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Run! There's a Kid Merchant at the Door!

The Sally Foster fundraising catalogue came home in kindergartner's backpack last week.

My reaction: Ugh. Already?

Husband's reaction: We can throw that away, right?

And so I waffled. Trash it? Forget about it? Or suck it up and spend mega bucks on thicker wrapping paper in long sheets along with other trinkets?

My answer: Throw it away.

But now I'm wondering: Should I get another one? I've never been one for getting the kids to go door to door to raise money for causes. As a shy kid, I hated those fundraisers and avoided them as much as possible. As an adult, I'm no different. And while I teach my kids to save allowance money for charity, the idea of sending them to friends, family and neighbors to beg support for their school sends shivers down my spine.

How do you feel about such school fundraisers? Do you send your kids around the neighborhood to sell the goods? Do you give money to the school in lieu of buying products? Do you buy from nieces, nephews or neighbor's kids? Or do you trash the catalogues and move on?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  September 19, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers
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Comments


When schools introduce these fundraisers, especially Sally Foster, they make it clear that kids are NOT to go door to door selling. They're supposed to sell to Grandma, Aunt Betsy, moms co-workers and the rest of the family.

Many of these fundraisers make up the bulk to any PTA or PTO's budget. Your $7 purchase of a roll of wrapping paper means $3.50 for your PTA, which could buy a whiteboard for a student or send another kid on a field trip he might otherwise not be able to afford.

[Now that my kids are out of elementary school, I seek out kids who still sell Sally Foster. It's good stuff! (No... I don't work for Sally Foster.)]

Posted by: TBG | September 19, 2007 7:44 AM | Report abuse

My parents gave up on the over-priced fundraiser stuff, and just donated money to the school or whatever program I was in. The only problem is that schools sometimes set up too much pressure for students to sell things. Children should not be coerced into fundraising. People buy from fundraisers out of a sense of charity, not because they need more wrapping paper (there are some local high school fruit sales that are supposed to be pretty popular though). So, why don't we all own up to that and ask people for straight donations? It's like raising taxes through guilt.

Posted by: SoMD | September 19, 2007 7:52 AM | Report abuse

My solution to school fundraisers, which I detest, is to simply make a donation. I find I save money by not buying junk I neither need nor want, but still make a contribution to the school, which really needs the money for field trips, etc. If one of my kids is motivated enough to contact grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, etc., even better.

Posted by: mom of four | September 19, 2007 7:53 AM | Report abuse

I should add that I abhor the practice of rewarding kids' selling with prizes and status. Even when I was a kid I used to think it was stupid.

Posted by: TBG | September 19, 2007 7:57 AM | Report abuse

I hate the way a company uses a school's legitimate need to sell their product. Sally Foster is a good product, don't get me wrong, but the schools are being used. So, our PTA has a Friends of Our School group. You write them a check, it is 100% deductible, and you don't have to buy anything. And, the money is put to good use.

Posted by: Liz | September 19, 2007 8:01 AM | Report abuse

When my oldest was first in school (he's 21 now), all we were asked to sell was wrapping paper, once a year. However, in the years that followed, that grew until in middle school we had: candy for band, candy for football, wrapping paper for the school, popcorn for school, "dining out" coupons for school, pictures for school (three times in one year!), pictures for sports, and on and on. I finally said enough! I now donate when asked, and that's it.

And, I agree, I can't stand it when it is turned into a contest with prizes. That said, I am a real sucker for girl scout cookies...

Posted by: jan | September 19, 2007 8:03 AM | Report abuse

I detested fund raising as a child and I detest it now. It's gotten so that almost every month I'm being asked to sell something for this organization or that.

My daughter is a Girl Scout and she sells cookies. That's the only product that I think people are actually clamoring to get.

The rest of the stuff that her school, sports and clubs sell, forget it! I just give them a check. That way the selling organization gets all the money, I don't have products I don't care about in my home, and I don't have to impose on my friends because of course that is how everyone sells it.

Posted by: AnotherMom | September 19, 2007 8:12 AM | Report abuse

"there are some local high school fruit sales that are supposed to be pretty popular though"

Ahhh... band fruit. I use to love band fruit season when I was in HS band. Not that I liked selling it door to door, but I loved the huge box of oranges, and I really enjoyed when we'd get together an unload the truck, sort the fruit, and setting up the store front in a local shopping mall.

But elementary age kids selling stuff? I really hate being hit up to buy stuff I don't need because the schools aren't getting enough money. And its not just PTA stuff and field trips. My neice (well, really my SIL) recently sent an email saying her new school would not have PE or art classes without this fundraiser selling overpriced stuff I don't need. How is that for guilt?

Posted by: RT | September 19, 2007 8:18 AM | Report abuse

When my kids (in the 60's & 70's) came home with something to sell, their father
refused to allow them to sell the stuff.
He felt people who could not afford to buy would buy just to be nice. We did finance all our kid's field trips and I bought
what they were selling so they would not
be without any sales.

Posted by: Steubenville, OH | September 19, 2007 8:18 AM | Report abuse

I just reread the email. It says that the funraiser goes to pay for "PE, music, and computer teachers. Without this funraiser, we wouldn't have PE, music, or computers."

That is sad in so many ways.

Posted by: RT | September 19, 2007 8:21 AM | Report abuse

In the last decade or so, I haven't seen too mnay kids flogging this junk - it becomes yet another job for Mommy to do. I hated this when I was a kid 40 years ago, when we WERE expected to go door to door. I refuse to buy kid-peddled gaarbage.

Posted by: Denver, CO | September 19, 2007 8:23 AM | Report abuse

I have mixed feelings. I don't like it, but sort of feel like it's a necessary evil. The PTA does good work and need the $. I see all the books and other benefits from the PTA, so I let my kids ask our neighbors and friends. I am grateful for the people who buy to be nice, we have a few who claim to look forward to it and I also appreciate the people who politely say no thank you - The kids have to learn how to accept that graciously too.

I do wish that the schools around here would mix it up a bit tho - Sally Foster is good stuff - but everyone sells it. Heck, my niece and nephews in Iowa are selling it too...

Posted by: maria | September 19, 2007 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Doesn't everyone need wrapping paper anyway? The stuff you buy in the stores is cheap and rips easily. So why not spend $15-$20 on 2 gigantic rolls of thick reve rsible Christmas, Chanakuh, or Birthday paper and support your kid's school? I buy a few rolls every year from a friend's kid and I know that my friend will buy at least one "pizza kit" when my kids are selling them in a few months.
I agree that the cataolgs of "junk" and expensive chocolate/candy are annoying when kids bring them home, but who doesn't need wrapping paper?

Posted by: LBH | September 19, 2007 8:37 AM | Report abuse

I hated selling the junk I was being asked to peddle as a child. Now, I hate seeing the small children selling the stuff outside supermarkets, on several occasions when it is dark and wet and without immediate adult supervision (Im not sure if the parent was in the store shopping).

Posted by: aida | September 19, 2007 8:39 AM | Report abuse

I try to buy my Christmas wrapping paper from kids. It's expensive, but it's GREAT paper, and I hope it's helping the schools. And I always get Girl Scout cookies. Other than that, I have no need to buy anything. I don't want candy or snacks or knickknacks.

As a kid I HATED selling that crap. There was no way I was ever going to "win." At least these days, the prizes aren't so hard to get.

Posted by: atb2 | September 19, 2007 8:41 AM | Report abuse

I would much rather give the money directly to the school. The fund raising companies get 60% of the take. If I give the money I would spend on useless items or dust collectors directly to the school, I can be guaranteed that all of what I give goes to the right people.

Posted by: Former Teacher | September 19, 2007 8:48 AM | Report abuse

I hated the fundraisers when I was a kid, I hated them in my early 20's when I was destitute and yet still felt like I HAD to buy something from my boss's kids, and I still hate them now. I'd much, much rather just write a check.

