When I was a kid, I used to color rocks and sell them door-to-door. I usually did pretty well with that. Sometimes I would concoct knickknacks with yarn and hawk those, too. And when it came to selling Girl Scout cookies, I was the champ three years running.
But a fundraiser for my school? Such a thing was unknown.
What a different world we live in. It's now expected that my kids will become a sales and fundraising force for their public schools this time of year. So far, there has been a press for my children to get involved in two wrapping-paper sales and a magazine drive. Cookie-dough and "coupon card" sales are common in the higher grades.
And that's just in the first few weeks of school.
According to the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers (AFRDS), America's schoolchildren are now raising some $1.7 billion a year for their schools. The companies behind these fundraisers, which often entice the children with competitions and prizes and trinkets, have retail sales of about $3.7 billion a year.
I have no problem with fundraising companies in general making money. They provide a valuable service. I do have a problem with my kids being a captive audience for them.
I decided a while ago to put the kibosh on any and all fundraising by my kids for our local public schools. Given what my neighbors and I pay in property taxes, I refuse to allow my children to shake them or me, or even their own grandparents down for more. Moreover, keeping track of all the sales material, money and paperwork involved is incredibly time-consuming, and I don't have time to spare.
Plus, I don't actually want any of the stuff being sold.
Across the country, such fundraisers are often sponsored by a school's Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) or other parent group. Such groups then take the proceeds and buy "extras" for the school, which could be anything from gym equipment to an additional teacher's salary.
But in my community, the K-8 schools are funded to the tune of $7,500 a year per child. That comes out to somewhere between $175,000 and $200,000 a year for every classroom full of kids!
There is enough there for "extras."
Make no mistake: I am very happy with my local schools. I think the teachers and administrators are terrific. I realize that with four kids in the mix, I'm getting a good deal. But the public schools simply don't need my children to raise money for them.
So these days my children know to not even bring home the fundraising materials. I don't appreciate that my children have been in tears over not being able to "win a prize," but we seem to have gotten beyond that. Fortunately, my kids can and do put that time and energy into things like church-service projects, where their efforts are really needed, instead.
Yes, in the past my family has participated in the fundraisers. I admit it. Where it began to change for me was a couple of years ago when my youngest was 6. To my chagrin, I found her and a friend going up and down the street with little buckets telling the neighbors that they were "fundraising." They weren't even offering colored rocks or yarn trinkets. At least then I might have admired their entrepreneurialism. They just expected to be given money. Worse, the neighbors were complying! Both sides had, apparently, been conditioned by the fundraising mania.
As I marched little Olivia back down the street to return her ill-gotten gains to her creditors, it was then that I decided ... no more of this with my kids. The local public schools will do just fine without them.