“I can get my own laptop Mom! I just need to sell 200 things. And if I only sell 60, I can get a remote control helicopter!” My first-grader had no idea what things he was going to sell, but he was sure motivated to do so.
When I picked up my second-grader, I heard all about the fundraiser again. She, too, was so mesmerized by all the fabulous prizes that she was raring to go sell overpriced frozen cookie dough. At least she knew what she was selling.
Ugh. We’re six weeks into the school year and I think this is the third fundraiser I’ve seen.
I understand that schools, scouts, and sports all need and/or would like additional funds. I totally get that. Sure, I appreciate not having to pay out-of-pocket for every field trip and activity, but is there another way besides turning our children into door-to-door salespeople?
As a kid, I remember those motivating fundraiser assemblies too. In 7th grade the top seller of magazine subscriptions and wrapping paper would get a full 60 seconds in the “money machine,” a phone booth of sorts with a fan that blew cash all around. My mind was already calculating the methods I would use to be most efficient and effective at gathering the most cash.
Eventually I snapped out of my fantasy and back into the reality that I would never win the sales competition and get my minute of fame and fortune in the money machine. In fact, I probably wouldn’t sell anything at all. My parents weren’t necessarily against fundraisers, but they weren’t big proponents either. No doubt, they would have rather donated money to a cause than support a traditional fundraiser selling marked up products that no one really wants to people who probably shouldn’t buy them.
I remember the shock I felt when I learned that only forty cents of every box of Girl Scout cookies (they were $2.50 at the time) went to our troop. My motivation to sell (and earn a coveted t-shirt) went way down after that. Even at the time I know I would be better off spending a couple of hours doing something to earn money to donate than to sell cookies.
What I don’t like about typical school fundraisers
In today’s crazy world, having kids go door-to-door is usually discouraged, though that’s what we did when I was a kid. It’s hard to imagine that my parents let me go door-to-door alone or with a friend for our school fundraisers.
Hitting up friends, family, and co-workers
I don’t like being in the sometimes awkward position of being approached by sweet, innocent kids selling stuff. I’m not afraid to turn them down, but I don’t want to hurt their feelings or make a relationship awkward. I don’t want my kids putting our friends and family in that situation. I’m sensitive to others’ finances, so I don’t want to tempt anyone to buy junk that isn’t in their budget.
I am frugal– it’s different than cheap
Paying for over-priced things I don’t need isn’t frugal. You can call that cheap if you want, but there is a difference. Cheap people just don’t want to spend money (or want to spend as little as possible). Frugal people focus on value. Giving by way of a typical school fundraiser is not a good value for me or for the school.
I like to support causes (not prize schemes and clutter)
Going back to my realization as a Girl Scout, I know that a very small percentage of the money spent on fundraising items actually goes to support the cause. I can do more to support a cause by just donating money or time. I don’t need to get popcorn, candy bars, or cheese logs in order to support a worthy cause.
My kids were pretty grumpy when I told them that we wouldn’t be selling cookie dough to our friends and neighbors. Figuring they wouldn’t be caught dead selling in front of a store, I said “You could stand outside of a store and sell it, but it wouldn’t be very much fun.” “Yes it would!” my first-grader yelled through his tears, “Why do you think they call it a FUN-raiser?”
I want my first-grader to learn lots of things at school. Marketing overpriced cookie dough isn’t one of them. Dealing with typical school fundraisers is anything but fun.
So what is my solution? Get creative! Instead of offering a commercial, sales-y fundraiser, get creative! Here’s a list of some creative fundraiser ideas that we’ve taken part in.
I would love to hear your take on kids fundraisers.
- Do your kids participate in fundraisers? Why or why not?
- Do you buy stuff from other kids’ fundraisers?
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