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A Handy Fundraising FAQ, From A Band Parent

A Handy Fundraising FAQ, From A Band Parent

By Mir Kamin

The clocks have changed; the days are getting colder; before you know it, my kid will show up on your doorstep, trying to win you over with a nervous smile as she delivers her speech about how she’s selling fruit for her marching band. Listen, I know that fundraising is annoying. I know that a teenager on your doorstep asking for money isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time (trust me, I really know) (though mine usually prefer to beg for money in the kitchen, at home). I just thought that maybe we could clear up any questions you may have and save everyone some time.

This kid lives in my neighborhood? How come I don’t recognize her?
Yes, she lives right here in our neighborhood. No, you may not have seen her recently. Know why? Because for the last four months or so, she’s spent an average of twenty hours/week rehearsing or performing with the band. That’s on top of a demanding course load at school and other activities and commitments. I barely recognize her, myself. Trust me when I tell you that there isn’t a kid who does this who isn’t truly committed, because it is a huge chunk of their lives and time taken up for a third of the year.

You’re letting her walk around all by herself?
She’s old enough to drive (though she doesn’t have her license yet); I really think she can handle tromping around the neighborhood on her own. I’m not a helicopter mom.

Wait, how come I saw you and a little dog waiting out on the street, though?
Sometimes it’s a beautiful day and Licorice wants to go for a walk, is all. And sometimes my kid is so grateful for the company, we have fun hanging out together while she’s canvassing the neighborhood. She doesn’t need us there, sometimes we just tag along.

What is the proper response when a kid knocks at my door and tries to sell me something?
Personally, I hope you’d be kind to her, at the very least. If you buy something, fantastic—she really appreciates it! But I don’t believe that’s a requirement, or anything. On the other hand, hearing someone yell, “There’s someone at the door!” inside the house and then no one ever opens the door doesn’t give anyone (much less a kid) warm fuzzy feelings. Open the door and hear the kid out. Slamming the door mid-explanation is rude no matter how you look at it.

Why should I buy something from your kid?
In a perfect world, fundraising would be unnecessary. In an almost-perfect world, neighbors would see a local kid working her butt off and selling something most of us eat, anyway, and think to themselves, “I enjoy fruit and also want to support youth and the arts in my community in some small way. This is perfect!” Perfection is a long way off, so how about you should buy something because you’re nice and it’s good karma?

Isn’t this fruit kind of overpriced?
Yes. Yes, it is. That’s because it’s a fundraiser, and if the price was cheap, the kids wouldn’t make any money. (Here my son would add a grandiose, “Math!! How does it work?“)

Is this fruit organic? Ethically grown and harvested?
Ummm… well… did I mention this is for the kids…?

What do they need this money for, anyway? Doesn’t the district have a budget and don’t the kids pay fees?
Marching band is expensive, and the district’s budget covers things like the band director’s salary, but not a whole lot else. We pay our dues every year and I always assumed that’s what most other band families did, but that’s because I’m sort of dumb. Turns out, we live in a very poor district and less than half (like, way less than half) of the kids ever actually pay their dues. Whether they’re incapable or just unwilling, who knows. Our director holds the belief that non-payment of fees is a parental issue, so he doesn’t kick kids out when that happens. (This is just one of the many reasons he’s awesome.)

This money covers things like payments to auxiliary staff, competition fees, instrument purchasing/maintenance/repairs, travel, and uniform cleaning. If you don’t think this stuff is important, you have clearly never been hugged by a kid who just marched a full show… in a polyester uniform… in Georgia… in August. (Translation: The money is for uniform cleaning. Thank God.)

Isn’t there another way to raise money that doesn’t involve door-to-door?
Well, sure. This is just one way the band raises funds. I’ll confess, I’m the sort of meanie-pants who believes it’s character-building for my kid to have to participate in the realities of keeping a club like this solvent, even if it’s just a few weeks out of her year where she has to do it. But understand that this comes from someone who frequently works an 8-hour day while homeschooling a kid and then heads out to work another 6 hours in our band’s concession stand before/during/after a football game. And then when someone walks up and says, “Two dollars for a soda?” like it’s a crime against humanity, I reply, “Yep, two dollars for a soda, because it’s for the kids. Thank you so much for supporting our band!”

