School Fundraising? Phooey!

By Michelle Singletary
Sunday, August 27, 2006

The shopping spree for school supplies I had to go on recently reminded me of something else I don't like about this time of year -- the deluge of school fundraising notices.

The notices come in the packets of information my children receive along with the usual emergency and medical forms, PTA announcements and school supply lists.

And thus the back-to-school begging begins.

There is the ever-present gift-wrap fundraiser. Then there's a silent auction, a fall book fair and a spring book fair. Entertainment books stuffed with coupons with very specific and often restricting guidelines to redeem them will be sent home for parents to sell. And that's just at one school.

In my house, fundraising notices are placed in a special file -- the trash can.

Both schools my children attend require parents to donate a certain number of hours as volunteers. Although I have no problem with that, I am annoyed that many of those hours relate to fundraising events.

My husband gets upset every time he sees children, in the name of some school fundraising project, panhandling at major intersections.

Please understand. I donate money to my children's schools. I give to other projects at schools my children don't attend. But the key word is "give." I write a check in which 100 percent of my donation goes to the schools in need.

But I will no longer sell, cook, walk, wash cars, run or beg for any school fundraising project. Frankly, I've done my time. I've sold my share of candy bars, wrapping paper, tumblers of tiny jelly beans, cookies and books. I deserve time off for good selling. I'm tired of begging.

It seems I'm not alone. Retail sales in product fundraising are down. From 2001 to 2005, sales dropped 11 percent, according to a survey by the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers, which represents more than 600 companies that manufacture, supply and distribute products used for fundraising.

Schools and school-related groups such as parent-teacher organizations constituted about 83 percent of fundraising sales, according to the association's survey. Fifty percent of school fundraising sales are made by elementary school volunteers. The average product fundraiser generates more than $2,500 for schools and nonprofit groups. In the 2005 school year, students and parents raised $1.4 billion.

No question that money is put to good use, especially at public schools. The money is used for band equipment, athletic team uniforms, field trips, playground equipment and other youth products, programs and services.

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