Ah, fall. Tis the season of cooler weather and changing leaves and Halloween costume planning. It’s also the season where every kid and teen enrolled in a public or private school becomes the temporary employee of The Fundraiser. Or in some cases, The Fundraisers. Plural. At the same time.
Don’t get me wrong. I work for a school district. I get that schools need stuff. Most are underfunded and have to make up the difference to buy luxuries such as books for the library or instruments for the music room. Here’s the problem: most school fundraisers suck, and aside from the few kids who get really excited about earning a limo ride as a prize, everyone dreads them. I’ll get to the ones that don’t suck at the end of this post.
Quick poll: how many parents get really excited when their kids bring home fundraisers?
Know why? Because we just finished paying for school supplies and fees and new clothes. We’re tapped out, most of us work, and after homework and soccer and whatever, there isn’t much left for The Fundraiser. And let’s be honest: in most cases, parents are doing most of the work. Multiply this by the number of kids bringing The Fundraiser home, and you can see the stress.
Some children are more enthusiastic because of the bribery. You know, the “sell five items and you get this crappy key chain” effect. My boys just finished The Fundraiser last week, and one of the incentives was to sell x number of items in two days, and they got a little rubber hippo.
I’m pretty sure that would be on the bottom of the list of things my kids need in life.
Schools are getting more creative with their incentives, though. At the school where I work, the student who sold the most got pushed around by the principal in her rolling chair all day. It was pretty frickin funny. I don’t think the principal agreed.
My friend posted on Facebook today that her freshman daughter brought home her third fundraiser, and her little brother has a different one going on. My friend’s exact words: I’m so over it; I told her “no way.” Enough is enough!
So what’s the solution? How can schools raise the money they need without irritating the crap out of everyone in the process?
When I was in high school band, we sold certificates to the grocery store. They worked just like cash. Buy $50 in certificates, and you can use those to buy $50 worth of groceries – and you got change if you didn’t use the whole fifty. You could buy a pack of gum and get $49 back in change if you wanted. The band got a percentage of the certificate sales. It was a small percentage, but it didn’t matter because people actually bought the damn things. That one or two percent added up. Who doesn’t need groceries? There was no pressure on anyone to buy twelve chocolates for fifteen dollars or coupon cards for which companies probably had to pay to be included.
Granted, the grocery certificate program was instituted by the store itself, but it was rather genius – the business was guaranteed, they looked good because they were giving money to kids who needed it, and it worked like advertising for them. For all I know, the percentage came out of their advertising budget. I wouldn’t be surprised.
The solution goes to basic market strategy: find a need, and meet it. That’s it.
What do you think? What’s the best/worst/most ridiculous fundraiser you’ve seen?