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Fundraising Should Be Fun For Everyone

Fundraising Should Be Fun For Everyone

It’s no secret that our public schools are desperate for money and that fundraisers are a given part of the school year, but raising extra money for the schools should not be at the students’ expense.

In the past three weeks, my children, ages 6 and 10, have been subjected to a high-pressure sales pitch while at school. If they sell a certain number of items (totaling $120), they can go to a Megaparty, complete with inflatables, held during the school day and on school grounds. If they don’t sell $120 worth of items, they can’t go to the party and will be left behind in the classroom. This fundraiser is used in a number of Huntsville schools, including some where more than 50% of the students receive free or reduced-price lunches.

[pullquote type=”2″ align=”right”]It creates a group of children who feel left out of the festivities because their parents can’t afford it, and it provides a convenient way for some children to bully others by bragging about going to the party.[/pullquote]While most fundraisers are benign, this kind of fundraiser puts an unfair burden on children whose parents might be struggling just to survive. Children are encouraged by the schools not to sell door-to-door, so that puts the pressure squarely on the shoulders of moms and dads who don’t have an extra $120 to spend on overpriced merchandise. In addition, it creates a group of children who feel left out of the festivities because their parents can’t afford it, and it provides a convenient way for some children to bully others by bragging about going to the party. This kind of divisiveness should not be promoted by our schools or anyone who works under the umbrella of the school system, such as the Parent Teacher Association (PTA).

Most fundraising in public schools is coordinated by committees of parents who belong to their school’s PTAs. These parents step in and do a wonderful job of helping meet the schools’ needs and going above and beyond what is necessary. But the pressure to accomplish certain goals sometimes leads to losing sight of the main priority: helping the kids. Fundraising is especially vulnerable to this.

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Ideally, fundraising should encourage kids and families to work together for a common goal, and no one should be excluded from participation because of their economic status. There are other ways to raise the funds and equipment we need without sacrificing kindness and the ability to do the right thing. Huntsville is a unique and diverse community with many highly educated, creative people who would welcome the opportunity to help the schools if asked. These people are probably not walking the halls at the schools every day, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested or that they wouldn’t have valuable ideas. Our schools belong to everyone, and we should focus on making sure that everyone feels welcome and has an opportunity to help. By reaching out to the larger community, we can accomplish much more while asking for less.


View Comments (35)
  • For several years, I worked in Development (fundraising) at two different private schools in two different states. Raising money can certainly be a touchy subject and yet it is necessary if we want to give our children the best education we can. Having said that, I think you make an excellent point. We need to always make sure that we don’t lose sight of the original goal – helping ALL children.

    If something at school is causing divisiveness (in fact almost encouraging it) then people need to reset their priorities. I’m hoping this was an unintentional side-effect of overly exuberant parents. Still, once it’s been pointed out, it seems like it needs to be reformatted to avoid these problems.

  • Obviously this parent needs to sit on a PTA board at her school so she can truly understand how necessary the money is to help the entire school. PTA funds many things that most parents do not realize. Before people go off on a tagent about being nickled and dimed to death, they should honestly take action to be actively involved if they do not like the way things are run. And you make time for those things you feel are important.

    • I think most parents understand how necessary the money is, especially in these days of across the board budget cuts. But the way this particular one is done is not fair to the kids. It’s in very poor taste to pressure them into doing something that for many of them is not even possible.

      And further, most of the time it’s the PARENTS who are having to do the fundraising — not the kids. I know when I was little, my mom would always take the books to work and I’d be lucky to get a few orders (usually because it was junk people didn’t want and/or ridiculously overpriced). I just didn’t live where it was possible to go door to door. I could have gone to the big neighborhoods, but I’d be told that they had already bought from “the kid who lived down the street.”

      I agree, parents do need to get involved if they don’t like the way things are run, but again, some can’t. Many working parents simply don’t have the time or resources.

