I’ve long advocated boycotting school, church, sports and social event fundraisers that require children to sell over-priced products door to door. We have four children. We’ve worked on countless committees and fundraisers. PTA, PTO, scouts, church, social groups, sports teams, clubs, political groups, community groups all use children to market products in the community.
Think about it. Paid fundraisers are basically legalized pyramid marketing schemes. A crazed salesman gets up on stage and incites the audience of children to a frenzy by pulling a wad of bills from his pocket. He dazzles small children with the prospect of winning a television or bicycle. And hordes of small children take to the streets to hawk overpriced candles, popcorn and wrapping paper to people who can’t afford it or don’t want the products. The school uses emotional blackmail on children to get them to sell a product of which only a portion of proceeds go to the school.
In today’s AOL Political Blog writer Janet Hinz suggests that parents boycott school fundraisers and send a donation check to the school instead. I’ve tried that approach. I’ve met with little success and occasionally some resistance. I’ve been told ‘it doesn’t work that way’. When I suggest that fundraisers are basically exploiting children, I’m called everything from unsupportive to reactionary to a conspiracy theorist. My loyalty to said school, organization or church has been questioned. Well, I’m redefining how ‘it does work’.
Whether I send a donation to the school or not, the real issue is what to tell the child in tears who really wants to win that bike or TV. Here is a perfect opportunity to teach some valuable lessons in money management, marketing and life skills. First all, to ‘win’ (‘earn’ would be more appropriate term) your child must sell 200 units of product. The least expensive ‘product’ costs about $6 bucks each (most cost about $10-$15 each). I explain to the child that going door to door isn’t safe. We don’t know 200 people well enough to borrow a cup of sugar let alone ask to buy overpriced popcorn. I don’t feel comfortable pressuring friends and neighbors, so I end up buying it myself. And if I expect co-workers to buy from my kid, I have to buy their kids’ overpriced junk, so that’s a washout financially. Either way, that’s about $1200-$2,000 for a $89 television or bike.
Here’s my thought. Skip the fundraiser. If the school doesn’t want your donation or you can’t afford it, skip that too. But reward your child for not pestering you to participate. Take her to the local dollar store. Show her how much the prizes she so covets really cost. Turn it into a lesson on math and fiscal responsibility. Even with three dollars worth of prizes to pay off the disappointed kid and a $25 (tax deductible) donation to the school, you are $1172-$1,972 ahead. My money matters and so does yours.