Dec. 5, 2011 -- When I typed the word "school" into one of the free unclaimed money search sites, I got hundreds of hits across the country.
If you think about it, school districts are like vast corporations with lots of different budgets and bank accounts to keep track of, and they, too, sometimes lose track. Plus, there are so many non-profit organizations, such as parent's associations, that work on behalf of schools and they are often run by volunteers, an easy recipe for misplaced money.
It's well worth it to conduct an unclaimed money search for your favorite school, from nursery schools to colleges, and both public and private. Here's how you go about it:
1. Unclaimed.org: First, search in the state where the school is based by going to the FREE website www.unclaimed.org and clicking on that state. (IMPORTANT: this is a .ORG website, NOT a .com. If you mistakenly type in .com, you will be taken to a pay site. It is never necessary to pay a fee or a finder to help you find unclaimed money.) Unclaimed.org is run by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, and will link you to each individual state's search site.
2. MissingMoney.com: Next, you can do a multi-state search at www.missingmoney.com. At first, you will be prompted to enter the school's home state, but after that, you can access a drop-down menu that allows you to choose "all states and provinces." This search is not actually for all 50 states, because not all participate, but it does allow you to search 39 states at once. You'll want to search other states because sometimes unclaimed money is held in the state where a business is located rather than where the person –or school—is located. So if the school worked with a vendor based out of state, this could be relevant. Just be sure to look at the map to see which states do not participate. You may want to go back to Unclaimed.org to search the missing states, especially if you live in an area that is close to other states.
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3. First/Last Name: You will see that some sites provide a separate field to search for unclaimed money for a business, including non-profits like schools, and others do not. For those that do not, first try typing the name of the school into the "last name" box. Then try using both the first and last name boxes. For example, you can type "Washington School" into the last name box. And you can also type "Washington" into the first name box and "School" into the last name one. You should also reverse the name, typing "School" into the first name box and "Washington" into the last name box. You never know how data has been entered or sorted in a computer system.
4. Variations/Abbreviations: It's also important to search every possible variation of the school's name. For example, if the school is called "St. Patrick's," you'll want to search "Saint" and "St." Another trick is to search just "St" without the period. Think of any other school related variations that might be relevant. For example, "highschool" or "high school" or "High" or "H.S." or "HS."
5. Broadening Out: Finally, for the broadest possible search, you can drop the specific name of the school entirely, and just search broad terms like the word "school." This should bring up a series of alphabetical listings, and you can then scroll through them looking for the more specific name of the organization you are trying to help. Here are some examples –not an exhaustive list-- of key words to give you an idea:
Child Development Center