Fundraising Frenzy

Amethyst Hinton Sainz Education, Parent Involvment

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A few weeks back, an energetic (slightly manic?) presenter pitched our school’s most recent fundraiser at our quarter assembly. Students would sell overpriced frozen meats, and for every 1,000 sales (or something), the company would send a family of four to Disneyland. 30% of the money raised would go to the school.

These types of fundraisers aren’t at all new, and they can be quite successful, bringing in thousands of dollars in a large school. And the PTA uses this money to help fund special experiences that students would not otherwise have. I suppose the fundraisers are successful because people can feel that they are receiving something in exchange for their contributions. The fundraisers dangle a carrot (or a steak, or a pumpkin roll….)   When I was a kid, I became very excited about these fundraisers, because I could win a stuffed unicorn or a pair of hilarious oversized sunglasses.

I have reservations about the amount of money the fundraising companies are making off of low-quality products, but overall I get it. I get why schools and student groups do these fundraisers. And in fact, I have bought my share of cookie dough, flip-flops, fleece blankets, and tee shirts, not to mention visiting the cacophonous (and cavernous) pizza-and-Skee-Ball kingdom with my kids during fundraiser nights. (That sentence was fun to write, but honestly, I enjoy Skee Ball.)

This week, for the first time in my career, staff members at my school are being asked to participate in a fundraiser by selling items. My understanding is that the PTA will pitch it to us on Friday.

At first I assumed this initiative was an idea from a student leadership group who was trying to think of how they could get more people behind fundraising efforts.  Then I found an email I had overlooked.  The meat company proposed the idea for teachers to sell the steaks after a distressingly low number of students returned their fundraising packets.  The PTA parents also have the “opportunity” to sell.  Our rewards would be movie tickets or the like. It turns out that because the students were no successful in their sales, important pending programs will not have enough funding. 

However, I am going to say no, for three main reasons.

First, I am trying to imagine a lawyer, nurse, doctor, or accountant going home at the end of the day and hawking vats of cookie dough to make sure that clients or patients have the best care and service. Teachers are working hard to be seen as the professionals they are. Selling magazine subscriptions is a step in the wrong direction. I understand that the PTA includes teachers, but to me, selling steaks feels different than showing up for the dunk tank at a carnival.

My second reason for rejecting this revenue round-up is simple:  Every dollar I spend on my classroom goes directly to my classroom. The vast majority of funds donated to my Donorschoose projects go directly to my classroom. All the snacks I buy for testing days, all the band-aids, and all the incentives that I sell students in exchange for the school “tickets” go directly to my students. When I make a cash donation to the PTA tomorrow, it will all go toward their projects. Only a much smaller percentage of fundraising proceeds go to the school or the students themselves.

My third reason is that my fundraising schedule is full. I help my own children fundraise already. Between Girl Scouts, youth football and school fundraisers, we are fundraisered out. I am fine with the students’ own parents and the students themselves raising that extra money for great projects. Asking teachers to do it is going a little too far.

The nice thing about PTA fundraisers is that there are many fewer restrictions about how the money can be spent to benefit students, compared to tax credit money or club fundraisers. I will continue to buy the occasional item off of the student who catches me with my checkbook in my purse, but you won’t find me pushing popcorn tins.


Amethyst Hinton Sainz is National Board Certified Teacher in Adolescent and Young Adult English Language Arts, and is constantly trying to live up to that standard! This year she will begin teaching at Westwood High School in Mesa, Arizona as an interventionist. She has taught junior high ELD and high school English in Arizona for 25 years. She has been a Stories from School blogger since 2012. Amethyst’s alma maters are Blue Ridge High School, the University of Arizona and the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. Her bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Philosophy led her toward the College of Education, and she soon realized that the creative challenges of teaching would fuel her throughout her career. Her love of language, literature, and culture led her to Bread Loaf for her master's in English Literature. She is a fellow with the Southern Arizona Writing Project, and that professional development along with, later, the National Board process, has been the most influential and transformative learning for her. As a board member of the Mesa NBCT Network, she works with other NBCT’s to promote this powerful process throughout the district. She supports candidates for National Board Certification, and loves seeing teachers realize and articulate their teaching and leadership power! She enjoys teaching students across the spectrum of academic abilities, and keeping up with new possibilities for technology in education. Last year she had the privilege of running our school garden, and will really miss that this year. She is currently learning more about social and racial justice and is striving to be an antiracist educator. She lives in Mesa, Arizona with her family. She enjoys time with them, as well as with her vegetable garden, backyard chickens, and the two dogs. She also enjoys reading, writing, cooking (but not doing dishes), kayaking, camping, and travel, among other things.

Comments 3

  1. Ciedie Aech

    THANK YOU for standing up and addressing the fact that until our society treats teachers as respected professionals, those who wish to profit will simply push at our profession until it is fully diminished.

  2. Christine Porter Marsh

    Nice job. I love all three of your reasons, but #1 really resonates with me. I’ve come to a point in my life that if I am going to raise money for someone or something, it’s going to be for politicians who can create a situation in which people do not have to fundraise for school children (and let me be clear…I’m not just throwing words around: I donate probably more than I can truly afford to candidates whom I know will make things better for our children and our teachers).

  3. Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    Thanks for the comments Christine and Ciedie! Since I wrote this I have really been reflecting on the difference between selling steaks and showing up for the dunk tank, and I think they are fundamentally different.

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