School fundraising: teaching opportunity or exploitation?

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 13 2013 4:53 p.m. MDT

While some parents believe fundraisers teach students valuable skills while raising funds for their school or for extracurricular activities, others told the New York Post they find the tradition "creepy and manipulative."

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Not everyone loves Girl Scout cookies. In fact, a columnist at the New York Post maintains many parents dislike using kids as fundraisers for organizations and schools.

Proponents of fundraising argue that selling candy door-to-door or convincing neighbors to pledge a cash amount should the student achieve a certain goal teaches students important lessons and skills while bringing in additional funds for extracurricular activities. Opponents, on the other hand, say asking kids to solicit contributions sends all the wrong messages.

“When my kids are selling things, I want them to understand that they need to sell something people value, at a reasonable price," Tony Woodlief told the New York Post's Naomi Schaefer Riley. "When they are soliciting for a charity, I want them to understand they are ‘selling’ people on the social value of the charity.

“Marketing chalky candy bars at $5 a pop does neither. It teaches kids that selling is playing on sympathy to move crappy product, and it teaches them that you have to give folks something in order to induce them to be philanthropic.”

Another parent told the New York Post that she learned valuable communication and organization skills as one of the top fundraisers for her own Girl Scouts troop while growing up. Additionally, the money she raised allowed her to take part in activities her family could not afford. She admitted, however, that she would not send her own kids door-to-door today.

Fundraising for schools is big business. In Washington, D.C., area schools raise an average of $42 million annually, the Washington Post reported. That should average out to nearly $1,000 per student, but in actuality, the fundraising generally benefits only those schools in financially privileged neighborhoods. One charter school brought in more than $6,000 per student; another raised a combined total of $7.2 million per year. Other schools earned less than $20 per student.

While some school districts have sworn off fundraising entirely, others have taken to the tradition with a more creative approach. According to the Christian Science Monitor, a school in Kentucky has sold garbage bags to community businesses with great success. Other schools, such as those supported by the Sleepy Hollow PTA in Falls Church, Va., have taken to soliciting donations outright, and some have even moved away from the door-to-door model in favor of an online approach.

EMAIL: epenrod@deseretnews.com

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