    • I’m not the author of the article but I will say that I think her argument is less about the school doing a fundraiser and more about the way the children are being rewarded or not rewarded for their participation. If children are being singled out (as she claims) and allowed to attend a Megaparty (during the school day) for raising $$, then it stands to reason the other children who did not raise money are also being singled out. I think that is her complaint.

      • That’s true. I think fundraisers are a necessary evil, BUT they don’t have to make children feel excluded, especially from a school event. Remember that they are learning social behavior from us, and we need to set the tone of inclusiveness and fairness.

        • If they are learning behavior from us take a good hard look in the mirror and think to yourself am I a good role model? You are doing nothing but showing your kids that if it is not going your way just complain and make a big fuss. Just because they do not get something that means no one should have it,way to teach your children real life “If I can not have it no one will”

          • Why can’t we teach them to work together to accomplish a goal rather than asking them as individuals to basically shill products to their family and friends. Even simply changing the reward to go to the class that sells the most would be better than the current reward system. What if no one in your family could afford the extra money to buy these items? I personally don’t see this as a particularly important lesson for my child to learn.

          • I am the other side of the story, that Rhonda B. says she is “speaking” up for. We do not have the means and right now are a single income family.We do not have the money to make a donation, but we can take the time to ask family and friends if they would like to participate in our school fundraiser. My child took the time to write letters to family. It’s wasn’t hard asking if they would like to purchase 1 or 2 items starting at $5. We prepared our child that they may not make it to the mega party, but they were okay with it, in my child’s words “I would like to at least try”. My child sold 14 items that totaled $70. It wasn’t hard it was pretty easy. What’s the difference if you have a big party or by certain classes, either way someone in the end will be left out. My child is an honor roll student but didn’t make the space program. On several occassions I have witnessed space children gloating over what the kids missed out on. Should I campaign to take away a great program because my childs feelings are constantly hurt and they don’t feel good enough? No, I choose to encourage and focus with my child that we always look for a positive even when we feel things can be unfair. Life isn’t always fair, you won’t always get what everyone has, and in my opinon it is an important life lesson.

  • Thankfully, our school does 1 fundraiser a year. It’s not a “selling” thing. Every one participates. It’s the fun run. Each child gets sponsers for running laps. Some kids may have no sponsers. Some may have 10. The company that puts it on does assemblies the entire week- mostly focusing on life skills. They all get to run in the fun run at the end of the week.

    If I remember right, there are some prizes you can win for the most sponsership. But, I don’t remember my kids feeling like they missed out because they only got silly bandz as a prize.

  • I was directed here from a friend (and mother) who posted this on Facebook. As a former 8th grade English teacher, I can’t agree with this more. Kids will grow up and have to be obsessed with competing for money with their peers soon enough. Additionally, they certainly have enough pressure laid on them by their peers and the demands that a daily school regimen places on an ambitious and successful student.

    I’m glad that there’s a push for funds — there could never be enough funding for our schools, but we must keep our eyes on our greater goal — the enrichment, mental health, and appropriate growth of our young ones.

  • Hi, I understand what how you feel about fundraisers…it’s like you finally get your child in school and then you get all of their supplies. And now you have to go around asking neighbors, friends, and family members for money to support the fundraiser. The school does benefit and they are helpful.
    But I have been introduced to a new way of Fundraising that is going well in the Northern State schools and it does not require a put of money that you don’t already put out. It is called Linx2Funds. It uses everyday essentials like cell phones, Dish or DirecTV, and other products that you pay for monthly. The school has no out of pocket cost and it is FREE to sign up for schools. So I am trying to introduce this the Madison County schools in Madison. Here is a video on the Smarter way to raise money. Please help me help our school Raise more money and help parents save money. (copy and paste in your browser). If you want to present to your school please call 256-652-7591 or Email me at LINX2FUNDS! Thank you

  • I agree that the push for parties and prizes is over the top. I fight this battle every year with my children. I rather write the school a check than “sell” stuff. However, don’t blame the PTO/PTA for these types of fundraisers. In our school, these fundraisers are done by the school. There is a difference between fundraisers done by the school and ones done by the PTO/PTA, but both types benefit the school.

