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Surviving school fundraisers

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Raising money the right way

Don't look now, but it's fundraiser season: the time when schools across the country call on their students to raise money for this or that. Before you wake the dog with your groans, learn how to survive -- and when it's okay to just say no.

Student Knocking on DoorNo sooner does school start than the flyers start coming home. Buy oranges to support the eighth graders! Sell wrapping paper to help us keep school costs down! Don't forget the cookies for scouts! It's a never ending cycle of do-do-do to raise money for this club or that activity.

Breathe.

Every mom knows what a stress it is to deal with the fundraisers. But you can survive them.

Teach etiquette

For kids, it's easy to be sucked in by the promise of great prizes for selling a lot. And, that can lead to them wanting to sell more. Good for the school? Sure. But for the kids, it's only good if they are selling the right way -- with manners. That means gracefully taking no for an answer, and not asking again and again. It also means remembering the ever important "please" and "thank you."

"Teaching your kids selling etiquette is important! They need to realize that not everyone can buy something every time and a simple thank you for each persons time is important. Its also good to learn that the product needs to be delivered on time... not sit in their room," says mom Anneliese Curtis Place.

Offer fun incentives

If you want to eliminate some of the painfulness of the fundraising, give it a fun twist with an offbeat incentive. This will, of course, require the buy-in of the powers that be, but it also ultimately will generate a lot of excitement among the students.

Mom Amanda Gavin says that she makes sure to let people know what her child might get to do if they sell enough in the fundraiser. "Last year, if the school raised a certain amount, the Principal would kiss a live chicken in front of the students. He did! This year, if a student sells a certain quantity of items, they get to race a hampster in the hampster rumble. I usually make a silly flyer to attach to the top of the catalog that I leave in my office lunch room. In addition, I participate in the online sales and mention it in my email. This seems to be the best selling point," says Gavin.

When to say no

If there was just one school fundraiser, people might not mind so much. But there is never just one and that makes the whole fundraising thing feel like a never-ending cycle of forms and sales goals. But the truth is that you can decide not to participate.

"We absolutely rely on fundraising to support our teachers and our kids' education. That said, we know parents get fatigued with all the groups they are asked to support – especially this year with the tight economy," admits PTA mom Karen Bantuveris.

She says that the variety of fundraisers give options to families, so that they can pick the ones that are right for them. "We encourage families to pick and choose. If wrapping paper isn't your thing, perhaps participate in the holiday greeting card fundraiser. If you don't want your kids selling stuff, please write a check to Underwriting or buy extra tickets at the Carnival to support a family in need. For parents that can't give money, we invite them to give time helping make our fundraisers a success," says Bantuveris.

Do what's right for you

In fundraising, there can be a lot of peer pressure (both among kids and parents) to participate. But that doesn't mean you have to do everything. What's important is that you support the school in a way that works for you and your family.

Mom Nikki Maxwell says that she decides at the beginning of the school year what she will participate in and budgets for it. Then, she sticks to her guns. "Regardless of peer pressure, I don't feel that attending a percent based fundraiser at a restaurant or buying pizza is the best way to support the school. I do think that food fundraisers can be good community builders in addition to fundraising, but since my budget is limited, if the goal is fundraising, I put my money in the fundraisers that help the school most directly," says Maxwell.

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