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Am I the Only One?

Original post made by Rebecca Surley, Barron Park, on Sep 18, 2009

I just finished reading the fundraising opportunities coming up the next year for the 5th graders.

First it exhausted me. This is fundraising and activities for
just one child and just one venue. Most of us have two or more
children and probably 3-5 other venues for each child. By venue I
mean, other events/organizations that also need fundraising and
volunteering to fund the cost of running their programs. How many
do you have in your family?
o Maybe you’re a member of the YMCA
o How about the baseball, basketball, swim teams
o Piano, ballet, dance anyone?
o Even PAUSD is a separate one with fundraising events and

Each venue wants to make their organization special by doing
something fun for the kids. Can you blame them? So besides just
the events you purchased, there is usually special trips involved
like trips to Raging Waters, trips to the Pumpkin patch. All of
this requires more money and more volunteering from parents.

When is it too much? What are our kids really getting out of
this? A lot of fun that’s for sure. But when have we crossed the
line of just wanting to provide the very best for our children, to
giving them the experience to become good moral citizens to just
plain spoiling them. Somewhere, too much must mean spoiling. Have
we hit that? I sometimes feel that I can’t add more ‘special
activities’ for my own kids because the schools, teams, etc. are
already spoiling my kids enough.

Every time I see requests for volunteers and request for money
(which is almost daily now), I think of East Palo Alto. I wish I
could stop doing this. And of course, not just East Palo Alto,
anywhere else in the United States where other kids are not getting
the same opportunity. Let alone, getting even deeper, any hungry
kids or scared kids because wars going on around them. Like I
said, I wish I could stop thinking like this. Shouldn’t I be
volunteering some of my time for these kids too?

I really feel strong about giving and I wanted to teach my children
the importance of giving and instill in them this strong value.
But, I want to teach my children that fundraising just to give back
to yourself is not giving. So the fundraising to purchase bats for
the team would not be giving. It may be just a way to hide the
true costs of having my child join the baseball team but it’s not
giving. I find it hard to teach my kids this message and still be
a good community team member.

Now this one is very selfish, I know. I want to control my
charitable giving and I want something in return. I want to feel
good about it. So I want to give to those organizations that
really hit home for me and make me feel great that I gave. But
quilt giving gets in the way or frankly eats up all the money I
have available for giving. So that cute little Girl Scout that
comes to my door selling cookies that I don’t need, I buy. Guilt
giving. I can’t turn her down. How would she understand that? And
professional fundraisers know this; that’s why it’s such a
prevalent way of fundraising. Several times a year, I go into
work and we have a table set up for all my co-worker’s children’s
fundraising forms. You know these forms, Sally Foster gift
wrapping, Christmas cards, ornaments. We go around and give or
really buy at inflated prices. Whoever starts out sets the price.
So if I give $40 to each one, they turn around and give $40 to me.
So I end up paying out $240 and receiving $240. Why do we do
this? Quilt-Giving. Ask your family and friends to give. It’s a
good one; they can’t turn you down. I can’t.

Now back to our 5th graders. It occurred to me that if I took the
total cost of all the fun opportunities scheduled for the 5th
graders it would cost me just $56 for the entire year. And if I
were to also pay for another 5th grader who couldn’t afford it, it
would still just cost me $112. Then we wouldn’t have to ask our
volunteered-out parents to volunteer more time for working the book
fair, helping with the Spaghetti Dinner, the Bake Sales, the Car
Washes, the Snack Sales, the Movie Nights, the Monday Casserole
Sales. We would still have to volunteer for those events such as
the Boat Trip, Colonial days, yearbook, etc. But we wouldn’t have
to volunteer our time to raise the money and still foot the bill
anyway. You know, you make the dinner and then you buy the dinner,
or you work the book fair and you buy the books, you supervise the
car wash and you supply your car to be washed.

So am I the only one who feels this way?

Comments (6)

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Posted by with ya
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2009 at 10:42 am

it's also getting easier to organize volunteer and fundraising events with email, and e-vites, but nobody is doing something about the overload. We just need to be more selective. I stopped buying Girl Scout cookies without any guilt long ago, but I still stop to buy lemonade from children under 8 years old.

Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 19, 2009 at 9:54 am

No you're not the only one. I feel exactly this way too. Good article. You gave me some good ideas on ways to change.

Like this comment
Posted by MidtownMom
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2009 at 8:21 pm

You are not the only one ! I appreciate all the time and effort the volunteers from the school put in for every fund raising activity - however, in these tough economic times, it is beginning to be an overload.

There is a limit to which we can ask the extended family to donate for events. In higher grades, children "compare" how much money they brought in for an event (doesn't matter if the child did not go out and approach even a single neighbor and got the money due to the efforts put in by the parents )

There is no global solution for this. We understand the bugdet cuts. But as a family, we decided on a certain amount that we can spend on such activities and we stick to it. We are learning to say "thankyou but no thankyou" in a graceful way.

Like this comment
Posted by Grandma
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 20, 2009 at 7:25 am

When my kids were in school I would not let them go door to door asking for money, however worthy the course. This is a form of begging, I felt it was demeaning for the child who had to endure angry homeowners slamming the front door in their faces. Although at the time, I was on very limited child support, I usually came up with the money myself. The kids should stay home and read a good book!

I don't support the notion that these are teachable moments. Back off the begging, I will not hesitate to close my front door in your child's face if they come by my house again this year. I am now a retired senior, and after a lifetime of work, I can't afford your begging.

When my elder son was in the Gunn High School Jazz Bank the band leader then wanted to take the kids to the Montreau Jazz Festival in Switzerland. The children were expected to raise thousands and thousands of dollars for their airfares and hotel. Each performance they attended would also cost over $120! I drew the line, and without their lead trombone they never made it to Montreau or Switzerland, the plan was quietly dropped. They seem to have survived very well without this experience!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2009 at 12:43 pm

There is an easy answer. Just say "no".

I NEVER buy anything from a parent selling it for a child (even if it is my boss). People understand that if you are 100% consistent.

Also, set up charitable stuff for your kid to do. There are lots of great things to do around here.

Kids do too many activities and are overscheduled. Once again, just say "no" to some activities, decreasing the issue in the first place.

A kid doesn't have to sell much, if at all, for most of these fundraisers. Have him sell the minumum and be done with it. Or, I have had parents say "No" to participating in sales altogether, and they just donate the amount the group would have made for the minimum sales requirement. That is a tax write-off usually, so much less of a burden, and the group usually doesn't get much anyway, so the donation may be even better.

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 6, 2009 at 9:29 am

It is the beginning of the school year that we get hit the hardest for donations. My wife and I came up with a system that works well for us. We sat down and created a list of organizations that we would like to give to and the amounts we want to give to them. The list was long so we now rotate them each year. We write the checks out at the beginning of the year, asking to remain anonymous, and then can feel good the entire year that we gave and helped in areas that were important to us. It helps when saying 'No'. There's just too much asking for money these days and we can't give to all.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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