For decades, schools and extracurricular programs were stuck fundraising the only way they could: by selling products. From pushing cookie dough and candy bars to coordinating car washes and wrapping paper fundraisers, here’s why product fundraisers have fallen out of favor with parents and what better fundraising ideas have emerged to replace them
You know the drill.
One: Your child comes home from soccer practice with a fundraising packet as dense as War and Peace.
Two: The next week, you are taking your child door to door, trying your best not to visibly cringe when you hear him ask your cul-de-sac neighbor (whom you’ve successfully managed to dodge at every mailbox encounter) if she would like to buy some *insert product that the neighbor would definitely not like to buy here.* This season it’s cookie dough.
Three: You manage to scrape together a few pity-orders from Grandma, your co-worker who owes you a favor, and that one friend with a serious sweet tooth. Your child needs 15 orders, however, to escape being tarred and feathered by their team, so you grin and bear it as you write a check for 12 orders of Aunt Sadie’s Famous* (*not actually famous) Cookie Dough.
Congratulations! Your kid can now play a team sport without risk of being put in the stocks for the night. Good thing it only took hours of your time, a Mini Cooper-sized chunk of freezer space, and hundreds of cookie dough-supported insulin spikes in order to make it happen!
Selling products to fundraise is less than ideal – and parents have many complaints.
It’s no secret that product fundraisers take up valuable time kids need to study and play. But after years of tedious product sales to help cover the expenses of her club soccer program, one former youth athlete notes that she wasn’t the only one in her family who was fed up – her parents were burdened by the product sales, too.
“Returning rain or shine were always my two most loyal customers: my parents,” she remembered. “They bought all ten of my car wash tickets and discount cards every single year. We were fortunate enough to have that luxury. Many of my teammates weren’t so lucky.”
Not only did her parents feel obligated show up to support her team’s weekend carwashes, they had to stand idly by and watch their child devote hours she didn’t have to an ineffective fundraising tactic that took valuable time away from practice, school, and family.
One parent of a young athlete conceded that she was simply fatigued by the fundraising demands that her child’s team placed on their family.
“We sold sponsorships and did car washes; but honestly, with a 60-hour-a-week corporate job, I didn't have time for all that and often just opted to write a check,” she said.
Too Many Fundraisers
Product fundraisers are the nagging flies of parenthood. They’re constantly buzzing around your door to ask you to buy something, and once you finally get rid of one fundraiser, there’s another one already starting up.
One Minnesota woman reported having been solicited to buy fundraising products from over a dozen kids before fall had even begun.
An Alabama High School has adopted a single-donation fundraiser that draws on the knowledge that parents are tired of being incessantly bothered for money, offering a “$50 or more” donation option to parents in exchange for not asking for anything else all year.
Parents don’t want to be disturbed by constant appeals to fund this and give money to that, but product fundraisers – with their limited ability to raise a couple bucks here and there – must resort to pestering.
It’s bad enough that there’s a seemingly unstoppable flood of product fundraisers. It’s even worse that these product fundraisers don’t offer products that parents actually want to purchase.
Sure, popcorn is fun and candles smell nice, but people are rarely in need of the things that product fundraisers are focused on selling. And, after enough accumulation of pity-purchased products, the sickening sweetness of that candy-coated popcorn is more nuisance than nicety.
Snap! Raise co-founder Cole Morgan grew up in a home all too familiar with the maddening misery of a cookie dough fundraiser. To this day he remembers vividly his mom’s ranting about his sister’s fundraising cookie dough that was still shoved in the back of their freezer five years after the fundraiser had ended – a freezer that the family bought specifically for storing the dreaded dough.
All the fundraiser wrapping paper in the world wouldn’t be enough to cover the amount of cookie dough, candles, popcorn, discount cards, travel mugs, and other products that are wasting space in the closets, freezers, garages, and car trunks of parents everywhere.
Safety and Liability
Last but not least: product fundraising engenders serious liability and safety concerns.
