blackmail?

So, N’s preschool has a casino night/auction every year as its major fundraiser.  Admission is $50 a head, plus you get an "opportunity" to buy your child’s artwork. 

So, last week, we get an email from the fundraising committee telling us that there will be treats for each class where 100% of the kids’ parents buy tickets to the auction.  In other word, if we don’t buy a ticket, we’re the bad guys who prevent the whole class from having cupcakes.

Does this seem like a reasonable policy to the rest of you?  This sort of thing makes T and me *less* inclined to buy tickets, not more.  Are we over-reacting?

19 Responses to “blackmail?”

  1. V.H. Says:

    Do they get a lot of participation from the outside community? Otherwise, wouldn’t it just be much more direct to charge each child an annual fee equivalent to their share of the fundraising? I don’t like the idea of punishing the children by witholding treats for something none of them have control over.

  2. Lee Says:

    Seems a little silly to entice parents to spend $100 to give the kids a $12 cupcake party. I would ignore the recent letter and spend your money as you would have regardless of the letter. It sounds like a decision made by a small group of parents.

  3. John Says:

    I don’t think you’re over-reacting. I’d feel the same way. That’s a really sleazy way to try and raise money and it’s doomed anyway. If it were me, I’d just buy the kids in our class cupcakes and let all the other parents know they’re off the hook.

  4. dave s Says:

    I am deeply glad to be out of the preschool fundraiser orbit. We did six years of it. Fucking ridiculous, we had a lot of folks who make $40-200 per hour playacting at money raising doing activities which raised the school maybe $6/hour. I am NOT going to try and sell overpriced chocolate bars to people at my office. Nor do I like going around to local businesses and shaking them down for contributions of pizza and drycleaning services. We figured out our share of the fundraising target, which I think was around $8000 a year, divided by our share (either 1/17 or 1/34, depending on whether we had one kid or two at preschool that year) and wrote a check. And they didn’t pester us about it much.
    That said, though our preschool didn’t really do scholarships exactly, the tuition was not quite high enough to cover real ongoing costs, and we had some variety of income – some single moms, some young families just starting out. We didn’t mind being hit up for sweetening the budget, and (married, two incomes, well into our careers) we were about as well positioned to do it as anyone there. In this case, we surely would have paid – it’s cash, cash is the most efficient way to get money to people. But it puts pressure I don’t like on the parent for whom the $50 is a bigger hit than it is for me.

  5. Andrea Says:

    No. I’d be pissed. It’s ok to have a fundraising target for a class tied to a class reward, but to have it contingent on the participation of all parents–talk about a way to make parents who can’t afford it feel like crap. Plus their kids.

  6. Libby Says:

    I like John’s solution–just buy the cupcakes for the class and let everyone off the hook. My kids’ public elementary school has gone upscale with the fundraising the last few years, and the art auction is now mostly donated “art” (I still don’t want any of it) and the tix are $30 a piece. (My daughter’s private middle school did the $50/each ones…) In the 10+ years I’ve had kids in these schools I’ve only been to one art auction (her public high school, an arts-focused school, only charged $10/each). I deeply, deeply, resent the blackmailing that goes on with this kind of fundraising. Imagine if we used that time/money to lobby the gov’t for better pay for teachers!

  7. merseydotes Says:

    What a stupid idea. To make a bunch of three- and four-year-olds feel bad because their parents didn’t buy tickets to the school fundraiser? The kids shouldn’t be rewarded or punished because of what their parents decide to do.

  8. Kari Says:

    My daughter’s private elementary school did a similar thing with the annual contribution drive (offering a reward to the class for 100% parent participation), but there you could contribute whatever amount of money you chose and it still counted. That didn’t feel like blackmail the way your example would to me.

  9. Megan Says:

    That is crazy. I would make (or buy) a few dozen cupcakes and bring them in. Don’t give into the blackmail.

  10. MCMilker Says:

    So far, I’ve stayed away from the pre school fundraisers, preferring to donate items they need and contributing a check from time to time. Having always worked in the for-profit arena, I’m not sure about the value of fundraisers, but would like to hear more about this. Are fundraisers actually worth the money and effort?. Surely someone has done a study on this?

  11. bj Says:

    I don’t even get the point of rewarding the kids for the parent’s participation. What, are preschoolers supposed to blackmail their parents into contributing?
    I’ve had deeply held views about fundraisers for a long time. I refuse, completely, to participate in canned fund-raisers that try to direct my buying choices (wrapping paper, candy bars, sold at extreme markups). I won’t buy anything that incentivizes kids for selling. If such fundraisers are proposed, I write a check to cover my contribution, and move on.
    I do believe in what I consider to be “value-added” fundraisers. That’s where the people involved add value to the item being purchased. I think auctions can be like this, if done right. I’m not sure what I think about the children’s artwork (in our case, we’re going to have to buy pillows with our daughter’s drawing on them. But, someone is actually working to put the pillows together, and my daughter did participate in her part of it). Other things at our auctions include things like vacation cabins, artwork, dinners, and donated items. I think that it’s actually a good thing when local businesses are harrased into making donations to their neighborhood schools (all part of community building). I think auctions and fundraisers do work to build communities and have value for that purpose, separately from the funds they raise.
    One thing that’s become clear to me at a private school is the reason for the fundraising — it is a means of generating funds — which folks can claim tax deductions on, which are necessary for the general fund. In the ideal situation, the fundraising allows families with means to donate tax-free dollars which subsidize the general cost of education for those with lesser means. The problem lies in who thinks they have the means (since it’s all voluntary). And, I guess the same thing is true for time — those with time can donate it, while others don’t, but who gets to decide whether they have time?
    bj

  12. Kelly Says:

    Unbelievable. I’m sure that I would probably not go, however I would also probably cut off my nose. How are other parents reacting? Be sure to post an update!

