OUR VIEWS: Fundraising too much, too often

May 24, 2012


And if you have school-age children (or grandchildren, or nieces or nephews or friends with kids), it's even worse. School is a place where children go to learn both academics and how to interact with others. It’s also become a place where children learn to become experts at soliciting money.

It seems that every few weeks there’s another fundraiser going on. A walk-a-thon for diabetes research. A jump rope competition for the American Heart Association. A football game for cancer research. A magazine sale to raise money for playground equipment. A wrapping paper sale, a jog-a-thon, a pop can drive, a candy sale, a change drive, a golf outing.

Non-stop fundraising has become big business in this area.

Somewhat disturbing is how children are “encouraged” to raise more and more money by the prizes offered to top sellers.

All of these efforts are for great causes, but it becomes harder and harder for people to decide when and where to donate. Unless you’re making a salary in the six figures — or live alone with no expensive hobbies to drain your bank account — you simply can’t give to everyone who comes asking.

And at some point, it's time to say enough's enough. That point is now.

Schools should take a careful look at exactly what fundraisers in which they’re asking children to take part, and take special care not to ask too much of these youngsters who are busy enough with band practice, soccer practice, youth groups, piano lessons, chess club and Girls on the Run.

A great example to follow is how Rosy Mound Elementary School in Grand Haven Township has just one fundraiser a year — a jog-a-thon in early May. It’s a wildly successful way to raise money for the school’s PTA, which then uses that money to cover all the shortcomings that the state budget misses. It raises tens of thousands of dollars in one fell swoop, while schools that host multiple fundraisers only bring in a thousand or so with each attempt. In the end, Rosy Mound wins, and parents and neighbors win, too.

We'd all be thankful if other schools followed Rosy Mound's successful fundraising path and stop asking for too much, too often.



Non-profits addressing the same issues should combine - thus eliminating some of the funding competition. Youth mentoring organizations, or organizations addressing senior needs, infant and child welfare, health and cancer research, etc. - why not combine forces, eliminate organizational bureaucracy, and work more efficiently?
One reason is that some of these organizations have taken on lives of their own. The March of Dimes, for instance, was created to eliminate polio. Now that polio has been conquered in much of the world, the organization now deals with premature infants. Why? Because the executive directors and national HQ staff want to keep their jobs. There are hundreds of organizations that address prenatal and infant health. The March of Dimes org could have closed down, knowing that it had fulfilled its destiny. But, no. It jumped into the arena and now competes with already existing non-profits fighting to prevent premature birth.
When supporting non-profits, people need to do some homework in order to insure that the organization to which they donate has a good mission to operational support ratio. Ratings are available from a variety of sources.
With fundraising competition so tough, we need to carefully think about where we donate our money!


So, who is it that offers this opinion? There is no by line indicating that the article is the informed opinion of someone on the Tribune staff, and all other letters to the editor are signed. It seems these "Our Views" columns are written by the Tribune staff, which strikes me as odd. Why would the newspaper itself publish it's own unattributed letters to the editor, or host an opinion column without identifying the author? It seems to me these opinions are seeds which the Tribune hopes will germinate lots of online comments -- like this one (although it is slightly off topic). It was made clear in a recent article and follow up on the clash between drivers and cyclists that the Tribune uses the number of comments an article generates -- which often are poorly reasoned anonymous rants -- as a measure of relevancy and success. Doesn't seem like fine journalism to me, and won't keep me buying the paper.


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