I recently came across an article online entitled “Product Fundraisers: The Smart Choice”
When I first read the article, I wasn’t sure who wrote it or where it was actually coming from. But, I dug into it a little deeper and found that it was written by a fundraising company that sells products to schools for use as fundraisers.
So, immediately, I was a little suspicious.
Now, I’m not totally against product sale fundraisers, but I do think we need to question the assertions made in this case.
Here’s the first claim from the article that I wonder about:
With the need for school fundraisers at an all time high, there are many websites and blogs popping up out there for “new” and “creative” fundraising ideas. But, do these innovative ideas actually raise any money? Sure, you might run across one or two success stories where schools have had an online fundraiser and raised a million dollars, but take heed, this is not the norm.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think that “new” and “creative” are good things. I think that “same old” and “same old” turns people off and lowers the participation rate. Haven’t we all had enough frozen cookie dough to last a lifetime? Are YOU excited to ask you friends, family, and co-workers to buy yet another tub of oatmeal raisin?
I agree that there needs to be a solid, thoughtful plan behind a new and creative fundraiser, but if you’re never willing to try anything new, you’ll never generate any excitement at your school for raising money.
Should we just avoid new and creative fundraisers simply because they are not something the fundraising company can profit off of?
In addition, I don’t particularly like the way the author sarcastically wrote “Sure, you might run across one or two success stories where schools have had an online fundraiser and raise a million dollars…”
Really? A million dollars? Most schools don’t need to raise a million dollars. And to set some wild, unrealistic expectation like that, even if it is meant to be facetious, is irresponsible in presenting a fair, well-balanced argument. It’s dismissive of and insulting to all the schools who have chosen to be more creative and found success by being that way. So, here’s another way your article loses credibility with me.
Here’s another claim I’m skeptical about:
“It’s so important to stick with what works when it comes to fundraising. That’s why 8 out of 10 parent-teacher organizations at elementary schools say product fundraisers are their most profitable.”
Again, I agree that a school needs to make wise choices when it comes to fundraising with reasonable assurances that the fundraiser will be successful. However, the author claims that 8 out of 10 parent-teacher organizations at elementary schools say product fundraisers are their most profitable.
Really? First of all, there is no citation for this statistic. We have no way of knowing if this is a truthful claim or just something he made up. If you are publishing an article trying to convince schools to spend their money with you, and you use statistics to back up your claim, you really need to show the evidence. I would be happy to review and accept any legitimate, independent study the company could show me. Until then, it’s hard to take seriously.
Second of all, even if the claim is true, that doesn’t make it the right thing to do. I can think of many things in life that a majority of the population does that I don’t think is necessarily the best choice. The majority is not the segment of the population that is cutting edge. Or entrepreneurial. Or creative. Or questioning.
It might be safe, but there’s nothing breakthrough about being in the masses. As a former school administrator, I would rather be finding new, more effective ways to raise money from parents to support the school that don’t turn kids into salesmen or ask parents to annoy their friends, family, and co-workers with refrains of “Will you buy some cookie dough? Please?”
Ok, here’s a third idea that I found to be really self-serving.
“Now, don’t hear me say that event fundraisers do not work, because they do. Holding a school-wide carnival or another big event is a great way to generate a large profit. However, it takes months of planning, hundreds of hours of volunteer time, and a lot of effort to make it a success. For minimum effort with large profit, product fundraisers are the way to go!”
Well, I guess if you want the “minimum” experience out for your child’s elementary school memories, stick with selling wrapping paper and candy bars.
But as adults, don’t you have fond childhood memories of school carnivals and walk-a-thons? Of spaghetti dinners and silent auctions? Of car washes and bake sales? That’s part of a happy childhood, isn’t it?
Of course, these kinds of events require volunteers and planning and hard work. But, your parents put in the time for you when you were in school. Can’t we find the time for our kids so they can have the same wonderful memories we had? Or, should we simply outsource our volunteerism for a 60% cut to the fundraising companies? I know what they think the answer should be. They want your 60%!
This argument is hurtful to schools in the long-run, because it makes the case that fundraising should be as easy as possible and ask as little as possible from parents. However, when you operate like this, it takes so much away from school spirit and community building.
I’m not quite finished…
There is one more point that is not mentioned in this article, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that parents are getting tired of sending so much of their “donation” to a fundraising company. If their product order is $100, they are not happy that $40, $50, or $60 of it will be paid to a company somewhere, probably out-of-state. Many of these parents would rather just write a check for $30 to the school and be done with it.
I will admit that I don’t have a study to back this assertion up, but I will ask you to ask yourself that question. Would you avoid having to turn your child into a salesman and sell things yourself if you could just write a check to the school?
Ok, almost done…
To wrap up, I am not totally against product sale fundraisers. I think there are ways that they can work for schools, but the school must do A LOT of research before committing to a company. I would also recommend that a school do A LOT of checking with your school parents before committing to a particular product sale. Make sure the item you want to sell is something that most families want, are willing to pay for, and willing to squeeze their friends for.
Fundraising companies have one goal in mind: to make money for themselves. That’s ok, this is America, and capitalism is a great thing. But, I urge you to be very careful when trusting what they tell you, because their agenda is not always going to match up with your school’s best interests.
Can We Really Trust What Fundraising Companies are Telling Us?
Photo by: Newtown grafitti