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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Getting On My Soap Box

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photo from vergemagazine.com

I'm going to write today about a topic that can be a bit controversial because it's all I can think about right now. It's all my kids can think about (and talk to me about) right now because they just had an assembly all about it where big promises were made. I'm talking about school fundraisers.

I hate school fundraisers. With a passion. And my kids hate that I hate fundraisers because then they can't win the prizes and parties that motivate the students to participate in the fundraisers.

How many people honestly want to buy wrapping paper, cookie dough, magazines, jewelry and whatnot at a ridiculously inflated cost? I'll tell you this: I sure don't. But yes, I do. If a kid that I actually know comes to my door selling something then I almost always will because I'm a sucker for kids. My kids hate this, too. If I won't let them sell these things then why do I buy crap from their friends?

I guess I'm sort of a hypocrite in that regard but I don't care. I'm the mom and I can do what I want - plus I don't think it's fair to lecture the neighborhood kids about what I think when their parents are obviously fine with it. That's not my place.

Well, push the wrapping paper and cookie dough sales aside because the latest trend in fundraisers seems to be more along the lines of Can you just give me some money for (insert school name here), please? In exchange for your donation, the kids will run a certain number of laps or shoot a basketball into the hoop a specified number of times in succession. I don't allow my kids to do these fundraisers either. Why? If the kid never ran one lap or if they missed a few baskets then the money is still collected. And even if they did run or make baskets, why should anyone be paying them to do this? Isn't that what kids do? Play?

I guess that what it comes down to is that I don't like the idea of teaching my kids to ask for something while giving back nothing in return.

I am not opposed to the idea of finding a way to generate money to donate to their schools, however. I have allowed my kids to do bake sales in our driveway, offer their babysitting or yard work services in exchange for payment, collect aluminum cans or even sell the clothing they have outgrown to a children's resale clothing store. I let them come up with their own ideas for fundraising, too - and sometimes these are awesome and sometimes they fail. But the point is that they are learning something. I will even take them to the dollar store and let them choose prizes if they earn the donation amount they were trying for. As long as they are learning to work for what they get.

It seems to me that many of the kids of today suffer from an entitlement syndrome. They feel that they are entitled to whatever they want and if they don't get it then all aytch-ee-double-hockey-sticks breaks loose. Fits are thrown. Tears are shed. This makes the new fundraising approach ideal for most kids. Collect money from friends and family, turn it over to the school and claim your prize. Easy.

My 5-year-old told me this week that if he did not bring any donations to the school for the current fundraiser then he would be the reason that the school did not get to have an ice cream party and he would not have any friends at recess. I am not cool with this type of motivation. It only makes me firmer in my position.

I hold on to some small glimmer of hope that my kids are learning something from all of this lesson I am trying to teach. I want them to learn the value in hard work. I suppose that only time will tell whether or not my methods are effective.

What do you think about school fundraisers? I'd love to hear what YOUR perspective is. Please leave a comment and we'll continue the conversation there.


Janet said...

Thankfully I have finished my 26 years of having children in the public school system, (do I seem giddy?) but I totally agree. I've always hated school fundraisers and the peer pressure that goes along with them. I always said I'd rather just give a donation to the school myself than try to sell things. But I am also a sucker for kids from my ward who come to my door to sell things.

Miss Griffiths said...

I am so with you on this one! Most people I know hate fundraisers - especially teachers. However, I hust wish I could figure out a way to give my students great experiences without doling the money out of my own pocket every month. Forget great experiences - I don't even get enough money from the "state" for paper and copies every year. If I ever figure out the solution to the conundrum, I think I might be famous.

Kalei's Best Friend said...

I ditto your feelings as well as the other ladies here... We all know the reason why they have to have fundraisers... Schools can not ask for money up front...I was told that years ago... I was told that if I wanted to make a monetary donation then its accepted...BTW I still have wrapping paper and my son is 20.. We quit fundraisers when he was in the 4th grade,( I think....)

Gerb said...

Janet- Sounds like we're in the same boat! I can't wait to be done with it all. (Well, the fundraiser part, anyway!)

MG- It definitely doesn't seem fair for teachers to have to pay out any of the money they are earning to supplement the classroom fund. I'm personally more inclined to donate generously to the classrooms than to make a donation to the school. That way I know it is staying with my kids. Thanks for being a teacher!

KBF- Our schools here actually DO ask for money up front. They ask for classroom donations AND school donations. And then they do the school-wide fundraiser along with them. I love that you still have the wrapping paper! That was the fundraiser of choice when I was in elementary school. We were ALWAYS selling expensive wrapping paper.

Rebecca said...

