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Archive for Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Time for a break from school fundraisers

August 29, 2006

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T he shopping spree for school supplies I had to do recently reminded me of something else I don't like about this time of year - the deluge of school fundraising notices.

And thus the back-to-school begging begins.

In my house, fundraising notices are placed in a special file - the trash can.

Both schools my children attend require parents to donate a certain amount of hours in volunteer time. Although I have no problem with that, I am annoyed that many of those hours relate to fundraising events.

Please understand. I do donate money to my children's schools. I give to other projects at schools my children don't attend. But the key word is "give." I write a check in which 100 percent of my donation goes to the schools in need.

But I will no longer sell, cook, walk, wash cars, run or beg for any school fundraising project. Frankly, I've done my time. I've sold my share of candy bars, wrapping paper, tumblers of tiny jelly beans, cookies and books. I deserve time off for good selling. I'm tired of begging.

It seems I'm not alone. Retail sales in product fundraising are down, although not out. From 2001 to 2005, sales dropped 11 percent, according to a survey by the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors & Suppliers.

No question that money is put to good use, especially at public schools. The money is used for band equipment, athletic team uniforms, field trips, playground equipment and other youth products, programs and services.

Still, can't we find another way to fund these activities and school needs?

Vickie Mabry, associate director of the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors & Suppliers, says I should look at fundraising another way.

"For some parents and students this represents their first opportunity to volunteer," she said. "It's not just about the money."

I wasn't feeling her on that point.

If I want my children to learn the value of volunteering, it won't be by pushing products. We have better things to do with our time, such as the hours of homework they get.

- Michelle Singletary is a columnist for The Washington Post.

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