School fundraiser: contribution instead of purchase?
October 8, 2006 6:41 PM   Subscribe

I ordered a CD from the neighbor kid raising money for his school. I realize now I'd rather have just made a donation. How could I handle this in the future?

So the neighbor kid (maybe 12 or 13 years old) came by yesterday. He was selling magazine subscriptions and CDs to raise money for his school. He was clearly uncomfortable doing this, and I can't say I blame him--I was uncomfortable when I had to do that kind of thing at his age.

I thumbed through the catalog he had, and eventually ordered a CD for $15 from their rather paltry selection. It was one I only kinda sorta wanted--certainly not one I would have bought from a music store for $15. I bought it to support the school and the kid, not so much because I actually wanted it.

I realized some time afterward that I would have been much happier just making a $15 donation to the school--I don't need the CD, and the school would get the whole $15 rather than just some small fraction thereof.

But, if something like this happens again, how would I handle that? Obviously, the first step would be simply to ask the kid if I could just make a donation without purchasing anything. But based on my own vague memories of doing such things ~25 years ago, I'm not sure that would be possible. I don't remember any instructions on whether we could accept it if someone just wanted to make a donation. So if I ask to just make a donation instead of buying something, and the kid can't/won't accept the donation, what's the next step?

I'm in the U.S., and this was for a public school, if it makes a difference.
posted by DevilsAdvocate to Education (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd venture a guess that the child would not know how to react to this.

Perhaps ask him what other fundraisers are coming up this year (something that you might actually want to buy - cookies, wrapping paper, frozen food)?
posted by k8t at 6:54 PM on October 8, 2006

Best answer: You should be able to just call the school and/or the PTA and ask about donating. Certainly I wouldn't expect the kid to know anything about the topic, nor would I expect any of the materials provided to him to allow this (since the whole racket for these companies is being the middleman.)
posted by Rhomboid at 6:59 PM on October 8, 2006

Just ask for the number of his school, call them up and make a donation.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 7:03 PM on October 8, 2006

Best answer: I remember my mother doing this all through my childhood. When kids came to the door, she'd just tell them she preferred to donate directly to the school. Then she called up the school and donated.

She hardly ever bought anything from fundraisers. (Girl Scout Cookies being the notable exception.)
posted by eleyna at 7:07 PM on October 8, 2006

the kid might be a little bummed. i remember there was always some sort of "reward" involved in selling lots of stuff - some dumb toy or something.

however, i bought a tub of disgusting cookie dough recently to help send a neighbor kid to some sort of band meeting, so i feel your pain.
posted by fillsthepews at 7:24 PM on October 8, 2006

Yeah, being kind of recently out of selling things to neighbors for school fundraisers (for us it was wrapping paper) it would be kind of a bummer if the person didn't buy something because then you wouldn't get the points to get the crappy prize.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 7:42 PM on October 8, 2006

i remember those times, and boy - did they ever pump us up about those crappy prizes.
posted by fillsthepews at 7:50 PM on October 8, 2006

These fundraisers have become something of a pet peeve of mine. I really want my kids to concentrate on their schoolwork, not the (literally!) 4-5 fundraisers they're "expected" to participate in. I'm not sure who to get mad at though...

The group wanting to raise money for a goal isn't really to blame, except I guess for not specifying the goal in their traditional budgeting process. School budgets are determined with *lots* of lead-time, so I don't really understand the issue. If the goal would be so controversial as to potentially keep a school budget from passing, perhaps it's not something they need to get/go do in the first place?

The middleman companies selling popcorn, candy, wrapping paper, etc: I know y'all are just a front for imported cheap-ass junk and you need to find a way to get people to buy it. Really, I do. And why the sales incentives? Isn't meeting the overall goal enough of a reward? Why not give groups the option of foregoing the incentives for a better percentage on sales?

The people buying the stuff: People, put the money away. Stop the insanity. Or, as previous posters have said, donate directly if you must.

Parents of the kids: Go to a school board meeting and voice your concerns. If the elected board doesn't want to listen, vote for their competitors come election time.

The kids that have to sell it: You're being used. You should feel icky. Someone is trying to get you to work for an illegal wage volunteer your time. Someone told you that you were going to get to do something really neato-cool, but that you had to use your afternoons and weekends selling stuff door-to-door. Life just won't be the same if you don't get what someone promised you, right? 'Cause they're not supposed to manipulate kids, right? C'mon Jimmy, time to go hock some peanuts, only $8 a tin! And if you sell only 400 tins, you can have a keychain as your reward!

Raise my school taxes if you have to, just stop ringing my g-d doorbell.