For me, the key is to raise funds for a specific purpose. Choir trip to D.C. New playground equipment. Something necessary and worthy of fund raising. Then I'm inclined to be generous. Especially if they are selling local coupon cards/books.

Some of our local schools do the annual walk-a-thon, and you have the option to donate a certain amount per mile. I think that's a good way to raise funds. The kids have to be self-motivated to earn the money, because there are no gimicky prizes.

Anonymous said...

Finally a topic that I have delt with over the years as well. There are actually schools in our very district that will only do one fundraiser per year just because of the strong opposition concerning all the competition. Yes there is a concern over not enough in the budget but I think they should turn to families who have actually done pretty darn good on a small budget. Kids seem very happy and content with a lot of love and less material.

Shawna said...

I have a problem with fundraisers as well....because I do not have children I have friends think I am fair game to be talked into ponying up the money to make up for what these kids did not sell on their own. Why do I end up buying junk I don't need or can barely afford? Because I melt every single time my honorary nieces plead and ask "pretty please".

I understand the reasoning behind fundraising, but I don't agree with the reward system involved.... with your son he's told he will lose his friends and have everyone upset with him if he doesn't make a sale? That is a very heavy load to dump on a 5-year old and ranks, in my opinion, right up there with blackmail and extortion.

diane rene said...

I just had this conversation with my friend today. our school just passed out a fundraiser that sold everything from snacks to wrapping paper to magazine subscriptions!

really?? all that in one turn?

we do not do fundraisers, and for my youngest in 1st grade, this is unjust! no pirate rubber ducky for selling $100 in goods.

my issue is, our school just "does" fundraisers ... rarely states what we are raising money for and I'm not game to that.
give me a cause and I will give you ideas if not money. new playground equipment? my husband will be out there helping to prepare the ground and maybe even help with the assembly.

our teachers put out a list at the beginning of the year of things they need in the classroom and we donate whatever is needed. I also donate tons of "scratch" paper to my kids' classes as well as copy paper, markers, sharpies and even my time. I have a copy machine at home and have offered to make copies for the teachers, staple packets, etc.

times are hard for us all and I refuse to hand out money when I can be doing something to help instead.

and I agree - bullying children into fundraisers is absolutely wrong!

Gerb said...

Bec- I'm not a big fan of walk-a-thons, but I AM a big fan of discount coupon books as long as they have coupons inside that I will actually use. However, I don't let my kids sell those, either. I don't like the door-to-door approach. One fundraiser that the school cross country team does is they sell parking in the school's lot for university football games. It's all by donation - so you can park for free if you want (and some people do). Sometimes they get a few coins that someone had in their car - other times people are more generous. I like this fundraiser because they are providing a service and it's not a guilt trip - if the people don't want to park there, they can go somewhere else. Only the kids who show up get a portion of the funds, too.

Marci- I remember one school saying we would only have one fundraiser but then they threw in another one because they didn't make as much $$ as they wanted from the first. There is a lot of competition from sports teams and other activities. We are always bombarded here in our neighborhood because there are a lot of kids. It can be frustrating.

Shawna- I'm not sure where my boy got the idea that he wasn't going to have any friends; to be fair, it could have been from his older siblings. But either way, that's not right. And I agree that it's not fair for you to have to feel obligated to buy. Like I said, I am the same way. In fact, I have an overpriced box of soft pretzels in my freezer because I caved for a neighborhood kid that I love who was doing a fundraiser. I just think that there has got to be another way to raise funds.

Gerb said...

Diane- I know what you mean! The flyer that was sent home regarding the fundraiser at my kids' school listed a whole bunch of general things that the money will be used for - some of which we do not participate in. But, like you and Rebecca said, give me something specific that I believe in and I'm usually happy to donate my time or even money if I feel it is worthwhile. You are the kind of parent that the schools need more of. I think parental involvement is the key for an awesome school.

Just SO said...

I, too, really dislike the fund raisers and the "prizes" that come along with them. Our school does a school carnival where supposedly most of the money is raised. That I can support.

Have you read the book "The Chocolate War"? It deals with this and it's on my books of list to read.

Gerb said...

SO - I have never heard of that book but it is now on my list of books to read. Thanks for the recommendation. Yes, a school carnival is great. People who want to participate can do so by showing up. Those who don't or can't can just stay home. That's the way to do a fundraiser.

Mel said...

I agree with you Gerb. I like the School Carnival approach better as well - something that the PTA and the school have to partner-up on to be successful. I think it builds better community involvement with the school, especially if each class has a "booth" or game or whatever that they are in charge of presenting. Much better solidarity for the class, for the school and for the community they serve.

Gerb said...