Except for the girl scout cookies, which I love.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2007 8:59 AM | Report abuse

I don't allow my kids to sell to anyone but grandparents with the exception of girl scout cookies - I just put a sheet out at work and get 100 orders without asking anyone if they'd like to buy cookies. That being said, I actually like the wrapping paper. The school gets 50%, so the way I look at it, 1/2 my money goes to the school, for the other 1/2, I get some very nice wrapping paper (which for 1/2 the price is a bargain!) When other things come home, I buy them if I need or like them and don't, if I don't. Doesn't seem like a big deal to me.

Posted by: KMN | September 19, 2007 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Cannot stand school fundraisers. It's a constant reminder of how dreadfully underfunded our schools are. I applaud the schools for trying to get money any way they can, but I am sick of people bringing in their kids' fundraiser stuff to work. I cannot buy from everyone (I would if I could), so I buy from no one. Hey, at least it's fair, and in my position (HR) I can't afford to be viewed as prejudiced towards/against anyone.

I go to donorschoose.org when I want to contribute to schools.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | September 19, 2007 9:00 AM | Report abuse

I don't remember selling anything in Elem School other then Girl Scout Cookies and I was the only GS in my neighborhood, so I made out well. Junior High it was cookies and candy, maybe even wrapping paper (all at once from a "catalogue"). Did well there, too. Senior High it was magazine subscriptions and I did so well those four years that I didn't even have to pay the senior trip deposit, let alone for the trip! It was 4 days in Orlando (a water park, MGM, Epcot, and Magic Kingdom), the last time I was there, too!

Of course, those were the days (1980's - 1992) when neighbors knew neighbors and there was no kidnapping/abuse fears.

For the record, my mom babysat in the home and my dad was self employed, so they did not take MY sales stuff to work (that I always found annoying).

Posted by: WDC 21113 | September 19, 2007 9:00 AM | Report abuse

I hated the pressure involved with selling stuff. My parents refused to allow me to go door to door. They felt that their responsibility as my parents was to finance me education programs.
Fortunately none of my neighbors children ever try to sell stuff at my door.What does the PTA actually do? The only things I am aware of are teacher appreciation teas, buying some "special equipment", and gossiping non stop. Is there more that I am simply unaware of?

Posted by: Former Child | September 19, 2007 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Out here in Wisconsin, some of my neighbor's kids have been selling a selection of seemingly bulk purchases of cookies, brownies, candy, caramel popcorn, chocolate-covered whatevers and huge soft pretzels.

I can live with the wrapping paper, the occasional chocolate bar sale, and even Girl Scout cookies (I'll buy a few boxes of Thin Mints and throw them in the freezer). But who asks kids to go door to door to sell really MASSIVE amounts of incredibly sugared treats?

Posted by: Chasmosaur | September 19, 2007 9:04 AM | Report abuse

If the cross section of parents participating on the blog today overwhelmingly detest the fundraisers so much, why are there some many of them?

Any PTA Ubermoms care to chime in? You are the ones keep the fundraisers going year after year?

Posted by: Time | September 19, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

A new set of young neighborhood children are out this week with Sally Foster and other fundraisers and I get angry with parents who essentially guilt you into buying something. We have adopted something of a quid pro quo approach so that we buy wrapping paper if you buy cookie dough for my daughter's DECA club.

Posted by: Lester Burnham | September 19, 2007 9:21 AM | Report abuse

My wife and I have found an interesting solution to this whole problem. A solution that teaches our twin daughters enterprise and independence is the following:

Since my wife was a graphic designer prior to becoming a stay at home mom with a nanny she has created some fund raising materials for organizations we set up. This is so cool. We buy overstocked cheap items from a Chinese importer (safe? well that is a question) and then we create a fund. Right now we are working on Prada for Poor Parents (PPP). It is a group that offers discount Prada products to parents below the $75,000 income level. (We feel for them especially here in Tribeca)

So my wife makes the catalog prints out copies for the class and we wait for the dollars to roll in. Now the money that comes in is first allocated to administrative and marketing costs (the girls get it for a new iPod touch). The rest of it goes to distribution and product. We have given over four used (knockoff) Prada wallets to moms in the area. You know the cost of marketing goes up so don't flame us for low output.

Hey, take a page from our how to raise children in Tribeca book. It works for us and the girls love it. They are our children and they are entitled to all they can get. I am sure you would all agree.

PS: I sold Burpee seeds door to door in NJ. Look how well adjusted I am

Posted by: NYC | September 19, 2007 9:24 AM | Report abuse

I don't get it. The public schools teach a bunch of environmental crap to the kids, you know, how bad it is to cut down trees and that kind of stuff, then teach them the food pyramid, you know, fruits and vegies, then what? Send the kids around to peddle wrapping paper, frozen pizza and chocolate bars??? What the heck is going on here?

Posted by: OldFaithful | September 19, 2007 9:30 AM | Report abuse

I also detest the fundraisers. I hated them as a kid and so did my parents. My parents would sometimes purchase something so that we would have some sales but that was it. Now my two kids are in elementary school and the PTA has announced urgently that Sally Foster is their biggest fundraiser. This school also does prizes for the kids who sell the most. I think it's appalling but apparently I am in the minority at my school. My husband threw the catalogs away but I retrieved one and to his chagrin will probably purchase a few things so that my children aren't left out. Both my kids are new to the school and already feeling unsure. I don't want them to also feel left out of this too.

But I love the idea of a Friends of School group and will propose it at the next PTA meeting. This is much more in line with how I prefer to give to the schools.

Posted by: montgomery village mom | September 19, 2007 9:33 AM | Report abuse

It's a shame that schools have to rely on fundraisers to counter the consistent underfunding that occurs in many school districts. But when people will only vote for those who promise to cut taxes, what do you expect?

Posted by: sean | September 19, 2007 9:42 AM | Report abuse

If the PTA wants the money, than the PTA can go door to door selling wrapping paper. Exploiting young kids to get the pity sale is abhorrent, and I'm shocked that people aren't more outraged that this is so widely accepted.

Posted by: Dakota Pants | September 19, 2007 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I understand the need for these fundraisers, but I wish PTA's would give parents the option to make a donation in lieu of selling stuff. I always make a donation anyway, but our PTA's haven't evolved yet to the point where they include "direct cash donations" on their annual budget, and so even though I donate more than the school would have gotten if I had sold the stuff, I'm still expected to participate in the fundraisers. I think this is short sighted of them. Direct donations are easier to manage and more lucrative (in one candy and nut sale recently, for every $6 package sold, the school only got $1!), so why not start the year with a campaign to raise funds by NOT selling things? Then send out another letter before the winter break reminding parents that their contributions are 100% tax deductible. I'd bet a lot of parents would jump at the chance to make a one time donation rather than deal with fundraising catalogs being sent home every few months.

Like others, I make an exception for Girl Scout cookies. Those things sell themselves and I've never met anyone who ever felt "guilted" into buying them.

Who needs high quality wrapping paper? I'd rather buy cheap--the stuff is designed to be torn to bits anyway!

Posted by: Sarah | September 19, 2007 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I think if people are selling things you will actually use or want, then buy it. Other than that, make a donation. I used to sell candy bars for my little league team. I think I sold like ten bars, which entitled me to a free big league chew. As I look back at my team photos, with everyone wearing faded uniforms that are mismatched, I realize I probably should have sold a few more.

In the boy scouts, I sold 50 pound bags of mulch. Whose genius idea was it to have a 12 year old go door to door selling 50 pound bags of mulch? Recognizing the difficulty in delivering the product, I wisely sold two bags to my mother, and two bags to my next door neighbor and called it quits. I wasn't going to drag 50 pound bags of mulch 6 blocks away. (this was before Moms and Dads would do these things for you). Girl scouts sell a 1 pound bag of delicious cookies; boy scouts sell 50 pound bags of garden supplies. Girl Scouts 20, Boy scouts 0.

Then of course there was selling subscriptions of Grit magazine, in the hopes of winning prizes. I didn't sell a single subscription. Has anyone ever read Grit magazine? What is it?

I think the lesson I take from all of this is that if we are going to have kids peddle things for fundraisers, make sure they are things people actually want or need. And make sure they weigh much less than 50 pounds. Candies, cookies good. Garden supplies, obscure magazines, bad.

