Friday, July 2, 2010

What I Hate About "Fundraising"

I detest typical fundraising efforts. I hate to send my children out to peddle stuff. My least favorite type of fundraiser goes something like this:
  • My child is sent home with a catalog and order form for some overpriced luxury item like candles or candy.
  • They are expected to make the rounds of our closest family, friends, and neighbors to sell their wares.
  • They are expected to collect money by a prescribed date, and turn it in with properly filled out forms.
  • They then receive a small portion of the sales towards their "fund".
This is how it really goes:
  • I have to nag my children to go peddle their wares, because they feel uncomfortable doing it, and because they have other far more interesting things to do with their time.
  • I have to keep track of order forms and money, because, HELLO, these are children here. As a rule, when people fork over money, they don't expect it to end up in the black hole of my son's bedroom.
  • We rapidly run out of customers because:
  1. We live in the boonies.
  2. We don't live near extended family.
  3. We have several children in the family competing for the same customer base.
  4. We associate with people who don't have a lot of extra money, and aren't interested in spending it on overpriced trinkets.
I think these fundraisers are evil because they put pressure on kids and families to do something that makes them fundamentally uncomfortable. Furthermore, they don't encourage kids to actually work toward their goal, because really all they do is make the request and collect the cash. Mom usually does all the real work of managing the project and distributing the goods. Plus, most of the time, the smallest part of the profit goes to your cause. All along the way, others are getting their piece of the pie.

The only type of fundraising I actually approve, is when a kid works hard to provide a service or product that people actually want. It should be presented in a manner that puts no pressure on the potential customer. I like bake sales and car washes, because all the profits go to the cause, and no one feels strong armed into pulling over and submitting to having their car washed. Generally the same is true of bake sales, as the goods are fairly priced, and you are free to walk on past, if the sight of fudge brownies doesn't compromise you.

Lots of folks have the cockles of their hearts warmed at the sight of hard working young people, willing to give their time and energy to a cause or goal. Those folks often generously say, "Keep the change," or drop cash into a donation bucket, even if they don't have a car to wash or want a sweet. But no one put pressure on them to do it. They didn't feel taken advantage of, when their $20 box of caramels arrived, and they realized it fit on the palm of their hand. Sure looked bigger in the catalog.

I also admire people who train to do something HARD, like run a marathon, or jump on a pogo stick 10,000 times, to raise money for worthy causes. Really, they are just straight up asking you to give. They're saying, "This is important enough to me, that I'm willing to do something potentially painful to make it happen. Will you help me?" And I can respect that, because I can say yes or no as I'm able, and anyone who is strong enough to run a marathon, can deal with me saying no. But those candle and candy companies bank on the notion that cute little kids, with sad puppy dog eyes, are impossible to say no to, and that's just slippery in my opinion. Not admirable in the least.

I'm undecided about dinners. I think if you provide a nice meal, maybe some quality entertainment, and a presentation of the goal, it can be quite good. But I've been to a few sad pasta dinners and chicken barbecues, where I felt the value was just not there, and I didn't really care if the cause was worthy. People who fork over the cash for benefit dinners are honored guests. I think they should be treated as such, even if the fare is simple.

I realize I've used words like HATE, DETEST, and EVIL in this post. Clearly I feel strongly about this matter. I suppose that qualifies this as a rant. My son will be so proud. He loves a good rant.