Someone please explain PTA fundraising!

merj13August 26, 2002

My daughter just started Kindergarten last week. She's adjusting very well, and really likes being at "big school."

But today she came home with a gift-wrap selling package. I'm upset! Why are school kids subjected to such peer pressure (prizes to those who sell the most!)? And why so soon--this is not what I expected my child's second week of Kindergarten to look like. To me, putting this type of peer pressure on very young kids (and their parents!) is far from being a good example. Why should a five-year-old child be sent out to the street to support a Parent-Teacher (adult!) organization? What am I missing?

Are parents really THAT unresponsive that they won't even support a PTA's financial needs?

My initial thought was to send back the packet with a $25 check directly to the PTA. Now that I've thought about it, I don't even want to do THAT! I feel like I am being railroaded.

Your thoughts? What would YOU do?

thanks for letting me vent,


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I hate fundraisers. The school that DS attended would have 5 or 6 a year. I think you might not have it straight on where the money goes however. It does not go to any adults in the PTA. Also the money shouldn't go to operation cost of the PTA if there are any above the funds raised by joining the PTA. In schools that DS has attended in the past the money has gone to support things that the system did not provide money for, such as a school nurse or an art teacher.
Most of the schools aslo send leters home statign that the parents are suppose to sell the items. The children are told to not sell it door to door. My biggest complaint was in one neighborhood we lived in. DS would actually get threats by older kids if we didn't order from them. They wanted the big prizes so bad that they would threaten to beat up the younger students if their parents wouldn't order from them. Of course the younger kids were selling the same thing as the older kids and the parents were buying from their own children.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2002 at 10:59PM
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I hear you.
On the issue of timing..
I was on the PTA board for a couple years before we moved (this school has a PTO, and I'm sure I'll soon be involved). As irritating as it is, the goal is to get the funds before the end of December. The processing takes a long time, so they start early. Even ordering early in September, we'd be lucky to get the merchandise by late October, and it would take a few weeks after that to clear up any errors in orders and then finally get the check from the fundraising company. Then those funds, based on predictions in the PTA budget approved last school year, are disbursed to teachers, projects, and special events.

On the selling...
even as a PTA board member, I never felt pressure to solicit sales or much less have my child solicit sales. Of course, I understand that is going to depend on your community, every place is different in those regards. We had no family in the town, and all our friends had kids selling the same stuff. I bought something and would ask my parents to look at the catalog. That's it. DS would usually get the first, maybe second, level prize. Some cheap pen or something, he just liked that he participated and got anything out of it. I think there is more competition between older kids who have a better concept of material things. The Kers, especially, don't get it.

IMO, it's just a mutual thing. The PTA should not pressure parents to do more than is comfortable; parents should support the efforts of the PTA in whatever way they are able and comfortable. Be it time or money (time is even more appreciated). From my experience, most parents are happy to buy something if they feel it buys their way out of giving time to PTA events.

Based on my experiences, I think they'd be thrilled if you just sent a check in instead of buying. I think they be even more thrilled if you went to a PTA meeting and signed up as a volunteer. I found my time in PTA a very worthwhile thing, I learned a lot about how the whole things works. And the actual PTA national organization (as opposed to local PTOs or such) is the largest child advocacy organization in the country. They actually have lobbyists in D.C. Of course volunteering in the classroom is important. The PTA does support for the entire school, when you help them you help make the entire school strong, which makes your child's classroom stronger. The PTA provides support, in both time and money, directly to teachers that is not provided in any other way given the budget of most schools. Most of what a local school's PTA does is for the school, of course. But if it is a PT*A* they are affiliated with the national organization and have the support of county, state and national PTA on bigger issues of district and legislative policy. It ain't a social club.

I'm sorry if I strayed from just answering the question. I'm not always happy with the way events or fundraisers are communicated, they sometimes take for granted that parents are familiar with it all. They forget that for some parents this is the first time. I hope that the rest of your experiences with your school's PTA are positive.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2002 at 11:06PM
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You expressed it very well. It is good to see the parents involved. Your comments were great.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2002 at 10:39AM
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As a member of the PTP I support the fundraisers in our school. We do many different fundraisers and do not expect every family to participate in every fundraiser. If you don't like this one don't participate. But Stephanie is right you have to order in Sept to have the stuff in time for the holidays. Please find one you can support.

