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Fundraiser Fallout

I have taken a vow: I will not buy any school or organization fundraiser item unless the tasked mini-salesperson contacts me directly! Soon after the start of each quarter throughout the school year, the solicitations begin in full force. Children and teenagers seem to come out of the woodwork with financial requests to aid sport teams or other recreational activities. Yes, my husband or I can actually use some of the items being sold, like trash bags or chocolate. The problem is, however, that the children aren’t the ones doing the soliciting — their parents are.

Parents: If your kids are old enough to be handed sales sheets and promised prizes for high returns, then they can certainly make personal phone calls, knock on doors throughout the neighborhood, or visit your workplace (with you in tow, of course). Selling isn’t fun or easy, and kids can be easily intimidated; but important lessons and great victories can be achieved if they tackle the task at hand themselves.

When I receive a mass e-mail or an answering machine message from a parent about a fundraiser, I usually hit the delete button. And when I see a fundraiser catalog and sign-up sheet in my workplace lunchroom, I often keep right on walking. However, there is a sweet little girl in my neighborhood who comes to my home every year selling Girl Scout cookies. I make sure to order as many cookies as I can fit into my budget (and pantry!) simply because I appreciate her effort to personally deal with me and the many other neighbors she solicits with her request. Quite simply, I have a soft spot in my heart for go-getter kids who do their own work! My friend Ellen has driven children like this; every year they look me in the eye and give me their spiel about why I should buy their fundraiser trash bags with an explanation of how the funds will be used. And, every time I smile and say, “Absolutely. Put me down for trash bags!”

Do you complete your children’s homework for them because it’s easier than haranguing them? How about their chores? How can they feel proud of a job well done if they didn’t actually do it? I’ve encountered too many “adult children” who don’t know how to make change or spell, and I internally ponder whether their parents cleaned their bedroom, fought their battles, did their fundraising, and fulfilled all their responsibilities?

Here’s a list of how fundraising challenges can empower your children:

  1. Altruism. A fundraiser is not about prizes or recognition; it’s about contributing to a goal in an effort to help an organization ─ being a small part of something big. Donating their time today for a good cause will help turn children into fantastic volunteers as adults.
  2. Basic manners and common courtesy. Fundraisers can be the perfect time to practice saying “please” and “thank you.” Demonstrating graciousness at hearing “no” from someone is also a learned skill that will serve kids well in the future.
  3. Rejection. Explain to your child the reasons that people may decline participation, like financial constraints or a previous commitment to another fundraising endeavor.
  4. Relationships. Ask kids how they would feel if they got a million dollars suddenly and everyone they knew started asking them for money. Teach kids not to “over ask”, i.e. don’t take advantage of wealthier loved ones. Likewise, if you are aware of an individual who is struggling financially, steer you child away from an uncomfortable request.
  5. Good sportsmanship. Kids should know not to hone in on a friend’s neighborhood who is selling the same product. If your child does not win the grand prize at the end of the fundraiser, teach him/her to congratulate the winner.
  6. Responsibility. If kids do their own fundraising (going door-to-door with a parent, making phone calls, asking individuals in-person, etc.), they will learn more than if you bring home a filled-out sheet of orders that you placed in the breakroom of your office.
  7. Ask! If you don’t ask, the answer will ALWAYS be no. Kids need to learn early on that sometimes success is a numbers game and the more you try, the more often you succeed. Kids can sell to their pediatrician, dentist, distant relatives, and so on.
  8. Be prepared. Kids should know what they are raising money for and be able to answer basic questions about the effort or organization. Always have fundraising materials on-hand in case your child encounters a potential buyer.
  9. Safety. Fundraising can present an opportunity to reinforce safety guidelines. Call me overprotective, but I don’t care how old your kid is: make sure you are always present when he/she is selling, and tell him/her to never go inside someone’s house.
  10. Don’t overextend. Homework and extracurricular activities take up so much time these days. Some kid/parent teams are able to carve out extra time for just one stellar fundraiser per year, but then either choose to write a check for or opt out of additional fundraising activities.