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How to contribute to school fundraisers without breaking the bank

Written by ecannon - 26 Comments

This post comes from Cathy at our partner site Quizzle.com.

It’s Back to School season, and that means it’s also time for school fundraisers to start. Most schools have at least a few fundraisers. And many schools have an overwhelming number of fundraisers. Here are some tips on how to handle those (seemingly endless) requests for money:

Know how much you can give.

The very first thing you need to decide is how much money you can give to your child’s school, or your friends’ children’s schools. Keep in mind that many contributions will be tax-deductible, and that you may want to balance your giving to other charitable organizations. For example, I’ve shifted most of our family’s giving to our children’s school, and am giving much less to other charities that I used to support – the need at our schools is just so great right now.

Decide which fundraisers you want to participate in.

Some fundraisers offer a bigger bang for the buck to the school. This is because the school only gets a percentage of your purchase when you buy wrapping paper or candy, but it gets all of your contribution if you make a direct donation. I know some families that refuse to make a direct contribution, and will only make a purchase; I know other families that do the exact opposite. Some families don’t have a lot of money to give or spend, but are good at selling to their extended family, friends and coworkers.

If you’re new to the school and don’t know exactly what’s in store, ask someone who does know. Most of the office staff and parents who are active in the school’s fundraising activities should be able to give you a preview of what to expect throughout the year.

Have a “no, thank you” script prepared.

It’s hard to graciously refuse to participate in a fundraiser if you feel you’re being put on the spot. So having a mental script ready for such situations can be a huge help. If the fundraiser you’re saying no to is from your own child’s school, it’s easy enough to say something like, “We’ve already participated in [or will be participating in] Fundraiser X, so we’re sitting this one out.”

If it’s a fundraiser for someone else’s school and you’re just not interested in contributing, you could say, “I’m sorry but my giving funds have already been distributed to other organizations. Maybe next time.” If you’re being asked to purchase something but aren’t comfortable with a flat-out refusal, you can explain that you don’t need what’s being offered, but would like to make a direct donation. The amount you donate will depend on the situation, since a $1 donation to a candy bar sale seems reasonable, but a $20 donation might be more appropriate if it’s a client who’s asking.

Above all, if it’s a fundraiser for your own child’s school, participate in at least one. It helps your child feel a part of the school community, and family participation in school activities like fundraisers makes every school a better place.

More stories from Quizzle:

Saving money and raising children

What to do when your children receive money

Having trouble saving? Probably because you didn’t start before age 7

Published on September 6th, 2013
Modified on August 29th, 2013 - 26 Comments
Filed under: Charity, Family & Life

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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26 Responses to “How to contribute to school fundraisers without breaking the bank”

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    I’d say that it’s most important to support your own kids (or nieces/nephews) schools first and then your friends and/or coworkers kids.

    I do have a soft spot for cheap fundraisers though, like chocolate bars and donuts. Who doesn’t want chocolate bars and donuts? So I always participate in those!

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