The money generally goes to the kids in the school or to the school for all the kids to use. Some of the things we have used money for are:

More basketball courts
Risers for student performances

Some of the major fundraisers we do:
Warpping paper
Used uniform sale
Movie Night
Western Night
Entertainment Book
Land's End Prefferred School Program
Mother's Day Plant Sale
Advertisements in the Yearbook

We also do smaller ones like Dress Down day (costs the kids $1 to dress down) as well as selling the school folders (not mandatory) and agenda books (mandatory for grades 1-5, optional for K) and probably a few others I forgot.

Your child will benefit from the school's fundraising.


    Bookmark   August 27, 2002 at 11:01AM
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I don't have any problem supporting school fund raisers. Gift wrap sales, spagetti suppers, car washes, auctions are all there for a reason. They support the needs of the students. If there is a need our family helps out in any way we can. Be it our time, our money, or volunteering. Our school budget was terribly slashed this year. That means teachers were layed off, higher student numbers in the classrooms, some sports teams were cut, etc. The PTA, School booster clubs and other support services need to find money where ever they can. If you feel uncomfortable selling things than don't. Your idea of donating money is fine. And as stated in a post before, the gift wrap fundraisers do not want you sending your children out door to door selling. We sell to our family only. And in return we buy things from their kids . I quess I'm the one that is missing something. I don't see the reason to get all upset about fundraisers for schools. Our fundraisers go towards supporting fieldtrips, artists in residance, after school programs, etc. They do not go towards supporting the PTA itself. NancyLouise

    Bookmark   August 27, 2002 at 11:14AM
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For clarification purposes, I am not "upset about fundraisers for schools." I am upset that instead of having a PTA meeting the first or second weeks, and saying something to the effect of "We welcome you and your child(ren) to XYZ school, and would appreciate your participation in our activities. Here's what we will be doing and how it will benefit your child(ren)." Even a letter stating some of this would be nice. Instead, the implied message is simply "Well you're here now. Go make us some money. Never mind why, just go do it."
And for the record, I've already donated supplies to the classroom, and volunteered for five different PTA projects. All simply because it's how I wish to participate.
The only information parents have received from the PTA are 1) a signup sheet for volunteer activities, and 2) a packet for gift wrap sales, along with a notice reminding you to accompany your child when (not if!) they go door-to-door.
Maybe I'm just a Southerner, but what happened to "Welcome to School!"???

    Bookmark   August 27, 2002 at 1:08PM
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You may mention this to the principal. I believe I would try to call them and suggest the ideas you have to them. We are a team and you are a major part.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2002 at 10:09PM
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BUT...I agree with you merj, that the PTA, teachers, principals, etc., SHOULD NOT put a "reward" behind the selling of PTA fundraisers. The kids should do it for the right reasons and fundraisers should not be used as competition. The "right" reasons would be:
-Because the school needs money for supplies
Thats it, kids can understand THAT, even in kindergarden.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2002 at 12:47AM
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As an old time PTA leader and president, I want to say you are right--a welcome would be great. I suggest you contact the PTA and offer to become involved in providing just that for next year. We get too rushed sometimes. Some if not most of our elementary schools in my district have some kind of parent welcome the first day of school. At some schools, they even call it "Tea and Tissues," to welcome everyone the first day. K and 1st grade parents are often in tears themselves as they arrive, thus the name. We have even had a sign up table for various community organizations that support families--PTA, scouting, Y's, immunization clinics, AYSO, Little League, etc, so that all the new parents were on equal footing with us oldtimers in getting their kids enrolled in our community activities.

My years of being involved in PTA, including being on our state board, were most rewarding. Of course, like you, I originally got involved to help our educational program for the benefit for our kids. But I loved to assist parents too. PTA strongly discourages kids going door to door. The lucky kid who has a parent take the sales samples and sheet to work in a big office is usually a serious contender for those prizes, especially the Girl Scout cookies sales. Times are tight, and so budgets are slashed. PTAs work to support the curriculum with educational assemblies and field trips; they maintain a welfare line item for needy situations; they support special classroom projects or the school play. Usually they are the only source for the school newsletter. They develop projects, sometimes over several years, such as band uniforms, new curtains for the stage, new playground equipment, supplies for the library and computer labs. They even have offered stipends to teachers who attend special training sessions on a new teaching method or for a special project in that teacher's classroom.

