Fundraisers should be FUN.

I can't seem to get rid of this two year-old cookie dough. Want it?
I can’t seem to get rid of this two year-old cookie dough. Want it?

Hey Dad! Please, please, PLEASE buy a calendar. Buy two, and I can win this pencil. And can you tell all your coworkers to buy some popcorn too. If I sell 500 cans of this crap, I can win an iPad!

It’s that time again, folks. The time when my entire circle of family, friends, and Twitter followers avoid my calls, posts, and texts. I’ve given up on Facebook, because all that’s left in that wasteland are grandmothers who play farming or candy games. Strangers seem to avoid me. Even my employees are busy doing their jobs for a change. I wear deodorant and underwear, so that’s not it. I must have an invisible warning written on my forehead. They must know I am peddling overpriced candles. Or expensive stale pasta twisted in the shape of mascots. Or various other worthless trinkets, coupon books, or some other junk no one needs. Oh, there’s my least favorite – that God awful frozen cookie dough. It’s no wonder I feel so lonely this time of year. Sigh.

Look, I know money is tight at schools. It’s tight everywhere, except on Wall Street, but don’t get me started on that tirade. Tax and millage allocations are declining, and I’ll be damned if I’m voting for that silly half-cent sales tax amendment. Textbooks are ridiculously priced, and ironically, they still suck. And we still need to pay teachers a lot more than we’re paying them so you won’t be stuck with those “who can’t do.” I was an auditor for a short time, so I know there is always a tremendous amount of waste in each and every one of your schools. I’d bet if I walked into your school unannounced, I would find at least ten thousand dollars worth of crap in some obscure closet you might not even know is there. Government employees are rarely held accountable for budgetary mistakes, and nepotism runs rampant. In a perfect world, there might not be a need for fundraisers. But somehow there’s never enough money for something. And unfortunately, human nature and busy schedules push us towards the path of least resistance – fundraisers that suck.

Ironically, the only people getting making and real money from fundraisers are the fundraising companies. At some point in history, Cherrydale Farms in Philadelphia caught the attention of some school administrator after becoming wildly successful fundraising at churches by selling boxes of chocolates at a huge margin. Back in sixth grade, I remember them offering me a beautiful AM/FM boombox I couldn’t live without. Their prize catalog was a child’s dream, especially for a kid in the ghetto. Fabulous prizes were available to anyone who wanted them. All you had to do is sell five hundred boxes of fattening candy. No one could sell that much crap in the city, even with their parent’s help. None of my classmates ever got more than a colored pencil.

Let’s look at these programs objectively. If your babies sell the typical popcorn, wrapping paper, cookie dough, pasta, or candles, your school is lucky if it gets 50% of the sale. What’s worse is that many of these companies will now bribe your children during some bogus presentation showing all the fabulous prizes your kids will win if they’re top sellers. So now you’ll be guilted into spending $20 for that awful garlic pumpkin cookie dough you’ll never eat, and hopefully your school will receive $10 from that sale. Your kid will make you feel like a schmuck if you (that’s right, YOU, and not your child) don’t pressure your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, enemies, those on Jenny Craig, and even those with type 2 diabetes to buy that fattening crap they don’t really want under the premise that it will save your school. It sure seems to me that you, your youngster, and your school might have been better off if you skipped the junk food and wrote the school a check for $15. That’s what we’ve learned to do.

Today, these fundraisers have grown exponentially in every category you could imagine. Chick-Fil-A says they’ll donate 10% of every check to our school on certain nights. That’s just great. My $15 dinner will net the school a whopping $1.50 — but I haven’t read the fine print. I hope there are no catches. Sure, if 100 kids visit the cow weekly, the proceeds could matter. And don’t you dare miss those wonderful coupon books — you know, the big fat book filled with coupons that you’ll toss aside and lose in that junk drawer for years. Your kid will drill the pre-programmed shpiel into your head that you will save MEGATHOUSANDS of dollars on everything if you simply use each and every coupon in that book. Hell, I might even get a pedicure to make it worth my while.

And what happens to all the money that’s raised from these fundraisers? I assume someone keeps tabs on the proceeds. But where does it really go? I certainly hope that’s not becoming another poorly executed nepotistic purchase.

Mr. and Ms. Principals, please stop guilting my children into making me sell this crap at work. Nobody wants it, and I’ll bet you don’t want it either. It’s an extremely poor return on investment of my time and effort. What the hell happened to all the cool fundraisers without the middleman? You know, like car washes, bake sales, collecting pennies, or spaghetti suppers prepared and served by our children? Or arts and crafts created by our children and sold at a fun show? Those methods taught hard work and teamwork. All we’re teaching now is how to support importers and middlemen. In this day and age when many of us have never formally met our next door neighbors, why in heck would you make my kid knock on stranger’s doors? I really don’t feel comfortable sending my kid out on the street, or begging everyone I know to purchase crap I wouldn’t buy either. I’m sure getting doors slammed in her face isn’t good for her development.

I keep asking my child to ask the teacher how much the school receives from each sale. I eagerly offer to write a check in the amount the school will raise for my kid’s targeted sales. And each day, she is too embarrassed to ask such a question, afraid that she’ll be chastised by the teacher and her fellow students for asking. She gets mad, thinking her teacher will frown upon her for not selling as much as everyone else. I tell her to blow it off, but she knows everything at this age. Yep, I’m getting ready for another one of those “end of the world” moments.

Oh, and don’t forget to buy my book, Diary of an Angry Father, for even more wonderfully non-misogynistic information. Hell, I’ll donate a full 11% of all the proceeds to my local schools. I promise.

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