//and the obligatory "get off my lawn".
posted by Wild_Eep at 8:05 PM on October 8, 2006 [2 favorites]

What I hate the most about these fundraisers is that the school actually discourages door-to-door selling - not that they don't know it's going on anyway - but they say you should talk to friends and acquaintances. Telemarketing training much?

I escaped that mostly in grade 6, and the torture started in grade 7. Amusingly enough, being the nerd and standoffish person that I am, I just started ignoring them after the first one when I realized how much of a waste of time that was. Homework aside (since grade 7/8 homework was pathetically easy), I could use that time to write fic! *laughs*

Really though, this seems to be a very North American thing. Maybe I was sheltered, but I didn't encounter this in Germany or China (nor have my parents), and it's more or less the thing that annoys me the most about the school systems here.
posted by Phire at 9:36 PM on October 8, 2006

I volunteer with my son's school's PTA and I've long encouraged participants to donate direct vs. buying junk from catalogs. The upside for you is your cash donation is tax deductible, PTAs are non-profit organizations and can issue the appropriate tax ID info/proof of donation to donors. The upside for the PTA is the organization gets 100% of your donation instead of the 20-50% of sales the the catalog companies return (yes, it's really that poor of a return). I'd love to completely eliminate catalog sales fundraisers from our school but we've discovered asking for cash outright just doesn't have as high of an appeal to the general population as ordering yet more overpriced giftwrap or scented-candles-in-glass-jars ::sigh::.

Regarding the why of fundraisers: I can't speak to why schools hold them but I can tell you why PTA/PTOs hold them: 100% of the funding for the PTA/PTO comes from that year's fundraisers. We are not-for-profit and we are not allowed to retain more than the most minimal start-up funds for continuing operations. In other words: we are mandated to spend what we make in a school year, that year. PTA/PTOs have had to step in to fund many school programs which school districts no longer provide. My (very small) PTA funds the sole art program for 700 kids, as well as the music program. We also stock the school library, which would otherwise have no new books added to its collection. It's pretty fucking sad but welcome to public education today.
posted by jamaro at 11:13 PM on October 8, 2006

Best answer: I'm sorry, I got to ranting and forgot to answer the question asked. Yes, you can call the school and tell the receptionist that you'd like to make a cash donation to the school or the school's PTA/PTO. He or she will direct you from there. Or, you can just give a check to the kid made out to whomever is sponsoring the fundraiser (the school's name should be somewhere on the order form although sometimes it's not). Our PTA frequently encounters random donations in lieu of orders, as I expect all PTA/PTOs do.
posted by jamaro at 11:39 PM on October 8, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses, everyone. It's good to know that it's both possible and fairly easy to make a direct donation.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:54 PM on October 8, 2006

One thing you should keep in mind is that if you donate directly to the school, the kid loses out. In many of these systems, the kids get rewards for fundraising and if you send your money directly to the school then the kid has to sit and watch other classmates get the neat toys, etc. That being said I think that these things are retarded. It brings in an unhealthy form of competition between students. I always did horribly with these things, but it wasn't my fault: I was relatively shy and didn't know many people who'd be willing to buy the crappy magazines on offer.

Also, keep in mind that some fundraisers really are for that one kid. For example, when I was in band I sold biscuits/pizzas in the fall and citrus fruit in the winter, and this money went towards paying for the band trip in the spring. As it was I rarely raised enough and had to turn to my parents for help anyway, but I imagine some of the students really were dependent on the fundraising in order to make the trip. So you should definitely find this out first.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:14 AM on October 9, 2006

I am a former elementary pricipal (12 years). throughout my tenure, I was expected to raise funds for my school. An unfortunate fact in American Education. Don't get me started...

But I was also a parent of 3. And when they came home with their fundraising "kits," I demurred and wrote a check.

I refused to have my students compete for silly prizes. I refused to have my students go door to door. I refused to have my students put in the position of groveling at Thanksgiving dinner.

What I implemented were methods where $1 contributed was $1 for my schools. I never sent 50% of my kids efforts out of town. Principals who utilize packaged fundraisers that skim are lazy. And they put their students in peril.

Give the child a check. And a note to the principal. Indicate your willingness to contribute, but your unwillingness to spend $1 to contribute 50 cents. Donated money is so precious to schools, why send 50% out of town? Auctions and in house fundraisers are far more lucrative and frequently provide the donor with a tax deduction.

I refused to involve my students and my children in any fundraising activity that didn't realize 100% profit for my schools. And I also refused to to involve my students in door to door type sales. Way too dangerous. If fundraising is so essential, parents should do the work, not the kids.
posted by private_idaho at 7:13 PM on October 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

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