The overabundance of school fundraisers

Oct 10, 2008 at 10:59 a.m. ET

For the fifth time this school year, we have a fundraiser. Yes, I said fifth. Five. And it's only the sixth week of school. Between three schools and scouts and other commitments, I'd say we're actually light on fundraisers so far this school year -- but there is only so much I or anyone else can do.

Bake Sale
I respect the need for fundraisers. I know why they are needed and I am not averse to helping out the schools (and do often send in needed supplies and volunteer and other things), but I'm just inundated with fundraisers and feel I need to really pick and choose what I do. And, at this time of year I feel like I am nickel and dimed with fees for this, costs for that, just a bit here or there. It all adds up to a hit on the budget. I pretty sizable one at that.

Balancing participation, enthusiasm and budget

I used to be sure to participate in all the fundraisers. Maybe it was because it was all still so novel to me and I wasn't yet jaded, but I really tried. I have and have had the wrapping paper, magazine subscriptions, popcorn, cookie dough, school attire, kid art cards, and assorted other items to prove it.

Fundraising became difficult, however, when the kids very earnestly wanted to ask all friends, neighbors and relatives to participate, too. I admired the effort. While I allowed a call to their grandmother, I tried to explain that all the people they want to call had kids doing fundraisers, too, and that if they did ours, we would have to do theirs -- and that was definitely out of the budget. I did make an agreement with one friend that we would always swap fundraising with one another. But just one.

Fundraising is a delicate thing. If you overdo the fundraising on any one thing, it can turn on you later. We do some fundraising for a hospital in the spring that is our primary family philanthropic commitment, so we want to be careful about how much we ask of people at other times - and that includes school fundraisers. What's that word I've used over and over again in these articles? Oh yeah. Balance.

Real donations - instead of stuff

At some point, I got tired of it all. Maybe the wrapping paper selections didn't seem very appealing, or we were in a phase of trying to eat healthier, so caramel popcorn or cookie dough wasn't going to cut it. At any rate, I just stopped participating the school fundraisers.

I talked to a friend on the PTA executive committee. She told me that they really don't expect everyone to participate in everything and the reason they do so many is just to try to do at least one thing that will appeal to everyone. At that point I stopped feeling guilty, too.

I wish -- and I asked my friend about this -- the PTA would send out a letter at the beginning of the school year stating their fundraising goals on a per child basis. I think I would be much more likely to try to budget giving for the schools in the same way I budget other charitable giving. And a straight donation is tax-deductible, but wrapping paper isn't. We still do one or two of the non-school fundraisers, but we're careful about our choices. I may move to straight donations for those organizations, too.

So yes, you can say no to fundraisers. We all do what we can -- and that's all we can do.

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