School Fundraisers: Just Say No to the Sales Pitch

Let’s be honest. My 6-year-old and 8-year-old don’t need to worry about résumé building.
The school year has just begun and already the children’s backpacks are full of school fundraiser information that presumes my little ones would be effective salespersons.
I understand that schools are in greater need of additional funding today than perhaps at any other time, but I refuse to spend my very rare free time hawking over-priced items I wouldn’t willingly buy on my own.
We are bombarded by pleas to buy products and have our children sell them to benefit PTAs, home and school associations and athletic or social clubs. No one disputes that school programs need additional funding, but acquiring these funds selling overpriced products that people often do not need or want is easygoing extortion. (Not to mention that in the end, I will be the one selling the wrapping paper, cookie dough, pizza, candy and magazines.)

The guilt factor is huge and, really, how many times can you hit up the grandparents, neighbors and family friends before they start to cringe? (Many employers are banning solicitations of all types from the workplace, including fundraisers, so co-workers are no longer easy-target buyers.)

The pressure for children to sell products is even more intense when incentives are offered for the biggest sales. This complicates matters even more for parents who don’t want their children to sell the products. Even if you can convince your child the prizes are of marginal value, school-wide and individual class rewards further entice participation. What if your child’s class doesn’t get the pizza party or the school misses out on pajama day because you haven’t allowed her to participate in the fundraiser? Welcome to peer-group pressure by proxy.
The fundraising industry is a booming business, and car washes and bake sales aren’t cutting it anymore. The most popular fundraisers sell products, many of them of questionable value. Shockingly, schools (and other nonprofits) only get 20 percent to 50 percent of profits from these sales. Most of the money goes to the fundraising company itself, which makes the case that children involved in these efforts benefit from boosted self-esteem, a sense of teamwork, and even an enhanced résumé. Even if that were so, I wouldn’t want the trade-off of seeing my preteens selling goods door-to-door.
I have another plan: Opting out. I will make a cash donation directly to the school and not participate in the fundraisers. For those who want to follow suit, attach a letter to your check explaining that your family opposes the fundraising method but not the cause. With a cash donation, 100 percent of your money goes directly to the source, eliminating the middlemen and all the time wasted on the sale, pickup and delivery of products. It also safeguards important relationships and allows your family to focus on other activities like school work, athletics or just spending time together.

A version of this piece originally appeared on Politics Daily’s Woman Up.

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Opt Out of School Fundraisers

The school year has just begun and already the children’s backpacks are full of the most recent school fundraiser information.

We are bombarded by pleas to buy various different products and have our children sell them all to benefit school causes like the Home and School Association, various athletic or social clubs. No one disputes the fact that school programs often need additional funding, but the means for acquiring these funds is the problem. Most school fundraisers sell overpriced products that people often do not need or want.

The guilt factor is huge. How many times can you hit up the grandparents, neighbors and family friends before they start to cringe? Many companies are banning solicitations of all types from the workplace including fundraisers. So coworkers are often no longer potential buyers.

The pressure for children to sell products is intensified when rewards are offered for the biggest sales. This creates a different type of guilt—guilt for parents who don’t want their children to sell the products. Even if you can convince your child the prizes for the different sale bench marks aren’t worth it, there are those school-wide and individual class rewards that further attempt to entice student and parent participation. What if your child’s class doesn’t get the pizza party because you haven’t allowed her to participate in the fundraiser? What if the school misses out on pajama day because the sale goal wasn’t met?

The fundraising industry is a booming business. The most common fundraisers are ones that sell products. The variety is vast and includes wrapping paper, cookie dough, pizza, candy and magazines. I was shocked to find that the organizations only get 20 to 50% of the profits gained from these sales. Most of the money is going not to the school, but to the profitable fundraising industry. Why then do school organizations continue to hold these fundraisers?

The reality is that even with this markup, organizations make more from these fundraisers than they could from holding a dozen car washes or bake sales.

But there is another option. It’s called Opting-Out. Consider making a cash donation directly to the school organization instead of participating in the fundraisers. Attach a letter to your check explaining that your family has decided to opt out of the fundraiser. When you make a cash donation, 100% of your money goes directly to the cause. Donating directly to the school organization eliminates the middlemen as well as all the time wasted on the sale, pick-up and delivery of products. It also safeguards important relationships and allows your family to focus on other activities like school work, athletics or leisure.