Gotta Be A Better Way

What Is With Kids' School Fundraisers These Days?

It’s laughable that we ask a bunch of 7-year-olds to get online donations using their social networks.

Ariela Basson/Scary Mommy; Getty Images, Shutterstock

Recently, my first-grade daughter came home excitedly waving a flyer, and telling me she needed to raise $200 for her school’s latest fundraiser. I let out an audible sigh. She gave me her best puppy-dog eyes, expecting me to either shell out the $200 myself or “help” her collect the money from different sources. The problem is that she’s 7, so “helping” her raise money usually translates into me doing most of the work. And I’m so done.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the need for organizations to seek donations. Public schools are grossly underfunded (to put it lightly). Crowdfunding is the only way for a kid in my daughter’s class to participate in a field trip, to which I am happy to contribute as much as I am financially able. I deeply believe that being part of a community means investing in it.

What I don’t appreciate, however, is the way fundraisers today are organized, putting most of the work on parents and using their online social networks to raise funds.

Like every other fundraiser my 7-year-old has been asked to participate in, the donations are made using a special personalized link. If she reaches a certain milestone ($200!) she might be rewarded with a heart-shaped keychain. But what first grader is able — or allowed — to go online independently to fill out a bunch of signup information, then navigate the website to generate their special link, and then either email or text that link to people in her social network? It’s laughable and absurd.

This setup is probably great for older kids, who are better able to navigate technology and maybe even have their own emails or social media accounts where they can easily share their unique link with friends and family. But that’s not until like 7th grade, right?

Admittedly, the online forms are better than having to walk around the neighborhood, knocking on everyone’s doors to see if they’d be willing to donate a few dollars or write a check like we had to do when I was a kid. But it does mean it’s harder to make the kids do the work themselves.

As a family with two full-time working parents, fundraising feels like just one more thing on our already never-ending list of tasks. Even if we want to sit out of a fundraiser, it’s not exactly easy to do, because these organizations get the kids so excited to raise money (translation: earn junk prizes) that my daughter would feel left out because all of the other kids are participating.

My husband and I tried to put more of the fundraising responsibility on our daughter this time around, having her Facetime or call any family member she wanted to ask to donate. But again, she’s 7, so we still had to help her make those calls (and coach her through how to ask respectfully) and then get online and send the links to whoever agreed to give money.

Is it too much to ask for these organizations to just help the parents of younger kids out? Give us a little advance notice when fundraisers are coming up so that we can donate ourselves if we’re able to (and, if we have the time and energy, ask friends and family to contribute too).

And, while we’re at it, please stop incentivizing kids with junk trinkets that will be forgotten about entirely within a month. Instead, consider setting up a physical donation box where they can slip in some of their allowance money and experience how good it feels to give to their community. I would argue that’s a life lesson a kid is never too young to learn.

Ashley Ziegler is a freelance writer living just outside of Raleigh, NC, with her two young daughters and husband. She’s written across a range of topics throughout her career but especially loves covering all things pregnancy, parenting, lifestyle, advocacy, and maternal health.