I just read a post a mom of a kindergartner wrote on Facebook about feeling overwhelmed by all of the requests for time and money at her son’s school…every year around this time I repost the following story I wrote in October 2011…
Walking into a neighborhood restaurant I am ambushed by a teenage boy in a certain uniform. “Would you like to add 10% to your bill tonight to support (his specified charity)?”
“No thank you,” I stammer reflexively, surprised that someone is actually inside the restaurant asking for donations, then feeling like a Scrooge when all I want is to have dinner with my family.
Our kids grab the table right next to where this teenager is parked. For the next 45 minutes it’s awkward to hear him use the same line each time some unsuspecting, hungry, customer crosses the threshold.
After dinner I run into the grocery store to buy some milk. As I brush by more kids in a different uniform I’m asked if I would like to buy some popcorn. “No thank you,” I smile, again feeling like a jerk.
At the checkout stand with only a gallon of milk, knowing my husband and kids are circling the parking lot, the checker asks me if I’d like to add $1 to my bill for yet another charity, the third one in an hour. “Only if you match it,” is what I feel like saying. I then have the impulse to scream, “Why are you soliciting inside a grocery store?!” but I don’t.
“Not today,” I politely say instead.
Times are tight and cutbacks are painfully everywhere, but each time I am so easily asked for money I am taken by surprise, still not used to these new methods of spontaneous, easy fundraising. It used to be mainly telemarketers or letters in the mail that I could ignore if I wanted, but now I’m bombarded with live hands outstretched, each wanting me to believe their mission is the one that is most urgent. It’s kind of like when all of my kids want something at the same time. How do I choose? Even though I don’t like doing it, sometimes the only solution is to go hide in the laundry room for a while.
With two sons in school, it’s double the relatives I’m supposed to ask to buy wrapping paper, books, or to go to a restaurant on a certain night so part of the bill can be counted towards cash back for our school. I’ve heard of a few neighboring elementary schools where they just ask each family to write a single check at the beginning of the year to be done with it all. Sounds like a good idea to me.
Fundraising first came to the national stage in the 1940s to support the war efforts and those Americans immediately affected by it; money for war veterans, for orphans of soldiers, and to provide relief to families without food and shelter. Since then we’ve seen United Way and The Red Cross, two of the first national charities on record, explode into thousands of different organizations and missions.
I’m certainly not against all fundraising. There are just more effective techniques when deciding who or what to give our hard earned money to. There are the personal reasons. A mother may feel inclined to donate to children’s charities. Someone with a loved one battling a specific illness may want to donate money to that specific charity for research. We may want to help out a friend who fervently believes in a cause.
I find it admirable when the person asking for money does something physical and is merely asking for sponsorship. When a friend trained for months and then completed a 60-mile breast cancer walk this month how could I not sponsor her? That was not easy fundraising on her part. She more than matched what I gave in just the training alone, plus my mother is a 6-year breast cancer survivor so she got me on the personal reason too.
Now if I could only figure out how to stay off those larger organizations’ monthly calling lists once I donate to a friend’s one-time race or event. In fact, “anonymous donor” takes on a whole new meaning to me now.
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