Here’s a math word problem: Jane sells eight fundraising tickets for $10.00 each. $5.00 of each ticket sold goes toward her team’s travel expenses and $5.00 of that money goes toward the company sponsoring the fundraising. In addition, Jane receives $50.00 in straight donations. How much money does Jane have to put toward her team’s travel expenses?
[8(10)] – [8(5)] + 50 = 90. Jane has $90.00 to put toward her team’s travel.
$90.00 Jane didn’t have before! That’s so great.
Not so fast.
Here’s how it actually played out. Jane… cough… er… Madeline sold two of her tickets to her grandparents and one to her older brother; her mom bought five tickets. Of the $50.00 donations she received, some of it came with an understanding that, I’m giving you this money because I also have a fundraiser coming up, so I’ll be hitting you up soon, or because you gave money to my cause last year, so I feel guilted into giving to your cause.
Of the $90.00 that Madeline is left with, if the portion Ken and I paid is subtracted (because we are the ones paying for the travel no matter what!), she’s left with $35.00, and if the portion that comes with the unspoken bargain is subtracted because eventually we (the parents) will spend that money on candy bars, popcorn, cookies, or raffle tickets, she’s left with, well, nothing.
Now, here’s another issue: Time. Time is a valuable commodity, right? In my life, it’s probably my most valuable commodity. Fundraisers come with the inevitable expense of time. Time selling tickets, time attending functions, time collecting, time distributing, and so on. I’m sure it sounds ridiculous, but I spent an inordinate amount of time just printing the tickets for the above-mentioned fundraiser. The formatting of the tickets was making me crazy! The words were spilling out of the text boxes and were illegible. I finally figured out that it was not our printer, but a problem with the formatting not jiving with my Mac. (On the day of the fundraising event I forgot the tickets on the kitchen counter. They weren’t even necessary. Ugh.) I wasn’t even involved in organizing this particular event. All the same, I value the organizer’s time. Knowing what I know of our team manager, she’s extremely busy. Time. Time. Time. Time I’ll never get back. Time is so limited, and the things I have to (and want to) accomplish are so vast.
I’m sure I sound like a complete curmudgeon, but honestly, in my experience, having kids fundraise money for their activities is hardly ever worth it.
You might be thinking, why didn’t you sell more tickets to people outside your family? I’m glad you asked, and I’d be happy to expound.
I’ve already mentioned one of the reasons: Fundraising karma. It’s a thing. The unspoken understanding that eventually the money that comes around will go around. You know what I’m talking about, don’t pretend you don’t. Guilt is a powerful motivator. There’s that sense in which we are “collecting” on a debt since we supported some fundraiser that person had in the past. Think about it; it sure is easier for your kid to ask a neighbor to support his fundraiser when you supported the neighbor kid’s fundraiser last month, right? You even still have the bag of popcorn to prove it. So we’re really just fundshifting not fundraising! Not to mention that I have to spend mental energy keeping track of all this fundshifting. Madeline is the youngest of six. I’m completely aware of fundshifting, so I take it into account when she asks who she can solicit. I can only be in “debt” to so many people at a time.
A second reason is that we live in the sticks. Our closest neighbor (that’s not family) is half a mile away. I certainly am not going to send my daughter out alone door to door to folks I hardly know or don’t know at all. I know I have an overactive imagination, but I don’t think you need an overactive imagination to realize why that would be a bad idea. Not to mention the logistics. I would need to drive her around (that whole time thing, again) or she’d need to walk for miles and miles just to find four families who were even home before dark.
Here’s what happened with another attempt to sell tickets to folks outside the family. Madeline had a certain friend on her list of folks to ask about buying tickets or donating funds. This particular friend happened to beat us to the punch. She called asking if we wanted to go to a dinner and concert for $2.00 a ticket to raise money for her church. She explained that her church was raising money to help people in the community who may get hit with hard times. They’ll be helping with heating bills and expenses related to staying alive. Fast-forward a day or two and we happened to need to go over to this friend’s home for other reasons, so Madeline grabbed her tickets with the intention of asking about her upcoming fundraiser. We visited and we left. When we hopped in the car, I asked why she didn’t bring up her fundraiser. She sighed and shrugged. Yeah, yeah, I know; it’s hard to ask someone to spend money on your (first-world privilege of) soccer travel when they’re trying to raise money to help struggling single mothers survive, right? Not to mention, you’re asking them to spend $10.00 per ticket when all they were asking was $2.00 a ticket. She was glad I didn’t force her to ask, and honestly, I’m extremely glad she understands the difference.
Another reason particular to this fundraiser is that it took place on a Sunday morning. A large percentage of our friends are churchgoers. I’m sure you can figure out why that made it a bit challenging.
Here’s another issue with fundraisers: some kids (parents!) work hard to bring in money and some kids don’t do anything, but all the families benefit. Folks get all ruffled and weird about this stuff. Trust me. I’ve been around youth sports and youth activities and humans for a while… (a pretty long while). I know a lot of women (yeah, whatever, men and women) who walk around with the I do everything for the team and no one else does anything chip on their shoulders. They’re a joy, aren’t they?
The main reason we didn’t ask more people outside the family to give us money is that I HATE ASKING PEOPLE FOR MONEY! It’s as simple as that.
Our family (Mom, Dad, and siblings) alone spent over $90.00 on this recent fundraiser. That includes the tickets we bought, the tip we left, the money for thank you notes and postage. Of that money $30.00 went to the restaurant sponsoring the event. For our immediate family, it worked out that the team got $60.00 for our efforts, but remember, we spent $90.00 to get that $60.00. That math doesn’t make sense, especially when you factor in the commodity of time. If funds are tight, if we are scrambling to make tournament travel affordable, shouldn’t that $30.00 go toward the travel, too? If funds are so tight, we wouldn’t have the luxury of spending $90.00 to get $60.00.
Think back to the original math word problem. Madeline turned in about $130.00 (tickets and donation money). After the restaurant got its cut ($40.00), the team got $90.00 of that money, right? Ken and I alone spent about $90.00, right? Madness.
Is it that we feel guilty about spending so much money on our kids’ activities that we try to lessen the guilt by attempting to fundraise some of the money? We drive our SUVs, surf the internet on the latest iPhones and laptops, drive through Starbucks, and eat at restaurants, so can we please drop the facade?
I can’t even begin to remember all the fundraisers we’ve been required to participate in. (Don’t even get me started on being asked to donate to the local (upper middle class) public school’s Math-a-thon to raise money for textbooks. Seriously? I pay my taxes, AND I buy ALL my family’s textbooks. What the heck is the school doing with the funding they receive (from my tax dollars) if not buying textbooks? Wow. I got started… I’ll stop.)
I’m struggling with the fact that I’ll probably step on a few toes here. Of course, that’s not my intention. But I guess I feel like my toes get stepped on when I’m required to participate in fundraisers that end up costing me more money than I would have spent otherwise. And of course, I’m sure that’s not the intention of those fundraisers. So I guess the bottom line is that now we all have sore toes. Fundraising karma again…