Missing the Fun in FUNdraisers?
by Linda Sharp

'Tis the season' once again, and I do not mean the one where we decorate trees and blow our budgets. Well, wait . . . scratch that part about overspending. That part definitely applies, for it is once again time for Ye Merry Old Raising of The Fund, or to put it in layman's terms, school's in, get your wallets out.

School Fundraisers. Without fail, each year when the kids have barely begun the new semester, the flyers, packets and pledge forms begin to migrate home through the backpack mail. In vain I search for homework, school newsletters or notes from the teacher, but it seems the emphasis lies not with educating my children, but with turning them into used car salesmen.

In the past six years I have sold everything from popcorn tins to wrapping paper to coupon books. Notice I say "I have sold". Let's be honest, nine year olds have not yet read "The Art of the Deal", and a two year old hardly knows how to open the toilet, let alone close the sale. With the exception of calling the grandparents, who are willing to buy anything from their grandkids, all the sales are made by my husband and I. (And in some instances, all the purchases too.)

Back in the good old days, it used to be that the occasional teenager would approach the door selling something small - say, candy bars to help the band go to the Rose Bowl. Fine. I can handle a dollar here or there, and I would never turn my back on a good crunch bar. But nowadays, every child, from thesmallest to the tallest, are asked to hit the bricks and hawk items much more expensive than chocolate. "Scuse me ma'am, but would you like to lease a Cadillac to help support my principal's hernia operation?" And to be honest, with very few exceptions, everyone in my neighborhood has children, and those few who do not, stop answering their doors the minute school is back in session. They know.

And it's not as if it is just we parents who hold these continual fund raisers in disdain, the kids are visibly uncomfortable with the whole process too. Number one, they are usually asked to sell something they have absolutely no interest in, case in point: The flowers bulbs my daughter is currently " selling". And number two, the school incites competition by offering the "top seller" some sort of prize: "Sell the most bunion pads and win a party at Pizza Hut!" Each year, I have to console a child who could not sell a gross of something like Sally or Peter did. (I just know Sally and Peter's parents have entire arsenals of wrapping paper in the basement and could feed a nation on the cheddar cheese popcorn they have stashed in the crawl space.)

Personally I wish the PTA and the schools would just be honest and ask for the extra money. Don't hide behind all these order forms, talking about school spirit and using guilt to motivate the student body. Just tell us all at the beginning of the year that if each family could please contribute "X" amount of dollars, all the upcoming field trips, assemblies and supplies would be covered. I know I would be happier to open my purse and write one check in support, instead of twenty throughout the year, for items I do not want. I suspect I am not alone.

But until then, what's a parent to do? Want to buy some flower bulbs?

Linda Sharp is an internationally recognized author & columnist whose work wraps around the globe to appear in print publications from Maine to Malaysia, as well as across the web. Linda is also creator of the totally irreverent and hysterical website, Sanity Central - A Time Out From Parenting!, located at http://www.sanitycentral.com. Her latest book, Stretchmarks On My Sanity: The Growing Pains of Raising a Family, has earned her rave reviews and comparisons to the late Erma Bombeck. She may be reached via email at lsharp03@aol.com .

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