  • The lady doing the complaining doesn’t have a problem with asking PTAs to do fundraisers with her small business. The school she is complaining about is a mostly single income, middle class school. People there do not have the money to purchase items from the fundraiser merely to get their child a chance to jump in a bounce house. I think her true problem is that she expects to get something for nothing. Very few kids go to these parties, and those are the ones that have spent a great deal of time calling every family member, asking every family friend, to buy something so that they can add books to their library. This is about rewarding children who have worked hard, and not ignoring them in order to keep from hurting the feelings of a child who didn’t do anything, but expects everything. Tragic that we are raising our children to feel entitled and not empowered.

    • I’m not sure I understand what you are saying. You said, “I think her true problem is that she expects to get something for nothing.” What is she expecting?

      • Her issue is that her child can’t go to the party without selling 5 or 6 items. She says her issue isn’t with fundraising, but with the fact that children who do sell 5 or 6 items are rewarded for their efforts.

        • Okay. I wasn’t clear about that.

          I will say though that I read her article as saying her issue is that children who perhaps don’t have the resources inside their family and circle of friends to sell those items are excluded from a party that takes place during the school day. It makes it obvious who the “haves and have nots” are.

          • This school is mainly made up of young families…they are neither haves or have nots, but more like “barley haves”. Most pinch pennies until Abraham Lincoln begs for mercy. The slant that it highlights families that don’t have as much money is wrong. In fact, the author, a small business owner, is probably more well off than the people she is complaining about.

          • I don’t actually care that my children can’t go to the party (and no, I’m not well-off–how many single moms are?). I do care about the fact that children are being excluded through no fault of their own. If they don’t do their homework, obviously there are consequences. But this is not about the kids’ personal achievements–this is about their families’ income, which the kids cannot do anything about. And you have to sell 14 items to get to the party, not just 5 or 6. That is a lot of items for anyone to sell. In the Big Picture, this is not about ONE particular school–there are several schools that do this. We’re talking about a fundraising concept used by several schools and whether that’s a good idea or not.

          • As a small business owner and parent of school-aged children, I have to chime in here to say that small business owners are not necessarily as wealthy as others might think. The amount of money and time required to run your own business is huge. Yes, I do own my own business. Has it brought me a penny of personal money in the 3 years since I started it? No, not a one. Please do not make assumptions about people until you’ve been in their shoes.

            As for the school fundraising issue, I am very happy that my children’s school asks parents to contribute by check what they can rather than pestering friends & family for money. The school suggests an amount to contribute and each family gives what they can. This is so much easier and much more pleasant than selling overpriced junk. I agree with Rhonda that it is not fair to the kids whose parents don’t have the resources (not just money, but time) to bother all of their friends & family for money. Kids just see that they don’t get to jump in the bounce house and that makes them sad.

    • So its black or white? You either sell all the items needed or do nothing? No offense but it would be a joke for me to make sure my kid didn’t get excluded and they would honestly have to do nothing. I know for a fact that is not true for all kids. You might be right, a good hard lesson for kids is to know their parents place in this world. They should grown up to be realistic about where they come from, who needs dreamers and team players?

      • You have a couple of assumptions. First of all, you think there is only one reward…the party. There are usually multiple goals in these fundraisers…everything from a reward for selling just one item, to 30 minutes in a bounce house for selling several. You are also assuming that the children who reached the goal, did so because their parents are wealthy, and bought them a place in a bounce house. That is not the case in this neighborhood. They are not in that socieoeconomic class. It is a great school for many reasons, one of which is because those parents don’t contribute money, they contribute themselves. They teach their children the value of volunteering and the value of hard work, whether that work is in academics, or a “by the sweat of your brow” as we clean up the playground” work. What is wrong with rewarding children, team players and dreamers who hope for better things for their school and education, for taking the necessary steps to make that happen?

