What should I do if I'm not comfortable with kindergarten fund-raising in my child's name?
September 14, 2010 8:55 AM   Subscribe

What should I do if I'm not comfortable with kindergarten fund-raising in my child's name?

My child just started kindergarten a week ago, and I've already gotten information about the first fundraiser, which involves asking friends and relatives to buy Christmas-themed stuff. Complicating matters is the fact that I am separated and my ex is the primary custodian for the kids during the week.

I am happy to donate money directly to the school but am not comfortable with pushing these goods on people I know. I try to limit my own consumption and I just don't think the world needs more commemorative coffee mugs, etc.

I also don't want to be "that parent", and I don't want to put my ex in an uncomfortable position because I made a stink about this. Any ideas?

(There's one prior AskMe about this, but it's different because the funds weren't for the school, and the kids were put under pressure using a leader board in the classroom).

Thanks in advance!
posted by freecellwizard to Education (19 answers total)
So don't. What is the money being raised for? Just donate however much you feel comfortable donating.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 8:58 AM on September 14, 2010

So, I just don't do those fundraisers --the PTA will accept checks too.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:01 AM on September 14, 2010

My parents always made a donation vs. having me sell stuff in elementary school; I don't remember it ever being a big deal. Schools are generally fine with kids opting out.
posted by epj at 9:03 AM on September 14, 2010

Best answer: Yeah, don't feel pressured into it, especially if you plan to donate to the school directly. The fundraisers make a lot of extra work for teachers and room parents who have to store and sort all the crap to give to the kids to take home, keep track of order forms, make sure the order forms match up with the money received, etc. And then the schools only get a portion of the money raised through the crap selling. Your kid's teacher will thank you.

It's 100% OK for your child not to participate in these things. Some of the parents go crazy, though, and try to one-up the other parents, which can trickle down to competition between the kids. I'm not sure of the best way to handle that.
posted by phunniemee at 9:04 AM on September 14, 2010

Talk to your ex about how s/he'd like to handle it.
posted by box at 9:07 AM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

I always just made a donation unless it was selling candy bars; then I would buy a shit load and put down grandparents names and end up eating a lot of chocolate.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:07 AM on September 14, 2010 [5 favorites]

does your ex just have the kids during the week or does the ex hold primary custody. if it's the latter, you can make a donation and you can bring up your concerns with your ex, but trying to control it from the sidelines doesn't seem appropriate.
posted by nadawi at 9:18 AM on September 14, 2010

Best answer: As someone who was PTA president for her son's school and (much to my dismay) had to run many school fundraisers, I can tell you that you will absolutely not be perceived as that parent or making a stink if you don't participate in the fundraiser or if you prefer to make a cash donation.

First, absent a leaderboard or other form of inappropriate public scorekeeping tied to individuals*, it's highly unlikely your non-participation will be noticed: the organizers of the fundraisers have their hands full dealing with the orders they did receive (you might think it's a trivial task to handle the bookkeeping and product fulfillment for a school fundraiser but I can assure you that between the bounced checks, the orders paid entirely in sticky coins, the barely legible crayon-scribbled order forms and the truck pallets of products that have to be moved by forklift then organized so each kid comes home with just the stuff they ordered, we are most certainly not thinking of anyone who didn't order something).

Second, the happiest moment in any fundraiser is when someone just gives us some money. Cash donations are easy: we deposit it straight into the bank, to be used for the school. We don't share cash donations with the company providing the happy-crappy that the kids are trying to sell: most of those companies take at least 50% of every dollar and most of them take 70%. As a bonus, you can get something out of it to: PTAs/PTOs are non-profits with tax IDs. They can issue tax-deductible receipts for donations, something that doesn't happen when (grossly-marked up) goods are exchanged.

It's also OK, and highly appreciated, if you have a little time to volunteer to the school instead. If I had just one volunteer hour per family per school year, I could have eliminated a little over half of the stupid fundraisers our PTA put on.