Posted by: Cliff | September 19, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Sarah -- I nominate you to run the PTA, and maybe the world. What you descirbed sound like a rational compromise that just about everyone can live with and benefit from.

Posted by: Time | September 19, 2007 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Back when I was a kid, my local Boy Scout troop would raise funds in autumn by raking leaves for people. Although it was miserable to get up early every Saturday, it was good exercise, the troop made a lot of money, and it never felt like asking for charity the way the selling stuff did.

Posted by: Wolfcastle | September 19, 2007 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Our daycare sent around the Sally Foster the week before public schools started, in order to raise money for teacher bonuses. I was willing to buy a few things to support them (plus, it was an easy way to replenish the wrapping paper supplies in our house). We don't feel right about asking others to buy; and even when I asked my mom if she would like some if I bought, she said no thanks.

When our little one is older, it may be a harder to figure out the balance. I remember what it was like being the kid who didn't sell much. Not fun.

Posted by: SRVA mom | September 19, 2007 9:53 AM | Report abuse

While I understand the school's need to raise money, getting our kids involved in hucksterism or selling them garbage snacks through vending machines is not the way to do it. As parent's, of course, it is our responsibility to set boundaries and expectations where the school system won't. When dealing with the school system, we need to keep in mind that the school system's best interests may not necessarily be our child's best interest.

I am also greatly annoyed by the pan-handling that grocery stores allow in front of their stores. If there are panhandlers in front of my favorite grocery store, usually I'll drive to another store. If I can't avoid the store (time or product restraints), I'll complain to the manager about it.

When confronted with the kid, I always try to politely but firmly say "No, Thanks."

Posted by: Ivan Groznii | September 19, 2007 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I agree that donating is a more efficient use of your funds.

I ran a cub scout popcorn sale for a couple of years and the troops actual take was a very small percentage of the sales price.

It was a huge stress for me because the council forced the troops to buy entire cases of the products. If your boys only sold a few things then you still had popcorn, which SOMEBODY had to figure out how to sell. The idea of selling a pre-packaged product is that it isn't supposed to be a big hassle for the leaders, but the way they set it up it was.

When we moved onto Boy Scouts they did a pancake supper, which was far more profitable and more fun to participate in.

If a kid comes by I will buy something from them, but I don't think it's such a great way to raise funds, and it certainly detracts from more educational pursuits.

Likewise if someone is selling the stuff at work I'll buy some.

Posted by: RoseG | September 19, 2007 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Pitching it is the right thing to do. Whatever happened to car washes and dunking booths to raise money?

Posted by: KC in Lubbock | September 19, 2007 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I still have the glass beer mug that I got for selling chocolate bars to raise money for my high school band. I sold those bars only to my parents and a couple of neighbors, under duress, and hated every minute of it (except the part where I got to eat one of those chocolate bars). But seriously, who's idea was it to have underage kids angling to get a BEER MUG anyway?! This was in the early '80s in California, where the drinking age was 21. It made absolutely no sense. Neither does any of the wrapping paper peddling going on today. I say make direct donations to the school and be done with it.

Posted by: Vicki in Maryland | September 19, 2007 10:16 AM | Report abuse

These kinds of fundraisers are unnecessary, unfair, time consuming, and ineffective, and it pressures family and friends to buy stuff they don't need. I just got sucked into buying popcorn from the cub scouts the other day at a rate 3 times what I can get it from the grocery store. Yes, I could have said "no", but it's hard to do that to your friends.

Also, children should not be fundraising for the PTA, which is a PARENT organization. They really shouldn't be fundraising at all, because they're children, but they definitely shouldn't be doing it for an adult organization.

Convince your PTAs that holding a donation drive is much more fair, takes less time, and raises more money. Or at the very least, give people the option of donating in lieu of buying stuff. Then all of the money goes to the school and zero to a fundraising company.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2007 10:16 AM | Report abuse

These sales create perverse incentives for the schools, too. Of course the schools will underfund PE and arts classes, because they know that the PTA sales will cover the difference.

Posted by: Tom T. | September 19, 2007 10:17 AM | Report abuse

It's a shame that schools can't do bake sales anymore. Kids have a hard time selling junk to strangers, and for good reason. People don't want to buy overpriced junk.

On the other hand, who wouldn't impulse-buy a $2 brownie? I mean, it's right there. It looks so good. It's only a couple of bucks.

I think these various organizations could make much more money selling things that people actually want (raking leaves was a great idea) as opposed to relying on sympathy purchases or compulsory purchases, in the case of bosses going office to office.

Also, I like the idea of providing direct donation instructions along with the catalog of crap and giving the kids credit for the "sale". I like to support kids' education, so it makes more sense for me to donate directly instead of buying the local dollar store's reject pile.

Posted by: Bob | September 19, 2007 10:20 AM | Report abuse

"Many of these fundraisers make up the bulk to any PTA or PTO's budget. Your $7 purchase of a roll of wrapping paper means $3.50 for your PTA, which could buy a whiteboard for a student or send another kid on a field trip he might otherwise not be able to afford."

Quite honestly, I'd much prefer to just write a check to the PTA for $7 than let some business profit off the labor and humiliation of my children.

Posted by: Dad with Kids from A-Z | September 19, 2007 10:22 AM | Report abuse

I think it's coercive both of the student and of the potential buyer. And with so many things going on, who has time for this? I would rather just write a check to the PTA. I was going to complain a few weeks ago to the principal but my wife set me straight--didn't want us to be persona non grata my daughter's first year at her new school. I did like the idea someone here wrote vis a vis creating a charity that we could write checks to and tax deductible, so I'm going to check with the principal to see if they do this already or have considered it. Not sure what the roadblocks are to creating one, but I'd be willing to help.

Posted by: Bernie Carbo | September 19, 2007 10:24 AM | Report abuse

I hate when parents try to force that crap on me at work. If I wanted to donate to their child's school then I'd write a check. When I have my own kids I'll donate to their school, but until then get off my back and pay for your own kid to "have PE, art, and computers."

Posted by: jlp7t | September 19, 2007 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Whatever happened to pancake breakfast fundraisers? I like the idea of an event that brings people together and raises a few dollars too.

Posted by: AUD | September 19, 2007 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Q: What's worse than sending kids out to push paper on Christians and food for fatties?

a: The school fun fare.

This fund raiser has mommies buying each other's cakes and cookies that they spent time baking in their own kitchen, volunteering the better part of their Saturday manning a booth or supervising a lottery/gambling game where kids win useless plastic trinkets manufactured in China, forking over $35 per child so they can continuously indulge themselves throughout the fare, and then the final insult to the cause: Weeks later, mommy gets stuck taking care of the goldfish.

Posted by: OldFaithful | September 19, 2007 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Another item that is rarely mentioned is that these fundraisers tend to exacerbate funding differences between rich kids' schools and poor kids' schools. Jonathan Kozol writes about it, and when you read the funding differences between some of the schools (in the same county!) that he discusses, it's truly shocking.

Posted by: hub | September 19, 2007 10:34 AM | Report abuse

"My answer: Throw it away. But now I'm wondering: Should I get another one?"

Wow Stacey. Amazing that someone in your shoes, who is allegedly intelligent and has financial resources, wouldn't think of the alternative mentioned here by many, many people: make a donation instead.

You obviously know that is an option since you listed it as a question in your final paragraph. Or is it just not an option for you? Do you really detest the fundraising method or is it that you don't want to help with the effort to raise money for the school?

Posted by: Amazed | September 19, 2007 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I hate these fundraisers. I hate it most when the sponsors promise premiums to the kids for selling more - I hate having my children ask people for money, even if it is in name for a good cause. Using greed for toys to push a non-profit cause is wrong.

Posted by: tdonova2 | September 19, 2007 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Back when I was in junior high school (didn't call it "middle school" back then), we had to sell toothbrushes for a fund raiser.

I kid you not. Toothbrushes.

The thought process was, well, the band is selling candy, we'll come in behind them and sell toothbrushes (we were in the Chorus class; yes I was, so there).