Sadly, some parents see fundraising jobs on the PTA as a competition to outdo last year's ways and means officer. No PTA should fall into the trap of the fund raiser of the month. If that is happening, talk to your principal and the PTA president.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2002 at 2:46AM
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We live in a very large Midwestern city school district. The school district budget is MILLIONS of dollars a year. But, by the time any $ trickels down to our local elementary school, it's pennies. The teachers ar our elementary school are so dedicated and work so hard! There are only 4 families active on the PTA, but most families take part in the fund raisers.

Here are some of the things PTA pays for at the school:
1. The biggest item is "teacher wish list". Teachers can submit requests every month for items that the district will not cover. Some examples from last year - a new pencil sharpener for the third grade classroom, to replace the broken one that would not work and to keep the kids from having to go across the hall to the 2nd grade room to sharpen pencils. Yes, the district would not buy a new pencil sharpener - outrageous! New basketballs for the gym teacher, to replace the worn out, cracked ones that would not bounce right - the district would not buy new balls. A series of video tapes for the speech thrapist to use with her kids - the district would not buy. Paper for the laser printers in the office - the district severly rations paper and there is never enough. Special items for the occupational therpists - district won't cover anything beyond what they consider the minimum for any therapists. Extra diapers for a diaper-dependent disabled child who is in a wheelchair, whose parents couldn't afford to keep extra diapers at school, so the techer kept buying extra packs until she finally asked the PTA to buy a case to keep in the classroom. This list goes on and on. Every month, I am outraged at what the district won't purchase for the teachers - basics, not luxury items! Teacher already buy so much from their meager paychecks!
2. The ribbons & certificates for honor roll award - district won't buy them.
3. The school carnival. The PTA puts this on for the kids, it's not a money maker, and the kids LOVE it.
4. The school open house. The district won't cover refreshments at open house, so the PTA buys them.
5. PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT. The district does not have a single dime budgeted for playground equipment. Every year before school starts, each elementary playground is inspected, and unsafe equipment is torn down, but is not replaced by the district. If the school has a playground, it has to be paid for by the PTA. This is the primary function of most PTAs in my areas, because playground equipment costs thousands of dollars!
6. Teacher appreciation breakfast the day before school starts, a mid-year teacher appreciation lunch, and an end of the year teacher appreciation breakfast. These teachers work so hard, it's the least we can do to have a meal brought in three times a year!
7. End-of-year field day and pizza party for the whole school, on the last day of school. The field day includes carnival rides and games, snocones, and pizza - all free of charge to the kids.

Sorry this is so long, but I get irritated when parents complian about PTA selling stuff. If you'd like to know why your kindergartener is selling gift wrap, attend a PTA meeting and ask them just where the money goes. Hopefull it goes right back to the kids, through their teachers or directly!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2002 at 9:24AM
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Merj13, when my oldest started kindergarten there were several things that weren't explained very well that really raised my eyebrows. Later on I found they were very good causes, but it was a little frustrating to hear how much money we were supposed to fork over. If you don't feel comfortable selling, then don't do it. Your child may be excited about the prizes, but you can use this as a teachable moment. There are many, many lessons she can learn from this, such as sometimes we have to budget our time and energy and this is not on the schedule.

Several times I have declined to participate in fund-raising activities for my children's sports, activities, etc. The PTA, Scouts, etc. very much appreciate getting a check instead, and it's usually tax deductible. I would much rather send a tax deductible check to the PTA than purchase wrapping paper.

Our elementary school PTA doesn't do door-to-door sales for fundraising. Most of the parents at our school don't want their children going door-to-door, and also don't want to sell wrapping paper, popcorn, etc. to their coworkers.

Instead, our main fund-raiser is a school carnival. We also do some other small fundraisers. Our school has "family life" activities, like skate night, school sock hop, school picnics, etc. Some of those are break-even and cost is kept low so that all can afford it, but some of those are fundraisers.

Our PTA also asks parents to pay $40 per child at the beginning of the year to help with the costs of the literacy programs, books, playground equipment, etc. that the PTA provides. Almost all of the parents love this arrangement.

Just a few more little pieces of advice - if there's something you really, really don't like, chances are a lot of other people don't like it, either.

