Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fundraiser Misery

It was 5:35 a.m. I shuffled through the hall, savoring the  stillness before the pre-dawn routine that gets everyone out the door on time.  I was totally unprepared for the frustrating and heated conversation I was about to have with my oldest son. 

“Mom, I need to have that fundraiser address book filled out so I can return it today.” 

He mentioned the fundraiser after school yesterday.  But with soccer and homework and a thousand other things going on, the paperwork got only a passing glance from me.

I yawned.  “Not now,” I said “You need to get ready for school.  But if you leave it on the counter, I’ll look at it today.”

“But it’s due today!” he said.fundraisersToday, really?  Sigh.  “What does the form need?” I inquired. 

He pulled out the booklet.  “Seven addresses of people we know.” 


My son explained that “the guy” (I’m assuming the representative of this fundraising company, who spoke to the kids yesterday) is going to mail magazine subscription offers to the people whose addresses we give.  The magazine subscriptions are supposed to be great deals, and forty cents of each dollar spent will be netted for the school.

I looked at the address booklet.  The front cover had a side note that stated…

“Don’t worry!  These notes will only be used for this one-time mailing and will not become part of a mailing list.”

Really?  Skepticism was rearing its ugly head.

In another note on the front, it said…

“Remember to include grandparents on both sides, aunts and uncles, other relatives and long time friends.”

I cringed.  The same family and friends who worry about how they will continue to pay for their prescriptions?  Or how they will make their mortgage payments?  Or pay for college? Or find work?  …But who would feel guilty about not supporting our son? 

Do I really want to ask them?? 

Along with this fundraiser address book, there were three other books/brochures of items to peddle, I’m assuming locally.  Three??  One isn’t enough? 

And of course there was an order form.  But the best sheet (or worst?) in the group of papers he was spreading before me?  A full size poster of the “Prizes” your child can “win” if he or she sells the required number of items.

“If I don’t fill out the address book,” he continued, “I’ll have to sit in class while everyone else goes to the two-hour party.”  (insert dramatic, pleading look)

Seriously?  A swirl of frustration mixed with anger sweeps over me at the spot in which I’m being placed.

What is the money being raised for?”  I asked.

He paused with a look which suggested he hadn’t a clue and said, “Um, the school?”  

Really? The same school our taxes support and to which we dish out large sums of money in required book rental fees for each child? 

Now, I’m generally a pretty easy going parent.  Supportive of the schools and organizations that my children are involved in.  I don’t like for them to feel left out if there is something special going on. 

And if there are fees involved with certain activities, we weigh the value of our boys’ participation as a family.  And then make the decision together.    

We already had one fundraiser on the counter (Bags For Bucks, for the soccer team), and frankly, this one (and how it is being handled) pushed some buttons this morning.

So, instead of what I had planned to post, I find myself here.  Writing an…

Open Letter To Those Who Organize And/Or Design Fundraisers

Please, before you send that packet of stuff home, give the parents the option of contributing outright to a real need.  We are as busy as you are and would appreciate the chance to circumvent a bunch of extra work.  Because we all know who has to sell it.


Be specific about what the need is.  If it is worthwhile, we’ll make the right decision. 

Be selective.  We are ALL making cuts in our budgets because of the current economic times.  Determine if this a need that is pressing, or one that can be postponed, or worked around. 

Examine the budget.  Would cuts in other areas provide the necessary funds to meet this need?  I’ve worked in both the public and private school settings and I’ve seen the waste that can surely be curbed.

And please stop putting undue pressure on children to participate in your fundraisers. Throwing a special party for those that “do” punishes those who “cannot” for reasons out of their control. 

Maybe it’s just me.  But the fundraiser party/prize concept is manipulation at its worst.  Please stop.  

Have you considered those children who live in struggling rural areas with few neighbors?  Or, what about children who have no in-state relatives, and who may already feel badly about that fact?  And is church really the place to suggest they go sell??

Perhaps you should use the would-be money spent on party and prize supplies to fund your need?

And Finally, if you really must do a fundraiser which sells something, at least pick something that people can use. 

The “Bags For Bucks” trash bag fundraiser is good, because everyone uses trash bags.  And I know from experience that the bags really are of good quality.


But selling outrageously priced novelty items and magazine subscriptions?   In today’s economy?


I will not ask people I care about to buy things they do not need so that a pittance can be put towards an ill-defined goal.  I will not.


I will work through my son’s disappointment over not attending the party.  I will work through his disappointment at not winning any prizes. 

However, I am deeply concerned about the wisdom that put us as parents in this position.  And saddened, too.


A Mom Caught In The Middle 

I can only add, that it is easy to ask others to pay for a need.  But isn’t that part of the craziness which is being decided in our government?? 

We need to start young, teaching our children that participation in some things costs money.  Allowing them to ask for handouts through fundraisers costs them nothing personally, except an appreciation of worth.  In fact, most times, it is the parent who takes the stuff to work to try to sell.

Why not organize a community service project where the kids can do something worthwhile for sponsorship?  It could be anything from having a car wash to doing odd jobs for the elderly, or even organizing a clean-up crew for a community property.   

  • They will appreciate the cost of participating in their activities more.
  • They will have been given the chance to give of themselves. 
  • 100% of sponsors’ contributions will be netted. 
  • And the sponsors, fully informed of the goal and the child’s part in attaining it, are left free to contribute what they feel led to, and can afford. Without being asked to buy items they don’t need.  For inflated prices.  Where only a small potion of their donation goes towards the child’s organization.  


I’m done.

I’ll put away my soap box, now.


Penny said...

Thanks you for writing that open letter!! I so agree, and have banned all fundraisers from our home. Now, if someone were selling grocery cards to a store I already use?? That, I'd embrace but no more cheap, over-priced junk for my family, friends and neighbors!

btw - I'm home alone tomorrow, so expect a phone call maybe around 8:30!

Shelley said...

You are so right! Every penny counts for us. I would't mind so much if the items were halfway useful. But the stuff is always over priced junk. And cute, pleading kiddos peddling in church? The worst!

Cheryl said...

I agree 100%. We've got 2 boys in band selling the exact same things! Last year they had to sell a minimum amount or the parent had to make a donation of money for each item not sold. That sure let me and one of the boys off the hook (he hates selling). I gladly gave the money. This is something they enjoy, so I didn't mind.

Golightly said...

And seriously, one day!? That's just WRONG! how rude and presumptuous they are at your son's school. So sorry. I'd feel the same way.

Kimberly said...

Hear HEAR! Around here it starts ay preschool. Even before the school year starts. So annoying.