Tuesday, September 24, 2013

School fundraisers: what do they really teach our children?

I've been thinking a lot lately about "wants" vs. "needs" and what we really teach our children when we have school fundraisers.

Last year, my kids' public school was raising funds for iPads for the classrooms. And while I'm sure there are benefits to having iPads at school, did the kids really need them? Like really, really, need them?

Would it not be an okay lesson for the kids to learn that while having iPads would be a great (amazing!)educational resource that they were also an expensive educational resource, and their school just didn't have the funds to purchase them?

Are we not supporting our consumer culture and further solidifying the entitlement of the next generation by giving kids the message that even when you can't afford something, you still try to find a way to purchase it? That you just "have to have it."

And while I might begin by pondering the somewhat small question of if my kids "need" iPads at school, I end by asking what I think is the bigger question: should I really be contributing to this fundraising initiative at my kids school, when I know that the school just one town over doesn't even have basic supplies - y'know like books. Should we not teach our kids that we help all the kids get books, before we start raising money for some kids to have extras like iPads?

I don't know the answers, but I do know this year I am going to think more about what it all means before just sending in my check. And who knows, maybe this approach will even teach my kids more then they'll learn from having an iPad in their classroom.

11 comments:

Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms said...

That really is something to think about. No matter what you decide to do, your kids will be cognizant of the implications. Ellen

Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell said...

You make a darn good point here. I also got sucked into the pressure to make sure my kids got at least one prize. The way those programs are set up makes them feel so left out when they don't earn any. I hate the whole racket!

Michelle Nahom said...

I'm not crazy about school fundraisers...especially since they send home several each year. Once you multiply that by 2 or 3 or 4 kids, it's a lot of fundraisers. One town over from us, they use iPads and I can see some benefits...the ridiculously heavy backpacks my kids are carrying for one. But beforehand, I'd want to know some things. What are the benefits of using iPads? Is there a cost savings over time? Or is it going to be a higher cost over time, because you have to purchase books each year for each student, rather than one book that will be passed down for years.

Kelley said...

Great point! I'm with you on that. I wonder if my kids have iPads at their school... Hmmm... I just finished selling some cookie dough and I have no clue what that money is going towards. Thanks for making me care more!

Fab Young Mama said...

O my, I so agree with you on that. My daughter's school council raised money and they bought ipads last year. And she was only in SK!
I am loving book/magazine fundraiser though that is happening this year.

Tracie Nall said...

I love the idea of having a more well-off school do a fundraiser for the neighboring school that does not have basic supplies. That is how you can combine fundraising with a teachable moment for your kids - raising money for someone else to have something. Good stuff.

My friend's daughter had to get an ipad for school this year (6th grade). They are using online textbooks.

Adrian's Crazy Life said...

Thank you! I question that as well. We are really raising some very entitled kids these days. I would like an iPad, but I can't afford it right now, so I am going to struggle along without one until I have the money. Oh the horrors... And as for school fundraisers (or Scouts or band, or youth group) get creative. Don't just use the kids as a little robot sales force. Have an event, let the kids make something or put on a show or something. You'll make more money that way and the kids will get more out of it. Plus the adults will give more willingly and not feel so put upon. I actually am a fundraising leader for several groups and those are some of the tactics I use and they work quite nicely. #SITSSharefest

AiringMyDirtyLaundry said...

Honestly, we toss out the fundraisers that make us go door to door. I'd rather donate directly to the school. And we do other things like buy during bake sales and all that fun stuff. But we won't go door to door.

BadParentingMoments said...

Wouldn't it be such an experience for the children with more to see the school with less. To tour and "feel" the need. I bet, if you gave the children the choice, they'd want to help their neighbors instead of getting the iPad. I just bet. Really thought provoking post.

Dave Strand said...

The question - "Do we really need ipads?" is a good one - especially with the school nearby needing basic supplies.

Unfortunately many schools need basic supplies. In a perfect world they would be budgeted and paid for through the state, but not every school lives in that world.

For those schools that need to raise money, a fundraiser can be vital. The real challenge is in how the fundraiser is run, and that the people running it haven't asked themselves the question you pose in the title; "What does a fundraiser teach our children?"

With a little bit of introspection, they'd realize that a fundraiser can teach a child quite a bit. That their efforts can make a difference. That (even though they're young) they can make an important contribution to the larger community. That people in the community are happy to help their local school, and only need to be asked.

On a more personal level, a well-run fundraiser can teach a child how to set goals, handle money and present themselves in a professional manner. I've heard from parents who don't want their children "begging" for money. This isn't begging. It's sales, and the ability to sell is a real world skill, essential to people in many professions. Even the act of getting a job, is - at it's heart - selling.

There isn't one thing associated with a well-run fundraiser that is harmful to a child. In fact, they can benefit in ways that go beyond the financial. Check out the Girl Scout Cookie site, and you'll see that they call themselves the "#1 Entrepreneurial program for girls in the U.S."

Where many schools go wrong, is in their lack of commitment to the fundraiser. They fail to stress it's importance, and frankly, since sales makes many people (teachers included) uncomfortable, they don't promote the fundraiser as strongly as they should. If a fundraiser is worth running, then it should be made a priority.

I agree that multiple fundraisers are a bad idea. All the more reason to focus on one. I say, pick your fundraiser, hit it hard, and be done. Don't wave shiny trinkets in front of the kiddies to bribe them to participate. Instead, reward the entire school when you reach your goal. Make it fun, make it safe, and make it a priority.

Here's a crazy idea - grade the activity.

If I sound biased, it's because I am, as I own a school fundraising company. But I think that if more people actually asked the question, "What do fundraisers actually teach our children?", then their fundraisers would do better, they'd need fewer of them, and their kids would have an opportunity to participate in an activity in which they could take pride.

Alistar Johnson said...

Really enjoyed reading this article, thanks for sharing! I've recently discovered Tony Charalambides fundraising blog - you should check it out!

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