About three days into a new school year, as our children's extracurricular activities kick into gear, the fundraising onslaught begins. I am very grateful to the PTA, the boy scouts, the girl scouts, the athletic boosters, the drama club, the Poms, the Lego League, and all of the other worthy groups of people who do fabulous things for our kids and our community.
I am more than happy to support those efforts. But I don't want to buy or sell junk in order to do it. It might not make a difference to me if I only had one kid who was involved in only one thing. That's a nice dream that certainly does not exist in my house.
I've made a bold and highly controversial decision – I'm refusing, as of right now, to sell any more crap for my kids and their activities. I'm not selling one more nut or candle or coupon book or roll of wrapping paper or kernel of popcorn and you can't make me. (The only exception might be girl scout cookies in the spring, but only because they are actually in demand by co-workers and family members.)
For some groups, the argument is that it is teaching the children about entrepreneurship. But, really, it's very seldom the child who actually does the marketing plan and selling. I find it extremely hard to believe that a 5 year old, kindergarten boy scout is selling $3,000 worth of popcorn all by himself. I worked in offices long enough to feel the pressure of signing the dotted line and forking over the $9 for a bag of that stuff for my boss's child to know that the kid is not learning a thing out of this.
I'm also tired of hearing the sigh from my neighbors and getting that what-are-you-selling-now look every time I show up at their door with my children in whatever uniform of whatever group they are selling something for.
The amount of time and effort involved here is annoying, to say the least. Not to mention, that if you have a shy child, who will probably grow up to be a marine biologist and not a salesman for Hershey, it's downright painful to make them march up and down the street, presenting themselves to the neighbors. Cute kids with big eyes can sell a whole lot of candy, but there are child labor laws for a reason.
And if I, myself, the parent of said child, had wanted to be a door-to-door saleswoman, I would already be driving around in my Mary Kay pink Cadillac, which I am not.
I know that I am not alone in this feeling. We are trying to be good, supportive moms and dads, who volunteer, jump up and down at events, bring snacks and never, ever miss a game. I can see the strain on these super-parents' faces, though, when they get handed The Sales Packet.
At least some area PTAs have finally clued into this and, instead of sending out the forces and using all of the generous volunteer time to sell things, they are just asking for straight-out donations per family. I believe that in the end, they might get more cold, hard cash this way anyway. I mean, if you figure that you get $.60 or a dollar out of each item you sell, that is a ton of stuff that we don't want to buy anyway. And that is only among people who might participate in the first place.
I know many parents who don't even look at all that paper that comes home from school with the fundraising announcements on it. Whole packets of paper do directly into the recycle bin. I'm willing to bet that those parents, in particular, will be willing to hand over $20-$40 directly to the PTA, just to get all the paper that comes home to STOP!
Lots of these groups have found plenty of other ways to raise money, too, like a good old fashioned fundraising party, where begging for money comes with a cash bar and dinner. There are also car washes, cake walks, kid festivals.
So I will be there. I will cart kids around, set up and clean up, organize outings and I'll even give you money. But, I'm not bugging my friends and neighbors anymore and I am not going to feel guilty about it, either.