Fundraising fatigue (and a confession)

Fundraising fatigue (and a confession)

We’re selling candy again.

Not the boxes of Fannie May chocolates we sold last fall to support the band program.

These chocolate bars will help fund the eighth-grade field trip.

By my count, it’s our sixth fundraiser of the school year, split among our two children.

We have golfed, walked, bought sweatshirts, sold concert tickets and consumed mounds of chocolate to raise money for bands, sports teams, PTA projects, field trips and I’m not sure what else. And I missed one fundraiser altogether (cheesecakes, maybe?).

That doesn’t include the popcorn, raffle tickets, oranges and seven boxes (so far) of Girl Scout cookies we have purchased from family and friends. (I’m pretty sure I ate an entire sleeve of peanut butter sandwich cookies without breathing last week.)

I am so thankful for the people who buy stuff from us that I’m happy to chip in. And I am a sucker: I cannot in good conscience walk past those earnest Cub Scouts selling popcorn in the grocery store without shelling out 10 bucks.

But I fear donor fatigue might be setting in among our loved ones. I dread sending out the group email begging for cash several times each fall.

A few years ago, our elementary school’s PTA decided to put the kibosh on the annual wrapping paper fundraiser in favor of a walkathon, for several reasons: our kids wouldn’t have to peddle gift wrap or other things people didn’t really need; parents wouldn’t have to buy gift wrap or other things we didn’t really need; and a walkathon would encourage fitness while raising money at a fun, schoolwide event.

All well and good. However, my family liked the wrapping paper fundraiser. My sisters would stock up on Christmas bags and gift tags every fall (we do Christmas in a big way), so it was actually useful.

The walkathon meant we had to ask them for money outright, and in return they’d get ... a warm fuzzy feeling. I never quite found the right sales pitch.

Luckily we have generous relatives, and they like the fitness aspect.

They also pony up for the band’s annual golf outing (more exercise) and Fannie May candy sales (negating the exercise). But at some point in the year I stop asking.

Here’s my dirty little fundraising secret: I make up contributions.

I don’t stiff the charity. But in lieu of guilting our family and friends into donating again — or worse, going door-to-door — I just write a check.

I buy a table for the jazz band concert instead of asking friends to shell out $28 a head.

For the annual “Jump Rope for Heart,” I fill the sheet with the names of relatives and fictitious donation amounts, then write a check for the total. (In-laws who have different last names provide the best cover.)

The trick is to give just enough for respectability but not enough to qualify your child for the plastic prizes you will end up donating to Goodwill.

Kids’ fundraisers are big business. Girl Scout cookies alone are an $800 million-a-year empire.

They’re all good causes. Our PTA does marvelous things for our elementary school. The band program at the middle school is nationally known. The American Heart Association is personal for us. And who doesn’t love the Girl Scouts (and their demon cookies)?

But even fundraisers admit to some fundraising fatigue.

Melissa Guthrie, office coordinator for the Girl Scouts of Central Illinois in Champaign, is surrounded by Girl Scout cookies at her job these days. She and her co-workers buy more than their fair share — they’re practically within arm’s reach all day long, a little too perfect for snack time.

“Our thinking is that we have to load and unload all of these boxes into our troop leaders’ cars, so we’re working it off,” she explains.

Works for me.

But her nieces are also selling cookies, her son’s Boy Scout popcorn sale begins soon, and the Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser is coming up in a couple of weeks.

It’s a year-round thing for parents, she says, and it can be overwhelming. But “it’s all a good cause. I give a little bit to every organization.”

In my humble opinion, candy bars are the way to go. At just $1 each, they don’t require a big commitment. Much easier to pawn off on co-workers.

I figure I’m doing them a favor. Journalists need their chocolate fix.

I promised my entrepreneurial son I could sell the entire box in one day in our newsroom. I was slightly off: it took a couple days to sell all 52 candy bars — to not very many people.

In fact, they clamored for more. So we signed up for a second box, but couldn’t get it until we turned in the proceeds from the first.

I was writing a check one morning before school when my son informed me that it was cash only.

Slight problem: I had eaten several candy bars (we won’t bother with numbers here), planning to pay later. And I didn’t even have my usual $3 to make up the deficit.

Just as I was about to raid my banker-daughter’s wallet — where does she get all this cash? — my husband came through.

There’s already a serious dent in the second box. And I haven’t eaten one. Yet.


Julie Wurth blogs about kids and families and covers the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. Leave a comment below or contact her at 351-5226, or

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