Schools and fundraising go together like milk and cookies. In order to provide the very best for our children, we need to buck up and give it a go.
When it comes to education, we all want the very best for our children: the best teachers, safest schools and of course, best resources within those schools, which are constantly needing improvement. In a sense, our children are the customers of their schools, which over time, need improvements, better materials, more teachers. The students don’t stop coming and the needs continue to mount. Educational responsibility is a shared one – educators, administrators, parents and students must work together to make the most of it and often “making the most of it” means “how far can you stretch a dollar?”
Enter the fundraiser. Whether it’s door-to-door sales or a “Fun Run” for profit, moneymaking events cross student and parent paths at least once during the school year, and that’s if you’re lucky. Fundraisers require parental involvement whether it’s getting your child involved in the event, writing a check to contribute or donating a good for auction. But sometimes the ongoing fundraising efforts can exhaust parental energies. Still, just because you’ve got 900 magazine subscriptions, can’t you use just one more?
Can You Spare a Dime?
Annie Linus, Nashville mother of three whose children attend private school, says that fundraising is an ongoing event for her family. The school year begins with a magazine drive and continues with a Fall Festival, Spring Fling and requests for annual giving. While Linus understands the need for funds in order for the school to grow and prosper, it turns her off that “everything costs so much. Nothing’s ever enough,” says Linus. “You reach your goal, and then you hear again that you have to raise more.”
Lori Parker, whose 6-year-old son attends Metro’s Granbery Elementary, also faces year-round fundraising, including Entertainment Book and magazine sales, a Harvest Hustle Fun Run and a family fundraiser in the spring. Parker says, “I prefer not going door-to-door to sell because our neighborhood is filled with children from the same school.” Instead, she says, they call upon support from relatives and friends with children at other schools. “It’s an ‘I’ll buy wrapping paper from your child if you’ll buy magazines from mine’ kind of thing,” says Parker.
Franklin’s Cindy Barksdale* has a 3-year-old son. “In his first month of preschool last year – he was 2 years old – he was sent home with a wrapping paper sale packet,” says Barksdale. “He was 2!” Like many other parents, she carted the wrapping paper packet off to her job and asked her co-workers to support the cause. “It just gets a little old having to ask people I work with to buy things that they don’t necessarily need or want just so my son’s preschool can have a new computer, which he won’t even get to use for another couple of years.” Barksdale says that she’ll never send her child out door-to-door, though. “Not in today’s society,” says Barksdale, “and I don’t have the time to be going door-to-door with him.”
With the public school systems in a perpetual budgetary crisis, and private schools relying solely on private funding, fundraising will always be necessary. As schools constantly tighten their belts, Parker says it becomes the Parent/Teacher Organization (PTO)’s responsibility to assist their respective schools in order to keep or add programs, buy computers, etc.
Tom Gurda, president of Rutherford County Schools’ Blackman Elementary PTO, agrees. “In my opinion, not enough funding is dedicated to the education of our future generations,” which is why his PTO coordinates three fundraisers each year. “During the fall we have a catalog sale (gifts, candy, wrapping paper, etc.), during the winter months we solicit local companies and families to contribute donations for the media center,” says Gurda, “and in the spring, we have a Spring Fling carnival.” While everyone enjoys the carnival the most, Gurda says it’s the catalog sales that reap the biggest benefits.
“We ask our children not to go door-to-door,” says Gurda. Instead, he says children are advised to sell to friends and neighbors, or ask parents to sell to co-workers. And, if those options aren’t viable, Gurda says, “(Parents) are able to make a donation in lieu of selling items.” No students or parents are required to participate in any of the fundraising at Blackman, although each child receives a prize just the same.
Giny Bailey, president of Crockett Elementary’s PTO in Williamson County, says it’s the same with her school. “We conduct fundraisers in a very soft sell approach,” says Bailey. “These are elementary school-age kids, and we don’t want them going door-to-door. We (also) don’t want to put our families under stress.” She says that people only want to participate if they find it convenient.
Making the Most of It
While the ongoing need for more can be draining, Linus accepts the situation and uses door-to-door sales as a chance to spend teaching time with her daughter. “(I) stand at the end of the driveway, and we practice the speech,” she says. “It’s kind of fun because we have a chance to walk together and learn about different people together.”
Many schools offer rewards for the highest amount of money raised, or for the most sales as student incentives. Linus’ kids get a school party for selling a certain amount of magazine subscriptions. For Barksdale’s son, even if only one item is sold, he gets a coupon for a free frozen yogurt. The most sales? A month of free tuition. “Of course I’d love a free month of tuition. Who wouldn’t?” asks Barksdale.
