Remembering a Different A-to-Z Challenge

Fundraising
You can’t escape the fundraisers. They are everywhere.

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.

50 thoughts on “Remembering a Different A-to-Z Challenge

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    1. Sorry if I dredged up traumatic memories :) My wife pointed out that I forgot to mention the candy sales. We bought a lot of candy. To this day, people are selling candy in the kitchen at work.

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  1. ‘…nobody says “we need money” like a nun standing at the front of the room’..a great line, Dan, among many great lines and thoughts in this very enjoyable piece.

    Thank You for sharing..
    Best Wishes

    john

    Liked by 3 people

  2. As a former teacher and now the older couple in a neighborhood teeming with youngsters peddling goods who see us as an easy target, which we are, I’ve seen both sides of school fundraising. But I’ve never enjoyed hearing about it as much as I did in this post. You had me with “nobody says “we need money” like a nun standing at the front of the room” and kept my interest to the end.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hilarious. I used to have my own business as a kid selling brownies door to door every Sunday. People started to plan their parties around me but as soon as I made enough money for that Atari 2600 I said good-bye forever to the door to door world.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post! Fun to read and rekindle memories which are now repeating themselves as our grandkids ‘fundraise’. I’m with the crowd that says let’s just pony up money and forget all those ‘valuable social skills😀. The worst we wrestled with was drlivering those prickly holiday wreaths!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sammy – Wreaths, pies, fruit, what were they thinking? What parent has time during the holidays to sell AND deliver stuff? Hopefully with the grandkids, you just get to be the easy sale.

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      1. My DIL is so lowkey about the whole thing – probably cuz, like me, she resents schools forcing kids to do this stuff (especially when it’s turned into a class-vs-class competition).

        She justs puts the sales stuff in the usual kitchen table pile and if we happen to see and buy, great, but no pressure on kids to sell or us to buy. Ther are plenty of better ways to teach social skills and support schools.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I hate fundraisers. I have so many issues with fundraisers, I could go on about it for hours. We had one really good fundraiser, ONCE. The kids sold scent-stuffs. It also happened to be this time of year, so they made fantastic Mother’s Day presents. Additionally, when we gave friends and family the invite, they could shop without our involvement for another month AFTER our sales stopped, and choose to pay shipping directly with the company instead of frustrating parents estimating charges and standing in line at the post. That raised twice as much money as they expected/hoped for.
    I didn’t do the rest. Many times, I signed a form saying my kids couldn’t participate. Calculating the rate of cookie dough sales to iPad costs makes a delightful story problem. Kids get pretty angry when they realize they have to sell $4k in cookie dough to get a $400 item.
    I write checks. The PTO has never, ever rejected a check.

    I must say, the local Catholic school has an awesome fundraiser event for three days in September. It’s a fair, with carnival rides, food trucks, and entertainment. It’s within walking distance. We always go, and it’s always packed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our volunteer firemen have a fundraising carnival each year. I always go. I buy more food tickets than I can use, but I always eat hot sausage grinders at least two out of three nights. The Sisters that ran this school had a great fundraiser at their main convent – a carnival day with tons of homemade polish food. Games, gambling, cabbage and kielbasa – oh goodness.

      I’m glad you signed the waiver.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. All the cookies, candy, paper… And it’s as though all the interpersonal, just play nice, office relationships depend on buying all that crap from everybody who has a kid. Then when you think you’re safe with a single person, they bring it in for their nephew and niece… And when that’s over the adults bring in Avon and Amway… If a tiny bulge looks suspiciously like a catalog or sign up sheet — RUN. Hugs. :D

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I manage to avoid most of that. I did it for kids, but now people are bringing in the stuff their grandkids are selling for preschool – no, I draw the line. I do buy girl scout cookies from anyone selling them. It’s a weakness. Thanks for the comment Teegan.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Don’t have much fundraising experience/memories since my parents just gave money and saved us the hassle of the whole door to door sales issues. It does, however, remind me of my days trying to sell MaryKay and Quixtar products. I was always annoyed that we couldn’t advertise but instead had to do direct sales – – such is the MLM way. I now stay away from MLM programs/schemes as my time is too limited to invest and not see proper returns.

    Great read as always. Hope you’re having a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Zombies! Good one 😁
        Their behavior is very cult-like – – the primary objective is to get as many to join a as possible to make the program effective.
        Yes, lovely weather today. Still a bit Chilly but managed to enjoy a bit of nature with the family this morning.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Pagan babies??? Oh, let the memories return. Twelve years of Catholic school for me and I can remember pagan babies like it was yesterday. The teachers would staple the certificate with the babies name on it to our bulletin board, and it was such a big deal. One time in particular was when we had finally raised enough money and we now had to name the baby. Of course, the girls wanted to name it ‘Theresa’ or ‘Veronica’…you know, a good Catholic name. The boys, however, came up with Zachary and darn if that name didn’t get the OK. Second grade and I still remember that. Such a great post, Dan. I don’t even want to think of the payment books to pay Catholic school tuition–in addition to raising yet more money. Not even gonna’ go there.

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    1. You should check out Dan’s post on those babies. I never understood why they didn’t just raise tuition and advertise “this school is 100% fundraiser free” I think that would work. Thanks for confirming the existence of Pagan Babies – I was a public school kid. We had savings bonds.

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      1. The nuns would have us think that we Catholic second-graders were singlehandedly saving the world. Now, we joke that we should all wear T-shirts that say “I went to Catholic school and survived!’

        Liked by 1 person

  9. First, what a great father you are, to be part of the PTA, donate money, and after facilitate this for your daughter. Second, great building of suspense here. I was hooked until the nice and satisfying ending.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Another great post! You have me laughing here and thinking of all the fundraisers we supported and the stories behind them. One year, we got lots of orders from family and friends, but when it was time to get the items from the school, we got nothing. The school lost our order form and the check!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Good post . Thanks for the mention . Too bad about the no pagan babies, though . It brings back a lot of fundraising events along the way in my memories , for school , Little League , neighborhood stuff . I like your grease -the-palm strategy . Case of fruit ? Funny.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This fundraising post reminds me of all the fundraising my family went through. Four kids. Many different schools. I never liked the food-related fundraising events since the food was never what I like and eat. I’m with you with the magazines. We could only get rid of the subscriptions when we moved away! The wrapping paper was okay for a while since the kids were invited to countless birthday parties. I had to wrap as many gifts. My husband did what you did: offering a check payment rather than sending our kids selling all across town (with me, of course, since door-to-door is never a good idea for the kids, right?)
    I sometimes miss the school years but never the fundraising events.
    As always your post hits its target with precision and humor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Evelyne. I guess I shouldn’t complain since we only had one child, but I just found it such a terrible way to make money. Thanks for swinging by in the middle of the A-to-Z madness.

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  13. I like the idea of “dividing up the amount of money the school hopes to raise pay that amount”. It had occurred to me one time in 2010 when we had a church fundraising. The amount needed was 50,000 Kenya Shillings (equivalent to about 625 USD at the time). Now that church has some really rich regulars. If you see their cars or houses! Yet at the end of the day only 9,000 and a few hundreds had been raised. One elder even commented on people’s stinginess when it comes to church donations. And I thought afterwards that perhaps we should have divided the amount equally amongst us. There are usually at least 200 adults in that church. Each person would have paid no more than 250, and I doubt anyone would have complained. But it always has to be fundraising!!! Slow, gruelling, ineffective.
    But I love the way yours seem to work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am done with fundraising now, until such time that there are grandchildren selling stuff. We contribute to lots of things, but I almost never contribute if asked to do so. I want it to be voluntary.

      Liked by 1 person

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