truly all-digital, can only help. General Mills is launching a promotional push to “make sure everyone knows about Walmart connected accounts.” It’s inviting users to spread the word, by sharing a flyer that “explains how to connect accounts in three simple steps, so supporters can start earning at Walmart without scanning.”

With earnings of $953 million and counting so far, General Mills has been promoting the Box Tops program for years as giving schools “nearly one billion dollars.” But with annual earnings stuck at just a few million, it’s going to take a very long time to surpass that billion-dollar milestone. Simple, seamless Connected Accounts just might help. And given how participation in the program has plunged – it certainly can’t hurt.

Image source: Box Tops For Education

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