  13. Shan Says:

    Ugh. Hideous. No, you’re not overreacting. My firstborn is starting preschool in the fall and I expect I’m about to be educated in all things preschool-esque, including rip-off “requests” for money and mandatory volunteer time. Isn’t the tuition enough?

  14. jen Says:

    I am a self-confessed weasel. I hate the fundraisers and never solicit donations. And we always buy tickets to the event — and never actually attend. But I am unwilling to take on the stay-home moms who generally organize these events. I already have second-class status as a working parent, and I don’t want to rock the boat.
    It took me a while to realize that many of these events are only partially about raising money for the school. They are also often a Fun Project for some perhaps not-so-challenged-at-home parents, particularly moms who gave up relatively high-powered jobs. These folks consider long organizing meetings to be a *perk* of the task. These same people are also sometimes personally offended if you don’t show some enthusiasm. And so I try to breathe deeply, not be totally offended by what they’ve done, and bite my tongue. I do sometimes mention after the fact that we may want to avoid the strong-arm tactics in the future. Sometimes I’m heard, sometimes not.
    FWIW, Elizabeth, if all you’re getting hit for a single fundraising event a year with a price tag of $100, you’re not doing so bad. (Although I know that’s not your point.)

  15. V.H. Says:

    I was actually on the fundraising committee one year at my daughter’s daycare. The committee recommended to the director that she just increase tuition by $3 a week and get rid of fundraising. It worked great and everyone was happy.

  16. Christine Says:

    My daughter is signed up for a very pricey preschool for September and I will be really annoyed if any fundraising is involved. The school has a great program and is an upscale neighborhood so the cost is understandable. I went to Catholic school and we sold candy and I hated it. Then again, I do not have a sales personality. All I know is that I would prefer to pay tuition to cover costs in a private school and demand that the state fund public schools and get rid of fundraising all together. There was a great saying I used to remember – something about if the airforce had to fundraise to build airplanes…

  17. Amy Says:

    Yesterday when I picked my kids up at school, a parent was sitting at a table on the blacktop selling tickets to the upcoming adults-only dinner and auction night. The tickets ($50) are more than our family is able to spend comfortably for a night out, and with added babysitting costs, they’re even less affordable for us. But what really stopped me from buying them was 1) the memory of last year, when we scrimped and saved and went, because we felt obligated as members of the school community, only to feel useless because we couldn’t possibly afford to bid on the auction items after having spent so much just to be there, and 2) my son saying, “Mom, you have to go! The class with the most parents going gets a special treat!”
    This is a public school with a mix of relatively affluent, middle-class, and all-out poor kids (who get bused in from a neighborhood across town and so tend to have parents who have less daily contact with the school–I mention this because the only way to buy tickets is to come to the school to purchase them). We’re lucky to have a wealthy PTSO fund–these fundraising efforts pay for two full-time music teachers, among other arts and science bonuses. And I know and respect the people who plan and execute these fundraisers; they’re good at organizing these events, and they see it as their way of giving back to the community. (Plus, having a good school in our neighborhood doesn’t hurt our property values.) But rewarding the class with the most parents participating, when that most likely means the class with the largest number of fairly well-to-do parents? Not good.

  18. Jennifer Says:

    My husband is on the PTA equivalent this year, and he was trying to figure out whether there was a reasonable way to guilt parents into contributing.
    My view is that things that end up raising all their money from the community doing the fundraising (chocolate selling, art auctions, cake stalls etc) are a bit of a waste of time. I’d rather give the money and be done with it. And that’s what my son’s school does – asks for a contribution of $350 a year, and that’s all the fundraising they do.
    But they get just under 50% contributing, in an affluent area where you would expect under 10% not to be able to afford it. So what do do next? He was considering at least publishing a list of the top classes, to give people something to be embarassed about, if their class wasn’t contributing.
    So I don’t know the answer. I know that in my son’s (public) school, I’m still furious that the parents have to raise money to cover the special ed teacher that the principal thinks we need.

  19. Helen Says:

    I like the idea of making cupcakes for the kids. It’s like a little protest, but because it involves cake, it won’t leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth (pardon the pun). I would also give the school office a cheque for $50, enclosed with:
    A short note explaining why you have problems with the way the fundraiser was arranged, and that therefore you’d rather just give the school the $50 directly;
    And a copy of some of the replies above, edited not to show that they’re from a blog – just say you took a straw poll of some friends and they’re the transcripts.
    That’d be sweet.

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