It was a terrible idea; if we made any profit at all it was not worth the humiliation of going door to door trying to convince neighbors and friends that yes, I was trying to sell them toothbrushes to raise money for school.

One good idea for a fund raiser my wife bought into earlier this year was a year's worth of discounted movie theater tickets. For a set price, we got 2 tickets a month at a discount from the usual box office price, plus several "get in free" tickets, plus some for reduced price junk food. I think we've already made our money back on that one.

Posted by: John L | September 19, 2007 10:41 AM | Report abuse

I'm annoyed by everyone peddling their kids' fund-raising merchandise at work. The kids should be the one doing the fund-raising, not the parents. I don't need coffee, wrapping paper, pizza kits, or candy bars. I buy my GS Cookies from the girls selling them at the grocery store, not their mothers.

Posted by: Your Coworker | September 19, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

I refuse to take part in these fundraisers. Instead I suggest that the kids do a dog or car wash instead. The kids love it, they make 100% profit instead of 50% and they WORK.

What about auctions? Get the parents who work for NPR or CNN to give a tour to the highest bidder. Get the congressman to donate a tour of the capitol. Then have power-mad parents bid on those.

There is no excuse for Sally Foster or candy fundraising. Any PTA that still does that should be realigned or ousted.

Quote me on that, any PTA president so ignorant to fall for the fundraiser trap needs to be replaced.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

I have three elementary age children - each of whom is expected to raise money, not just for school, but also the sports organizations in which they participate. For the school, I generally write a check, but I ask them each to pick one fundraiser that they will raise money for. They go door to door and introduce themselves and explain the project and meet their neighbors. It allows them to have the experience of looking at someone in the eye and connecting with them. They will invite them to "come to the field and watch a game" not just ask for the money. I think in this day and age, when everyone is so focused on their own lives, it is one way tp reach out and connect the community at large. That being said, I buy the Sally Foster because of the convenience - the big decision is, which kid gets the credit?

Posted by: FormerNoVa mom | September 19, 2007 10:49 AM | Report abuse

I hate the fund raisers also and don't ask my kids to go door to door. I was amazed that when my daughter went next door to sell girl scout cookies, just once, that they turned her away because they had enough -- rudely, I might add. This is a family with 3 kids who had been coming to my door for more than a decade and I never once turned one of them down. Now I do.

My rule is that if a kid on my block (except from next door) sells something that I will buy it. I also sometimes buy from the kids at the grocery store. I'm glad that we live in a community where kids have so many healthy choices -- scouts, sports, music, etc. I absolutely do want to support that. It's better than being robbed by some kid on drugs who doesn't have anything else to do.

I prefer to write a check and I'm glad that our PTA now gives us that option. I understand that the Sally Foster people got really upset about it -- we have a big school that was a real money maker for them. Boo-hoo.

Posted by: free bird | September 19, 2007 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Weeks later, mommy gets stuck taking care of the goldfish.

Posted by: OldFaithful | September 19, 2007 10:31 AM

I won a goldfish at the school fun fair when I was in elementary school.
I brought the goldfish home, put him in a mixing bowl on my desk, and (without telling my parents) put a slice of bread in there to tide the little guy over until we got back from buying a gold fish bowl and fish food.

By the time we came back from the store, my goldfish had EXPLODED! I am not even kidding. Evidently the bread had expanded in his little tummy.

I was totally mortified. It was not a good first-pet experience for a six year old.

Posted by: klynnwilder | September 19, 2007 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Here's what gets me---our 3 1/2 year old is in preschool THAT WE PAY FOR, and he came home with a 'Sally Foster' package. His sibling is also in daycare at the same facility. So a good chunk of our $$$ is already going to the school. I can understand public school pressure to do this stuff, but private schools? C'mon.

Posted by: Dadof2 | September 19, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

What I hate is when people bring the stuff to work and then try to sell it to their co-workers or employees. It's supposed to be the kids doing it, not mommy and daddy.

Posted by: Serendipity | September 19, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Our daycare recently handed out Scholastic Book order forms. We buy books (at prices similar to Amazon) and the daycare gets a percentage back in new books.

We ordered books which we think our children would like. I think that is a win-win situation.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2007 11:05 AM | Report abuse

"They will invite them to "come to the field and watch a game" not just ask for the money."

Oh yeah, I bet that REALLY makes your neighbors happy....the chance to spend their Saturdays watching some other person's child play soccer! Oooh yeah, spend money on crud I don't need AND take away my weekend! I'm all over that!!!

"I prefer to write a check and I'm glad that our PTA now gives us that option."

They will ALWAYS give you that option, whether they say so or not - do you think they would turn down a donation? Those of you who have kids in schools or organizations that aren't progressive enough to put it out there should just refuse to support the corporate fundraising companies and donate directly to the school. If enough people do it, they will move away from the selling of crud and towards the just asking for tax deductible donations.

Posted by: Amazed | September 19, 2007 11:09 AM | Report abuse

No animal should ever be offered as a prize, and rightfully so. The animals will most likely get abused. If any PTA sponsors an event that gives away fish, turtles, frogs..., they most likely will have to answer to some very angry members of an animal advocacy group.

Posted by: OldFaithful | September 19, 2007 11:11 AM | Report abuse

"It's supposed to be the kids doing it, not mommy and daddy."

Actually, children should not be in the business of supporting their school or activities. I agree that it's unfair of parents to hit up their co-workers, but it's more unfair to the children to ask them to work to afford to go to school. Parents should be financially responsible for their child's education, including extra curricular activites, whether it be through fundraising or paying of tuition and fees or whatever.


Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2007 11:12 AM | Report abuse

When I was in high school we had to sell christmas cards door to door for my drill team. It was EXCRUCIATING particularly since I was the captain of the team and had to "set an example". I can't understand, looking back on it now, why no one even brought up the idea of donations. I think there's some value in the parents and grandparents buying stuff, to "show support" and to make sure the kid doesn't get blamed for not selling anything, but as far as bugging all our friends and neighbors--forget it.

Posted by: teaspoon2007 | September 19, 2007 11:20 AM | Report abuse

And to think I pay taxes...

Wouldn't it make more sense to call your local representative and gripe to him/her about the underfunded schools? It embarrasses me that I make more money than my mother, a teacher of 20 years.

Remember singing "I believe the children are our future..."?

Ooh - I like this even better: show up at the representative's office with your child and their Sally Foster catalog. Or have your child write a nice letter asking them to contribute. It's a great teachable moment about democracy, manners, spelling, composition, etc.

Damn, I wish I had kids just so I could do this.

Posted by: Single, no kids | September 19, 2007 11:20 AM | Report abuse

When I was in school, we generally used our own labor to raise money for our various student organizations. Doing a car wash, gardening, or housework. Thanks to these, my class had raised a rediculous amount of money for our prom, still one of the most lavish at the school - 100% funded by the efforts of students.

And I must agree with all the comments about Girl Scout Cookies - perhaps the last true guilty pleasure.

Posted by: David S | September 19, 2007 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Ooo...Along with the selling of magazines, the LEO club (off-spring of the town's Lion's Club) sold Christmas trees. I believe they still are doing that, too. That was a fun week and half or so, especially since some of us got to class to help unload and price the trees! But, the money we raised went to other charities, not the school.

Posted by: WDC 21113 | September 19, 2007 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Well, Amazed, I would never have them invite any one to watch soccer, that would be excrutiating, but baseball is a lot of fun and has a great snack bar. Same with football. Just fostering a sense of community. Amazing.

Posted by: Former No VA Mom | September 19, 2007 11:26 AM | Report abuse

That should have been "got OUT of class".

I should add that we sold after school (the trees were in the school's fenced in tennis courts, so they were locked up) and weekends and had teacher (club advisor) supervision.

Posted by: Oops... | September 19, 2007 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Something we haven't really talked about here today - we all assume that we have these fundraisers because schools are not adequately funded. Have any of you asked why the PTA (or other org) was trying to raise the money? I did once, when my son was in high school. In this case, the money was being raised to "upgrade the venue for the senior prom". The argument was that it was important for our children to have a "once in a lifetime experience" at the prom. I quickly shut up, realized I had very little in common with most of the PTSA and have had little contact with them since.

