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The fun in fundraising is a lie

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My elementary school-aged kids have just wrapped up their first fundraiser of the year.

They had to sell a well-known book of coupons.

Nobody wanted one. Nobody needed one. Nobody remembers to actually use the coupons if they do buy the book, so everyone passed. If they had a coupon book already, it was because their kid was selling them too and they bought one out of a sense of obligation and guilt.

That’s why I bought our coupon book. The hardest thing was deciding which of my four school-aged kids would make the sale. I was not about to spend $100 on buy-one-get-one-free fast food hamburger coupons. The lucky child was chosen by the highly scientific method of closing my eyes and grabbing an envelope. It was my third-grader, who was thrilled he wasn’t skunked. My other kids mournfully took their coupon books back to school with zero dollars to contribute to the well-being of their school.

Why, I wonder, don’t schools sell products and services that are in high demand? Girl Scout cookies sell themselves. Everyone loves them. Why hasn’t someone come up with something irresistible to peddle to the masses in the name of raising money? I have some ideas.

1. If a kid came to our door at 8:30pm on an average evening, bearing a box of quality chocolate bars? I’d throw my checkbook at him and a pen. He’d be at liberty to name his price in exchange for a little of his wares. Cha-ching, school! He could be selling the chocolate to fund an educational trip to a North Korean slaughterhouse, and I’d make sure he got there. “Say hi to Kim Jong II!” I’d garble through a mouthful of the sweet, sweet nectar of Mesoamerican civilizations.

2. Woe to the child who tries to sell me a $12 roll of wrapping paper. I’d rather buy a 12-pack of toilet paper. The prime time to sell such an item is again in the evening. Probably a Sunday night at around 9:00pm after a weekend of picnicking and water-skiing at a germ-infested mountain lake.

3. A coupon book I would be proud to sell: 50% off gasoline and milk and professional spa-based massages. You’d buy one. You know it.

4. Fresh, hot pizza. Come at 5:30pm on Monday nights. Make sure it is an insulated bag and that I can smell it when I open the door. Sold. I don’t care what toppings are on the pizza. Bonus bucks go to the savvy child who is pulling a cooler of ice-cold Coke and ice cream sandwiches. No wonder that school has its own private jet and playground designed by David and Victoria Beckham.

5. iTunes gift cards. Sell those. I’d buy. Music is something I consume and enjoy every day.

6. Raffle tickets! I’d rather buy a small chance to win a two-night hotel stay at a mountain resort or $250 worth of groceries than a catalog candle I can’t smell until you deliver it in a month. And then I’m stuck with something that smells like a fruit roll-up Pam Anderson has been carrying betwixt her bosoms.

7. Nothing. Sometimes, I’d just be happy to write a check for a few bucks. Explain the need. Don’t feel like you must ply me with unnecessary products or a chance to save $5.00 on an oil change. I don’t need another magazine subscription or photo mug. I hate being in the position of selling things, so I hate to see you in the same position. Really.

As the school year gets going, I know more fundraising schemes will appear in my kids’ backpacks. They are necessary evils and unavoidable parts of being in a public school. I simply wish there were more innovative ideas.

Author: gretchen

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