08 January, 2007

Fundraising Life Lessons

Malia has a post this morning that sent me careening down memory lane to one of the more painful memories of my childhood.

Of course, if this is one of the more painful memories, I guess I had a pretty good growing-up experience overall.

I went to a Christian school for 11 of the 13 years of my pre-college learning, so fundraisers are something I know very well. I think we had at least 3 a year until I was in high school. Then we had five for both my Junior and Senior years. We sold candy, wrapping paper, cookie dough, magazines and overpriced gewgaws like jars of butterscotch, scented candles and other things I've come to refer to as "nursing home nicknacks." Out of karmic duty to all the neighbours and church people who bought from me, I've decreed that I will buy from any kid I know who is selling stuff whenever I'm financially able. (Since I have a husband who also went to Christian school, he's on board with this plan.)

The thing is, there's always a competition to motivate the kids to sell stuff. There are usually prizes for selling different amounts (available to everyone), and a grand prize for selling more than anybody else. The grand prize was always particularly grand. Trips for 4 to Cedar Point plus a day of school--that kind of thing.

The problem was one girl in my class--we'll call her Jenny since that was her name but there were 3 Jennys so it's still halfway anonymous. Anyway, Jenny's dad was a salesman who had a large three-state route. While the rest of us bravely went door to door in our neighbourhoods (this was the Seventies--before we were all afraid of serial killers and child molesters), Jenny's dad took her list with him on the road and worked it into his sales pitches. Guess who always won the big prize?

I have internalised a bunch of lessons from this experience, and I'm actually kind of shocked to realise they've stayed with me for the better part of 30 years.

1. The higher the stakes, the more willing people are to 'bend the rules' in order to win.
2. No matter how hard you work, if you are doing it honestly you will not be able to keep up with the cheaters.
3. Competition sucks for those who always play by the rules.

12 Comments:

At 11:22 AM, January 08, 2007, Blogger Les Jones said...

And the school doesn't have any financial motivation to stop that sort of thing, since selling more stuff benefits them.

 
At 11:51 AM, January 08, 2007, Blogger Kathy T. said...

I really dislike selling cookies. With a passion. My hope is that if I get caught, they'll not allow me to sell them anymore.

 
At 12:29 PM, January 08, 2007, Blogger Slartibartfast said...

No matter how hard you work, if you are doing it honestly you will not be able to keep up with the cheaters.

Being the ultimate optimist, I refuse to believe this. I just have it in the back of my head that the cheaters grew up and got caught up in corporate scandals and are now doing hard time.

That being said, I HATE fundraisers with a passion.

 
At 12:31 PM, January 08, 2007, Blogger Amy said...

I never had experience with friends whose parents took it THAT far...but I remember always being frustrated at how unfair it seemed that other kids' parents would take their order forms to work and put them in a factory breakroom and such, while my parents refused to do the selling for me. I was stuck going door-to-door. why is it that parents feel the need to do the work for their kids?

 
At 12:31 PM, January 08, 2007, Anonymous Sarcastro said...

We were the national magazine selling champs for years. Might still be. By we, I mean my school. If I sold fifty bucks worth, it was only due to some miracle.

Most of the kids who racked up the big sales and got the fabulous cash and prizes were Veruca Salt and her ilk. Those kids would have dads, usually captains of industry types, to go to the office and "suggest" that his employees cough up the dough for a Reader's Digest subscription.

These children were held up as the examples we should all follow.

I played sports. So I didn't get home until early evening after practice. That left my neighborhood wide open for the kids down the block to already put the arm on everyone in a convenient vicinity.

So, outside of my parents buying a magazine, I wasn't selling a whole hell of a lot. Plus, I refused to go out and spend my free time shilling for the school. This angered the pro-magazine faction in the administration.

They pulled me aside, and I was then "counseled" on my inability to meet the school's magazine quotas.

Later, a sympathetic faculty member asked me, "Have you ever read The Chocolate War? I think you would like it."

 
At 1:30 PM, January 08, 2007, Blogger jag said...