Second - pick your battles - you will see a lot of things you don't like.

Third - I've always tried to start any discussion with the school with the assumption that the parent volunteers(PTA)/teachers/administration are trying to do their best, and whatever they're doing (that I don't like), they're doing for a reason. That attitude has served me well over the years, and kept me from sticking my foot in my mouth many, many times.

I hope your kindergartener loves school and has a great year!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2002 at 2:34PM
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I have never gotten involved with the PTA in my children's schools. My husband and I tried but found it to be, as my husband put it, "democracy at an excruciatingly slow pace." I do volunteer for the school carnival and buy a few things from the fundraiser catalogues, but not all. I pick and choose.

I find that the PTA is the group that pays for all kinds of things that benefit the kids, like field trips, extra books, agendas to help the kids stay organized. They also fulfill the teachers' wish lists for things they would like to have in their classrooms.

As for feeling pressured, I doubt that that is the intent. Experienced fundraising coordinators know that only about half of the parents will participate. Do what you feel comfortable doing. They will probably present several different fundraising opportunities throughout the year with the thought that they are offering a little something for everyone.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2002 at 3:08AM
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browntoes, that is a funny description. Accurate, too. I think people who are accumstomed to very fast paced careers get very frustrated with that hitch. Fast or slow, though, it works, that's the point.
I'm trying to think of a democractic organization that *doesn't* work that slow ... but I just can't!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2002 at 2:35PM
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Stephanie, any senior citizens'club/organization.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2002 at 1:43AM
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The PTA at my son's high school has decided that noon time meetings are better. More than a few of the parents have been put off by the whole rescheduling. In the past, the PTA always met in the evening. Seems the present board felt they weren't getting good attendance at night so they changed the meetings to noon, because it was more convenient for them, I suppose. The reasoning is that if parents want to come, they'll take their lunch hour and come. Doesn't work for me because I work more than an hour away from the school so I am essentially locked out from participating. The truth is, this PTA board is somewhat elitist - the board consists of women who play tennis during the day, mostly married to lawyers and doctors. And now they wonder why attendance is down! Anyway, PTA fundraising should definitely be limited. Other schools that I have been involved with limited the fundraisers to one in the fall and one in the spring.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2002 at 11:28AM
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PTA member here also with a private school. We do 8 fundraisers a year to offset costs for playground monitors, computer lab printers, etc..., library books, and other unforseen expenses that we could pay to keep tuition somewhat stable for the whole school.
We don't sell magazines, candies, candles, etc... through the kids. We have specific fundraisers that the parents sign up to participate in such as Haunted House (open to the public), Krispy Kreme donuts, cookie walk, Drop and Shop (parents drop off their kids around Christmas time for a certain fee for 4 hours so, they can get errands done). These fundraisers bring in about $24,000. a year for our school of 308 students (K - 8) and helps keep our tuition down and frees our children from selling useless stuff.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2002 at 11:27AM
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Your school's PTA sounds great--kinda like the idea I had in mind. I just don't think children have any business out fund-raising.
Two questions:
1) is your haunted house at school?
2) drop & shop--details? That sounds like a great idea, but I wouldn't have a clue on how to organize it.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2002 at 12:46PM
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Our haunted house is at one of the school buildings. The backdrops, special effects stuff is all done by the parents or donated by local businesses. Most of the construction companies in town participate by building coffins, tunnels, etc... and it has become a competition between them. We run the haunted house for two weekends and save most of the props in one of the storage areas in the ground floor of the building. We have a spooky story room with a story teller who tells a ghost story also. It's our biggest fundraiser. The props are easily moved for the school week but, it does take organization and the parents need to help. We have a blast doing this fundraiser cause we all dress up as tour guides for the groups. We run groups of 10 at a time through each room to keep the crowd under control and the whole thing organized.

Drop and Shop is an activity/babysitting service that we run before Christmas where parents can drop off their kids at school for 4 hours and the kids are split into age categories in different rooms with several parents who will do crafting, singing, story telling, dancing, etc... with the kids while the parents are out getting errands done. We offer this for the whole community and have had great success with it that we're planning on doing it for 3 weekends in December.

Good luck with your fundraising! I agree that kids should not be selling anything...

    Bookmark   September 13, 2002 at 11:53AM
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