The icing on the cake was when it came time for my son to graduate from high school, and we received a letter from school, saying that if we did not send a check to the school for $80, he wouldn't get his cap and gown. This was because he didn't participate in the fundraisers...

Posted by: jan | September 19, 2007 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Actually, I detest kids selling over priced junk. When I can, I simply give them a donation. I don't know about you but the wrapping paper that I bought from the little girl next door was a nice a nice quality but you got so little for my $12. I would never describe it as jumbo roll. I did purchase pizza coupons from my daughter's PTA. But that only cost them $1 for the $10 coupon. So the school made $9 off each sale. I also donated money directly to the PTA when I did not like what they were selling. When it is my own kid, I will buy one thing of each thing they are selling or donation. I refuse to pass it around to the relatives or friends. WE are NOT allowed to ask our co workers and I am really happy about that.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 19, 2007 11:34 AM | Report abuse

"Have any of you asked why the PTA (or other org) was trying to raise the money?"

Or better yet, be part of the PTA so that you understand exactly why they fundraise. In the case of my children's schools, the vast majority of the PTA money goes towards funding items that used to be funded by the state and are no more. A small portion goes towards community building at the school.

Speaking of community building Former No VA Mom, I still think it's hugely presumptious of you that your neighbors will care about going to your child's baseball or football game. People who have children of their own have enough sporting events to attend without going to those of kids they don't or barely know. And elderly people have btdt with their own families. Why don't you just leave people alone - or if you want to foster a sense of community have a barbeque at your house and invite your neighbors over instead of putting them through telling your child "oh sure! we'd love to come your game!!" while they grit their teeth and get out their checkbook.

Posted by: Amazed | September 19, 2007 11:42 AM | Report abuse

You people are so funny. Let me tell you something. 50% of all school fundraisers are a scam. I've been running a weekend operation for the past three years and I've already made enough money to buy a new Porsche and a boat.

Here's how it works...every weekend, I pick up a bunch of street urchins from the ghetto and force them into my van. We then drive out to the suburban shopping mall. Playing off white guilt, the kids tell everyone that they're raising money so that their school can buy some books and chairs. They're tired of sharing two books and sitting on the floor. Won't they please buy some M&Ms for a good cause?

At the end of the day, the kids get a ride back to the city and a free package of M&Ms. Me? I usually net about $600/weekend.

Cash money, honey!

Posted by: Rich Dad, Poor Dad | September 19, 2007 11:42 AM | Report abuse

You go, RDPD!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2007 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I haven't read all the comments, but back home, the schools have started buying bulk 'gift cards' at reduced cost. They get them for the grocery stores and gas stations. My parents buy them every time they need one. They figure, its the same cost to the individual, and the school gets a cut. I like this much better than wrapping paper, books, candy, etc...

Posted by: fed worker | September 19, 2007 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Who doesn't need more wrapping paper? Me. Between reusable gift bags, and generally cutting down on gifts to adults, I use about one roll of Christmas paper a year, bought half price after Christmas. It's going to be ripped to shreds in seconds anyway.

I hated selling stuff as a child. It didn't help that my mother wouldn't buy anything from me on the grounds that she could get it much cheaper elsewhere. Selling is supposed to teach kids initiative, enterprise, organization and good stuff like that, but all I learned is that if the stuff is so crappy I couldn't even sell it to my own mother, why bother trying to sell it to anyone else.

The trick is to sell stuff that people want, at a price that they are willing to pay. Notice how many people look forward to Girl Scout cookies. A co-worker's son used to sell frozen pies for his high school choral. They were excellent pies, with some unusual flavors like peach/blueberry and a blueberry crumble to die for. The price was high but not outrageous. I wish I knew the company so that I could tell the neighbors about it.

Posted by: WMA | September 19, 2007 11:52 AM | Report abuse

As a Cub Scout, I went door-to-door selling tickets to the Boy Scout Jamboree. Talk about a hot product!

Posted by: Preschool Dad | September 19, 2007 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I help run the Sally Foster campaign at my child's school and here's why I do it: it's a way for lower-income families to contribute. We have a mixed-income family population, many of whom cannot "just write a check" or bid on fancy auction items, but they can contribute by selling a few rolls of gift wrap.

Posted by: NW DC | September 19, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

yea, poor people love expensive wrapping paper

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2007 12:14 PM | Report abuse

But NWDC, I was told the same thing by our PTA... that new immigrant parents can contribute this way. In my neighborhood these immigrants are from Latin America and Ethiopia primarily. But why not put on a cultural talent show for these parents to show off their singing skills? When my mother was in school in Appalachia in World War II they got the poorest mothers together to make scrap quilts that they sold.

Doesn't everyone see that there are far better options to ever deal with Sally Foster again?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2007 12:32 PM | Report abuse

... it's a way for lower-income families to contribute. We have a mixed-income family population, many of whom cannot "just write a check" or bid on fancy auction items, but they can contribute by selling a few rolls of gift wrap.

Posted by: NW DC | September 19, 2007 11:55 AM


Sorry, NW DC, but I have to disagree here. Who would these people sell $8 rolls of gift wrapping paper to? Their neighbors who are probably in the same financial situation? So, these people are still pressured to pay extra money for gift wrap when they can go to the dollar store and pay $1 for paper that will be ripped to shreds in seconds. Maybe an alternative here would be to have a pancake breakfast or a car wash fund raiser and give these people the opportunity to donate their time and help raise funds that way? Time is money too.

Posted by: Pake Mom | September 19, 2007 12:38 PM | Report abuse

unfair to the children to ask them to work to afford to go to school. Parents should be financially responsible for their child's education, including extra curricular activites, whether it be through fundraising or paying of tuition and fees or whatever.

Hey, I'm not a fan of the sales, but to suggest that kids should bear no responsiblity for their education or activities is exactly what is wrong with this country. Our kids are so spoiled and lucky to have the options they have. It would do them a world of good to do a little work to appreciate that not everything is handed to everyone, everywhere.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2007 12:46 PM | Report abuse

I agree with service-type fundraising, but... I don't ever want to see or hear about my teen-aged daughter wearing a bikini standing on a median strip waving a sign for a carwash fundraiser.

Posted by: Time | September 19, 2007 12:48 PM | Report abuse

"Hey, I'm not a fan of the sales, but to suggest that kids should bear no responsiblity for their education or activities is exactly what is wrong with this country. Our kids are so spoiled and lucky to have the options they have. It would do them a world of good to do a little work to appreciate that not everything is handed to everyone, everywhere."

AMEN to that!!

Posted by: What he/she said! | September 19, 2007 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Here's some irony -- while we parents are sitting through the Back to School night PTA meeting (where they actually unroll a roll of Sally Foster so we can see how much paper is on a roll!), a bunch of teenage girls at the church across the street will be raising funds by providing sitting services.

Please, spare me the the "kids are spoiled" lecutre.

Posted by: Time | September 19, 2007 12:56 PM | Report abuse

"suggest that kids should bear no responsiblity for their education or activities is exactly what is wrong with this country"

Yep, because PRESCHOOLERS and young elementary students don't pay for their own education, our country has gone down the tube. Give me a break. I agree that older kids - high school football players or cheerleaders or whatever - should fundraise for the organizations they belong to. But we're talking about LITTLE kids here. If your child doesn't have to work for a living/education/own stuff/clothes/activities until they're 15 or 16...trust me, they'll be fine. There are plenty of other ways to teach young children responsibility than to have them beg friends and strangers for money to pay for their schooling or scouting.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2007 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Schools generally need the money and put it to good use. Is SF the most effective and efficient way to raise money? Depends. I've been PTA president 4 years in 2 different schools and know that without this sale these schools would have had to do without something the teachers and parents considered beneficial to their children's education. In one school, it was the 3rd largest fundraiser; in the other, the largest. Several other fundraisers were tried (hoping to replace the SF sale due to market saturation), but abandoned after a few years. Regarding the actually selling: the kids don't have to hawk the goods; but I considered it a beneficial learning experience for mine. Learning how to ask politely for something that didn't have an immediate benefit for them; reminding neighbors that the local school impacts all, not just those with school age children; and learning to gracefully accept rejection are all lessons that I felt were present in their door-to-door approach on our secluded little street.

