“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?
I enjoyed read over your blog post. Your blog have nice information, I got good ideas from this amazing blog.
Donna G says
We stopped fundraising after I got smart and asked where the money went. The school bought a large flatscreen for the office that plays upcoming events on a loop. A bulletin board would be cheaper. My daughter was asked to sell cookbooks for home economics student organization even though she wasn’t a member! We began saying NO.
My youngest daughter came home with a trivet decorated with a picture she drew in art class, and a note that we had to pay $5 if we wanted to keep it. When I asked what the money went for, the principal spluttered and couldn’t provide a reason. I told him a few facts about cooyright law, didn’t appreciate them profiting off her work, told them we were keeping the trivet and I was not going to pay him for it.
The PTA hosts holiday parties and each mother provides something. There are no school sports. So where does my money go and why do they need it?
The middle school used most funds raised for BOY sports. Well, I don’t have a son. My daughters are in dance outside school.
Ask where the money goes and do not be guilted into participating. My kids will not hump their junk for no benefit, and I’m not allowed to ask coworkers to buy stuff at work. If we do not benefit, it is a NO
I have no idea what elementary kids can do for fundraisers, but in middle and high school we did car washes, grocery bagging, and parking lot attending at local ball parks, I think a car dealership also sponsored my tennis team by doing a pay to drive scheme (we recruited people for a test drive, and got $50 per test driver).
I don’t have kids, but I vote for the school district levies every year they come up.
I will donate to a special campaign at a local school instead of buying junk (or worse, junk food!)
That being said, I enjoy other fundraisers for good causes. If you’re doing a walk to fight cancer or raising money to help an elder with groceries, I’m all over that. I can usually find a little wiggle room in the budget for generosity. If I can’t, I ask them to ask me next time.
Also, kids doing work out starting their own little business. I saw a flier that looks like it was done by a 7 year old or so advertising leaf raking in the neighborhood. Even if I don’t really need it, I’m happy to support that.
I love what you said about helping hard-working, entrepreneurial kids. I would much rather support that than sales of a made-for-fundraiser product.
Linda Smith says
As a parent and a teacher, I hated fundraisers. It’s outright exploitation of children and grossly unfair. Of course the mom who’s the boss of a large department at work is going to sell more whatevers than the stay-at-home mom with 3 more kids. It’s basically the parents who do the selling & an early lesson for kids to learn just where in the economic picture they fit.
As a kid I was secretly jealous of the kids whose parents sold their stuff at work.
Our school does different fundraisers, but without the sales incentives. They also have a give by pay-pal button on the school website. I set up for a small monthly donation and now I don’t worry about participating in fundraisers (buying or selling)
That’s a nice idea to set up and automatic monthly donation to the school and forget about the fundraising!
I saw this funny fundraising form recently:
I thought it was clever! And the article gives a good explanation.
My kids are 3 and 1, so I don’t have to deal with school fundraisers yet, but I’m sure it’s in my future. Not looking forward to it. Thank you for the tips!
Oh that is hilarious! I LOVE it! 🙂
My parents hated school fundraisers. My dad was a teacher, so he was constantly getting the hard-sell from his students. My mom was a librarian, so she was frustrated that the schools had a comparatively generous budget AND did fundraisers while the library was constantly under-funded. (I remember one time my dad came home from school bursting with pride about the 30 new computers his classroom had just gotten, and my mom turned on him and said, “Great, just great. You get 30 computers to service a class of 25 while our library, which services the entire community, is limping along with 5 old, obsolete machines. Now try telling me how hard schools have it!”)
I guess that attitude has rubbed off on me because I don’t like school fundraisers either. There are raffles, walk-a-thons, family photos, pie sales, cookie dough sales, a shopping trip to the factory outlet stores . . . Urgh. I’d rather just pay extra for field trips than have to put up with the constant fundraisers. We usually throw a few bucks at the kids for the walk-a-thon and skip the rest. I kind of figure, when it comes to the raffles, that they’re highly unlikely to go through all the tickets and see who has participated and who hasn’t, so I’m probably off the hook there; and when it comes to the other stuff . . . Well frankly I think the mothers in the PTA are all a bunch of stuck-up snobs so I don’t really care what they think of me anyway.
I agree– I would rather just pay for the field trips! And I think it is universal (and sad) that libraries are underfunded!
[email protected] says
Fundraisers bring up bad memories for me as a child. I had to go out door-to-door with my sister when we were both in Girl Scouts and try to sell cookies together, but were told to take turns selling them. Well, being young, we thought we just took turns knocking on the doors, and for whatever reason (she was cuter and had a more bubbly personality than I did) many of the doors she knocked on got sales, while got maybe 3 at the most. I came back to the car in tears.
