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Anybody need wrapping paper? How about a calendar? Flower bulbs?
Monday, September 23, 2013
There’s a nip in the morning air. The maples are starting to blush. That can only mean one thing: School Fundraiser Season has begun!
Anybody need wrapping paper? How about a calendar? Flower bulbs? Magazine subscription? Those Nutty Pleasures peanut caramel clusters sure look tasty!
These items and many more are included in a glossy, slick-looking catalog my daughter brought home from her school, along with instructions that she needed to sell 10 things or else the school would close and it would be her fault.
Actually, it didn’t say that the school would close. The instructions only said she needed to sell those items to raise “$7,000 for essential programs not currently funded.” What those essential programs are, I have no clue. They could be the library’s book-buying budget, a week’s worth of lunches or a Caribbean cruise for the school administrators, for all I know.
School fundraisers have become an autumn ritual on par with pick-your-own pumpkins and complaints about the Virginia Tech football team’s offense.
The resident second-grader in my household was excited when she brought the catalog home, hoping to win fabulous prizes such as Hello Kitty charm bracelets or the chance to take a ride down the hall in her principal’s chair. Although I was not as jazzed as she was about the prospect of begging our poor neighbors to buy stuff, I thought that selling a few items would be an OK activity for my kid. Build some confidence and self-esteem. Teach her some money skills. Who knows, maybe selling stuff will even be fun.
When I was a kid, I sold magazine subscriptions, seed packets and other crap — I mean, knickknacks. I have no idea how the money was used , but at least we raised enough cash to keep the school open. About 15 years later, the county closed it. Clearly, the classes that followed me were not as adept at selling Boy’s Life, Baseball Digest and cucumber seeds as my class .
When I was in the ninth grade, my classmates and I had to peddle stuff in order to pay for a class trip to Washington, D.C. I sold stuff all year long. Light bulbs, posters, place mats, candy bars — if it had a price, we sold it. Even so, just weeks before the trip, we were so short of our fundraising goal that our parents had to shell out about a hundred bucks per kid. Of course, they probably preferred doing that instead of buying $100 worth of light bulbs.
My daughter’s dreams of winning trinkets was squashed, however, when the other parental member of our household took one look at the catalog.
“We are not forcing our neighbors to buy stuff they don’t want,” said the housemate, whom I will not name here to protect my own safety, but who is a female parental unit.
“Why can’t I just write a check to the school instead of selling this stuff?” the parent asked.
Well, it turns out that you can. According to my colleague Rebecca Holland, whose Shoptimist column runs on Saturdays, people can donate to foundations established by school systems or even give money directly to certain schools or classrooms. She reported that school foundations can be found at www.tax.virginia.gov. She also wrote that the websites Donors Choose (www.donorschoose.org) and Adopt-A-Classroom (www.adoptaclassroom.org) allow donations for schools and classes. (Rebecca’s column and blog can be found at blogs.roanoke.com/shoptimist.)
My daughter’s school also raises money through special credit cards and gift cards at stores such as Target, Food Lion and Kroger. Up to 5 percent of each purchase made with those cards goes to the school.
For many students, though, having their parents write a check just isn’t as fun as seeing how many items you can sell or how many prizes you can win. As much as I dread School Fundraiser Season, I know that some kids feel a real sense of accomplishment by setting sales goals and reaching them.
Susan Mabery, the PTA secretary at my daughter’s school, said that children love selling stuff.
“They get excited by helping raise money for the school,” she said. “They can see their efforts come to fruition. They like to see all the cool things ... ‘Ooh, what are the prizes?’ These little incentives are confidence boosters.”
Mabery said that last year’s fundraisers helped pay for new playground equipment and e-readers for students. The most recent fundraiser brought in about $7,000, of which the school will keep about 40 percent, she said.
That kind of success means that I have at least 10 more years of wrapping paper, chocolate-covered raisins and boxes of oranges in my future.
My kid mentioned the fundraiser’s looming deadline a couple of times, but otherwise her early enthusiasm for becoming a door-to-door salesman cooled. Still, I kind of wanted her to sell something, just so she could feel like she contributed to the cause.
Or maybe I was the one who wanted to contribute. The morning of the fundraiser’s last day, I filled out the form for a box of caramel clusters and a box of peanut butter bears. The total was $21.50. Those had better be darn good candies.
Not only will I enjoy eating them, I can take comfort in knowing that I helped buy some nice things for the school. Or I helped pay for somebody’s cruise. Either way, I am not sharing my peanut butter bears with the female parental unit.
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