READER QUESTION: How Do You Handle Fundraisers?

posted by Andrea | 07/30/2019

Last week 3 different people emailed asking how Dave and I handle school, church, or community fundraisers for our children. 

Here’s one of the emails:

Hi Andrea!

A while back you asked for back to school post ideas… I’d be interested in a post on how you handle school fundraisers. I hate asking people to buy stuff, so we usually just ask grandparents — and of course ourselves! This can get expensive though, especially with multiple children! 

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a great answer for any of these emails because our children currently aren’t involved in any church or community groups that have fundraisers, and their school only does ONE fundraiser for the entire year (it’s a walk-a-thon, so nothing to sell!) Yahoo!! 

The walk-a-thon is in the spring and each child is asked to raise $100 (very doable in my opinion). There are prizes and incentives for them to raise more than $100, but as long as each child raises roughly $100, the fundraiser will be a huge success from the school’s point of view. 

For the last couple of years, Dave and I have simply written a check for the appropriate amount as we didn’t feel like calling friends and relatives (and our kids were a little young to call themselves). Nora did decide to call a few relatives last year, which earned her an extra $200 on top of our $100. 


Ironically, when I was growing up, my sisters and I would often sell so many items for our school fundraisers that our classes would win many of the special prizes, pizza parties, ice cream parties, etc. 

We had fun and our parents helped us… but at this point in my life, I absolutely LOVE that our school only has one fundraiser, and I love that it’s not until spring.

That said, I’m curious to know how other families handle school, church, or community fundraisers! 

Do you go all-in and sell a ton of stuff? (If so, what’s your secret to success?)

Do you simply write a check yourself and call it good? 

Do you call a few close friends and relatives?

Do you post it on social media and let people decide for themselves? (does this method work well?)

Do you call/email? Or do you have your children do it? What ages did they start calling themselves?

Do you choose not to participate? And does your school or organization have any “penalties” for not participating? 

Leave a comment (or respond to another comment) and I’ll try to respond to as many questions as I can! 

Filed under: FamilyChildrenMisc.

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  1. Jessica


    I also want your readers to know that there are for-profit companies which go after our public schools to use children to fund the millionaire owners – Boosterthon being a big name in this scam game. They promote so-called “fun runs” in elementary schools which grandparents and others happily send money for supporting the kids – who doesn’t want kids to get some exercise and fun in the sun with their classmates?! It sounds great. Loud pop music and aggressive “coaches” interrupt the school day with loud assemblies to pressure kids to sell, sell, sell for junk store plastic trinkets and peer pressure so the entire class can get a homework-free day (a violation of education law but often used to pressure kids to raise money). And what people aren’t told is that anywhere from 40-90% of their contributions go to the company, not the school! The smaller the overall goal (often in small or underprivileged schools), the larger the percentage the business takes of the overall amount raised. They even include a contract clause to require all direct school donations during this time (say you prefer to just write the PTA a check instead of participating in the event) to take a portion out and send to the fundraiser company. So you can’t direct where you want your donation to go and can’t avoid giving money to these companies. It is a disgusting business model which takes advantage of people with good intentions to pick up the slack left by underfunded school districts. Parents should be told and should make their families aware that if you donate to the “Fun Run”, you are giving something like 50% of your hard earned money to a millionaire who is exploiting students by turning them into tiny sales people for the profit of these companies. Google it and be informed before you support these fundraisers! Schools can organize their own events like this and avoid these gross companies.


    Andrea Reply:

    oh wow — thanks for sharing Jessica!


  2. Kate


    I was one of the people that asked the question and I’ve liked reading all the responses. I can tell the feeling is mutual on the dislike of fundraisers! I think the way I’ve been doing it is probably the simplest given the types of fundraisers we have (just asking parents and grandparents). Especially when it is pizza or butter braids and the items have to take up space in my freezer before they are delivered! That being said, I have some ideas I think I’ll bring up to the PTO. I think we could make more money with asking people to write a check or just make a donation. I’d rather do that anyway!


    Andrea Reply:

    oh good — glad you got some goo ideas to take back to your school board and PTO!