Do you have any fruit-selling highlights to share from this year?
But of course!

Worst: One day before the fruit sale started, we ran into a neighbor we’d never met before and ended up having a lovely chat. It was mentioned that the fruit sale was coming up, and she said, “Oh, yes, definitely come by! I’d love to buy some fruit from you!” She told us which house was hers and was a real sweetheart. Come fruit sale time, her husband answered the door and refused to even look at the flyer. Nice.

Best: Another neighbor very apologetically explained that he’d already purchased fruit from one of his students in the next county over, where he teaches. My daughter thanked him for his time and started back down to the road. A few seconds later, he opened the door and told her to wait; it turned out that his wife wanted to know if we lived on their street. We do, and when she heard that, she told my kiddo to come back the next evening and she’d buy something. Well, the next night she invited her in, made a couple of quick phone calls, and then ordered a boatload of fruit as a group order she’d taken from her coworkers. How kind and amazing was that?

Okay, fine. I get it. What should I order?
The grapefruits are delicious, and not that much more expensive than from the supermarket if you’re willing to buy a whole case of ’em. That’s what we buy. The tangelos and navel oranges are also reputed to be yummy. Personally, I’d skip the apples (apples from Florida?), but to each their own.

Thank you for supporting our band (and for being nice to my kid).

About the Author

Mir Kamin

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now ...

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she’s become one of those people who talks to her dogs in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she’s continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she’s bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.

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  • Liz

    November 5, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Please let us know if there is some way to support without going through the middle man (vendor) who takes his cut. I hate the brochure for overpriced cheap candy and jams, they are products I literally don’t even want, especially at a premium price, and then the student gets what, a dollar?  For that cub scout, I sent a check straight to his mom and bought nothing.  Is that considered inappropriate, to just offer a cash donation to the student?

    • Mir Kamin

      November 5, 2013 at 4:39 pm

      I love that you’re willing to just do a straight donation when you don’t want the product; not inappropriate at all! I wish you lived in our neighborhood!

      • Brigitte

        November 6, 2013 at 6:38 am

        That’s what we usually do, too, but it does throw the poor kids for a loop; they’re very confused as to how to respond when we ask how we can make a direct donation.

    • Jenn

      November 5, 2013 at 9:33 pm

      It would be a rare organization that wouldn’t accept a donation or be offended by it. As the fundraising chair of our local PTO I certainly would be very appreciative and would write you a nice thank you note. But our local school district has a rule against soliciting for checks so we can’t even mention it’s possible. The customer has to ask.

    • Lucinda

      November 5, 2013 at 9:49 pm

      It isn’t inappropriate.  We frequently do that.  The high school music teacher just skips the middle man entirely and sends the kids out asking for money on one particular day.  His spiel is you don’t want to buy crap and we don’t want to sell it but we need your support.  So we’ll just ask for money and you will know 100% of your money goes to our program. I really love that guy.

  • Mandie

    November 5, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    This is one of the most awesome posts ever.  We’re too poor to even have a marching band but we do have to fundraise extensively for just the band program.  

    We actually made calendars this year with all the school calendar dates and all the performing arts (including pep band) events.  That was pretty cool.  

    To Liz above me – No, I certainly don’t think that is inappropriate, and I often do that myself if I want to support the program but am not interested in the product.  

  • Kira

    November 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    As a band director (and wife of a band director also), I love these posts about band so much. It really is incredibly expensive to keep even a good middle school band going, much less a high school with marching band, concert bands, winterguard and winter drumline, pep bands, small ensembles, and various other groups going. We appreciate ANY help we get…fundraiser purchases, donations, even buying that $2 drink in the concession stand (BTW, drinks at a restaurant cost at least that also).

    We know the fact that we’re selling stuff is annoying…and sometimes it’s stuff you don’t need or want. Consider a donation instead, so all of the money goes straight to the student and the program. Even $5 will help. What if every house in the neighborhood “only” gave $5? 🙂 Even as the directors, we both have a policy that on the day after we start a fundraiser, we buy something from the kid that asks us first. We devote a ton of time and money to our programs as it is, but IT’S FOR THE KIDS. Any sale boosts their confidence and their program. 🙂

    • Mir Kamin

      November 5, 2013 at 6:29 pm

      We who are about to head out to the monthly Band Boosters meeting salute you (and your husband)! 😀

  • Jean

    November 5, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    I remember selling candy to help defer the cost of the yearbook. I had one neighbor just tell me to give her 10, she didn’t care what the cost was.
    She was one of the most amazing people ever. And she did this for everything!