Parker feels that the PTOs do a great job in researching fundraising options and choosing ones that bring in the most money, but it’s the family-friendly money-making events that she prefers. “With those, you’re not only raising monies for the school, but enjoying a family activity together.”
Crockett’s Bailey says that they do all of their fundraising in the fall and buy the supplies with the money raised by winter break. “That way, parents can be sure that their contributions are directly benefiting their children in the same year that they donate.” Crockett’s PTO votes each spring on which fundraisers parents are most interested in for the following year. Blackman’s Gurda says, “We put out sign-up sheets at PTO meetings. And, we’re very fortunate to have parent volunteers, although we can always use more.”
According to Bailey the high quality of education their students receive is due to “the strong commitment, relationship and partnership between staff, parents and the Brentwood community” working together to make fundraising not only beneficial for the school but fun and non-stressful for the students and families.
What are the Alternatives?
Many parents believe that it would almost be easier if the school would just ask parents for a bottom-line figure rather than go through all the hoopla of a fundraiser. Fran Carter’s* 5-year-old daughter attends a Montessori school in Franklin where they cut to the chase. Parents are given the choice of either donating 200 hours of their time or $200 from their wallet to the school. Linus doesn’t think that’s such a bad idea.
“For busy families, sometimes it might make more sense just to tell the parents how much more the school will need and give the option of writing a check up front or participating in fundraisers.” She adds, “Sometimes it seems I’d just rather write the check.”
Another alternative, says Parker, is Pencil Partners – outside companies who assist schools within their area. “They come and help landscape or provide some school or office supplies,” says Parker. “Sometimes it’s just a corporation allowing employees’ to donate their time during the school day to read to students or help tutor those who need help.” She thinks there are more companies who could partner with schools, and who probably WOULD partner with schools if they were aware of the ongoing need for support.
The Bottom Line
No matter what is thought about fundraising, the fact of the matter is that it’s a necessity in order for kids to get the most out of their educational experience. Most schools usually need more funding, whether for new books, equipment, resources or facilities. If we want our kids to have the best of all of these, we’ll need to help provide it. Whether it’s in monetary support or donation of our time and services, fundraising is here to stay.
Target Charge Card
Sign up for a Target Visa card, or purchase a Target Guest Card and Target donates an amount equal to one percent of your purchases to a school of your choice serving grades K – 12. Donations are distributed in March and September in check form to participating schools.
To designate your child’s school as a participant, visit www.target.com, or stop by your local Target store.
Fundraisers such as a spell-a-thon or jog-a-thon are handled by an outside party who sponsors the entire fundraiser, doing all of the follow up after the student has completed the event. Students select people they wish to send sponsorship letters to, address envelopes and take part in the actual event.
To learn more visit www.westernfund.com.
Schoolpop rebates a percentage of every purchase made at participating merchants, such as Land’s End and Gap, to the school or organization of your choice. To date, Schoolpop has given close to $8 million to schools and nonprofit youth organizations nationwide.
To learn more, enroll or submit your business as a participating merchant, visit www.schoolpop.com.
Schools purchase gift certificates from popular merchants – from Publix to Pizza Hut – at a discount. Schools then sell them to parents at face value, keeping the change in turn. Parents can spend the certificates at the merchant for its face value amount and therefore have made a donation to their child’s school.
To learn more visit www.nationalscripcenter.com or call 800-538-1222.
Collect Box Tops for Education, and send them to school. The school redeems them with General Mills and earns 10 cents for every top, up to $20,000 annually. Ask your child’s principal if the school participates.
Collect labels from eligible Campbells products, return them to your child’s school and the school can redeem them for computers, sports equipment and more. To learn more, visit www.labelsforeducation.com.
Register your credit or debit card with eScrip, and a percentage of all purchases made at partnering merchants, which include Wild Oats, Eddie Bauer, Office Max and more, is donated to the group of your choice.
To learn more, visit www.escrip.com.
Make Your Fundraiser a Success!
Here are some simple tips to help you get the most out of your money-making event.
- Schedule a planning session where goals and time frames are discussed, and put responsible people in charge with plenty of backup support. Experts agree that two weeks is the perfect length of time for a fundraiser.
- Publicize your fundraiser to the community through flyers, email, community bulletins or other letters.
- Schedule a kick-off rally to educate students on what they’ll be doing and to get everyone involved excited about the program.
- During the fundraiser, monitor success through a public forum, such as a poster with a meter that increases with each financial goal reached. Provide kid incentives as a way to keep enthusiasm high.
- After the fundraiser is complete, tally the results, awarding prizes for the most amount sold.
- Arrange for parent volunteers to help with
- distribution of the products once they are received.
- After the students have delivered the products to customers, encourage them to write a follow-up thank you note.