Saturday, September 12, 2009

I *Don't Heart* Begging Fundraising

I need to vent...

I hate school fundraisers!

A bit hypocritical, I know. I am, after all, a teacher. I guess you could say I represent the very institutions that endorse this kind of exploitation, which underpins much of public schools' enrichment programs. I realize that the budget is lean and that earnings from fundraisers directly prop-up underfunded arts programs. Parents' pocket books are perhaps a direct lifeline to most of the enrichment that takes place in public education today. Nevertheless, my scorn towards fundsponging simmers and I'm sure it will be at full boil come fundraiser's end.

My kindergartner has been in school for all of 14 days and already her school is sending home the dreaded beggar's dossiers. I oppose this kind of manipulation: fundraising that basically amounts to pimping out children to mega corporations in the name of subsidizing public school enrichment programs. But truth be told, our children are not really the ones being pimped, are they?

Let's face facts: I am the one that's really on the hoe stroll here. Since Sadia is only 4 years old, I am the one literally wading through tupperware/ portrait/ wrapping paper/ pizza stick/ calendar/ magazine/ candy sale booklets. I am the one who will put friends/ neighbors/ family members/ co-workers in the awkward position of having to dodge the sales pitch. I am the one who has to study the catalogues, do all of the accounting, reconcile each line item, promote the consumption of ridiculously overpriced products, and pound the pavement. I am the one who has to get on the phone and "remind" gracious donors who neglect to pony up. Then, I am the one who has to drag out my purse when it comes time to underwrite that big fat conciliatory check to balance lopsided calculations. And if I am the one that has to do all of the work, then what the heck is the point?

You know that circus performer who balances spinning plates on sticks, and juggles pins all while he balances on a unicycle? That's how my child's school fundraiser makes me feel.

I am frustrated by those bogus incentive schemes that lean on mother daughter relationships. Cheap, brightly-colored, plastic toys in no way justify what children across the nation are being asked to do: panhandle. How do I explain things like "overhead" and "profit margins" to a 4 year-old-- who values nickels over dollars because nickels are "shinnier"?

I can't win pitted against the guilt laiden rants that result when kids don't get to ride in the limo because they didn't meet a sales quota. I simply won't compete with the brainwashing that promotes toys like the Shake Wobbler Noise Pen, that can only be redeemed if children sell $199.99 worth of junk.

I don't mind giving money to my child's school. At the start of the year, I bought school supplies to help off set Sadia's teacher's out of pocket costs. What's great about this kind of giving is I know 100% of my money goes directly to the school, whereas with fundraisers only a fraction of the proceeds go to schools.

What about you? Where do you stand on the issue of children fundraising for schools? Are you buying in to it?


Hevel said...

Last year Craig's school had a running/walking fundraising event. People could buy hours to walk/run or pay for someone else to do it. It was a 24-hour event and we participated for a good portion, actually buying 24 hours. That divided up among family members averaged about 3 hours of active walking and my two youngest were delighted that they got to run at midnight!

In Hungary the school the kids attended organized bake sales and "new to me" sales where you could by anything from clothes to books to toys, one year someone brought in a small motorcycle. The kids set up the market, they made most of the baked goods, etc. We supported those.

We also participated in the magazine/book series subscriptions. Most of those were either same price or cheaper than buying them at the news stand, and 10-20% went to the school.

I have to point out that none of this carried any ridiculous plastic toy prices for the kids, and everyone was involved, even those, who couldn't bring in anything to sell or whose parents couldn't buy anything.

Diane Davis said...

my friend dionne on hoe stroll... you're killin me. :)

Alli said...

You hit the nail on the head, Dionne! I, too, hate these types of fundraisers (I don't mind the Scholastic ones, but the rest--ugh!). And they totally lie to the children about it. When John was in preschool, he came home and said "If you buy a butter braid, I will get this Wii!" No, if I buy 500 of those $9 pastries, you will win a Wii. If I buy one, you will win an eraser. But, the school held an assembly to tell the kids to sell, sell, sell so they could win a bunch of plastic crap. Argh! Btw, I did not buy OR sell any pastries and I do not feel guilty about it! :)

Lisa P said...