  3. Samantha


    Our sons school literally has one fundraiser each fall called “Write the cheque” campaign! One fundraiser, that’s it, any donations over $25 get an income tax receipt. There are a handful of dress down days/wear pjs/colour red etc. (We’re a Uniform school) that cost $1-$2 to participate and money goes to charities.
    My question back would be how you deal with requests from door to door donations, Girl Scouts cookies, asking at the check out at the grocery store…


    Andrea Reply:

    clever — write a cheque! 🙂


  4. Elizabeth


    I hate fundraisers! Our school has one big fundraiser where our kids are asked to sell coupon books, the parents have the option of selling coupon books or donating the cost of 10 books. We choose to just donate the cost. We do send our family and friends invites for” Give Back Nights” held at local restaurants where a portion of sales is given back to the school.


  5. Brandette W.


    We don’t, simple as that.

    I hated fundraisers as a kid. I don’t like them as a parent. Our son doesn’t do sports or other activities. He goes to public school. Despite it being public school, we still have to pay book fees, chromebook rental fees. Plus, I am always his classroom’s room parent so I donate a lot of my time and funds to throw multiple parties each school year and chaperone the field trips. We will participate in a school fund raiser if it is VERY inexpensive and the kid’s get something in return: this last school year they sold suckers 3 for $1.


  6. Barb


    My math skills are rusty, but as I figure it out in 5 or 6 years you will be asked to raise $300, if the rate is still $100 per child. In the meantime, you will have been asked to raise $200 a year for those 5 or so years. The girls’ and boys’ clubs at church have 1 fundraiser a year. So it does get a bit tricky and tiring when siblings are involved over the years. That said, wanting to support the causes, the most efficient and easy way can be to just donate to the cause, skip the middle-man, and save your friendships and family. 🙂


  7. Amy


    I am 100% team “write a check!” I do not want to hassle with selling stuff.

    I do remember how cool the prizes & such seemed when I was in elementary school, so if our kids want to sell for prizes at that point then we will reevaluate.


  8. Rhonda


    I’ve done a few different things.

    One of our kids went to a Montessori school for a while, and they gave the option of selling $200 worth of chocolate/coffee/tea from Equal Exchange, or donating $100 cash (the profit margin for EE was 50%).

    Our public school sends home some fundraising info once each year, but I hate using it because the incentive is for kids to get more cheap plastic junk as “prizes” (how many “backpack pets” does one kid really need?) This fundraiser isn’t required, so I usually donate to the teacher’s classroom by writing a check, or asking the teacher what they might need (sometimes I have had them say “nothing”, or sometimes they will say “Walmart giftcard would be super handy”). Or, I have posted the link for the fundraiser on social media that gives people the option. The first year this fundraiser came around I felt compelled to email a few family members (like especially ones whose children are grown and have “hit me up” in the past for fundraisers), but again, I’m a little opposed to all of the “prizes” that are sent home.

    Also on a side note, reading comments below, I think public school extra-curricular fees must be quite common. We (in Wisconsin) have those as well, with a cap if you have multiple kids in high school. I don’t know if that existed in the 90’s when I was in high school (if it did, I wasn’t aware). Still, I’d rather pay a fee than be asked to raise money. What a time suck that can be!


  9. Ruth


    Ugh, I hate fundraisers.

    I homeschooled my kids so we did not participate in anything we didn’t want to. Even when my college-aged daughter went on a mission trip with our church, I had her pay her entire way. I didn’t let her ask people. I just felt that because she was a student at a very expensive college and our family is pretty well off, it just feels weird to ask for money. She had a summer internship that was paying her $25 per hr…kwim? She can work herself to pay.

    On the other hand, I also don’t like giving to fundraisers unless the kids are doing something. If there is a group washing cars, shoveling snow, raking leaves etc, I will always generously pay.

    Or if they are selling some good quality merchandise that I would buy anyway. Once, a group was selling mulch, so I bought it. Or candy…I will always buy candy!!! lol


  10. Tonya


    My daughter’s school has 1 fundraiser. It is for raffle tickets to win 2 cash prizes. The tickets are $10.00 and each child should sell 5 tickets. We write a check for the 5 tickets she must sell and I allow her to call family and they usually buy a few more. We do not sell any of it at our jobs and we do not support anyone selling for the kids at work.


  11. Sue


    I am tired of the fun raisers. I understand with private school, they have to raise funds… but public school ??? that is what my taxes are for…. Living in one of the highest taxed states in the USA… I am done..

    We do Girl scout cookies, I will not annoy anyone with my rant about the girl scouts.( Just saying it is sooooooo very different and not for the better, from when I was in scouts as a kid)and the membership fee for each kid and my fee that I have to pay to be a volunteer, and certification classes I have to take and pay for on top of that.