I stopped trying to compete when it came to fundraisers. Not only did I think it was the ultimate meanest thing ever when a neighbor would say 'no' to my sales pitch (as an adult, I understand), but no matter how hard I worked, there was somebody whose mom had taken the catalog 'to the office'.

My mom worked from home. Us kids WERE her office. It never seemed fair.

'course, now I'm happy that I had my mom at home and not the neon green motorized skateboard that was in the top prizes.

 
At 1:44 PM, January 08, 2007, Blogger Malia said...

I don't think that this is what you are suggesting, but just to be clear, I did not (nor do I think KT and BM, did either) put that post up so that Sweetpea could meet some sort of elusive selling goal and win a prize. (Especially if you saw the prizes in question, pretty pathetic!) I really don't see it as any different than David taking it to his office and setting it out on the breakroom table.

I know some people have a problem with that, too. I don't and here's why. When I was single and working and when I was married and working but before children, I LOVED it when parents brought in the GS cookie order forms. That's how I got cookies each year. I feel I'm just sharing that opportunity with others.

Also, times being what they are, I will not (save for a few immediate neighbors) let Sweetpea go door to door to sell these things. And for those few neighbors, I WILL accompany her.

Back in the mid-80's I participated in a school fundraiser (private, Christian school). I went door-to-door around my entire neighborhood and racked up a bunch of orders. My prize? A calculator. I was so over it after that, plus there was the actual delivering of the products when they came in. That was a pain in the rear.

Most fundraisers are quite distasteful to me(that is, participating in them) but this one is kind of fun. Of course, it's our first year into it. Ask me again six years from now and I'll probably feel just like Kathy does!

 
At 2:11 PM, January 08, 2007, Blogger Kat Coble said...

See, this is why I shouldn't write first thing in the morning, because I didn't include the explanatory paragraph.

I don't at all think that's what you guys here were doing on your blogs.

But you mentioned the Internet rule and I was thinking to myself "you know what. If this were my childhood, Jenny's dad would build her a website and sell her cookies all over the world on the web. That's the kind of crap he'd pull" And then I just went from there.

I was actually thinking that's probably the GS reason behind "don't sell on the web." I think they mean "don't have an eBay site or a Web site."

 
At 2:29 PM, January 08, 2007, Blogger Malia said...

I feel quite certain that the idea behind the rule is just what you speak of. Don't sell them on eBay or on other selling type sites & don't set up a website for the purpose of selling them.

This is what I didn't put on my blog, which is making me break one of my new rules (more on that later), anyway...this is the first year for practically all of us moms of these girls in the troop (troop leader included) to be apart of this fundraiser. So the troop leader and co-leader and the cookie manager mom went to cookie training and then came back and told us all the stuff we needed to know. I think that the tone in our meeting came from the naïveté of the group on how this sort of thing is really handled. The cookie manager mom has an older daughter who has sold cookies before but she didn't really have any input regarding the whole e-mail/Internet thing. She pretty much agreed about the e-mail to friends/family thing that I mentioned in the post.

So, yes, I believe the reasoning behind "no Internet selling" is so that some girls will not have a stark advantage over other girls. And that technically, the girls themselves should be doing the majority of the selling. I honestly don't see a problem with mentioning it on a blog or in an e-mail as a way to "help out".

btw, the fundraising memories keep coming back to me as well as we go through this!

 
At 4:01 PM, January 08, 2007, Blogger Kathy T. said...

I updated my blog about the whole rules ruckus. :) And I agree with you about the "competition" sales. I don't like to use the word "hate" but my feelings are pretty close. One year, we had SIX fundraisers going at the same time. It was insanity. Anyway, let me, Malia, Busy Mom or any girl scout you know if you want to order cookies! (haha).

 
At 7:12 PM, January 08, 2007, Anonymous sista smiff said...

Nobody in my house will participate in a school fundraiser ever again. It causes much anger in Mr. Smiff to bring the subject up.

 
At 12:39 PM, January 09, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I can remember are the bake sales. ;-)

T

 

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