Hello there, would you like to buy a $3 candy bar? How about seven pounds of frozen cookie dough? Not much of a sweet tooth, huh? That’s okay, how about a pepperoni roll, tickets to the pancake breakfast—or maybe the spaghetti dinner? Oh. You’re on a diet. I understand—I would be, too, if I didn’t have kids. Maybe you would be more interested in a magazine subscription? Or a high-fragrance, flameless, candle substitute? Maybe a discount card that offers insignificant savings from places you rarely visit? Ooh, better yet, forget the card; I’m selling a whole discount book. Where are you going? Wait! Don’t forget to swing by the carwash so kids who have never washed a vehicle in their lives can scratch up yours! Just drop your spare change in the can on your way out!
Most of us would never dream of asking our coworkers for money and are naturally averse to peddling subpar ware to our friends and loved ones. But, as always, our children can lead us to do crazy things. As soon as those babies are born, you find yourself abandoning civilized banter around the water cooler in favor of pressuring everyone to buy Bingo cards for basketball, coffee mugs for Cub Scouts, and potted plants for PTA.
My children and their non-stop roster of activities have turned me into a one-woman mini-mall of useless, overpriced purchasing opportunities. Not only do the kids bring them home from school, fundraising is a part of every sports team, club, and organization that they join. Some are optional, some are mandatory, but all come with a healthy dose of guilt to show your support by sacrificing your friends. I used to try to participate in every fundraiser that my children were asked to join, but it didn’t take long to realize that not only was this an impossible task, it was also the quickest way to alienate my entire peer group. I needed to choose my sales carefully.
School fundraisers are sneaky. They claim to be optional, which leads me to chuck them out, along with all of the fliers, advertisements, and other folder spam that seems to come home with my children every week. But, without fail, within a few days, the kids begin to ask how much “we’ve” sold so far, and I’m stuck like a deer in the headlights. Telling them that “we” aren’t participating leads to whining and fear that they are going to be the only children in the school who won’t win a fluorescent plastic yoyo boomerang for every hundred dollars’ worth of coffee they sell.
I was once suckered into a school fundraiser that “just” required me to fill in the names and addresses of 15 innocent friends and family members so that the company could hound them mercilessly (but with no obligation!).My son begged me to participate; he had already been primed at school that he would get a prize just for turning in those addresses, and he couldn’t bear to miss out on a prize. So I gleaned names from my rolodex and solicited for contact information on Facebook, pointing out to friends that my sweet little boy would win just through their cooperation. I compiled the list, sent it off to school with my son, and waited anxiously to see what kind of little trinket he would score from my hard work.
He walked through the door that afternoon with a huge smile on his face. Oh boy! He dug through his book bag for his prize and proudly pulled out… a piece of butterscotch candy. And they didn’t even spring for the Werther’s Originals! It was just a tiny, generic piece of hard candy wrapped in clear cellophane, as though the Fundraising Gods had fished it out of the pocket of their grandmother’s sweater, blew the lint off, and dangled it in front of my child like a carrot.
I was later guilted into participating in the school’s annual candy bar sale. Once committed to selling a box, if you couldn’t peddle all $50 worth of the chocolate, you were obligated to foot the remainder of the bill yourself. But the box featured name-brand candy bars of a decent size, so I figured we could probably manage to sell a box to put a smile on the kids’ faces. But what we didn’t take into account was the fact that every child in a 20-mile radius would also be selling the exact same thing. Our student-saturated neighborhood became a ridiculous display of children nagging their parents for money and selling candy bars to each other, all happy to have not only sold their entire box, but to have purchased a pile of candy in the process. Never again.
Sports teams and dance classes, however—now those are fundraisers I will sell my soul (and dignity) for. These sales don’t earn my kids plastic knick-knacks that I’ll step on in the middle of the night. Instead, the sales’ profits chisel away at the mountainous accumulation of tuitions, fees, and uniform purchases that threaten to bury my family and move us into a luxury refrigerator box downtown. Every nickel or dime I can squeeze from my loved ones is less dough that I have to shell out to every extracurricular institution in the tri-county area.
So the next time you see your friend coming toward you with a guilty grin, trying to interest you in some lollipops for Little League or raffle tickets for racquetball, pull out your wallet and contribute what you can. Putting out a few bucks not only helps a friend in need, but when the time comes for your child to bring home a catalog of wrapping paper and stationary to sell, you will have a list of people who are already indebted to your cause.
The Outlaw Mom would like to thank Leigh Ann Wilson of Surviving Five for guest blogging today and for her incredibly helpful – and hilarious – insight into the world of children’s fundraisers! At Surviving Five, Leigh Ann blogs about her “crazy, often chaotic” life as a stay at home mom with 5 small children (ages 7, 6, 4, 3, and 2). For more pricelessly heartwarming and humorous posts on family and motherhood, hop on over to her blog now!