Posted by: School Supporter | September 19, 2007 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I have been throwing the Sally Foster's Package away for 8 years and I Just threw the most recent one away last Thurday. I have no regrets, no remorse. I'll keep on throwing them away until my kids leave schools. All I want is a "reduced stress" life. This one is one less stressor in my life.

Posted by: Mia | September 19, 2007 1:13 PM | Report abuse

My kids sell girl scout cookies door to door. I buy one or two items from each of them from the Sally Foster or whatever else they sell. Depending on the price of the item, I try to buy something from any kid who asks, which is seldom. I don't buy from adults, and when adults ask me to buy things for their kid, I tell them I buy only from children. I am hypocritical enough to take a cookie sale flyer to work, but only because people actually do ask me to bring that one in. I don't push it on people, and my daughter sells by far the majority of the cookies (I was responsible for about 25 out of the 400+ she sold last year).

Posted by: single mother by choice | September 19, 2007 1:15 PM | Report abuse

klynnwilder
Hey, I nearly exploded reading your poor goldfish tale! Too funny!

Posted by: No fear | September 19, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

In the abstract, I hate it.

In the real world, I'm watching my 6th grader -- a budding entrepreneur -- rise the challenge of selling magazine subscriptions. He's challenging himself: sets the route; organizes his materials; grabs his dad's briefcase, and sets off down the (safe) street to get enough subscriptions to win a prize that he values. He's also learning a lot about human nature -- like those in the neighborhood who don't like magazines, but will give a donation to the school instead; the horrid woman who slammed the door in his beautiful face; and the wonderful young couple next door who spent twice as much as they could have on a National Geo subcription because 1) my son is adorable; 2) the extra money will go to the school. People need to realize that drives like this may have another purpose -- increasing kids self confidence and helping them to learn about the real world of commerce.

So, in my house this year, reality is winning over the abstract. But at least he's selling something that people actually want to buy! Wrapping paper? Not my cup of tea. But maybe I'll make a donation...

Posted by: gottabeanon | September 19, 2007 1:20 PM | Report abuse

school supporter said "the kids don't have to hawk the goods; but I considered it a beneficial learning experience for mine."

This is a good point. My daughter has learned to deal with rejection. And while most people are quite nice when they say no, not all are. My timid little six year old learned to just say "have a nice day," and go to the next house if someone didn't want cookies. She is also learning about organization, because she has to be in charge of delivering all those cookies she sells.

Posted by: single mother by choice | September 19, 2007 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Well, amazed,I am not suggesting that neighbors watch my children play, but come and see where their money goes. My kid isn't saying "sponsor me" and then walking away, but letting this person know they are welcome to stop by a field and watch a baseball game. It is important to explain the reason you hold the fundraiser. Last year we built a new field at the complex. My son told people to feel free to stop by and see the new field when they drove by. Usually, these are not the parents of same age children. And no one feels obligated to give money.

I have not met or felt any resentment and am often complimented that my kids are friendly. These neighbors can also feel comfortable stopping my kid and asking him/her to help them getting the garbage out or anything else they need. It is making sure that the people around you aren't stangers.

I don't know where you live, but we don't get a lot of gritting teeth over this type of thing. People are just as comfortable saying they are not interested in donating or give to other things. My kids are still just as nice to them and thank them for the time.

Posted by: FormerNoVa Mom | September 19, 2007 1:29 PM | Report abuse

For those posters commenting on why these fundraisers are needed to support arts, music, science, etc., consider the following:

School districts routinely spend millions (yes millions)of dollars on lawyers fees to deal with all sorts of issues -- suits related to injury, mold, you name it.
But no one ever questions the amounts spent on that - or the hourly fees charged by those lawyers. Those funds come from your tax dollars, and result in fewer resources going to teachers and schools. Hence the need for fundraisers.

Here's an idea -- instead, use school fundraisers like paper and chocolate to fund special accounts that can only be used to pay for lawyers. Then, redirect the acounts that now pay for lawyers to support instruction in schools in areas like science, arts, computers, etc. (Just one example is $2.5 M spent on lawyers in a low-performing California school district to deal with mold remediation; another $2.3 M to actually do the mold remediation, according to a grand jury report. Guess how much below average the teachers in that district get paid, and how few extra instructional activities those students have and those teachers are allowed to teach with NCLB.)

So, don't complain that teachers aren't doing a good job. Ask instead how lawyers can charge so much of your tax dollars that mean fewer resources for schools, teachers and students.

Posted by: gottabeanon | September 19, 2007 1:36 PM | Report abuse

We went to Hawaii for our honeymoon. We were staying in a condo and went to the grocery store to stock the kitchen for the week. There was this slightly diseveled, blue-eyed, tan kid, probably straight up from the beach, about 6, selling cookies. Truly one of the cutest kids we'd ever seen. She asked "Would you like to buy some cookies," and, without missing a beat or concerning himself with the kind of cookies, my husband had his wallet out and was saying, "Yes, we would." They were WONDERFUL cookies, and we still talk about that experience and how my husband was totally suckered.

Posted by: atb | September 19, 2007 1:41 PM | Report abuse

By why sell over priced junk? Why not just ask for a donation? And if poor families can't contribute money, they can contribute time. Maybe collecting the money, counting, rolling coins, help put out posters or whatever. I don't think MOST people are offended by PTAs or schools raising funds. Most of what the PTA does is beneficial to the kids and the community. But why encourage a company to make 60-80% of the profit instead of encouraging direct donations to your individual school?

Posted by: foamgnome | September 19, 2007 1:44 PM | Report abuse

To amazed - "be a part of the PTA", I was for quite some time (that's where I heard the comments I mentioned). I just was too small a voice to be heard it seems.

To School Supporter - what exactly were your schools doing without that the PTA needed to raise funds for? I am curious because if I had ever heard of a "good" reason for raising money, I would have been the biggest supporter in the school. Instead I kept hearing things like "a luncheon for the secretarial staff", "new, personalized welcome mat for the school", etc. Now, none of these things are necessarily bad, I would rather my donations go to things that directly benefitted teachers or students.

Posted by: Jan | September 19, 2007 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Jan, I went to back to school night a few weeks ago. According to our PTA, they bought computer smart boards, audio equipment, play ground equipment and books. PE, music and art are funded through local taxes. We don't have to raise extra money for that. They also raise money for food when kids don't have lunch money and forgot a lunch. If that happens the kid gets a cheese sandwich, milk, and fruit.

Posted by: faomgnome | September 19, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

""be a part of the PTA", I was for quite some time (that's where I heard the comments I mentioned). I just was too small a voice to be heard it seems."

I just meant that while your voice might not be heard, you will (or should) know what the fundraising is being done for if you go to PTA meetings. There should be a budget meeting each spring where the next year's projected revenue and expenses are discussed in detail and approved by members.

My daughter's elementary school (300 students) PTA raises about $60,000 a year. Fundraisers aren't targeted for specific causes, but go into the overall budget. Small portions of that money are used for things like teacher appreciation lunches and the family assistance fund and community building events at the school. But the vast majority is going towards funding an art teacher, reading assistants, science education, educational field trips for all classes, and other items of the sort.

Posted by: Amazed | September 19, 2007 2:05 PM | Report abuse

And I forgot to say....not one dime of that $60,000 is selling magazines, candy bars, wrapping paper, et al.

