I skip the wrapping paper, magazines, and candy, and donate directly to the school. American parents cannot escape scholastic fundraising cycles. Whether our kids go to private, public, or pre-school, we are asked to round out budgets for desks, smart boards, and even teacher salaries.
I believe in supporting education, and I have dedicated my time (sometimes enormous amounts of it) to help my kids’ schools and preschools. And because our family has benefited greatly from the free education that our cities, counties, states, and our country provide us, I also feel obligated to help financially.
But it never felt right to me to squander the good will of my friends, neighbors, and relatives by asking them to buy the over-priced, under-quality goods in the fundraising catalog. My children are the ones benefiting after all, so isn’t it my responsibility to help, not my neighbors who have already paid taxes to that end?
To avoid the embarrassment and assuage the guilt, I would end up buying a bunch of stuff I didn’t need, just to support my fellow PTA volunteers who were doing their best to help the school. Finally, after years of eating bad chocolate, buying wreaths I didn’t need, trying to get people to subscribe to magazines, and giving away cheap doodads as Christmas presents, I decided to stop.
When I was presented with another coupon book to sell (50 percent of profits go to our school!), I hemmed and hawed and finally just wrote a check to the PTA. As I explained in How I Avoided the School Fundraiser and Still Felt Good About It, the school got 100 percent of our money, and I kicked the guilt.
I … object to having my children or myself used as unpaid salespeople for professional fundraising companies. Believe me, I understand the psychology behind all this selling. It’s not easy to get folks to fork over money, even for a good cause. I also realize this type of fundraising is successful in providing money for needed school supplies and activities.
But seriously, how many of us — without the guilt — would spend $11 for a five-ounce Coca-Cola mailbox tin filled with mixed candy? I know I would never pay $7 for several sheets of wrapping paper, which most of the time aren’t long or wide enough to cover anything I want to wrap. How about paying $11.50 for a tin of animal cookies? Personally, I think we parents should agree to stop peddling to one another. If you want to give money to a school, fine. But this routine of “I buy from your kid, you buy from mine” is maddening.
As a result, my husband and I just write a check directly to the school or parent association. That way they keep 100 percent of the money.
— Michelle Singletary, author of Spend Well, Live Rich: How to Get What You Want with the Money You Have
This year, Enrico and I were able to give a lot more than in years past. It feels right to give back to a system that has helped us educate our children.
Direct donations — in any amount — are simple, less wasteful, and don’t turn human relations into commercial transactions. I bet that the schools and teachers and PTA don’t mind at all if we don’t buy wrapping paper. As long as we help.
How do you handle school fundraising drives? Let me know in the comments.