Then many years later, I was a cheerleader and we had to sell stuff for our squad, and I resolved to overcome past bad experiences and go door-to-door to sell whatever it was. I got over 30 sales, was so proud of myself, only to find out that they decided to cancel the fundraiser (and its prizes) because there weren’t enough participants who sold anything.
I homeschool now and am so glad that my kids don’t have to do those things!
That’s a crazy fundraising experience Jenni! Way to overcome your bad experience. I would be totally disappointed too! That’s nice that you kids don’t have to go through that!
I am a Grandma to 7. When the first couple of Grands were younger I did buy the cookie dough. However, our family grew & we got to where we couldn’t participate. It irritates me to no end that some of the kids are left out of the pizza party or whatever because they didn’t sell a minimum. A long time ago a lady I worked with her child sold gift cards to stores of all kinds all year. You paid no extra at all but the stores donated a percentage of each card. I always bought them at Christmas time when I bought gift cards anyway. I also would buy $25 for Kroger etc when I was going to spend that much at a store. A perfect fundraiser in my opinion. No extra gouging of family & friends & you get dollar for dollar what you bought no waste.
I like the gift card idea! That’s perfect to get them to places where you’ll be spending money anyway.
I was never interested in fundraisers as a kid. Now that my kids are starting to participate in them, I’m looking for ways to help them keep their spirits up. The goals they put on these kids is crazy! Its even worse when you want to help you your children sell their products. Its kind of degrading in my opinion…
The goals and the incentives are pretty crazy for sure!
When my son was in elementary school, I was the Boxtops coordinator for a couple of years. We held school-wide competitions pitting classroom against classroom to see who could bring in the most boxtops. The prize was a pizza lunch. Everyday I updated a HUGE graph in the cafeteria so all the kids knew where their classroom was in the competition. We raised a lot of money. I did hear from some parents that their kids went through everything in the cupboards and cut out the boxtops on unopened packages 🙂
My kids are pretty serious about BoxTops too. I can totally see how it is really good marketing for the companies because my kids always direct me to products with boxtops, “Get this one mom, it has a boxtop!” And they totally cut them off of unopened packages! I’m cool with that though! 🙂
As a teacher, I am indirectly on the receiving end of our school’s PTA fundraisers, but as a parent of 4, I’ve been on the frustratingly selling-side of the fundraiser season. Even though the cookie dough and candy bars were an outrageous cost, I’d go ahead and purchase one because I knew that it wouldn’t get wasted at our house. But our school has sold such things as bags – everything from lunch-bags to large tote-size – to candles and kitchenware that were of no benefit to anyone at our house, with the single exception of a rather unique spoon rest that I still use several years later. We have a large population of Girl Scouts at our school too, and if they ask I will buy a box of cookies from them (I stock up on Thin Mints, my husband’s favorite, which do not tempt me). I just make sure to take a wad of cash with me about the time they are delivered. Because I buy a dozen or more from our students I don’t buy from those selling outside the grocery stores (as the school librarian I know all 700 of our kids – not just a classroom of 22, so it’s hard to say yes to one and no to another:)).
Mmmm! I like Thin Mints too! 🙂 You are nice to stock up for your husband!
I can’t remember where I read about this, but there was a school that sold toilet paper as their fundraiser instead of useless stuff that no one really needs. I thought that was such a great idea! I would be more likely to donate if I get something I would be buying anyway. As it stands, my kids are not in school yet so no fundraising yet. But I also have no problem saying no to anyone who asks either. “It’s not in my budget right now” is my go to phrase, and its truthful too 🙂
Toilet paper! That’s awesome! My husband told me that his scout troop sold light bulbs one time! 🙂
When our oldest was in public school there was fundraising and we still had to pay out of pocket for field trips and all sorts of other things. I volunteered in the classrooms 8-10 hours a week. I’d bring in supplies for his teacher and others as needed. When we started homeschooling it was nice not to have the fundraising or spend time in the classrooms. Now if our school needs something we buy it. Our field trips are just family outings and vacations.
That’s a nice benefit of homeschooling! 🙂
My daughter’s public elementary school only does 1 fundraiser and it’s a walkathon. I don’t mind participating in that since the kids just ask for donations and I can write a check to the PTO and write it off my taxes later. The PTO has taken a firm stand against holding any more fundraisers and I am very thankful for that. My coworkers are always bringing in fundraiser things for their kids schools and I just avoid it. Well, except for the Krispy Kreme fundraiser since we can’t normally buy Krispy Kreme doughnuts in our town 😉
That’s really awesome Meagan! I bet the PTO gets batter participation by making it a non-sales fundraiser, where the kids actually do something, and by having it be the ONLY ONE all year!
