A problem with school fundraisers?

My kids’ school tried a new fundraiser this year called the Fun Run created and run by Booster Enterprises. The way it works is the kids get pledges for every lap they run on Fun Run day. Folks can pledge from a dollar to five dollars per lap or give a flat donation. The packet that came home included a script for soliciting pledges. My daughter used this script for every person she called. (Cade was sick with H1N1 at the time so he didn’t participate in the fundraising.) She’d kind of giggle and say to the person on the phone, “Okay don’t think I am weird but I’m going to read something to you.” She did all the calling herself. And she raised a whopping $730. (That script really works coming from an 8-year-old.)

The money raised in this fundraiser is going to SMART Boards, interactive white boards, for the classrooms. If you haven’t seen one of these, they are very cool. They’re connected to the internet and are a giant touch-screen that both teachers and students can use. If your kids’ school doesn’t have them, they should. But I digress…

The school raised a lot of money, the PTA is buying a bunch of new SMART Boards for the school, including one for Anna’s classroom and everyone is happy…at least at our school that is. Last week this article appeared in the Mountain Island Weekly. Apparently a parent at Highland Creek Elementary was not so pleased with the Fun Run fundraising at his child’s school.

There’s always one guy like this, isn’t there? But since this parent’s argument got some attention in the Mountain Island Weekly, I thought I’d post his issues here, along with my rebuttals:

His beef #1: The PTA doesn’t get all the money from the fundraiser. In fact, Booster Enterprises gets 48%.

My rebuttal: The PTA never gets all the money from a fundraiser. And yes, I agree 48% is a lot of money, but it’s about average for fundraiser companies. After all, they commit time, people, effort and materials to the fundraiser. There’s a cost associated with that. And the Booster Enterprises folks did a huge amount of work at our school. They were there every day, they helped manage the fundraiser and motivate the kids to raise money.

Beef #2: With other fundraisers contributors get a tangible product with their donation.

My rebuttal: Yes, but it’s CRAP. One mom friend of mine who’s worked with many a fundraiser told me they openly refer to it as jip-junk. If you love over-priced, made-in-China, ugly useless knick-knacks, then it’s right up your alley. But personally, I was ashamed to ask my family to buy that stuff. In fact, one of my favorite things about the Fun Run was that there was no crap to buy. It was environmentally friendly – no stuff to ship in boxes, no catalogs to print, AND the Fun Run promoted something healthy – exercise!

Beef #3: Booster Enterprises employees gave each class five-minute character trait presentations every day during the week the school held the run. But those presentations and lessons on physical fitness are something the school should be teaching without the help of a corporation. That’s what gym class is for.

My rebuttal: Sure, if the school system had enough funds and resources to offer PE more than once a week, but they don’t. I look at this as something the school gets in return for the money we are paying Booster Enterprises. In an ideal world it would be great if PTAs didn’t have to do fundraisers and schools were able to offer every classroom the best and most up-to-date resources on their own, but the reality is, they can’t. Our school wouldn’t have any SMART Boards if it weren’t for the PTA. In fact, we wouldn’t have a lot of the books that are in our media center or much playground equipment either. If we can give our students the latest technology to help them learn and educate them in character a little along the way, I’m sure not going to complain about it.

Beef #4: A for-profit organization like Booster Enterprises shouldn’t use student class time. Students were tempted to raise more pledges with rewards and prizes. You shouldn’t be making a sales seminar when these kids are supposed to be in class.

My rebuttal: So when do you suggest they talk to the kids about the Fun Run, on Saturday? Before school? After school? Good luck with that. I suppose we shouldn’t use class time to have a winter party either. We should probably have students come in early or stay late to eat their ice cream.

I can’t speak to what the funds raised at Highland Creek Elementary went to, but at our school, the money is being used to buy essential educational tools to create a better learning environment for students. If they take 5 or 10 minutes a day for one week out of the year to make that happen, fine by me.

My guess is that this parent is new to the whole school thing. I’m betting his child is a kindergartner or first-grader and he hasn’t clued in yet to how vital PTAs are to the success of a school. It would be great if parents didn’t have to volunteer hour after hour of their own time to make up for what and who a school lacks, but that’s not the reality. It would be great if parents would donate to the PTA so we COULD keep more than 52%, but the reality is they won’t. It’s like pulling teeth to get parents to fork over a measly $5 for a PTA membership. It would be great if PTAs were so well funded they didn’t NEED fundraisers. And it would be great if the Tooth Fairy was real, donuts didn’t have calories and children loved broccoli.

I’m willing to bet that in another year or two this father will realize how fortunate his daughter is to be part of a school with an active PTA trying to find ways to support their school. He’ll get to know many of the parents who volunteer their time and skills to make his daughter’s school better and he’ll be more likely to compliment their efforts than criticize.

Sara Ellington
is the author of The Mommy Chronicles: Conversations Sharing the Comedy and Drama of Pregnancy and New Motherhood (Hay House, 2005) and The Must-Have Mom Manual (Ballantine/Random House, April 2009) now available at Target!



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