Just as I was typing out the title for this here little rant of mine, I realized how truly ironic it is that “fundraiser” contains the word “fun,” because really, there is nothing “fun” about using kids to peddle goods, no matter how you look at it. And peddling is what it is.
How many times a year do your school-aged, publicly instructed children come home with big, over-sized, glossy catalogs full of over-priced, tacky and generally useless items to sell to their friends and family? I’ve got three kids—thankfully my oldest is in middle school, where they don’t participate in so much blatant use of cute kids to sell crap, probably because the kids are old enough to catch on to the marketing ploys of the “fundraiser” companies.
But between my two younger children, we get bombarded with full-color catalogs and requests to buy “at least three items” so that my children can participate in a “special” assembly at school where they will see “dazzling” tricks performed by a BMX superstar twice a year.
If the puppy dog eyes from my kindergartner aren’t enough to kill a person (please, please spend at least $50 so that I can get a razzle dazzle super bouncy ball) than my son’s requests to earn enough “points” to win an XBOX 360 are sure to do you in.
Don’t even get me started on the magazine sales pitches. It’s not that I’m not all for raising additional funds for our schools, because I am. My kids attend the same elementary school that I did as a child and many of the same teachers I had are in our school district. I have emotional ties to our school district in more ways than one and I want to see our schools get the best possible equipment and programs as they can congruent with offering our kids the best education they can. Doesn’t everyone want basically the same thing?
But what I have a real problem with is the way in which fundraising is done. Obviously. These companies have got their thumb on our fundraising dollars like nobody’s business. They are big corporations with big ideas and marketing people who know what it takes to sell, mainly…kids. They know that no loving grandparent is going to pass up the opportunity to purchase a dozen caramel-filled chocolate bunnies from their six year old grandson for the low, low price of $19.99. They know this. My question is, why do we let them use our kids?
The return on the fundraisers done by the big, national companies is not much. I can’t remember the exact numbers but when I sat in on my first PTA meeting a million years ago when my 13-year-old was a kindergartner, I was shocked. Why are we allowing these companies into our schools? I asked. The response was that it was the only way to generate additional money for the school.
My reaction was to just write a check to the PTA and call it good. I just don’t understand why we can’t shift our focus from these huge companies who are getting most of the profits from our kids’ hard work and adorable faces to a more local, more direct means of generating funds for our schools.
We have pizza nights sponsored by a local pizza place in which $2 from each pizza ordered is given directly to our school.
In this case, the local businessman benefits and so do our kids—and there are no wasteful glossy catalogs to put in the landfill. We also have an Education Foundation set up to do just that, provide funds for education. The problem is, with all the requests and demands put upon parents from these outside sources, they feel like there is nothing else to give to these worthwhile, local means of creating extras for our school kids. And so, we find ourselves stuck under the thumbs of big business once again, in a way we never ever intended. While our local PTAs try to grow money on trees and work endless hours giving to our schools, it is the schools, the kids and the community who are left holding the empty basket in the end. With nothing but a fancy schmancy assembly and a razzle dazzle super bouncy ball to show for it.