*If that is happening at your school, where kids are being called out individually for their family contributions, that's the time to make a stink. So. Not. Right.
posted by jamaro at 9:43 AM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Just send a check for $20.
posted by parmanparman at 10:03 AM on September 14, 2010

Ignore them. Throw 'em out. that's what I do. I understand the need for it, but since I can't afford either a wildly overpriced candle or gift wrap I'll never use OR a contribution, there's nothing else I can do. No one's ever said a word.
posted by lemniskate at 10:09 AM on September 14, 2010

Best answer: Whenever we get fundraiser stuff, I simply stick a note on the order form saying "no thank you" and return it to the school. I know LOTS of people that don't participate in fundraisers. You are not "THAT" parent. You are one of many and it's no big deal. My kids have never ever ever received any flack for not participating.

Recently my littlest came home with a fundraiser - buy a three month pass to a local gym for $20.00! $10.00 of that goes to the school!! Well, how about I just write a check directly to the school for $20.00 and $20.00 of that goes to the school! I like that better. It's nice to not have to buy junk/push stuff on other people in order to support my kids' schools. Candy bars - different story. That's when you just buy the whole box and then some.

Our kids' school is pretty good about letting the parents know what the fundraiser is for. My littlest's fundraiser was to earn money for a shade shelter outside. Very necessary here in AZ. So it's easy to tell grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, etc., that his school is trying to come up with money for a shade shelter and if they'd like to donate that'd be great. But I don't try to push any product or service.
posted by Sassyfras at 10:13 AM on September 14, 2010

posted by rhizome at 10:35 AM on September 14, 2010

Best answer: When my daughter started first grade, she came home with an envelope full of fundraiser stuff, and insisted it was homework -- very IMPORTANT homework -- and it had to be done and turned back in or she'd be in trouble. I gave the teacher what-for over pushing this stuff on a 6-year-old as though it was homework (she defended the use of that word, too), and she tried to give me what-for about how the PTA does good things with the money. She couldn't really tell me what they were raising money for, other than that it was the PTA. The next year the PTA also tried some rather retarded things like "spring school pictures" which were entirely a funraising thing run by an outside company that gave a portion of profits to the PTA -- they even sent home an unrequested big envelope of finished prints, saying that if you wanted to keep them you needed to send your money in, or just return the pictures and owe nothing (that one ended in tears; I paid $40 for the normal school pictures; another $50 for spring ones was out of my ability to afford). If there's an unfair "push" -- sending out unrequested products with threats to pay or return the goods, telling the kids that it's homework or that they're being judged for their success or failure, make a stink -- that's unreasonable pressure on students for something unrelated to their learning experience.

But, if it's just an envelope of stuff and you're free to choose whether you participate, just toss the envelope out, or have the kid return it to the teacher without any comment. There's no need to put up a 'stink' until they try to make it an issue with you in the first place. When my daughter has wanted to participate in school fundraising, after she got old enough to really do something about it, she was welcome to and I helped her out. If they push, push back, but at the moment it just sounds like you're welcome to participate if you so choose.
posted by AzraelBrown at 11:37 AM on September 14, 2010

Best answer: Some of our parents just went to the principal and asked, "What's the cost to buy ourselves out of having to participate?" in a fundraiser where the kids had to meet a certain threshhold to participate in a fieldtrip that the fundraising was funding. The principal was happy to have the donations rather than the fundraising. (In that case, $25 ... and the parents pooled 3-5 extra donations, as I recall, to ensure that any kids who didn't make the fundraising threshhold and whose parents couldn't afford the "buyout" could still go.)

If you make a donation the school gets to keep the whole thing anyway.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:39 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Our Parent Council was addressed by the school board last year, reminding us that the primary goal of the council is to provide a voice and representation for ALL of the parents in the school, not just the ones on the council, and not just to fundraise. So, to answer "What should I do if I'm not comfortable with kindergarten fund-raising in my child's name?", you should either speak or write to the appropriate Parent Council member at any time (or attend and speak up at a meeting) and give voice to that, and if you can find other options, suggest them. If other parents feel the same way, they should be encouraged to do so as well. Our school's parents strongly prefer not to do such things (and even get a bit edgy about Scholastic Books!), and so we have found many other ways of raising good amounts money, and I'll be happy to let you know a few if you'd like.

