It’s fundraiser season again – ugh!

It’s fundraiser season again – ugh! September 1, 2015

By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Steven Khor [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Steven Khor [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
School’s back in session, and fundraising with it — so much so that there’s been a viral photo floating around facebook, and featured on Slate, purporting to be a fundraiser in which parents donate to the PTA as an expression of their gratitude for not being asked to sell wrapping paper or candles.

This is also the time of year when I place an order for, and start planning the site sale portion of the annual Cub Scout popcorn sale.  Yes, it stinks.  $10 for a 10 oz bag of caramel popcorn, or $20 ($20!) for a box of 18 packets of microwave popcorn.  True, nearly 75% “goes to Scouting” as they say, so it’s like buying a $3 bag of popcorn and making a donation to the Cub Scouts (split roughly 50/50 between the local pack and the Chicago-area council).

(Is it that much worse than Girl Scout cookies?  According to NBC, the profit margin on cookies is about the same, but people don’t think of it in the same way because each individual box costs less.  At the same time, I’m inclined to think that, unless their “gourmet” popcorn really is significantly better than your average supermarket popcorn, the manufacturer takes more profit.)

My philosophy?  I figure we’ll give it a good shot, but —

  • I am not going to participate in the online sale component, where the costs, and the popcorn manufacturer’s profit, are higher.
  • I am not going to ask parents to solicit at work.  It’s a fundraiser for the kids, not a matter of adults asking other adults.  (But maybe I’m also still bitter because my dad would never take our Girl Scout cookie order form into work — because, he said, the boss’s daughter was also in Girl Scouts.)
  • and I am not going to set any minimum sales requirement, or “donation in lieu.”  I’m happy to take donations, but, even though most of us in the neighborhood are upper middle class, I don’t want to put anyone on the spot.

The trouble is, though, that it’s  hard to come up with a good fundraiser, for a kids’ activity where you genuinely want to raise supplemental funds rather than setting a fixed cost for participation that may be more than parents can, or are willing to, pay.

My ideal fundraiser is this:

  • the person or organization benefiting from and soliciting the funds should be doing some work rather than just asking for cash,
  • there should be a “value proposition,”
  • the fundraiser operations themselves should be cost-efficient, and
  • if this is a fundraiser for a children’s activity, the children should have a real role in the project.

It’s not easy to tick all these boxes, all the more so with younger kids, but here are some of the things that I thought up a while ago, when I was brainstorming on this with my husband:

For older kids —

The Boy Scouts have an annual wreath sale.  This is actually a Jane the Actuary-approved fundraiser, because the profit margins are more modest, and the kids (well, parents too) do some actual work, delivering the wreaths.  Some troops, I’m told, actually craft the wreaths themselves, to boot.

A “parents’ night out”:  the kids (with adult supervision) host supervised activities for children, say, from 6 – 9 on a Friday or Saturday night, advertised to families as a night out.  Charge a per-kid fee or ask for donations, and provide pizza, organized games, a craft table, and a Disney movie.

Rather than selling a product like the Fannie May or Yankee Candle (sold at retail price, when, if bought in a store, you can generally get a sale price), the kids could make something themselves, like take-and-bake pizza, or maybe a woodworking or similar craft.

For younger kids:

Look, it’s not easy.  Could the younger kids do a craft to sell, or bake something, or put on a show?  Would they be able to make something, or do something, that would have any value to anyone besides grandma and grandpa?  Are there product sales where there’s some value in the product, rather than a product cost double, triple, or more, relative to its value?

And, by the way, door-to-door sales?  YES!  Of course, younger kids shouldn’t go out by themselves, but I walk around the block with my youngest, and insist that he ring the doorbells and do the talking as much as he’s able.  And the older boys are responsible for getting their wreath customers themselves.

Now, I know that proper blogging demands I rant about the topic, but I’m just not a rant-er.  (You want rants, go read Kat Timpf.)  So brainstorm with me, please, and share your experiences!

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