Are School Fundraisers Worth the Time and Trouble?

What You Need to Know About School Fundraisers vs. Donations

The school year officially started for most, if not all and before you know it you’ll be inundated with school fundraisers.  The age old ploy to sell cookies, wrapping paper, candles or some other overpriced item in an attempt to raise a significant amount for your child’s school will waiting for you in your child’s backpack. I’m not a total cynic when it comes to school fundraising for money because most schools public or private are all in need of money–budgets are tight across the board. But I’m totally against my children participating in school fundraisers and if I may be so bold as to say I think they should be done away with all together.

Here’s why: very few of the fundraisers chosen for a school yield enough percentage of money to make it worth the trouble and time it imposes on families.  What’s my solution to foregoing a school fundraiser? Simply sending in a donation. If you’re still on the fence and don’t mind buying overpriced items then keep reading.

Buyer Beware!

Did you know if you participate in one of those “Eat At This Place and Your School Gets 15% of Sales Between the Hours of 6-8pm” then you’d have to spend a minimum of $7 for your school to earn at least $1. On a $35 bill the school will earn a mere $5.25, and it only makes sense if your family was going to eat out anyway. The product sales fundraisers typically yield a 50% earning back to the school, so if you spend $23 on candles the school will get $11.50.  Why not write a check for the entire $23 amount?

Knock knock!

Nope! I grew up in an era where you’d see Girl Scouts going door to door selling cookies, but call me overprotective or simply informed (I watch the news) I am not allowing my child to go door to door to ask neighbors (known or unknown) if they want to buy  something they probably don’t need or want.  On top of seeking out sales for the fundraiser, most fundraising companies will not ship directly to the buyer. So you’ll be picking up the items at school and delivering them–in all your spare time.

Sssssh! Silent auction?

You think your school has beat the traditional school fundraiser went for an auction approach, however take care because the item will typically only gather two-thirds of the retail value. For example if you spend $120 on wine for an auction basket, the highest bidder typically bids around $80. If your school is savvy enough to have items donated then it may work in your school’s favor but that’s not always the case.

Have I made you think? Perhaps I haven’t quite changed your mind and you still want to “get something out of the donation”, well here are a couple of suggestions.

Organize a Walk-a-Thon

Have a one time “buy-in” donation and get out at school and walk! Simple! It’s free to organize and 100% of the money raised goes directly to the school. Bonus the kids get exercise!

Scrip Fundraising

If you’re going to buy groceries and get gas you might as well sign up for a loyalty card and register with your child’s school because a percentage of the purchase goes directly back to the school. No additional work or purchases necessary.  It’s easy to link your grocery store loyalty card to the school’s code or use an app like Shoparoo to snap a picture of your receipt after shopping and the school is mailed a check. It’s free money!

Just Ask!

Businesses may be more than willing to help fund a new playground structure or donate to improve the condition of a sports field at your school. If you don’t ask the answer is always no. So ask, some businesses will easily write a $500 or $1000 check and use it as a tax donation or in return for a new sign at the baseball field ask to be recognized with an advertisement on the field.

My point is most families would donate more than what an individual child will bring in in fundraising sales. So skip the eating out, going door to door (if you allow it) or making parents do all the work by asking co-workers and write a one time donation check. Our family will support my daughter’s school with a monetary donation, linking our loyalty card to the school and using a scrip app.

Photo credit: adapted from tannazie| Flickr

Will you consider making the switch?

About the author:

Lindsey Williams is a former elementary and special education teacher turned stay at home mom with a writing job on the side. She’s a native Bostonian married to a southerner raising a family of blondes in the Queen City. Lindsey wants to do it all and believes she can with some coffee and a color-coded to-do list.


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