Rachael Rachael, a mom of two daughters, is a freelance editor and writer who enjoys gardening and dreams of keeping chickens in her suburban St. Louis backyard. In her spare time, she helps to edit her husband’s science fiction books. Read more of Rachael's work at www.rachaelsjohnston.com or contact her by emailing rachael@mumblingmommy.com.

Check out all of the posts in the Mommy Money series.

Schools have been in session for a few weeks now, and my Facebook newsfeed is filling up with requests to buy knick knacks, wrapping paper, and popcorn. If we all buy enough stuff, my friends’ kids will earn a cheap rubber duck, a limo ride, or maybe a free iPad.

It’s open season for school fundraising.

My daughters are young, so they have yet to be pressured to work as unpaid salespeople for all the professional fundraising companies with whom schools sign on. My 4-year-old is fast approaching the age of salesmanship, though.

I participated in a few fundraisers back in the day. I sold Girl Scout cookies for nearly 10 years, and I retain a special place in my heart for the sugary orbs. Even though I can purchase pretty good imitation Thin Mints at the grocery store for half the price, I will buy a box or two of Girl Scout cookies from the first girl who shows up at my door each year. My husband even printed a handy note card we taped to our door: “No soliciting, except Girl Scout cookies.” It repels all but the boldest of construction contractors and home security salesmen, and it confuses young Girl Scouts who stand on the doorstep trying to figure out what “soliciting” means.

But most of us know that even Girl Scout cookies don’t provide the best bang for your buck when it comes to money the local troops actually receive. The same goes for other school fundraisers, for everything from frozen cookie dough and pizza to Butter Braids to Yankee Candles to coupon books to … Well, you get the idea. Schools get a fairly small percentage of profits from these sales.

In addition, professional fundraisers often place intense pressure on kids to sell. They entice with promises of pizza parties, trips, or free gadgets. I’ve heard stories of kids feeling shamed for not selling enough, or stories of kids working their tails off only to fall short of unrealistically high sales goals. I’ve also read about coaches making the team run extra laps, or worse, because kids didn’t sell enough. Yet another reason I’ve never enjoyed organized sports.

Not to mention all the unsuspecting neighbors, family, and coworkers who get hit up multiple times a year to buy stuff.

After listening to parent complaints, some schools seem to be returning to more homegrown fundraisers like bake sales, car washes, or barbecues, where schools get to keep 100 percent of the profits and no one ends up with more
expensive clutter in their homes. Other parents opt to simply write a check directly to the school or the parent/teacher organization, bypassing gimmicky fundraisers all together. I like both of these ideas.

I’ll be curious to see how my daughters’ school handles fundraising when she starts kindergarten next year, but I hope to keep most of the pricey whatnots and junk food out of my house and also avoid pestering all our friends and family.

For parents out there with school-aged kids, how do you handle fundraisers?

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Category: Family Finances

Tags: clutter