Why I Hate School Fundraisers

by Sumiti Mehta
LuminaStock / Getty

There is no denying that parents think it’s really important to support our children’s schools by volunteering, donating and participating in all fundraising activities — which, of course, is also a great way to get to know other parents, nurture a sense of community, and set a progressive example for our kids.

In today’s world, fundraisers are important as our schools are strapped for cash, school budgets continue to be slashed, and states have less funding every year to spend on education. But the problem also is that most families are strapped for cash too because of the economy.

Like many other parents in my community, I feel conflicted. We all want our kids to go on field trips, be exposed to STEM programs, and have great assemblies at school. But we also dislike the fact that when parents are not able to participate, our kids are singled out as a consequence. Kids are subjected to high peer pressure sales pitches. If the students are able to raise X amount of money, then they will be able to enjoy the Gaming Truck, have an inflatable party at the school campus, or have their name engraved on a Chromebook.

And if they aren’t able to raise that amount, then they can’t.

Since most children at the elementary age level depend on their parents and their families and parents’ friends helping to pitch in for fundraising, lower income students can’t compete, and they feel the extreme sting of their better-off classmates winning prizes, Mega parties, or game truck time.

This kind of incentive for fundraisers is used in lots of schools — ironically also in schools where there are large numbers of students who receive free or reduced lunches and breakfast. This creates a group of children who feel left out from the fun their friends will have, and it’s just because their parents can’t afford or have no means to be able to raise X amount of funds. This has provided a fitting way for some children to bully by bragging how they will enjoy the games and fun.

While most fundraiser and community events are benign, this kind of incentive clause puts an unfair burden on children whose parents might be struggling or just don’t have family and friends to support the fundraiser. This kind of discord should not be promoted by schools or by anyone who works under the umbrella of the school system.

Most fundraising and community activities in schools are coordinated and executed by a committee of parents who belong to their school PTA. No doubt, these parents step in and do a wonderful job of helping meet the school or classroom’s needs. But the pressure to accomplish certain goals sometimes leads to losing sight of the main priority: helping and nurturing kids.

Fundraising should be a family experience.

In my ideal world, the “fundraising” should encourage families and kids to work together for a common goal and not for incentives. I am pretty sure there are various ways to fundraise well without sacrificing kindness. Our schools belong to everyone and we all should focus on making sure everyone feels welcome. As an involved parent and PTA member, I would recognize the kids who have raised the most money to support their school to have an ice cream/pizza party with the whole class instead. I am sure these kids will it enjoy more with all their friends included than by themselves.