Liz S says
I do not participate in fundraisers. My kids don’t notice any difference since we’ve never participated. At my kid’s school they do a Yankee Candle fundraiser and I believe another one. I volunteer my time by teaching small groups in the preschool one morning a week (the teacher begs me to help her every year) and my daughter’s 1st grade teacher asked me to help 2 days a week, for one hour each time. (I combine one of these times with the time I am already at the school for the preschool.) So at least the teachers know I’m not unwilling to be helpful, I just refuse to do a fundraiser (yes, it’s the parents doing it) when I know I cringe when I am asked by other people’s children to buy overpriced items we don’t need. What’s funny is that if the school sent home an envelope asking parent to make a small donation, I would gladly be all over that!
My kids haven’t cared about us not doing the fundraisers until this year. I think they had an assembly where they got them all pumped up about the prizes. I agree with just flat out asking for donations! That is awesome that you volunteer at the school– that’s worth way more than selling junk! 🙂
Our kids’ Catholic school has all sorts of fundraisers, but we’ve eliminated the ones where we sell stuff. It’s for exactly the reason you noted – such a small percentage of the profit goes back to the school! I don’t mind fundraisers at all – I get it – but I do appreciate that I’m not buying overpriced gift wrap/cookie dough.
I much prefer the non-selling fundraisers!
My daughter’s school did a Spirit Walk where they raised pledges for the 45 minute walk around the playground that is going to happen in a few weeks. I really liked it because 100% of the donations go to the school and it is 100% tax deductible PLUS it promotes physical activity. Additionally, the dollar amounts to get prizes was really reasonable. $25 you get a school water bottle, $50 you get a school t-shirt, $100 you get a shoe bag. We just called up the grand parents and one set of aunt/uncles, raised $65 and called it good!
I like that the kids *do* something rather than *sell* something!
[email protected] says
I completely agree! I usually just send the fundraiser information back with a polite “no thank you” note. The only one that I participate in is the Coupon Book. For me, since I use a lot of coupons, it is actually worth the money. I pay $25 and get a book with thousands of dollars of coupons to local businesses. Last year I calculated that I saved $150! So, I don’t mind asking my friends if they would like to buy one as well. Other than that, we abstain.
That’s great that they do coupon books of coupons you actually use! And of course if you have found them great, then it’s normal (and easy) to sell them to others.
We just finished our one annual campaign, where our school sells nothing. Instead our kids just call all friends and family and say please write a check to my school or go to their website and just give them money. If they hit $50 they get an ice cream pass. Ice cream that they normally pay a $1 for!! It’s definitely a simpler way to raise funds but still irritating. Now I say this is our one campaign, however, it’s just the only one where they flat out ask for money. We still have (awful looking) school pictures twice a year, 2 carnivals, monthly Bingo nights and weekly “spirit” nights at local restaurants and activity places where proceeds collected go to the school. The book fair twice a year (books that cost 3 times the Amazon prices). And of course monthly requests for items in the classroom. Sometimes I think I would be better off paying private school tuition!!
Just want to reassure you that paying for private school does not stop the fundraisers. At my kids private school, we have two mandatory raffles, fall & spring ($200 each). We have $1 ice cream days once per month, we have $1 dress down days 5-6 per year, bake sales, Christmas bazaar, Mom’s night out, father daughter dance, pizza & bowling, etc., etc., They are hitting us up constantly, and that is on top of tuition.
That’s good to know that it’s not just public schools!
My husband’s a CPA and a lot of his clients send their kids to private school. Yep, they get hit up worse than we do! They not only have fundraisers (with a lot more shame and guilt attached to performance than our public school kids get) they also have annual compulsory donations. Yes, that’s what the school calls it – how a donation can possibly be compulsory is beyond me, but they have compulsory donations that they have to pay to a few different funds.
I would rather say it like it is and just ask people to donate money. And yes, it seems like there is always *something* going on.
Anna Rounseville says
I Hate Fundraisers. I’ll gladly donate My O Neg Blood, & or a donation to charity rather than waste 15 min. on reading/deciphering useless flyers for useless stuff nobody wants or needs. You nailed it. Some of these national fundraisers feel shady as heck, also.
I’ve seen so shady ones too. Hooray for being the universal donor! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
“FUN-raiser” ha. Indeed.
I hate, hate, hate to see the appearance of an order form on the fridge at work: baseball, soccer, band, scouts, you name it, it’s been there. And how do I decide that yes, I’ll buy this from this co-worker’s child, but not that from that co-worker’s child? I can’t, so I don’t buy anything.
Yes! If other kids ask me, I just tell them, “No thanks. You know, I don’t even buy from my own kids!”