Archive for Thursday, March 31, 2005

Kids can learn from fundraising if parents let them

March 31, 2005

Have you ever had your neighbor kids knock on your door and ask you to buy candles, magazines, candy bars, trash bags or coupon books? How about the famous Girl Scout cookies? I never realized how big fund-raisers were to schools, clubs and organizations in this country. Almost every organization or activity that kids are involved in requires some form of fund-raiser.

This concept was very alien to me, and I was unsure as to how I should approach it when I first had to do it with my kids.

Most of the clubs and organizations that I was a part of when I was a kid never required us to raise money. In all my youth, I did maybe two or three fund-raisers. The schools, clubs or organizations provided the funding through fees and sponsorships.

Initially, I thought that was a good thing because I didn't want to have to raise money from my friends and neighbors. I was totally happy being involved in activities that did not require my help for funding. I'm not against these activities and the need for it, but I am surprised at the extent and variety of ways that it is practiced. There are even companies set up just to sell fund-raising ideas.

My favorite fund-raiser is the candy bars. For a buck, you can get your favorite king-sized candy bar, and it's easy to sell. There are not too many people who will turn down their favorite candy bar for a good cause.

I understand the need for these fund-raisers, but I'm not sure if some of the children are learning the right lesson when participating in them. I have concluded, these are activities that the kids need to be involved in.

But how many times have you seen a parent bring a sign-up sheet to work and have coworkers buy the items? I understand that the parents want to help the kids achieve goals, but somehow it also removes the kids from being a participant in the process.

The Girl Scout cookies have become so wildly popular that no one has to "sell" them, just mention the name and most people are eager to place an order. When was the last time you had to be convinced that the Girl Scout cookies were delicious and you needed to buy some?

I'm not sure what the intentions was when they first started to sell those cookies, but I would like to think that apart from raising the money, the Girl Scouts wanted this to be an opportunity for young girls to learn some basic social and selling skills and articulate the goals of the organization. It would require many of them to step out of their comfort zone but it also challenges them to become more skilled in areas they normally won't pursue.

Some of the fund-raising companies have wonderful prizes for the biggest money raisers. That is a great motivation, but a lot of times that becomes the focus for the children rather than the cause itself. I know most kids try to figure out which prize they want rather than doing the fund-raiser. Recently I had a co-worker bring in some raffle tickets for her friend's kid. That lady doesn't even work at our office, but she is recruiting her friend to do the job for her son.

One of the few fund-raising activities I did growing up was a "Fun-Fair" that we did for the school. We had to sell tickets to the public. I don't recall my parents helping me sell the tickets.

I remember getting together with some friends and coming up with some ideas as to where we would go to sell those tickets. It challenged us to get out of our comfort zone and articulate the reason why we were doing it. I remember a few people not being interested, but many more bought the tickets.

As I look back, I think that was the starting point where I learned about self-confidence in a business-type environment. I learned to believe in myself and that I could accomplish tasks that initially seemed difficult. I also learned value of working with my friends and cooperating to achieve a common goal. There was no reward for selling the most tickets, but we all felt so excited because we did what we had set out to do and were successful.

By the way, I still remember vividly that day at the fair. I won a gold fish at one of the games, and I was so excited because that was going to be my very first pet. It died by the time I got back home.

I'm sure the next fund-raiser is just around the corner and it would be wonderful to have the children be part of it. I'm sure there are some kids already very enterprising and who do their part in this process. To them, my hat's off and keep up that good work.

For the parents who just take the sign-up sheet to work, try getting your children involved this time. Take them around your neighborhood and have them articulate to your neighbors why and what they are doing. Let them experience the sense of accomplishment and self worth they will feel when they make a sale. This will also help them become more confident in themselves and develop a knack for communication with people other than their peers.

My neighbors and friends are always so obliging in supporting the many causes that have come their way, regardless the need for the product sold. To see the excitement on my children's face when a sale is done is priceless. So, next time you get a chance to help your kid in a fund-raiser, do just that. Help them, and do not sell them short.

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