Mel- I especially love the idea of doing something where the kids are involved. I mean, if it's a fundraiser for the PTA to earn money for something that the kids could care less about (like paying for the officers to attend a PTA conference or something) then let the PTA run it. But if it's for something that benefits the kids (new equipment, classroom supplies, etc.) then have them do some work so they have some ownership in it!

Shannon said...

The more I read your stuff, the more I grow to love who you are.

Gerb said...

Shannon- The feeling is mutual. =0)

Sarah said...

I agree!! You are right on the money and I have to admit that my son is the king of "Entitlement" right now and it is HARD to un-install that level of thinking.

Good job, Gerb! Keep on leading the way!

Rachel said...

I am so with you on this one Gerb! I'd get on my soap box but you just took one of mine so I'll just stand next to you and add my voice to yours.

And if your kids are feeling lonely.... have em come and join my punks who's mom won't let them either......

Mom not Mum (Sandy) said...

What I really dislike...and this MUST be an issue at your house if you were going to participate...I have 3 children. Three kids come home with the SAME fundraiser. Do I buy one roll of paper from each of them so they each get the prize? Do I spread my money out so they are all treated the same and all of the classes get the same amount of $$ from me? Well, guess what? We don't participate. We didn't even do the read a thon. My kids read without the promise of a prize so why throw that in there? And why should the neighbor pay them to read? Not happening.

The only fund raising I do participate in is when they do the local McDonalds or Dairy Queen or Pizza night. If I feel like pizza on that night and the school gets a tiny % then so be it. If we don't go - oh well.

Our school said they were only doing ONE fundraiser. We got 3 things that week. Turns out there is a difference between school, pta and district fundraiser. Who knew? Who cares? If you're running out of copy paper don't use it to send out fundraiser information!!!!

Anaise said...

All I know is that I pay taxes to keep the schools up and running, and I buy crummy fundraiser stuff from the neighbors . . . and my kids don't even go to school!!!!

We pay for our own stuff--from paper to field trips--and we pay for the kids who are going to public school.

I could get up a good rant over this, but I'm stopping here because fundraisers are annoying but life is good. And I'm off to provide my children with a quality education and a fun autumn field trip today that none of my neighbors had to help pay for.

(Do I sound bitter?--I'm not really--I'm actually quite grateful and happy for the life we have the privilege of living.)

Gerb said...

Sarah- It IS hard to un-install. We just deprive our kids a bit more and then suddenly they seem to shape up some.

Rachel- I love that I'm not the only "mean mom". I DO let my kids do the run - there are just no donations to go with it. The first year I sent each of them with a donation from me and Cowgirl came home with one of the "big prizes" (a mini-DVD player that only played mini-sized DVDs) which caused plenty of problems (she wanted us to buy her mini DVDs, of course!). And to prove that I deserve the "mean mom" title, I was so happy when that thing broke.

MnM- Yes, we have 4 kids who go to the same school. So even if I did allow them to solicit friends and family for donations, how does that work? Does the friend/family member have to pick their favorite kid to donate to or give equal amounts to all 4 kids? That's definitely another aspect of the fundraising that I hate. I agree, though, on the local restaurant nights. There's no up-charge to compensate for what's going to the school and no one will ever know if you participated or not so there's no guilt trip involved, either.

Anaise- The whole paying-taxes-on-something-you-don't-use idea is another topic I could rant about. In fact, I may on my own blog. Our city wants to build a new recreation center and increase property taxes to do it. Well, we already have a rec center and my family doesn't use it. Anyway... like I said, it's a topic for another post, maybe. But I have some small understanding of how you feel about that.

Have fun on your field trip!

: ) Paula said...

I think what bugs me most about the fundraisers is that you KNOW the fundraising companies are getting a HUGE chunk of money. My 4th, 5th, and 1st graders are selling boxes of $5 chocolates. The school gets 40% ($2). The chocolates couldn't be worth too much more than a dollar, so some annoying fundraising company is making a 40% profit too. LAME. Send me to the dollar store, I'll buy some stuff, the kiddos can sell it for $2 a piece, then not only do you have a higher % profit, but some annoying fundraising company isn't committing highway robbery. Eh?

P.S. This blog rock!

PattiH05k said...

I also HATE fundraisers. Luckily, our elementary school doesn't do any, but the different clubs in the high schools do.
Between Cub Scouts, Young Women and Boy Scouts, I have had 4 kids selling wreaths at one time. I hate wreaths. I refuse to sell them.
The only one I give into is Girl Scout cookies--I guess because I'm a leader, but I would rather just pay for my kid to attend an event than have their 'fundraising' take care of it. I get more for my money that way anyway.

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