Fundraisers have to happen - sometimes it's just for a classroom, sometimes the whole school, sometimes for an outside charity. But they are voluntary contributions. Either politely declining or supporting - or ignoring - is what all of the other parents are doing, but if you have strong feelings about how the fundraising is being done, it's not a stink - it's just input. You ought to be able to express a preference like that with no ugly repercussions. If you can speak with your ex about it too, that's even better. But the powers that be need to know, if you'd like for things to change.
posted by peagood at 11:44 AM on September 14, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the wonderful advice. I feel like less of a weirdo now. I've started with a polite email to the teacher asking about it, since I'm not sure exactly who the correct contact is. I also volunteered to come read to the class (they have a "Secret Reader" program).

I'll update the thread to let everyone know what happened.
posted by freecellwizard at 12:20 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

For some reason in about 5th or 6th grade our school fundraiser went from selling candy bars to selling fancy soap. As it turns out, kids eleven years old are not the best at touting the virtues of soap to confused parents in the twenty seconds they open their door to you. I think I had two sales after many nights of canvassing the neighborhood. The only good thing to come of it was a slight bump in popularity after I took that week's Sunday comics' Peanuts strip which was fortuitously about Linus getting doors slammed in his face as he attempts to tell his neighbors about The Great Pumpkin, scraping the word balloons blank with a razor blade and filling them in with fancy soap selling dialog.

Perhaps it is this memory that keeps me guilt-free as I give directly to the PTO and forget about having my kid hawking plastic trinkets. On the other hand at the PTO meetings they state how much they rake in so I'm not looking to ban it as long as they don't have a leaderboard, etc. Plus I am lucky that my kid is pretty rational about the whole thing.

things like "spring school pictures" which were entirely a funraising thing run by an outside company that gave a portion of profits to the PTA -- they even sent home an unrequested big envelope of finished prints, saying that if you wanted to keep them you needed to send your money in, or just return the pictures and owe nothing

This one infuriates me because on top of getting (some) kids excited about pictures and sense of obligation they attempt to create by sending home objects that obviously can't be used for everything else is the amount of waste involved in the printing and then destruction of the unused photos, plastic bookmarks, etc. My strategy here was to ignore them but also not to send back the pictures, thus at least avoiding the waste.
posted by mikepop at 12:37 PM on September 14, 2010

For the wrapping paper/Christmas junk fundraisers when I was a kid one of my parents always took the form to one of their respective workplaces and handed it around. My previous workplace had people who did this sometimes--the forms sat around in the common area, a couple emails were sent out. It was low-pressure, low-hassle and you got some amount of things from people who probably actually did want some wrapping paper or other tchotchkes.

Other fundraisers (band trip etc) my mother just wrote a check, and I am relatively certain that my band director did not really mind at all. At least for that one we knew exactly where the money was going.

I would guess that fundraising pamphlets etc. could be less imposing for people who can't afford to just write a check, but I don't think writing a check is ever a bad thing.
posted by that girl at 5:08 PM on September 14, 2010

I have zero interest in participating in our PTA's awful fundraiser (seriously the worst fundraiser catalog I've ever seen), but my second-grader has been drooling over the prize packet descriptions like it's Christmas. She has been horrified every time I've gently suggested she might not sell 85 items and get all that delicious loot. So today we reached a compromise. I explained my objections and told her that I would write a check to the PTA and that if she would pitch in some of her own money as well, I would buy her a prize. I'm not wild about the bribe, but she's seven and prizes are the bomb. She couldn't care less about why she's getting them. The kindergartener didn't really care, but he thought it sounded like a great deal, so he's in too.

As far as the PTA is concerned, I don't care a whit if they are unhappy about our lack of participation. I feel like they owe us an apology for setting my little girl up for heartbreak by dangling all the shiny prizes just out of her reach. On the other hand, since I am not willing or able to join the fundraising committee and find an alternative, I'll just write my check and grumble under my breath.
posted by Dojie at 7:41 AM on September 16, 2010

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