        • When you show me the kid that gives up his slot on the moon bounce for some other kid he knows didn’t make it, I will say you are right there nothing wrong with rewarding children this way. But it will only prove how wrong the parents are in this ill-conceived effort to raise money for education.

  • Reading these comments on here and the article itself, really strikes a cord with me. I am a Development Coordinator for a public charter school in NM and one main function of my job is to plan, organize and run fundraisers for the elementary school, so I come from actually knowing the inner workings of a school and what is effective in fundraising. I think we can all agree that no one LOVES fundraising because our wish is that there would be a never ending pot of money in which all public schools had access to. But, we all know that is just not the case- never has been and never will be. Every school, every student, every teacher, has different needs that just cannot be met by the funding public schools receive. This is where the community has to come in to make up the difference as much as possible. In my professional opinion, the difference comes in the ‘how’ to raise the money that is absolutely necessary to give students the resources they need and deserve on a daily basis. When planning our ‘event calendar’ for the year, which includes fundraisers, I make sure to balance out the strictly community building events (meaning not really a fundraiser, just a way to get families involved in the school and have family time in a positive, fun environment; ie: a family Sock Hop Dance) with the actual fundraisers (where the end goal is to make as much money for the school as possible). What I have found is that parents do get burned out, agitated and saddened when they feel they are being ‘nickel and dimed’ to death. So part of the solution is being very transparent; telling parents exactly what the need is, how much it will cost to fill that need and how the school plans on doing that. One major flaw (in my opinion) with the Huntsville Schools is that they allow door-to-door selling of products to be fundraisers for the school. Children should not be pressured into selling over-priced products to neighbors, family, etc. Especially when the company providing this ‘fundraiser’ is making a huge profit themselves off of child labor. There are MANY other ways to fundraise without having children sell things or employing a ‘fundraising’ company (schemes). I have found that our school raises the most money when we have 2 major fundraisers a year; one in the Fall and one in the Spring. We have a ‘Jog-A-Thon’ in the Fall which nets between $15,000 – $20,000 every year with around 300 students in the school. In the Spring, we have a golf tournament and silent auction that nets about the same amount. The Jog-A-Thon asks students to get pledges for running (ie: 25 cents a lap) and promotes physical fitness. NO student is excluded from the run or pressured to go door-to-door. We have found that people are more than happy to donate small amounts of money to the school which encourages the children to enjoy physical activity while raising much needed funds for the school. The Spring fundraiser gets the community at large more involved, and therefore invested, in the school. We have volunteers (parents) ask community businesses for donations or sponsorships for the golf tournament and silent auction. We invite the businesses to tour the school and learn more about how they can help make a difference in student’s education. We have found that most businesses are very willing to support the school in one way or another. The parents know who has supported the school and in exchange become very loyal customers to the donor businesses. It is a win-win for everyone. So before this debate becomes a tit-for-tat, let’s just evaluate what the really issues are and see how we can improve without making the debate personal. I think there are plenty of very dedicated, involved parents in every school and they just need to know the possibilities of different fundraising techniques, besides the hard-sell ‘fundraising’ companies that bombard them with marketing material. Let’s ditch those companies and figure out how to engage families, and the community, with every school.

  • I think this is a really interesting article, and I completely disagree with some of the comments suggesting that the author does not want to work hard to help her kids’ school. I think the issue she brings up is whether or not it is in the best interests of the children to reward or not reward what is, ultimately, the economic situation of the childrens’ parents, neighbors and family. While I don’t think you can get around having “incentives” to participate in a fundraiser, they certainly don’t have to be so obvious as a party, where some kids can go and some cannot. And I agree that there is a lack of focus in certain fundraisers, where the kids are just thinking about gaining the prizes, and not about what they’re actually raising money for. (Not sure what the answer is there…) I think this article is definitely the beginning of a conversation that should be explored in all of our schools. (I would suggest that as the attitude to take from this, as opposed to some of the hostile and personal attacks made on the author….because, WOW.)

