Fundraising Overload

Our schools need our families' time and money more than ever -- but we're already overextended. Here are ways to help without the headaches
kid at front door

Frances Janisch

School is just starting, and I'm already feeling at risk for Fundraising Burnout Syndrome. The e-mails have been coming fast and furiously. How much wrapping paper/cookie dough/candy can I be counted on to sell? Which days will I be volunteering for the book fair? Would I rather make brownies, cake, or cookies for the bake sale? Perhaps I'd be willing to approach local businesses about donating items for the auction?

Now please don't get me wrong. I think it's really important to support my children's school. Plus, these money-making activities are a great way to get to know other parents, foster a sense of community, and set a positive example for our kids. Although I realize that our schools are strapped for cash, the problem is that my family is too. Like many moms, I already feel both overcommitted -- and conflicted. "I have a love/hate relationship with all the fundraising," agrees Missy Bonaguide, a Roseland, New Jersey, mom of three daughters. "I want my girls to go on field trips, have enough computers in their school, and be exposed to the arts," says Bonaguide. "But we have no extended family nearby, so we need to try to limit what we sell. I feel bad asking for money more than once a year."

Bonaguide and I (and plenty of other parents) also resent the fact that when parents don't participate, their kids may be singled out as a consequence. "When I don't buy T-shirts with the school's name on it, my kids won't feel a part of 'Spirit Day' on the last Friday of every month," she says. One T-shirt may be a drop in the bucket, but multiply that by a bunch of other kids in the family, a few bake sales, a couple of rolls of wrapping paper, and some raffle tickets -- and it can really start to add up to some serious time and money.

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