    Ok, I also remember my parents buying a ton of stuff because, in this particular case, the candy was exceptional and it was close to the holidays so they could put in candy dishes. Um also, I had to pay for the boxes I ate (did I mention the candy was really good?)

  • js

    November 5, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    I hated this. I used to bitch and complain every time my student brought a candy/cookie/pizza kit/popcorn thing home. That is, until I actually started going to the PTO meetings and realized how broke our school is, especially when it comes to keeping up with technology. The horrible part is, our school district is not poor. The families I know think nothing of spending $50 so it says PINK across their daughters butt. So now I go to the meetings and I pay my $26 for cookie dough. Because its for my kiddo.

    • Mir Kamin

      November 5, 2013 at 6:28 pm

      Ohhhh, that would make me crazy, if I lived in a rich district with a broke school. At least there’s a genuine poverty problem here. Urgh. Enjoy your cookie dough…?

  • Debbie

    November 5, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    As a former color guard mom, this post speaks to me!  So many do not understand the time, energy and dedication that marching band requires. Those kids work harder than any athletic team in the school!  Wish I lived close so I could buy fruit from your daughter!

  • The more you know! | Woulda Coulda Shoulda

    November 5, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    […] promised earlier, here’s a handy-dandy FAQ I made for you to help in getting through this season of fundraising with good […]

  • Lucinda

    November 5, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    I love this post.  My husband and I have a policy.  If a kid knocks on our door selling stuff, we buy something.  If we can’t have it due to food allergies, we just give a donation.  Every.  Time.  I figure if the kid is willing to schlep door to door, the least I can do is support them.  I put in my time selling crap when I was a kid.  I know how much it sucks to be told the person isn’t interested.  Plus, it’s really cool to see the look on the kid’s face when they make a sale. Totally worth every penny.

  • Wendy

    November 5, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    From someone who had all three of her kids selling things for three different organizations all at one time last month, I am sick of fundraisers. However, I definitely understand the need, and I have bought many things that I don’t need just to support the kids. Between Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Choir, Basketball, Volleyball, Cheerleading, and the school itself, we do get tapped out. However, we do try to buy something from all of them. And when it comes to fruit, there is only one organization around here that i know of that sells it, and that’s FFA. Their apples and pears are THE BEST and well worth the extra cost. That reminds me, I have to find someone in FFA this year.

  • Jenn

    November 5, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    Also be considerate of the parents who run these fundraisers. Please provide all information asked for, be sure to make your check out to the right organization, write neatly, and don’t include incomplete rolls of pennies with your payment. We’re volunteers and it’s really a part-time job for the entire fundraiser plus at least 2 weeks on each end. Even with a good sales rep we still have to be very organized and good at math, have a strong backbone, write peppy and encouraging emails, handle a lot of money, worry about theft, sometimes get accused of theft, make collection calls to those who don’t pay on time, deal with product problems, and coordinate the receipt and delivery of all the products ordered. It’s worth it, but a lot of work. Thanks for supporting the kids!

  • Amanda

    November 6, 2013 at 8:29 am

    Does your school accept school tax credit donations? At my kids school here in Az., we can dictate what program our donation can go to up to $400 for married couples. Maybe taking a few of those forms already filled out can help with
    the donation requests? They can be sent to the district or dropped off at the school.

  • Jen

    November 6, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Let’s see, what have I sold in my years in band (student, band director, spouse of band director)? Chocolate, popcorn, more chocolate, citrus, bingo lottery ticket thingies, and more chocolate (damn, I’m sick of chocolate; I get the willies when I see World’s Finest anymore). Fundraising for music programs is just a requirement anymore, for any program larger than “here is a piano, sit on the floor and sing.” No one hits us up anymore and that makes me sad. I also want to be a band mom, but my boys won’t play along. :p

  • Chris

    November 6, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Boy does this bring back memories. I sold fruit from elementary school to high school for my music program. I had it down to a science, though, and kept a record of what everyone bought so the next year I could say, “Mrs. B, you bought a half box of grapefruit last year. Did you love it? Would you consider a a full box this year?” I HATED selling things and much preferred our monthly car washes, but since I had to do it, I tried to be good at it. My poor parents had the worst jobs, helping me sort and then driving me around to deliver those boxes. Music parents everywhere, you are awesome!

