Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Fundraising: my politically incorrect opinion

There are a lot of programs for kids to get involved in, and some of those require effort on the part of the student to pay for. These days program costs are substantial, and kids are sent out to solicit.

I watch the march of the children across parking lots, driveways, streets, homes and businesses, asking for money. The community only has so much and it’s often a struggle for a limited income family or small business to decide where or who to support.

In my experience, the Gray-New Gloucester community is generous and individually, most people want to contribute. We just can’t give to everyone, and that means choices, with some hopeful kid getting a yes and another getting a no. One fundraising effort I really like is the Family Nights at the High School- the fundraising kids set up an evening of monitored activities, parents leave off their children for a modest fee, so they can go out together or just have a few hours to themselves. A good time is had by all. Another fundraising activity I like are the car washes and bake sales: something tangible is offered and given which I believe helps the kids understand the effort that goes into trade, business, and producing a product or service. It’s also hard work, which never hurt anybody.

Another reason I like those kind of activities is that the fundraising benefits a large group. That’s often my standard for deciding whom to help. An entire sports lineup? Sure, I’ll advertise in the hockey book. The whole Odyssey of the Mind team? I’m there. Windham Center Stage Theatre, where every child who tries out gets a part? I’d give you my last dime.

The programs I have a problem with donating to are the ones that benefit one student. Much is being made of Jennifer Rubinstein’s “creativity” in sneaking a bunch of plastic flamingoes on lawns in dead of night and then taking them down for a fee, which raises money for her individual trip to Australia in the People to People Program. Plus, for an additional "insurance fee," she will promise not to do it to you again. The Tony Soprano School of Fundraising.

Trespassing, vandalism, and extortion are poor lessons to teach and worse examples to set. I’d rather my kids worked for a day in the sun cleaning cars. That’s a healthier lesson. Or go from business to business asking for a donation, they learn how hard it is to sell their product and they learn how to be respectful to business owners. I worry: have we become so inured to what’s right that we praise trespassing, vandalism, extortion, and avoidance of hard work? Right off the bat I’m turned off by Jennifer’s sneaky approach.

In the “People to People” program from what I understand, the kids are supposed to be little diplomats for their country, region, town, for two weeks in a host family’s home somewhere on the other side of the world; without a whole lot of bring-back to the community that sponsored the traveler. It costs $5,000. This sounds to me like Jennifer gets a very expensive vacation.

Between the trespassing onto private property and the extortion involved, and the fact that $5,000 of community-raised money benefits only one child, I say good luck to you little Jennifer, but I don’t think that the chosen fundraising method teaches anything valuable and in fact sets a poor example for others. Have a nice trip, but I’ll donate to where it benefits a wider range of children who are engaged in healthier activities that make me proud, not cringe.


Anonymous said...

YOU expressed My Sentiments exactly, Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Prata said...

Thank you! I'll probably be called everything from a party pooper to a child hater, but frankly I've had it with praising the wrong values and giving the wrong message. Glad you had a chance to see your views represented in print as well.

If I still owned The Monument I would have put it in the editorial box on page 2. I am that serious.

Anonymous said...

Man, I want some flamingos on my lawn! I can see the unhappy looks as I reply, "No, you can leave them there." No shakedown for me.

Seriously though, it sounds similiar to the jail day fundraisers but those work because the person who is getting arrested oks it ahead of time and agrees to when he will be arrested. You can't simply show up at someone's home and demand money from them for a charity. Imagine the outrage if the Catholic Church just showed up at all the homes of members and non-members and put Nativity scenes on the lawns and demanded money if they wanted them removed.

Elizabeth Prata said...

LOL! That's hilarious, and you are SO right!

Anonymous said...

I agree, invest your $5000 locally and influence many childrens lives. There are opportunities in Gray now with Fiddleheads coming. A far better investment in the community.

Anonymous said...

My Cub Scout Pack is suddenly looking for cash. The school we had been using for Den meetings decided that they were going to not allow us to use it anymore and use of city facility that used to be a school would be $10 per night per room and we need 4 rooms. Ugh. We hadnt planned for this. I am hopeful we can get the school district to cooperate.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh but your little cubbies are part of those mean spirited boyscouts. They teach honesty and trustworthyness based on christian values. Can't teach our kids tose things. Best to teach them Heather has two daddies than those evil 10 commandments. Not in our schools you won't.