Despite the fact that a bunch of my blog-buddies just passed the April A-to-Z challenge midpoint, I can’t say the phrase “A-to-Z” without remembering a meeting of the Home and School Association where the subject was fundraising. The subject was always fundraising, and nobody says “we need money” like a nun standing at the front of the room.
I was first reminded of this when my buddy Dan was talking about naming Pagan Babies while growing up in Corpus Christi, Texas. Dan was either so scarred or so impressed by that experience that he spent part of his adult life teaching in a Catholic School in California. He described an encounter with the salesman for a fundraising outfit that is similar to the schemes the good sisters got roped into.
I forgot about fundraising until I read a guest post by Paul Curran at Cordelia’s mom about delivering fruit to schools who were selling it to raise money. The memories came flooding back. We sold fruit a couple of times. We also sold pies and wrapping paper and ribbon and magazines. The fruit and pies were the worst ideas ever. The salesmen promised us a nice profit on each case of fruit.
A case of fruit.
Who wants a case of fruit?
That was my thought when they announced that fundraiser and how were my six year old daughter and tiny little wife supposed to sell cases of fruit? Fortunately, I figured out a way to take that bullet. Rather than have my wife and daughter canvassing the neighborhood hawking oranges like a peddler, I volunteered to help unload the truck and distribute the fruit to parents. That was good for two reasons. It was one night. I was always fond of telling my daughter “you can do anything for (some length of time)” and certainly, I could schlep fruit for one night. The other reason was that we lived two blocks from a family that had three or four boys in that same school. Those kids worked our neighborhood like a side show barker. There was nothing left for us.
Selling pies was an even dumber idea. Our school was associated with a Polish Parish. No matter who you were talking to, someone in their family made a better pie than we were selling. That immediately narrowed the customer base to your neighbors, but not our neighbors because, you know, the family with four kids.
Another reason that both fruit and pies were dumb ideas is that people had to deliver them. The fruit came in 40 lb cases and the pies were frozen! I had taken the easy way out. I was working the wholesale end of the operation, and when you’re delivering fruit and frozen pies, wholesale is the place to be. Sure, there were the parents who had lost their paperwork and the ones who forgot to pay and the ones who didn’t remember ordering so much fruit but we had a perfect answer for them: “take it up with Sister” as if that was going to end well.
During my first Home and School meeting a man stood up and suggested:
”Instead of fundraisers A-through-P, why don’t we we just divide up the amount of money the school hopes to raise pay that amount?”
He even suggested that the families that could, could add in a little extra to make up for the families that couldn’t. Sister knew the members of both camps, she could handle that. Just give us a number.
I dubbed this guy “The Big Bazoo” and I thought he was crazy.
I had no idea that he was serious when he said “A-through-P” – over 15 fundraisers AND a fashion show!
His idea was soundly defeated. One after another, people got up and spoke in favor of fundraising. “The fashion show is so much fun” “The little kids love the pencil machine” “My family loves the wrapping paper” and, of course: “It helps the children develop social skills.”
The pencil machine was associated with the magazine sale. The little kids did like it but the magazine sale was self-defeating. When our daughter was in Kindergarten, we bought enough magazines to meet her daily quota. Unfortunately, publishers get you to renew your subscriptions well in advance of next year’s sale, so after one year, you’re sunk.
By the time our daughter was in 1st grade, I had become the Big Bazoo. I did my homework and I went to Sister with a proposition.
“If my daughter sells the recommended amount of magazines, your profit is about $25. I’ll write you a check for $50 if you let her turn the pencil machine. Deal?”
Done. Sister wasn’t dumb. She had her eye on the prize.
We bought wrapping paper, greeting cards, ribbon, bows and the occasional pie. I volunteered to help set up the tables, chairs, decorations and assemble the runway for the fashion show and we made it through each year. Our daughter ended up in marketing so doesn’t seem like the lack of sales experience hurt her. We didn’t get to name any pagan babies though.