Responsibly Say No to School Fundraiser Requests

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Responsibly Say No to School Fundraiser Requests

It’s that time of year again when children come home from school with brightly colored fliers promising them cool prizes if they sell so much wrapping paper or x number of entertainment books. Often, they’ve just come from a pep rally of sorts to get them pumped up and excited about the notion of raising money for their school and earning those cool prizes.

Even if you don’t have school aged children, you’ll probably get handed an order form or two at work or a social event and find it awkward to buy nothing. After all, you’d like to help out your friend’s children but you really have no need for a 3lb bucket of cookie dough, especially not at fund-raiser prices.


Of course, almost all of us want to help our local schools and give the children wonderful educational activities but participating in fundraisers might not be the best way to make this happen. Schools only receive a small portion of each sale and the dedicated members of parent’s organization have to spend many hours to put it all together. I think all of us appreciate that PTOs and PTAs are in between a rock and a hard place when it comes to fund raisers.

That said, you have to put yourself and your family first so here are a few thoughts on declining to participate in fund raisers in a graceful way.

If you are the parent:

  • Unless your child attends a private school, fund raisers should never be mandatory and you do not have to participate. You should also be able to choose to only participate on a level that feels comfortable for you. For example, you can buy a few items from the catalog but decline to actively sell to family, friends and coworkers. Don’t feel guilty and remember not everyone can do everything for every good cause.
  • If you can afford to do so, write a check directly to the PTA/PTO and feel good knowing that 100% of your donation will go towards programs for your child’s education.
  • Explain to your child in an age appropriate way why you are declining to participate. This can be a wonderful opportunity for financial education, however don’t feel too frustrated if your little ones don’t fully get why it’s highly improbable that they’d be able to earn the limo ride and iPod and why you don’t want to help their school. Be patient and persistent in teaching them and eventually they will get it.
  • Be involved as much as possible in your child’s school and talk to the principal and PTO/PTA board to let them know if you are bothered by some of their fund-raising tactics. Be polite and go in with the understanding that they have only the best of intentions, but realize that you have the right to make your voice heard even if you aren’t able to serve on the committees or volunteer on a regular basis.
  • If you do decide to participate in a fund-raiser do your best to do it in a way that doesn’t make others feel pressured into buying. Make sure to ask about company policy before bringing the order forms into the office and understand that if people decline to buy that it’s nothing personal.

If you are asked to buy:

  • The majority of the time a simple no thank you is all that is required. Keep in mind that the parents and children are trying to raise money for a good cause so don’t raise your own blood pressure by becoming inordinately offended or put out.
  • Be proactive at work and discreetly ask human resources to issue a clarification about the company policy on fund raising before the season begins. This way nobody feels like they were the straw that broke the camel’s back if somebody complains two weeks in the “season”.
  • Sometimes it might be more prudent in the long run to just buy one or two small things. When that happens just take a deep breath, pick inexpensive things that would at least make good gifts and chalk it up to the cost of living in society. I think we can all relate to needing to keep that loud-mouthed sister in law quiet or having to suck up to the boss. In theory you should stick to your guns but sometimes $20 is a small price to pay for relative harmony.
  • It can be hard to say no to children but don’t feel bad as long as you are polite with them. Children need to know that others won’t say yes 100% of the time and will learn from your example how to say no like an adult. Give them the respect of saying “no thank you” while making eye contact and perhaps they’ll get the message that saying no is perfectly okay and not something that you have to do while averting your eyes and rushing away.

Remember, we all have limited resources and we have to make the choices that make sense for us when deciding where to spend our time and money. Saying no to any one particular fund raiser or cause is no reason to feel guilty.

I’m eager to know your thoughts on this. How do you deal with school fund raiser season?

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