  • For the record, I did not write this article to single out a school. I wrote it because I have had concerns about this type of fundraiser for several years, and my concerns fell on deaf ears. It bothers me deeply that some children may feel left out, excluded, or “not as good” as other kids because of economic reasons that are beyond their control. Indeed, our elementary school children have plenty of time to learn that life is hard. It is quite upsetting that instead of talking it through, a small minority of people have made inappropriate comments about myself, my 10-year-old daughter, and my intentions. I thought long and hard before I spoke up because I was worried about how this would affect me on various levels, but in the end, I wanted to get us talking about it and see if things could be made better. It is heartening to see all the suggestions that other parents have made about ideas for other fundraisers.

  • First off I want to say that no one’s child should be singled out because of what their parent does. Second my children attend this same school and we are no where near wealthy in fact we would probably be the struggling to survive group. My children are 7 & 5 and I tried to talk them out of trying to sell for the fundraiser this year but they wanted to attend the megaparty so I sat them down and asked if they would be disappointed if they did not sell their 14 items and my 7 year old replied “Mom, at least I would have tried” I agreed. They did not go door to door, they called Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and whoever they thought of and asked them to buy something so they can go to the megaparty. Not one person turned them down. I bought 4 rolls of wrapping paper from them for Christmas. Did they meet their goal..yes! But they had to work for it and it was a good lesson for them to learn. Who wants to teach their kids that if you pitch a big enough fit you will get your way? Not I! One last comment in the article it was stated that you had to purchase $120 to meet your 14 items is incorrect. There are $5 items in the catalog and that would only be $70.

    • Mary – I respect your point and I appreciate that your children worked hard to raise money for the school. However, I do have a question. You say that you “tried to talk them out of trying to sell for the fundraiser this year”. Why? If I had to wager a guess, I’d say it’s because, like many parents you aren’t in love with the idea of the school using your children to sell products to family members. Of course none of your family turned your children down. Who wants to tell their niece, nephew or grandchildren no? Especially when the cause is so good. But, as a previous commentator pointed out, there is a company that is taking 50% of that $70 and in doing so taking advantage of your child’s desire for a megaparty to make a profit.

      It seems like there must be a better way to use your child’s desire to help the school where 100% of the proceeds would go to the school. Better yet, let’s take the onus off the children completely and find a way as parents to raise the money. Even better yet, let’s insist that our schools are funded in full. That might be a pipe dream but I’m not giving up yet.

      • I tried to talk them out for one reason. I wanted to protect them from the disappointment of not selling the 14 items and not getting to go to the megaparty. That’s what moms do..right? And I was wrong, so wrong my 1st grader had to point it out for me to see it. If I never gave them the chance of course they would not have sold 14 items. Would they have been disappointed if they did not sell all 14 items..probably. BUT isn’t that part of don’t always get what you want.

        How did you raise money for your school as a kid? If I had to guess it was the same way the kids are still raising money. Until someone comes up with a easier way that earns the school as much money as these types of fundraisers do then my guess is they will be around for a long time.
        I don’t think the PTA sat around thinking how can we leave kids out…I think it was more like what kind of incentive can we give these kids so they will want to go out and sell these items so we can help the school.

  • Rocket City Mom- What is the alternative to raising money without offering some kind of service or incentive. How many children actually participate in the fundraiser? The school that was mentioned in the article, less than half will participate. So how do they make up the difference? I would rather suffer 30 min. of a bounce house party that is on the opposite side of the school that kids will not be able to see in order to have a great year of available resources and programs for our children. Remember these fundraisers doesn’t just benefit the child participating but every child. I do appreciate your pipe dream but it is unrealistic to shoot for 100% proceeds to go to your school.If this were so, then none of us would be on here and problem would be solved. However, with no state funding we have to look to other resources. It’s a risky gamble and hard choice to make either way- Fundraising, Jump a Thons, cash donation, candy bars etc. Let’s not just limit ourselves to “this is what you get” kind of education because of lack funding. Let’s offer and work towards “this is what we can give” through fundraising and volunteering.”