  • Celeste

    November 6, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    I work at a small private school. As in, about 175 kids in preschool -8th grade. Not an expensive school and not in a rich area. A few years ago, someone got the bright idea of having the kids to raise money by just asking friends and families for a donation, and ending it up with a walk-a-thon one afternoon on our ball field. They give nice prizes to the top 3 fundraisers, like Kindle Fires and iPods. They have a pizza party for the next 10 or so kids. Parents like it because there’s no selling, no delivery, no overpriced products, and it’s the only thing we do all year. The school keeps 90% of the money raised because the prizes and the pizza party afterward are the only expenses. (Most fundraisers that involve selling will net the organization only about 30-40%)

    This is the 4th or 5th year. And seriously, this little group of kids raised over $10k this year. Food for thought, huh?

  • Patricia H

    November 6, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    I have gone through my kids participation in fundraisers and have had first hand experience being the organizer for my Girl Scout troop.

    First, we love love love a direct check in lieu of buying our goods. It’s not weird at all. I can’t speak for other organizations, but the return for some fundraisers is very low for the amount of work the kids and parents have to put in. We sold over $700 for the Girl Scouts this fall (that’s many small boxes of candy and nuts) and will get barely $100.

    Second, I big-time second the comments to respect and appreciate the parent organizers too. It’s unbelievably time consuming and unnecessarily complicated to do all of this, and then to get back my (darling little Brownie’s) forms to enter our orders and the girls name is not even written on it! And it’s literally illegible! And oh yeah, they didn’t collect all the money yet! (who do you think covers that missing $$ when you forgot your check book / the envelope / didn’t know you had to collect the money up front.

    My oft repeated mantra… I am doing it for the girls, I am doing it for the girls, I am doing it for the girls.

  • Gail

    November 6, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    I’ll admit I’m not crazy about fundraisers, or answering my door to strangers, even if they are kids. When approached, I usually offer to make a straight donation (it cuts out the middleman and I get to buy my own fruit and make my own cookie dough), and I also contact a state official about how they should offer more funding for cultural enrichment opportunities for students, especially those in poor counties.

    I was always the worst at fundraisers. We didn’t live in a “neighborhood” of the subdivision type, and our neighborhood wasn’t really friendly for that sort of thing. My mother was a teacher, so her colleagues had already been hit up by other students. I always struggled to find anyone willing to buy anything and found the whole thing demeaning. I imagine the experience is probably similar for poor students who aren’t going to find willing buyers in their neighborhoods or among family friends. Which is why I try my best to offer donations when I can afford it, and why I try to do my best to lobby for more arts funding (although my individual efforts are admittedly probably ineffectual).

  • Daisy

    November 7, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    So many truths in this post! It seems I’m searching for a new source for band fruit (okay, music department fruit) every few years. One of my coworkers now has a daughter in the high school choir. I already buy seeds from her ice skating club. I think I subsidize this girl’s extra curricular activities, and that’s okay – as long as her mom and dad eventually take over and pay her college tuition!

  • John

    April 25, 2014 at 10:21 am

    I notice that only women comment — so I hope I’m not out of place. Saw a link to your post, and as a fundraising distributor who was and is again – a band director, I’m always looking for parent input. Yes, fundraising merchandise is overpriced because of the built in donation to the group. Product size and quality suffer with the demand for higher profit percentages. Product sales should only be a portion of the f/r a booster group does. I discourage the door-to-door aspect in favor of using student media connections to promote what they are doing and enable friends, family and neighbors to purchase (or donate) online. Some booster groups are looking for service-based projects, i.e. digitizing old LP/VHS media for the community — or even setting themselves up to be a fundraising distributorship serving the dozens of clubs/organizations in their h/s and the other groups in the local area where band parents are also involved – such as leagues, elem and m/s parent groups, etc. Thoroughly enjoyed your post. You are spot on.