    But I am not sure if anyone else has this but in our town we have to pay a fee on top of everything else, fun raisers and such, for our kids to belong to school sponsored clubs. $75.00 a year for elementary school clubs, that is per child, and that was to join the knitting club that we provided the yarn and needles,and the kids donated their completed items to charity. High school it is over $ 100.00. per year, for our child to be in a language club, any club or sport. If you have 2 kids? $200.00, etc. Yea I am done with fund raisers.



    Sue Reply:

    OH MY GOODNESS… funny thing right after I just typed this I went into my email.. and I got a letter from my high school age child’s school and this letter received today :

    “Athletic and Extracurricular Activity Participation Fee:

    This annual fee will be assessed to every student who participates in at least one athletic or extracurricular activity that requires a Board of Education paid coach or advisor. The annual fee enables students to participate in ALL athletic and extracurricular activities throughout the school year.

    The rate is $200 per student, with a maximum family cap of $400 per family. Each student must submit the Athletic and Extracurricular Activity Participation Fee payment prior to the participation (including try outs) in an activity. The fee is valid for that school year only.”


    Dana Reply:

    Hi Sue,

    I live and teach in California, which is also a “highly taxed” state, but the costs of the programs that we run at our district’s public schools are not even CLOSE to covered by the money that the state provides. Don’t get me started on Prop 13.

    As a choir director, I loathe having to run fundraisers, and many of our parents would rather just pay the money up front. My parents did that when I was in high school. But legally, we are not allowed to make fees “mandatory” for participation in programs, at least not in our state. We also have many students in our district whose parents *can’t* just pay the money up front, and it’s easier for those kids to pay for their program costs by selling chocolate bars at $1 apiece to their friends on campus.

    I know that on my end, I provide a breakdown for parents regarding the costs of running our program, so that everyone knows exactly where their dollars are being spent and what their child is getting for those costs. But I hear you on being sick of fundraisers – we teachers hate them too, trust me!


  12. Sue Olep


    Our kids also had a walk-a-thon in elementary and then also Jump rope for Heart. I let my kids pick which one they wanted to ask family about…(the friends are in the same boat) and then we would personally donate a small amount to the other. Also, should note, that my siblings (their aunts and uncles) are older than me with much older children, so they no longer have these things going on and were happy to donate. Now that my kids are in middle and high school, there are more and complicated fundraisers. Thankfully, a few years ago, the middle school did away with their magazine fundraiser and just asked for $20 from each family which got them a t-shirt. But now we have many fundraisers per year for band! Again, I ask my daughter which she would like to participate in. Some go to a general fund, while others she can actually earn personal money for her expenses. The spring pie sale is a big one, and she went around the neighborhood and called relatives to sell 33 pies! Then we had to volunteer a shift during pie day for her to claim the $2.50 per pie toward her account. Very worth it to me, since it paid for her Lansing trip this year and part of her Cedar Point trip next year.


  13. Brooke


    I’m torn on fundraising. On one hand, I feel the group that makes the most money in a fundraiser is the company providing the goods, and they are essentially using free child labor to do so. On the other hand, I feel like I learned a lot of important life skills selling girl scout cookies as a kid. I write a check to the PTA at the beginning of the year and call it good. I wont sell stuff, but if my kids would like to when they get to that point I will let them (but it doesn’t mean I’m buying it myself!)


  14. Casey


    My daughter also attends a Christian school here in West Michigan, and while she was in elementary school they also had a walk-a-thon—which was great! We did the same thing, we never asked family (often her grandparents will already randomly pay towards her tuition during the school year already) so we would just write the check ourselves. Last year was her first year of middle school, and they no longer do the walk-a-thon. Instead they sell flowers in the spring and have a magazine sale in the fall. We didn’t participate in the magazine sale, even though they had a company come in and really pump the kids up for prizes for however many they sold. She did ask family about flowers, but didn’t put any pressure on them–only if it was something they were planning on buying anyway.

    Family and close friends know that I’m not a big fan of parties like norwex, essential oils, etc. My answer is always a standard “no thank you.” So I certainly wouldn’t ask them for fundraising money (especially on social media). I also think it’s important that my daughter do the asking–I never do it for her. I think asking face to face or at least over the phone gives her needed life skills. So that’s my very long two cents on the subject! 🙂