  • I don’t think that having a party (during school hours) to “reward” kids who raise $120 has anything to do with rewarding children who have worked hard. I can’t believe other parents want to judge the character of children and their families based on how much additonal money they raise (after parents pay taxes, volunteer and provide most of the classroom supplies) and not based on the character of the child or the amount of effort they put into their studies. There can be better fundraising incentives than this.

  • I guess I missed the $5 items, but that’s still not the point. We need to take a step back and see the big picture in this. It is not about us or just the kids in the middle-income school, but about ALL of the kids. It’s horrible to be left behind for a reason that is no fault of your own. My first grader shouldn’t have to worry about whether his mommy can sell 14 items, and I certainly don’t want him even thinking about it. It’s about inclusiveness. In my opinion, selling something out of a catalog doesn’t make people feel like they’re part of anything. When people feel like they’re part of a group, they’re much more willing to give of their time and money. And there are more things at stake here than just money. Tell the parents what you need–they may very well be able to provide it. This year, I bought the school a copier, and last year, I was able to have a Kindergarten teacher’s computer fixed because I have a friend who does that. There are many parents who own businesses or who work for companies that would consider donations. Let’s ask them. For every item donated by parents, that’s more money in the budget for other things and less money that needs to be raised. There’s no reason not to tap these resources.

    And while selling this amount may not be a hardship for your particular family or even your school, what about the school where more than 50% of the kids are on free or reduced-price lunches? Many of those parents may be working multiple jobs just to survive. In a school where children probably get backpacks filled with food to take home so they have enough to eat on the weekends, we’re asking them to sell/buy things that aren’t crucial to their survival. And then when they can’t do it, we make it clear that they are not as well-off as some of their classmates. It’s very troublesome, especially when so many parents have pointed out other alternatives. If the school wants to have the special party, then it should at least be on the weekend or after school and not during school hours.

    • But it is not ALL kids..just this one school. That is the reason each PTA selects a fundraiser that best fits their school. Not every school has this fundraiser or the megaparty as a reward for selling their items.
      If you don’t want your 1st grader to worry about selling the items then don’t sell them…right?
      While you are able to go out and buy a copier or have a computer fixed most people cannot do that and this is their way of helping the schools. So why take that away from them because you disapprove? You help the way you can and let them help the way they can and then we will have a great school for our kids because that is what it is all for.

  • I have been searching for hours trying to find out if it’s legal for my daughters elementary school to exclude her from a party in which she did not donate enough money to attend. All I have found on the subject is this article.

    My story: My daughter, Lexie, came home from school asking if she could donate to Pennies for Patience at her Elementary school. Of course I said yes and reached into my pocket, but before I could give her the money she said ” no, not you Dad, me”. “Can I give my money that I have saved up?” I was surprised to say the least. She is 6 years old. She has been saving the money that the tooth fairy leaves her for her teeth, and she hasn’t lost many. I think she had around $8. She put the money in the little cardboard box that came with the fundraiser and the next day she took it to school. She was so proud, she told everyone it was her own money. Not Daddy’s! Two weeks later, as I walked her home from school, I noticed tears in her eyes. I asked her what was wrong. She said her teacher told her she didn’t donate enough money to Pennies for Patience, so she will have to stay inside while the rest of the class goes to the party. All she needed was $2 more. I called the principal, told her this same story, and her reply was ” thats the rules. If we change them for you, we have to change them for everyone.”

    The day of the fundraiser party is her birthday.

    In an email to the principle, I requested that my daughters money be refunded plus interest. She has yet to reply.

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