Back in the day, I was an eight-year-old on a mission. I wanted to sell as many treats for the youth fundraiser as I possibly could. Do I remember why I was selling them? No. Did I understand the educational benefits of learning how to fundraise as a kid? Not at all. Was I aware that there’d be a slim but hopeful chance I could eat some goodies while I sold them? You betcha.
But seriously, the pressure to raise that money was all too real. Every single parent around me seemed stressed to the max about peddling those treats, so I matched the overwhelm I saw in their eyes. I knew that if I didn’t meet my quota, I’d feel like a total failure. And it seemed like all of my peers were out there doing one hell of a job making bank. I didn’t want to be the one kid who couldn’t sell something as simple as universally loved baked goods.
I think we can all relate to this. No child wants to be the kid who falls short, gets left out, or feels ashamed for not having enough. And no parent wants that for their children either. Childhood is already filled with enough adversity. Why pile onto kids the overwhelm of competing financially with their young peers?
Now that I’m a mother of two who regularly struggles in the money department, I’m already worried about my four-year-old starting kindergarten in a year. What if we’re overdrawn the week she needs to bring in money for her school field trip? What if I just don’t have the cash for her lunch on a random day? And what the fuck do I do when the season of PTO fundraising is upon me?
It’s been a rude awakening for me to learn that children as young as five are now expected to raise money for their schools. IMHO, that’s far too much of a burden to be placing on my future kindergartner.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Underneath a recent Facebook post about one mom’s aversion to PTO fundraisers, over six hundred parents chimed in with their various opinions on the topic. One mom echoed the writer’s frustration about forcibly encouraging young children to fundraise in exchange for prizes.
“I can’t stand the prizes for raising the most money,” she writes. “This means the kids with parents with the most money or biggest offices win.”
While another was quick to point out that, all too often, these fundraisers exist in part due to the lack of educational funding.
“Here’s an idea. How about we fund schools properly, so the PTO doesn’t have to make kids raise money?” she asks. “Or so teachers don’t have to go buy school supplies and books and meals for students? Just a thought.”
One parent even vented about the trials of being on the PTO and wishing there was a better way to help our schools.
“I agree with so much of this sentiment. I’m on the PTA, and I use my voice regularly… I think what we all want is to provide a more inclusive environment for all kids to get involved. For all kids to be rewarded,” she explains. I think that at the end of the day, we all really do want that for our community’s children.
Included among the commenters was a mom who shared about how her local school handles their yearly fundraising. And it’s such a refreshing alternative to PTO fundraisers, I sure hope it catches on in more towns.
“Our school does a ’20 is Plenty’ and just asks each family to contribute $20,” she writes. “Some families donate more to cover families that can’t afford it, but there is a huge participation rate! And you don’t have to buy crap!”
Doesn’t that sound nice?
With this fabulous approach, everyone gets to work together, regardless of income level, to help their school receive the money it needs to function well. And grownups can handle the financial end of fundraising so that young kids aren’t impacted by an exclusive rewards system. And because the pressure’s off to individually bring in the big bucks, more people participate – which can inevitably lead to an abundance of donations.
I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a pretty sweet idea to me. It doesn’t just benefit the kids and their parents either. PTO volunteers can also feel relief, as they no longer need to shoulder the burden of creating elaborate fundraising events that reward a portion of the community, while excluding the rest. And schools still get the support they very much deserve.
No matter how you feel about the hot topic of PTO fundraisers, one thing’s for sure. We’ve got to collectively figure out a better option to help build up our educational institutions without negatively impacting the families who may also need our help. I firmly believe that fundraising ideas like “20 is Plenty” can easily put us on the path to doing that.
As of right now, my husband and I are barely making ends meet, along with most of the other people we know. We both juggle work with taking care of our kids, and we’re lucky if we can afford extra childcare each week. And the one time my daughter’s preschool requested money to buy the teacher’s end-of-the-year gifts, my stomach turned to knots as I tried to figure out how we could afford to do it.
I don’t want to spend a handful of years feeling unnecessary anxiety every single time school fundraising rolls around. There has got to be an easier way for us all to contribute without kids – or their parents – feeling so damn depleted. And with “20 Is Plenty,” I think we’re onto something.