Smart Ways to Fundraise
When your schedule is crazy, you might just prefer to donate money rather than time. That's what's behind one choice that's gaining popularity among parents who are too busy to volunteer. The "Opt-Out" is exactly what it sounds like: Instead of participating in fundraising activities, parents can contribute a specific amount of money at the beginning of the year directly to the school. Not only is this a huge time-saver, it also ensures that the school receives 100 percent of your money (no splitting of proceeds with cookie-dough companies, for example). Some schools even offer opt-out incentives, like discount cards for local movie theaters. If your school doesn't officially endorse this, there's no harm in suggesting it to other parents or your principal.
Of course, not all of us have the means to sign a sizable check at the beginning of the year and be done with it (I know I don't). And if that's the case for your family, consider choosing just one fundraiser per year to donate your cash and/or time to -- preferably an event that appeals to you. For some parents, that's the traditional wrapping-paper sale and for others it's the book fair. But once you've identified your project, you'll have a comfortable and legitimate way to get out of all the other requests that come your way without seeming like some kind of slacker. When Violet's mom e-mails you to work on the bake sale, you can simply say, "I'd love to, but I'm going all in for the auction this year -- it's getting my total focus." By giving a positive spin to fully committing yourself to one project, you won't find yourself feeling so conflicted by each additional plea for your time, energy, and money.
You may be able to get more for your donated buck by asking your child's teacher for a list of classroom supplies that she needs. Chances are it will include everything from toys to paper towels to art supplies. Check out ClassWish.org, a nonprofit site where teachers can create a digital wish list and parents (or grandparents) can donate funds or specific items.
If you're organizing a project and need other moms to help out, try using one of the new online tools like VolunteerSpot.com. The site lets you describe the type of volunteering you need and then send a link to parents so they can sign up for times that work for them. Without your inbox filling up with e-mails sharing availability and unavailability in excruciating detail, you'll be free to spend time actually planning the event. And for those of us signing up, we can see when our friends are working and avoid the shift with ScaryBraggingMom.
Yes, there's an app for that too. Created by Tania Mulry, a frustrated-by-fundraising mom, edRover (free for the iPhone) allows you to support your school while running errands. It alerts you when you're within 100 feet of a participating business, and if you "check-in," the donation will automatically be sent from that business to the school of your choice. The future of fundraising really depends on innovative concepts like these -- especially my future in fundraising. This year, I'm going to adopt one of the new approaches, so... okay, you can sign me up to volunteer. But only once a semester, please.
Originally published in the October 2011 issue of Parents magazine.