My Kids are Students, Not Fundraisers for Your School

scream and shoutMy husband and I went to Maggie and Dylan’s curriculum night on Thursday. Before we could meet their teachers, we had to sit through the PTA’s harassment over the school fundraiser. I was angry about it, but a series of tweets by @paulwhankins today made me mad about it all over again because he gave some articulation to what I was feeling. The PTA representatives pointed out the number of students who had sold junk for the fundraiser versus the number of students in the school, presumably to make us parents feel guilty enough to push our kids into selling junk, and they also pointed out they are only 1/3 of the way to their goal. In the weekly newsletter, we learned the sales period is being extended so that the goal can be met.

Having taught for some years and also having been a student, I know how these things work. They ply kids with junk prizes to sell their junk and make them feel like it’s one of their responsibilities to raise money for their school. As Paul astutely pointed on on Twitter, there are a lot of adults in the school who can write grant proposals or even post on Why we have to make children feel like they have to sell junk or they don’t care about their school, I can’t understand. I would have less a problem with a PayPal donation button on the school’s website than with this sort of fundraiser.

It may seem weird, but I exclude Girl Scout Cookies from this sort of ire. I think because the emphasis is less on crappy prizes (and theirs are crappy, too), but some things I think Girl Scouts get right about these fundraisers that schools get wrong include the following:

  • The product has appeal. I think the cookies are overpriced, but for a once-a-year treat for something I can’t really get elsewhere, it doesn’t bother me. I can buy cheese logs, frozen cookie dough, and wrapping paper much cheaper elsewhere, and the only incentive I have to buy from the schools is to support the schools.
  • At least in my daughter’s experience, there has been no pressure to be responsible for selling. My daughter’s troop leaders have established cookie accounts. Money the girls raise by selling cookies goes into those accounts and is used, if the girls wish, to pay for activities, such as camping and trips. They are not made to feel as if they are letting the troop down or causing the troop not to be able to do something by not selling cookies. They are encouraged to sell, but they aren’t guilted into it.
  • The prize is not the goal. Girls can earn prizes for selling cookies, and they’re as unimpressive as prizes for any other fundraiser, but the goal is to raise money for activities (which is the point of fundraisers), and my daughter’s troop leaders, at any rate, make that clear in the minds of their girls. And their troop sold the most cookies of any troop in our city, so something about the approach is working. My kids never know why they’re selling products for the school—only that that should.

I am certainly not anti-technology, and I support my school raising funds to purchase interactive whiteboards. I love being able to use one at school, myself. But I think there are vastly better ways of going about it than to push fundraisers on our kids.

Creative Commons License photo credit: mdanys

5 thoughts on “My Kids are Students, Not Fundraisers for Your School”

  1. Totally agree.

    We used to be pushed to buy those magazines so the school could receive their 40% or sell discount cards to fund the athletic program. Everyone needs to sell at least three so the class can get a pizza party or everyone gets extra 100's for what they sell. As a parent and administrator it's an unnecessary chore I could do without. Plus aren't there other ways to raise funds? Grants, donations from corporations and other philanthropists. I've always believed those avenues yielded better results than selling three magazines.

    We changed schools this year and I'm impressed that this school doesn't do the fund raisers like the other school. The emphasis is on their Annual fund, in which the school receives 100% of the donation. I can contribute what I want, when I want and I'm not pressured to sell anything.

    1. Gerry, excellent point about philanthropists. We had a generous parent donate very high tech equipment so that we could Skype with other schools. I see no reason why the school cannot solicit those kinds of donations. A local car dealership might be happy to fund or help fund an interactive whiteboard for a thank you in the newsletter or the website. The annual fund is also a great idea. Giving students grades for selling products is morally reprehensible, in my opinion. Talk about sending a confused message about assessment.

      1. I agree. Giving away grades definitely sends the message that the fund raiser has equal importance with academics. How can the assessments be valid when you are rewarding a behavior and not achievement and mastery?

  2. I COMPLETELY agree. And, what angers me MORE is that very little of the money actually raised goes toward the kids. If you haven't seen your yearly PTA budget, you should request it. It is ludicrous and self-serving. I just started grant-writing for my PTA, and when I had to attach a budget to my work, I just about snapped. You mean that I am busting my butt to get funds so that the PTA leaders can spend $4000 plus at a conference? Or on stupid activity nights? They make the parents think that the fundraisers are for the schools. They are not. They are for the PTA, and the PTA's mission statement is about PERSONAL LEADERSHIP. We are all being had. That being said, I plan to eventually take over my PTA and restructure the whole deal. Enough is enough.

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