Posted by: Amazed | September 19, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

When my nephew asked me to buy a magazine for his class fund raiser, I said, "fine but it will be your Christmas gift. So you decide if you would rather have me buy a magazine now and you get the prize the PTA was offering or wait and get your usual Christmas gift." Guess which one he choose. Even the kids know this stuff and the prizes are junk.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2007 2:09 PM | Report abuse

"There should be a budget meeting each spring where the next year's projected revenue and expenses are discussed in detail and approved by members. "

Should and is are two different things. I went to back to school night and the president of the PTA asked people to vote on the proposed budget. Evidently only the first 10 people in the front of the room got a copy of the budget. Everyone voted yes, in hopes she would shut up and sit down!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2007 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Younger son's elementary school did one of those last year, and I brought it to my office and left it in the break area with a note (common practice for parents here). One person ordered something, and getting her to pay for it was a huge hassle, so I won't do it again.

This will be DH and my 5th year running sound for the school's talent show. That's the biggest fundraiser of the year for the elementary school.

My employer gives a *lot* of flexibility at the annual charitable donation drive, and matches donations to educational institutions and non-profits, so my donations always go to the schools my kids are attending. There's nothing quite like having a principal walk up and thank you for the check that's paying for the field trip your kid's class is about to take!

Posted by: sue | September 19, 2007 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Can someone tell me why my wife and I who pay huge property taxes and have no children should be hocked to donate money to PS234 in one of the richest zip codes in the US?

All these parents have more money then T Bone Pickens. Stay at home moms with nannies who are raising children who either grow up to create sub prime mortgages for the poor and make billions while other suffer or get into law school, get out, work for a week, get prego and stay home. All the while she took a valuable seat in college from someone who would do something with it.

So giving the rich more money is beyond me. But I will send checks ($$$$) to the poor neighborhoods.

Posted by: Tribeca, NYC | September 19, 2007 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Faomgnome,

when kid's private school used funds from an auction to buy smart boards for all the classrooms, I was dumbfounded. The money would have been better used to reward the teaching staff with raises.

I'm all for using technology in the classroom, but I really don't see the use for the smartboards. Like a chalkboard won't do?

As for SF, yes the paper is "nice" but I'd rather get mine from Target than buy overpriced paper. Spaghetti dinners, pot lucks, and the like are the way to go. Eating with your neighbors fosters a greater sense of community and helps raise needed funds at the same time.

Posted by: Daddio | September 19, 2007 2:31 PM | Report abuse

At the school where my sister teaches, with 28 children in a kindergarten class, the money raised by the PTA pays for teaching assistants for all classes through the 3rd grade, provides teachers with money to buy books and supplies for their classrooms, and pays for an additional guidance counselor. Her students come from a very wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds and offers a giftefd program. The money some parents are saving on private schools and donating to the PTA is allowing low-income and recent immigrant children to have a better learning experience.

I don't know if the money comes from Sally Foster or direct donations, but I know how my sister and her students benefit!

Posted by: sister of a NYC teacher | September 19, 2007 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Tribeca, with your attitude I'm afraid that you might drown if you're outside in a rainstorm. :)

Having said that, I'd suggest that you do, indeed, send money to schools in the poor neighborhoods--and do it anonymously so you don't bask in the glory and add to your already serious danger of drowning.

I'm sure there is little need for fundraising in your neighborhood. Sadly, that's not the case in many other areas. I hate the fundraisers, too, but I'm always willing to either buy something or simply make a donation if I don't want what they are selling.

Keep the GS cookies coming, though. They are the best!

Posted by: Lynne | September 19, 2007 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I have always loved fundraisers for pre-schools and private schools! WTF?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2007 3:32 PM | Report abuse

fr aida:

>I hated selling the junk I was being asked to peddle as a child. Now, I hate seeing the small children selling the stuff outside supermarkets, on several occasions when it is dark and wet and without immediate adult supervision (Im not sure if the parent was in the store shopping).

Oh, absolutely. I'll find the store manager and report the "sales person" outside the store, esp if there is no adult supervision there.

Posted by: Alex | September 19, 2007 3:40 PM | Report abuse

I'm all for using technology in the classroom, but I really don't see the use for the smartboards. Like a chalkboard won't do?
----

Well, when was the last time you've been in an office with just a white board or flip chart? everyone's always asking to get emailed copies of the drawings on the smart board. Now the kids can get the teacher's notes emailed directly to them.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2007 4:09 PM | Report abuse

I have to say that as someone who has sold everything from paper to donuts in her school days- going with the direct donation route seems best.

As well, unless as a parent you can come and pick up the stuff and distribute it yourself, it's really not a fair burden to put on a youngster. I had a lot of anxiety on those days I had to somehow find my stuff amongst the other, and lug it home on the bus and not break anything.

The fundraisers are not bad, specially for older kids. It can be a way to show the need for service to the community, working for your privileges, pride for your own organizations and sometimes the products are very nifty (candy tins are great holiday gifts for relatives you aren't close to). But generally, avoid the cattle call and write a check directly.

Posted by: Liz D | September 19, 2007 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I buy the candy, candles, and trinkets and give them to the teachers at Christmas. Kills two birds with one stone - helps the PTA and covers the gift-giving as well.

I LOVE the wrapping paper, so I buy that for me.

Posted by: haha | September 19, 2007 4:40 PM | Report abuse

"But generally, avoid the cattle call and write a check directly."

My kids sold more fundraising merchandise to family and family friends than I would have bought myself. The school received more money than it would have if I had just written a direct check.

Besides, there are many people who buy who don't have children in the school. they wouldn't write a check directly to the school. Some people feel like they are getting something for their money if they receive merchandise rather than just making a donation.

Posted by: another view | September 19, 2007 4:44 PM | Report abuse

*** Going WAY off-topic ***

Heads-up to any parent of WDC students. The state administrator from my school district (Oakland, CA) has been hired for your district, and your district has offered a position to our head of special education, too.

I wish you all the luck in the world!
(sorry, I spent most of yesterday celebrating this news - and only thought of warning you today.)

Posted by: Sue | September 19, 2007 5:01 PM | Report abuse

I'm all for using technology in the classroom, but I really don't see the use for the smartboards. Like a chalkboard won't do?

Obviously you haven't been in our tech-savvy classrooms lately. Smartboards enable me to teach using all computer resources, internet included. They give students a way to interact with technology in a new and meaningful way. I can store all class notes and put them up on our blackboard site. There are so many lesson plans out there that are based on smart board, I can't even begin to enumerate them.

Also as to fundraising, I'm a Senior Class sponsor. Our budget for the year is $70k including prom and graduation costs. Fundraisers are a necessity!!!!

Posted by: amwhite | September 19, 2007 5:06 PM | Report abuse

"... it's a way for lower-income families to contribute. We have a mixed-income family population, many of whom cannot "just write a check" or bid on fancy auction items, but they can contribute by selling a few rolls of gift wrap.

Posted by: NW DC | September 19, 2007 11:55 AM


Sorry, NW DC, but I have to disagree here. Who would these people sell $8 rolls of gift wrapping paper to? Their neighbors who are probably in the same financial situation?"

Maybe it's a DC thing that you don't know anyone local but neighbors. There are many lower income families who have family nearby who have more money (think aunts and uncles who don't have children and have more disposable income even if they have the same general income levels.)

Posted by: realmom | September 19, 2007 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Not trying to be snarky here, but what is it you actually do with $70K? How much goes toward prom? Don't the kids buy tickets for prom to help offset the cost? How elaborate is prom?

Posted by: huh? | September 19, 2007 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Regarding co-workers pushing fund raisers in the office:

I believe it is fine for anyone to ask if you are interested in supporting a school fundraiser without going into details about specifically what will be done with the money. "Would you be interested in SF to support my son's school?" There is no guilt involved if you are not saying that the kids won't have art without help.

I also believe that "no, thank you" is an acceptable answer and further elaboration is not required, nor should it be requested.

People need to stop being offended and/or annoyed by a simple request, and they should also be willing to take "no" for an answer without getting in a snit or applying pressure.

Posted by: anon | September 19, 2007 5:23 PM | Report abuse

People need to stop being offended and/or annoyed by a simple request, and they should also be willing to take "no" for an answer without getting in a snit or applying pressure.

