Schools Find Alternative Fundraisers to be Profitable

Schools have been selling candy to raise money for years, but now a renewed focus on the consequences of childhood obesity has many rethinking this approach — and sometimes with fundraisers that on the surface seem odd. Beth Hendrickson, the principal of St. Ann Interparochial School in Morganfield, Kentucky had a mundane idea that turned out to be brilliant: instead of selling candy, the school was going to start selling garbage bags.

According to Beth J. Harpaz of the Associated Press, St. Ann is raising more than $20,000 a year from garbage bag sales. It makes a lot of sense, in retrospect; after all, the market for candy is more limited than that for garbage bags.

The trash bag sale, done through Bags for Bucks, is just one alternative to the candy-and-gift wrap sales that so many communities hold when school fundraising efforts resume each fall. Some PTAs are going high-tech, using online platforms to solicit and process donations, selling digital images of kids’ artwork on coffee mugs or magnets, and hosting scavenger hunts where clues are collected with cellphone photos. And a few school groups have stopped selling products altogether, instead encouraging parents to simply write checks.

Although not quite as unique as Hendrickson’s idea, many schools around the country are experimenting with candy alternatives. Along with garbage bags, St. Ann also sells bedsheets – to the tune of $16,000 just last year.

Sales dropped by about 50% this year – unlike garbage bags, bed linen isn’t disposable – but a number of new prints to be introduced this fall are keeping Hendrickson optimistic that a sales rebound is on the way.

Not all schools have found success with alternative products, however. Potter Road Elementary School in Framingham, Mass., tried selling organic goodies and items made from recycled materials through a company called Greenraising. Nancy Novo O’Connor, co-president of the parent-teacher organization, said Greenraising was a great vendor to work with, but the organic products ‘‘did not raise nearly as much money’’ as the traditional sale of chocolates and wrapping paper, so they went back to a previous vendor.

Administrators from some schools looked at these experiences and walked away thinking that the best way to raise funds for the school would be to skip the middle man. Many are foregoing sales of any kind and simply asking parents for donations.

Alison Oleson who used to head up the Sleep Hollow PTA says that parents and kids are too busy nowadays to go around door-to-door pushing product. Besides, unlike sales, direct donations, minus a small fee for payment processing, go directly to the school.

07 18, 2013
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