When I was in elementary school, many fundraising campaigns came our way through scouts and school. My parents, both teachers, had a firm policy on those fundraisers. They would not peddle the wares to friends, family or colleagues. They did not want others to give money out of a sense of obligation nor did they want to create an awkward situation at work. At the time, I was bummed that my friends had parents who would peddle the Girl Scout Cookies and other items at work and call a seemingly endless string of relatives asking for contributions. I dreamed of getting all the prizes shown in the catalogs that they were ‘earning.’ But, the policy my parents had prevented us from getting those prizes.
At the time, I did not know that I had to solicit sales or contributions in the hundreds of dollars to earn prizes worth a small amount. Like the other kids, I had stars in my eyes envisioning a prize that seemed wonderful and amazing and showed that I did a good job. Little did I know, it didn’t have a whole lot to do with me, but had more to do with whether or not my parents were willing to sell cookies, books and other items to give me credit.
As parents of four kids, it is now our turn to have fundraisers come to us through our kids. They have stars in their eyes imagining the prizes they can earn if we raise enough money. One recent event would require us to give about $150 for them to each earn a prize worth a dollar. We did contribute, but not enough for them to earn a prize. Instead, we told them we would take them to the dollar store where they can pick their own prize when the fundraiser ends. They are getting pressure for their group to contribute more and more in order to earn group incentives. They look at me in a dejected way saying they know we won’t be contributing any more money and they cannot help with the group goal. They report back to us about the prizes their friends are earning. It is hard to see their disappointment.
Now, for the conundrum. I know that organizations that work with kids need money. I worked with kids for years as a recreation director and substitute teacher prior to becoming a psychologist. If churches, schools and other organizations ask for money directly without attaching an event to it, people are not likely to contribute very much. I do not have the perfect answer for this conundrum. I do know that the way things are now, lots of pressure is put on children and families, many of whom cannot afford to contribute, especially not at the prize level. This situation can cause them to feel unnecessary shame.
These are fundraising alternatives with less pressure on children and families:
- The classic car wash: Charge less than is charged at the local gas station to get cars washed. Kids have fun and earn money for the organization and the buyer is receiving a useful service by an enthusiastic group at a discount
- The bake sale/lemonade stand: It does not cost a lot of money for children to bake goods for a sale or to contribute lemons and sugar. Local grocery stores may be willing to contribute lemons and sugar in exchange for a sign stating that the ingredients are compliments of the store. People enjoy buying these goods and get home baked treats they could not buy at the store
- The silent auction: Big companies can afford to contribute items to a fundraiser. They get advertising for their company, warm fuzzies (and sales) from people who know they are a company that helps kids, and a tax write-off. In addition, people buy something they actually want, and if they don’t win, they don’t need to pay.
- Raffle baskets: Again, big companies and families can contribute items and people do not have to invest a lot of money for a chance to win.
- Halfsies Raffle: People buy tickets at a set amount and whoever wins receives half of the money for the tickets sold and the organization gets the other half.
- Video Singing Telegrams: A group of kids, with the parents approval, do singing happy birthday telegrams to be emailed to the recipient for a set cost. This would be a fun way to surprise family and friends and would be affordable and fun for the kids.
- Used book sales: Families donate used books to be sold for a good price at the organization or events
- Rummage sales: Families and community members contribute stuff they no longer use. They get a tax credit and get rid of clutter.
Do you have more ideas? What are your thoughts about this conundrum?