WRONG - work is no place for this kind of stuff. There are myriad dynamics that come into play in the office. Keep the work at work and the personal at home. Don't ask someone lateral or beneath you to buy - no matter how nice you are, they may still feel compelled. I think people how bring these things into work should be tarred and feathered!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2007 6:12 PM | Report abuse

I agree that there should not be any fundraisers at work. A lot of companies these days have policies against them because of the office politics that can surround them. It's better to leave the pettling at home.

I also hate seeing the kids standing outside unsupervised at the grocery stores. When did this start? Where are their parents? It's awful. I won't buy from them and support this practice. I have found too that the fundraisers are sometimes for dubious charities, organizations or goods.

I haven't had too many door-to-door visitors. Mostly, I think because I am not home all that much. I don't think I would buy overpriced wrapping paper just because it supported a school, especially a DC public school. Those schools seem beyond help to me, so my purchase of $12 wrapping paper isn't going to make a difference.

My husband has purchased some good food items from one of his friend's kids. Frozen cookie dough, frozen soft pretzels, taco kits, pizza kits. We enjoyed those for quite a while. We enjoyed supporting her gynmastics team and got to eat a bunch of food we liked for a long time.

I always buy Girl Scout cookies. I was a GS for years and sold them myself. So, I like to support the cause. Plus, I just love the cookies. I can't wait until it's time for a new batch. We stretch them out as long as we can.

I would rather support organizations like GS or sports teams or clubs. I have an issue with supporting the public schools. I feel like my tax dollars are already going to the schools and they need to make do with those. Plus, if I don't believe that the schools are performing well enough to send my kids there, then I am certainly not going to be contributing more money to the schools. But, for extra activities, I am happy to contribute if the kids are selling and it is something I would like anyway.

Posted by: DC resident | September 19, 2007 7:02 PM | Report abuse

"I believe it is fine for anyone to ask if you are interested in supporting a school fundraiser without going into details about specifically what will be done with the money. "Would you be interested in SF to support my son's school?" There is no guilt involved if you are not saying that the kids won't have art without help."

I, on the other hand, won't support a fundraiser unless the person asking me can give me details on how the money will be used. (Young children are giving a pass). Off the topic of school, but I knew someone doing one of those walks for "suicide awareness." I asked for details on how the money would be used. He could not give me expense ratios nor any tangible programs that would be helped, instead he sent me to a website where I might be able to dig through the marketing hype to get my answers. I declined. As an adult, asking for my money, he should be aware of how what he is asking for will be used.

Posted by: RT | September 20, 2007 8:27 AM | Report abuse

I loathe school merchandise fundraisers...for the most part it's worthless, overpriced crap that no one really wants, and even then the PTA only gets maybe 50% of the sales. It got to the point where I would pull my kids from school when they had the "pep rally" (during instructional time!) exhorting the troops to sell, sell, sell.

Thankfully our public elementary school has gone to a direct donation campaign, asking everyone for a lump sum. It's the way to go. Who has time for the silliness?

Posted by: anon | September 20, 2007 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Wow, your school will accept a check? Here is Prince Georges County, the schools will not accept checks.
I will buy pizza and GS cookies. My son's wrestling team has a weight lifting a thon, where they ask for donations for each pound they lift in a specified period. Those kind of fundraisers work with my family. As for the spaghetti dinners, bake sales, etc.; you generally can't hold any of those kind of fundraisers due to food allergies.

Posted by: Sparks | September 20, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Wouldn't it be nice if DOD had to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber & the shcools had all the money they needed for music, arts, sports and everything else?

Posted by: CEM | September 20, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

A relevant little piece on where the Sally Foster money goes:

http://tinyurl.com/333939

Posted by: e.d. | September 20, 2007 11:56 AM | Report abuse

ed-Thanks for posting that. I will definitely never buy SF stuff again. Last night DD came home with her scholastic book order form. I decided the best thing I could do is order of every book that I was picking up for DD and give the second copy to the preschool. I also added a few extra dollars in my check, so that her teacher can choose a book herself.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 20, 2007 12:04 PM | Report abuse

What really burns me up is that I'm not even asked if I want my child to attend the "assembly" where the fundraising representative tells about all the "wonderful" prizes they can win. I'm given the option of not letting my child attend sex-ed (which we DO attend) but not the exploitation of young, eager to please souls. Give me a break.

Posted by: No Way | September 20, 2007 2:16 PM | Report abuse

I hated those fundraisers in school 20 + years ago - we sold wrapping paper for our HS Band and we sold candles. Last year, my mother finally ran out of wrapping paper from my years in HS that she had bought since where we lived, you couldn't walk to more than 2 houses. Now that my oldest is in school, I'm getting these fundraiser forms and I just donate. When he's in 7th or 8th grade, he can sell if he wants to.

Posted by: Remeber when | September 20, 2007 8:06 PM | Report abuse

So I'm in HS right now, and now is fundraising time. I just noticed this year that it seems like everyone is fundraising, but mostly they are selling food, Joe Corbi's and the like. I don't have a problem with that, food is useful, right? I actually like selling things because I get to talk to my neighbors. And everyone that I sold fruit to last year (for HS Orchestra) has asked about and are eager to buy again. It seems like organizations at my school have gotten smart about not selling crap.

Although I do remember being younger and going to those stupid assemblies, basically trying to bribe kids to sell stuff. The older kids saw right through it but I don't know about the young ones.

Posted by: Student | September 20, 2007 9:42 PM | Report abuse

I posted earlier but wanted to post on what I actually did after reading this. Our deadline for Sally Foster was today. Yesterday was the school picnic and the PTA treasurer was there. I asked her if I could write a donation check directly to the PTA instead of participating in the fundraiser and she said "Yes. Just cross out the section on the envelope asking for your order and write in donation and put a check inside made out to the PTA." Then she added, "We love it when Parents do this, it's less work for the PTA and we get more money." I realized she's right. The check I wrote will in total go to the PTA and the school. I was never going to let my kids shill for Sally Foster anyway and I looked at the Sally Foster catalog and the things I would have bought (just to participate) added up to less then the check I wrote and the school would have only gotten 1/2 of that.

So, from now on I will toss the catalogs and just write a check during fundraisers and volunteer my time at PTA and school events. Because what I am interested in is my kids school and how to make it better for all but I am not interested in putting money in Sally Foster's pockets.

Posted by: montgomery village mom | September 21, 2007 10:14 AM | Report abuse

DD came home with hers last night. It wasn't SF but it made me laugh.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 21, 2007 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I have no problem with the traditional offerings - Girl Scout cookies and Sally Foster (elementary school) from my little sister, citrus fruit from my little brother's HS marching band. But I do remember getting so annoyed in HS when every single activity I participated in had to do fundraising (thanks, FCPS, for cutting back on sports and arts funding). Some of the fundraising stuff wasn't so bad - like the marathon three-day phone book bagging & delivery effort we undertook to make money for Chorus, or car washes for class government. But the organized actual sales via a commercial distributor (pizza kits, nuts and popcorn, scrapbooking kits, fudge - all junk, really) were the worst...especially when you were *supposed* to be selling for two or three groups at a time. I opted out from pretty much all of them...high school activities were expensive enough (uniforms, trips/touraments, awards banquets) without pressuring my family to buy stuff, too. At least in Northern VA, though, it seems like a lot of schools are wising up to the 501(c) foundation for charitable donations construct, such that you can actually write checks directly to the school or boosters group.

Posted by: Arlington22YO | September 21, 2007 3:35 PM | Report abuse

One of the things that I loved about my kids elementary and middle school district that there were no student fundraisers. The only time kids were allowed to sell anything (no door to door) were bakesales and the proceeds went to charity. The PTA did Market Days and a flower sale as a fundraiser and we used to have a fun fair, but we made much more money having a family night at a local amusement park where we rented out the park and sold tickets.

Posted by: Chicago | September 21, 2007 4:06 PM | Report abuse

"I buy the candy, candles, and trinkets and give them to the teachers at Christmas. Kills two birds with one stone - helps the PTA and covers the gift-giving as well."

Oh, and the teachers soooooooooooo appreciate candy, candles, and trinkets. They must loooooooooooove you. Ugh.


Posted by: Anonymous | September 22, 2007 10:24 AM | Report abuse

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