Parenting writer Samantha Kemp-Jackson points out the troubling irony of any fundraising approach that requires kids to be salesmen:
“We tell our children repeatedly not to talk to strangers…now we are telling our kids to give candy to a stranger, and also give them our blessings in the process.”
Handling cash can also be a massive liability.
It’s never a good idea to send kids around the neighborhood unsupervised carrying large quantities of cash. Besides, teachers, coaches, and parents have too much on their plate to be accountants and bank tellers, too.
The only real solution, as Snap! Raise Chief Product Officer Eddie Behringer points out, “is a higher level of traceability to fundraising. Having a transparent audit trail behind, where all the gifts are coming from, and where they’re going, is crucial to a safe and effective fundraiser.”
It’s near-impossible to achieve that level of traceability when using cash; if you’re a booster or administrator, heaven forbid your school or program is ever audited.
Forget safety and transparency – when it comes to product fundraisers, all you can expect is fewer funds raised, a lot of frustrated kids, and one massive headache.
While some parents avoid product-pushing by choosing to buy out their own child’s product, others are forming a resistance against the fundraisers that waste their limited time and trade valuable money for unnecessary clutter.
Parents from Minnesota have spoken up about fundraising fatigue, and one charter school has even outright banned students from participating in product sales. A representative from a PTA in Virginia says that some PTAs are giving parents the option of paying more for their membership up front and opting out of any fundraisers.
Some districts in Minnesota have even discussed putting ads on student lockers in order to generate the much-needed cash while avoiding the much-detested product fundraising. (So in between classes, your child can learn how to make friends in the hall and learn which toothbrush is recommended by four of five dentists for plaque removal!)
Echoing the high school in Alabama, a Dallas mother posted a picture on Facebook of the cheeky “Alternative Fundraiser” that their PTA sent home with students, asking parents to give a monetary donation in “appreciation for having nothing to buy, sell, or do except fill out this form.”
The Facebook post of the mother’s picture featuring the various no-strings-attached donation options (which ranged from a $15 avoidance of the bake sale to a $100 “forget my name” donation) went viral, prompting virtual applause from parents across the country who are also sick of the product fundraising flops.
If there is a collective parental laugh when a PTA member openly calls out the absurdity of kids selling products to make money for the school, it’s a clear indication that this problem is real and widespread.
The good news? Product fundraising isn’t the only way to raise money. It isn’t even the best way to raise money.
Snap! Raise has made school and team fundraising easy. Like, you-don’t-even-have-to-pick-up-a-pen-and-fill-out-a-sassy-PTA-form easy.
Snap! Raise is a fundraising service that brings social donation technology to an educational setting. The digital platform lets supporters donate to a specific school program with a single online transaction. Its data-driven process is easy on everyone involved – from educators, to kids, to parents – and the results are undeniable.
Since 2014, Snap! Raise has facilitated over $400 million in funds raised for extracurricular programs and youth athletics teams. That’s $400 million of tournament fees, scholarships, practice uniforms, robotics kits, batting helmets, piccolos, graduated cylinders, and all things that make enriching, successful programs possible.
In addition to raising serious money, Snap! Raise has been used to save thousands of hours that would have otherwise been wasted on fundraising. The order forms, the door-to-door solicitation, the unavoidable administration of a product fundraiser – Snap! Raise allows parents and kids to bypass all of that.
That’s because Snap! Raise empowers your community’s capacity to give. The average donation made through the Snap! Raise platform is upwards of $50. Considering that you’re lucky if the school keeps half of whatever it earns via product sales, you’d have to sell quite a few cookies to make that kind of dough.
Most importantly, Snap! Raise makes fundraising safer than ever before. The team at Snap! Raise HQ in Seattle innovates relentlessly to maintain its industry-leading financial and account security standards, which includes two-factor authentication to enhance account security and safeguard participant and supporter information.
Better yet, kids no longer have to roam the streets laden with wads of cash.
No cookies, no deliveries, no dead-eyed pleas to your cul-de-sac neighbor are needed to help out your child. Free your freezers from the weight of a bakery’s-worth of Snickerdoodles.
The parents have spoken: it’s time the dough goes the way of the dodo.