Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hot topic: Fund-raising ideas

A reader has suggested that we start a thread where parents can share creative fund-raising ideas that they tried at their school and that were a success.

17 comments:

  1. My favorite fund raiser of all time was the first one I ever encountered nearly 20 years ago when my oldest son started kindergarten. It was called a Math-a-thon, and it was modeled after the successful walk-a-thons that a couple of schools had started to do at that time.

    Students secured pledges from family members and friends, but instead of the pledge being for number of laps walked, it was for number of problems answered correctly on the weekly math test. My son's kindergarten class was asked to write numbers in order from one to fifty; we were asked to pledge either a fixed amount for the whole effort, or else a smaller amount per correct answer (so, if I pledge a dime for every number my son got in correct order, a perfect result would yield a $5 pledge.) Older students simply took their regular weekly math test, and again, pledges could be either a set amount just for making the effort, or a per problem pledge for every right answer. Most of the kids encouraged their families to choose the latter option because they felt it was more fun to earn more money for their school for each problem they solved.

    Although the amount of parent labor required to collect the pledges was similar to a walk-a-thon, there was no need for any parent involvement at all on the day of the test. Teachers just did what they always did on Fridays, with the only difference being that they compiled a list of how many problems each student had gotten right on the test and handed it over to the room parent so that pledges could be calculated.

    For parents who were tired of being hit up to buy cookie dough or magazine subscriptions they didn't need, this fundraiser with an academic focus was a welcome relief, and a lot less labor intensive than spending a day setting up and taking down a walking course on the playground, or organizing a garage sale or carnival. Not to say a school couldn't do those things too.....

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  2. I think a good start is to define exactly what the money is being raised to support. Extra teacher's aid for the K class? Put a price on it. Art curriculum for all grades? Put a dollar amount on it. I think spelling it out up front helps to motivate people.

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  3. Agree that "We need to raise $X to pay for Y at our school" will extract more blood from turnips than a vague, "Let's have a foundation to fund public schools."

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  4. the math-a-thon strikes me as being akin to paying children for their grades. I'm all for encouraging academics but I'm not sure that attaching a dollar figure to it is a good example.

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  5. At Grattan we started selling tickets to "Count me in" parties last year. It was part of the Spring auction. The "parties" ranged from very simple to more elaborate -- everything from camping out in someone's back yard, to baseball games, hikes in Marin, cocktail parties (for adults only), knitting circle night, whatever anyone wants to host or organize (within reason). The prices were per person and ranged from about $15 up to $50 or so. Many of the events were held over the summer and it was a nice way to keep in touch with community members during summer break.

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  6. My daughter's preschool does "Count Me In" a the auction and it is a lovely way for us financial aid parents to get to contribute lower amounts than the thousands contributed by some, but still participate. And for us to share our culture or whatever -- to give something that isn't material but still counts.

    The other thing the school does is "Count Me In" tix to special events hosted by teachers: a teacher comes to your house and reads a bedtime story, or takes a small group of kids to the zoo, or whatever. Again, it allows faculty to contribute without squeezing them for dollars, and the kids love it.

    And I thought the Alvarado tech scavenger hunt was a genius idea, actually.

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  7. Also, for what it's worth, I think the idea that your academic excellence can earn money for your school is different from paying kids for grades. As a kid I would have been thrilled to have my academic skills translate into a communal project. The only flaw I see is that the poorer kids, who might well be the star academics, might not have the friends and family who can contribute. I could see parents pledging to a classroom as a fairer way to do things: say, a penny for every math problem each kid gets right, or $5 if more than 70% of the class gets a B or higher, or whatever.

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  8. I see the comments above about how kids shouldn't get monetary rewards for doing well -- and I'm kind of scratching my head here. You guys all definitely have high achiever kids -- or maybe they are not into the upper grades. What is wrong with paying kids for doing well in school? I was watching a PBS program about that high school in Harlem that has successfully turned around kids and the principal flatly admitted that he pays kids for good grades -- and, you know what, it works! We pay our fourth grader $1 for finishing her homework at afterschool care and pay her a set amount for every "3" or "4" she gets on her quarterly report card. And she's doing MUCH better -- it is quite the motivator. I mean, they are going to get paid for doing well at work once they are adults -- why can't that apply now?

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  9. Starting in high school, my parents would do the following.
    An A got me $20, a B got me $10 and C earned nothing, a D I paid them $10 and an F I paid them $20. WE did not get allowance in my house (parents felt that doing household chores was simply what one did to contribute to the family, not something you got paid for) Now, C,D & F never saw my report card, but I don't think money had anything to do with that. I can recall however, working harder or studying a little longer so I could really shoot for the A over the B. Part of it was I simply wanted the good grade, but I do recall more than once doing the math and realizing how much I could earn and what that could buy me (by high school i was responsible for buying my own clothes and always had a part time job so money spoke to me!)

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  10. There's a difference between "bribery" (paying now for something you want someone to do in the future) and "incentive" (if you accomplish X, you'll get Y). How many of us would work if we didn't anticipate a paycheck, and how many of us would strive for high performance if we didn't hope to get rewarded with raises, bonuses, etc.?

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  11. apparently, most of you haven't read "punished by rewards"

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  12. 6:49 AM again here. I think individuals can be "punished by rewards." Certainly I was never paid for grades, and I was taught that you do a good job because you need to have pride in your work. I'm surprised how few people have that ethic these days. Now I work for a mildly crappy salary because I love what I do -- if I were working just to get paid, I'd be in a different job.

    But I don't think groups can be punished by rewards. I think if working together yields a benefit for all, that's great, and kids need to learn to see a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. If only individual achievement is rewarded by the individual pledgers, kids are set against one another.

    But more importantly, the poorer kids make less money. What if you are the top math achiever and your parents can't afford to "pledge" you? I was miserable when my private school forced us to sell lottery tickets to fundraise. We just didn't have wealthy friends to solicit from. The top ticket-sellers got goodies, and their rich parents or family friends always won the big-ticket items. Meanwhile, our mom spent $5 on 5 tickets for 2 kids out of our grocery money and not once in 10 years did we win anything. I hope that people involved with fundraising will carefully consider how lower-income families can contribute in meaningful ways.

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  13. 7:46 makes a good point and parents should be aware that most of the commercial fundraising operations which work through middle and high schools use this kind of model, where "top sellers" get prizes and everyone else gets nothing. This is another reason why parents should try if possible to organize their own fundraising operations, so that they can apply their own values to how the fundraising will work. There is a lot to be said for asking donors to support XYZ School, rather than little Megan or Ryan. It builds community pride and buy-in for the school, advertises the school to potential parents as a "together" place to send their kids, makes teachers and staff feel that the whole school supports them, and lets the students feel that they are part of something larger than their own small selves.

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  14. At our school we reward the class that read the most during the Read-a-thon, not the class that raised the most money through pledges, precisely for that reason.

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  15. Hands down the best (pre)school fundraiser is the San Francisco International Beer festival. All profits support a local coop preschool. No Silent Auctions, raffles etc... just drinking - Inspired!

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  16. I wanted to raise a concern about the major fundraiser that my elementary school puts on. This is the third-party gift-wrapping-paper and other stuff deal where the kids who raise the most money get a lunch at a fancy restaurant etc, etc. I've heard from parents that these third-party deals are really rip offs -- that the company ends up taking lots of the contributions. But I've never gotten details on this issue. I'm trying to get my PTA to move off this stuff and instead do self-generated auctions and funhouse events, etc. Anyone ever look at the amount siphoned off by these thidr-party deals who would care to share?

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