Fundraising vs. extortion

I’ve had it with fundraising solicitations from my kids’ school and daycare. Yet, part of me is afraid to turn down these “opportunities to show school spirit”.

Maybe it’s an irrational fear, but I can’t help but wonder if the quality of my kids’ care hinges on my willingness to play (or should I say PAY) along.

I understand they need to raise funds from time to time to pay for special activities – and I’m okay with that. But the frequency of these opportunities is becoming a problem.

For me, the “fun” of fundraising began to diminish when my girls entered the second grade. The first fundraiser that came our way asked us to eat dinner on a designated night at our friendly neighborhood McDonalds.

The night before (gee, thanks for the notice), I got notes informing us that a sliver of the night’s proceeds would go to the PTA. The kids eagerly presented the notes, jumping up and down, chirping, “Can we? Can we? Can we, please?”

I decided we’d go, doubting all the while the funds raised from eating greasy fast food would be earmarked for new health-education materials.

When we arrived, the place was a zoo. There was no place to park, nowhere to sit, and the Playland was absolutely packed. I was certain that if I let my two year-old in there, he’d get trampled for sure. The parents looked tired and annoyed. But still, we did our time and I can proudly say that we contributed a hefty 23 cents to the PTA.

A week later, I was presented with yet another opportunity to show my support. This time, I could order a bunch of overpriced, over-processed, pre-packaged meals from some vendor in cahoots with the PTA. Again, a few pennies would be “donated” to the school.

This time I decided to pass. When I failed to place an order, I got three separate “friendly reminder” notes per child (remember, twins). Still, I could not be swayed. We really couldn’t afford dropping $9.99 of a package of six Mini Chicken Cordon Bleu Bites.

I tossed the order form. Okay, truth be told, I crumpled it up and tucked it deep inside the garbage can, so the kids wouldn’t see.

About a month later, I got a flyer notifying me that in two days (they’d gotten better) the school was holding its very own Chuck E. Cheese fundraising night.

Ugh. I hate Chuck E. Cheese.

I’m sure there are nice Chuck E. Cheese restaurants out there, but I have not been fortunate enough to find one. The one near my house is noisy, dirty and full of sugar-crazed kids and their checked-out parents.

Also, this particular “opportunity” fell just before payday, meaning I didn’t have the extra $50-60 to drop. So there was really no way we could go, even if I was up for bad pizza and a singing rat.

I decided to ignore the note again, throwing it in the garbage, then burying it with coffee grounds. I hoped this opportunity would pass unnoticed.

Sadly, the day of the fundraiser, my kids came home from school with more flyers. They were also wearing “Take me to Chuck E. Cheese” stickers on their shirts and telling me we had to be there by 6, because that’s when their friends were going.

I resented the position the school put me in. “Gee, thanks,” I thought. “Now I get to be the asshole who has to tell them they can’t go.”

I gently explained that we were not going to Chuck E. Cheese’s this time and tried to soften the blow by announcing that we were having homemade ice cream sundaes at home for dessert. Normally the at-home sundae bar is met with cheers. This time, they cried.

The following week, I got an invitation to a jewelry party being given by one of my son’s daycare teachers. While this was not a fundraiser, I felt compelled to show my loyalty to the staff. Again, in the back of my mind, I kept wondering if my boy might get treated differently if I didn’t go. So, even though I really couldn’t afford it, I went anyway.

A week after the jewelry party, I got two more invitations in the daycare cubby – a candle party scheduled for that Friday and a Tupperware soiree the following Sunday afternoon. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

The final straw came when my girls brought home order forms for me to purchase an art project they created at school. Mind you, each week their backpacks are stuffed with drawings, paintings and projects, most of which I have to toss because there’s just no way to keep it all. And now they’ve asked me to buy their artwork?

I understand that fundraisers are important, but I wish they’d quit nickel and diming me at every turn, then priming my kids to put the screws to me if I don’t open my wallet.

If anything, all of these solicitations work against their goal of building strong school spirit. For me, showing school spirit shouldn’t make me afraid to peek inside the take-home folder. I'd like to participate more, but my single-mom income simply doesn't allow it.

I’d like to know if anyone out there actually participates in all of these so-called opportunities. And, if they do, what kind of job do they have where they can afford all of this junk? And what the hell are they doing with all of that cruddy frozen pizza?

Perhaps their generosity (or fear of repercussions from not participating) is matched only by the sheer size of their freezer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I go to high school and am currently being expected to twist the arms of my family and friends to buy these "pizza kits" that nobody wants and nobody needs to support my jazz band program. I personally don't want to be an extortionist so I will be selling exactly 0 pizzas. i already paid them a fee to participate in the class! this is ridiculous! thanks for your post. it needed to be said.