Who Put the “Fun” in “Fundraising”?


There is an old saying that describes war as “long periods of boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror.” Replace the word “boredom” with “fundraising” and you will also have the perfect description of nearly every after school activity ever invented. I realize, of course, that this is news to no one—no one but me, that is. You’d think that after twenty years of being a mother this would not be the case, but apparently having my daughter, Clementine, as a first child has given me a false impression of what I was in for when it came to school and school events.

Clementine never participated in after school activities, probably because her favorite thing to do after school was to leave it. And so the fundraising requests from her school stopped about the same time she left kindergarten. (Or maybe she just helpfully “lost” all of them the same way she “lost” every other piece of paper that was ever supposed to come home with her, including school pictures, field trip permission forms, and notices that her school lunch account was horrendously overdrawn. The only way I ever found out about that last one was after she mentioned being served a cheese sandwich for the fifth day in a row.)

But then along came her brother Clyde.

Clyde participates. In everything. He is the first to raise his hand in answer to the question of “what did you do this summer?” (And as he gets older, he is often the only person to raise his hand at that question.) He will read his thesis statement out loud when the teacher asks for volunteers. And he will willingly (and happily) join every extracurricular activity that comes his way. And then just as happily offer up my services when it comes to the fundraising. And, of course, it always comes to the fundraising.

Look, I know that schools are terribly underfunded, and that they really do need the money we raise for them just to buy the basics. And I also know that even though my family in particular might not need the financial help, by participating in the fundraising activity along with everyone else we are helping to remove the stigma for those who do. I get that. But still, even knowing those things, and even after fully understanding the various forces at work, I am always left with one thought: please, not another fundraiser.

It gets to the point that after a while I don’t even know—or care—what the money is being raised for. New shoes for the basketball team? Fine. New wing for the library? Great. Rainy day fund in case the entire band gets kidnapped by a drug cartel and we need to pay their ransom demands? Awesome.

Even worse, though, is that not only do I not know where the money is going, I also don’t know how much was even raised. Because it’s not like all fundraising is created equal. That frozen cookie dough fundraiser probably pulls in a pittance next to the homemade tamale one, the same way “kiss the pig” day probably runs circles around “hat day” (at least until they figure out a way to incorporate a screen and a netflix account into a hat).

One day, I know, there will come a time when all of this fundraising is a thing of the past, and I will look back fondly on all of those hours spent at car washes, and yard sales, and tamale parties, and trying to sell people the Worst Wrapping Paper in the World®. But then again, probably not, because the reason it will all be a thing of the past for me is that my kids will have outgrown it—your kids will still be hitting me up on the reg.

Because, just like that other old saying goes: death, taxes, and fundraising are nothing if not inevitable.

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