Our school tried something new this year--they literally asked for money straight up, so we didn't have to do fundraisers. I know it sounds bad, but actually, I liked the idea, since I generally shell out about $100 a kid in supporting fundraisers anyway, but at least this time, the school gets 100% of the money. And I'm not doing the hoe some might say! =)

Rory said...

Preach it sista! Last year alone we did cookies, wreaths, gift wrap, Entertainment books, cookbooks, AND an auction! And that was with me already paying for my kid to go to a private school! Sheesh! On top of that I had to put in 10 hours of time and talent hours or pay $100. Don't get me wrong, I love giving to things, but I too hate feeling manipulated. I like your school supply idea! Things like that make far more sense to me. I loved your post so much I read it out loud to my hubby and we had a great Monday morning laugh! Thanks!

Melody said...

Ha! I'm glad I'm not the only one that feels this way. This post has inspired me to "Just Say No" this year to that gosh awful cookie dough fundraiser in addition to all the others. I got totally sucked in last year....not this year though! Isn't your principal going to kill you? Maybe she's not a blogger?

Dionne Sincire said...

@ Hevel
Your ideas sound like thoughtful alternatives to what my child's school is doing. I will consider offering these suggestions to our PTA. I especially love the idea of a walkathon. Students can raise money where 100% of proceeds would go to the schools and they can exercise as well.

@ Alli, you've summed it up exactly. I'm not opposed to fundraising; I just can't get behind the manipulation.

@ Lisa,
I actually prefer the straight forward approach. But this is a slippery slope. For instance students that attend schools in lower socio-economic communities, would have fewer resources than those of ther wealthier counterparts. In this way, the divide between haves and have nots grow.

@ Rory,
In addition to that there's the trade off that happens with friends and family. You buy $50 worth of stuff from my kids fundraiser; I'll return the favor. So not only are you spending money on your kids tuition and fundraiser stuff, but you're shelling out even more on other kids' fundraiser. It's a vicious cycle.

@ Melody,
I thought about that. Fortunately, I am writing from a mother's perspective rather than a teacher's . I refrained from including my feelings as a teacher into this rant for the purpose you stated (don't want to get into any professional hot water). Even though as a teacher I've got enough material to fill two posts on the topic, I'll restrain myself. :0)

Mike and Katie said...

Once I was involved with a homeschool co-op who wanted to do a fund raiser. Sure they just wanted to raise funds for a missionary, but sheesh! It was the same deal. Kids selling out of a cheesy catalog. I chose not to participate. Seriously, one of the reasons my kids aren't in school is to avoid fund raisers!

I hated fund raisers as a kid, too. With my stay-at-home mom, I could never compete with the kids who had mom's who worked in famcy offices or whose dad's were doctors and dentists.

Natalie said...

Last year we had 5 fundraisers to pay for the art program, music program and assemblies (our PTA pays for tons of things at the school). I was overwhelmed and did not participate in the last few.

This year we sent a letter home listing every program that would not exist unless the PTA paid for it. We held our annual Jog-A-Thon and asked parents to contribute $75 per child to meet our fundraising goal. Some parents contributed less, some gave thousands of dollars. We solicited donations from corporations. We met our goal of $25,000.

We also looked for ways to cut costs and raise money without begging. We send home a "Green Sheet" to save copying and paper costs. We signed up for the Scrip, eScrip, Box Tops and Target programs. These programs allow parents to contribute without having to purchase anything. We ask local businesses to contribute goods in exchange for free advertising. We have Family Fun nights at local restaurants to raise money while dining out.

Teachers created wish lists at the beginning of the year to off set their out-of-pocket expenses. Parents could pick what they wanted to buy for the classroom. Some were expensive, other items very cheap.

Our website is if you are interested.

Great always!!!


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