Wacky School Fundraisers That Raised Lots of Money

Written on February 3, 2012 at 4:41 pm , by


Hi, everyone. I’m Jonna, the articles director at Family Circle and the editor who handled the school fundraising story in our March issue. I’m somewhat new to the school fundraising deal because until this past September, my oldest son was enrolled in a private school that charged a hefty tuition but did no fundraising whatsoever. Yes, you read that right. No fundraising at all. You paid the tuition and that was that. Believe me, it’s only now that I see how great I had it. Now that I am the parent of a public school second grader, I totally get how relentless the fundraising is. And frankly, for the amount of money my husband and I pay in state, city and local taxes, it makes me furious that education gets so short-shrifted and we as parents are charged to make up the difference. We are fortunate in that, we CAN, with a lot of effort on everyone’s part. But what about schools without a dedicated parent population, how does that work then? Then there’s also to Guilt factor: As in, I Feel Guilty if I don’t participate in every fundraiser to the utmost. As a working parent, I have enough to feel guilty about and don’t need something else. So I buy umpteen raffle tickets. I order bakery sweets that I literally give away untouched because I don’t want the calories. And on. And on. So I feel like I’m “helping” and my son does too. I have only been at this for coming up on 6 months. I can’t even imagine how aggravating it will seem in a year or three.

So that’s my rant. (Nice to meet you!) What I am actually going to talk about is wacky-sounding fundraisers, ways to bring in money that don’t scream same-old same-old, been there-done that, however you want to put it. We cover a few in the story and asked our Facebook crew to chime in.

Michelle Miller mentioned a Rock-a-thon, where kids got pledges and rocked in rocking chairs all night. Seems interesting, provided you have access to the right facility and more importantly, the means to pull off the supervision required for an overnight event.

Reader Marilyn Chapman talked up Change for Change, when the principal, teachers and students stood out in front of the school every morning for a week with containers to collect spare change. Each container was marked with a grade level, and the grade that pulled in the most coins got a popcorn party, meaning, virtually every cent collected was profit. Sounds interesting.

From Sarah Rodgers Bechtol came word of a pickle sale, which appeals to me personally because, well, I LOVE PICKLES.

One other response that caught my eye was from Leslie Letourneau Keenan, who suggested something called Bag2School, which buys unwanted clothing and textiles for a set price per pound. On one hand that sounded potentially worthwhile, though part of me feels that no-longer-needed clothes should really go to the needy. Looks like no conflict for me at the moment, Bag2School seem to only operate in the UK.

Anyway, I am looking for fresh, fun, not-terribly-difficult-to-pull-off ideas to pitch to my PTA. Got one? Please comment!

How Do You Help Your Kids Overcome Rejection?

Written on January 31, 2012 at 6:46 pm , by

Break-ups. Friendship falling outs. Getting passed over for a promotion. Even for us adults, dealing with disappointment isn’t easy–and, in most cases, we’ve been there before and know what we need to get over it, whether it’s time, support from friends and family members, or just keeping busy and staying positive.

But for a teen getting dumped by her first love or receiving a thin envelope from his dream college, the experience can be crushing–especially because it’s something they’ve never dealt with before.

In “How to Help Teens Deal with Rejection,” in Family Circle‘s March issue, writer Ashlea Halpern gets experts’ advice on helping your kid through those social, romantic, extracurricular and academic letdowns that make them feel like their world is ending. Check out the full article here, then tell us:

What crushing disappointments have you helped your kids overcome? Would you have done anything differently? Share in the comments below.

The Pros and Cons of School Fundraising

Written on January 31, 2012 at 10:14 am , by


Guest blogger Alina Tugend on school fundraising.

As the mother of a high-schooler and middle-schooler, I’ve now gone through, oh, let’s see, about a dozen years (more if you count pre-school!) of bake sales and car-wash fundraisers and stuffing tubs of frozen cookie dough I don’t particularly want into my freezer to support our schools.

Don’t get me wrong. The public schools my two boys attend in our New York suburb are terrific and I’m happy to support them. But like every parent I know, I’m tired of being hit up for money. And it’s only getting worse. When the economy tanked a few years ago, even solid school systems like ours were hit. Suddenly emails were flying around the community begging families to help raise the tens of thousands of dollars needed to keep some of our sports teams going.

While interviewing experts and parents for my article in this month’s issue of Family Circle I found myself constantly nodding in agreement. Yes, all public schools are facing a funding crisis. Yes, private money is needed. But there’s a real danger that goes along with that. Corporate donors can certainly help out, but at what cost? Our children are already slammed with so many commercial messages outside of school – do we want to bring that kind of advertising into schools as well? And how will sponsorship influence what schools buy?

Private money from parents also comes with a price. Will a family that gives big to a sports team or drama club have undue influence when it comes to their child’s spot on that team or in the school play? Won’t such fundraising inevitable exacerbate the already large gap between wealthier and less affluent school districts as richer communities can give far more than poorer ones?

And finally how much time do we want teachers and administrators, already overburdened, to devote to fundraising activities?

But fundraising won’t go away. There are ways to develop programs that do it in the best and fairest way possible. One example is set up a non-profit schools’ foundation for the entire district, so many raised is equitably distributed among the schools. Another is to do bigger but fewer fundraisers over the year, so parents don’t feel they are being hit up at every turn. And schools need to make sure they have strict guidelines in place about who they will take money from and how it will be used.

As all administrators told me, no one likes fundraising, but it’s a necessary evil. The focus in the future should be to do it the best way we can.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Alina Tugend’s book, Better by Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong(Riverhead) is out in paperback this month. She also writes the biweekly ShortCuts column for the New York Times and the parenting column for Worth Magazine. Alina lives in New York with her husband and two teenage boys.

A Great New Advice Book for Teens and Their Parents

Written on January 26, 2012 at 6:44 pm , by

If you’re a parent of a teen you may have noticed that there are countless advice books out there. Some are good but some are a complete waste of time, so I wanted to share with you two excellent books that have recently come to my attention: Dear Dr. Wes: Real Life Advice for Teens and Dear Dr. Wes: Real Life Advice for Parents of Teens. I was drawn to check out these books because they are a rare collaboration between  a licensed psychologist, Dr. Wes Crenshaw from Lawrence, Kansas, and a group of teen editors. They don’t disappoint. The content is honest, straightforward, and compassionate to both teens and their parents, but doesn’t hold back from challenging the reader to hold themselves accountable for the decisions they make. In a nutshell, you’re getting the best of both worlds, a trained expert on mental health issues and adolescent development with the real life “check” of the teens.

As an example, I’d like to share a quote from the introduction:

“For advice to be really good, it must have equal parts empathy and wisdom. Bad advice never challenges you to think. It just asks that you obey. Good advice is always benevolent-meaning it’s given with your best interests in mind, even if it makes you angry at the time. In fact, a lot of good advice will do just that, and a lot of bad advice will feel pretty good at the time you’re taking it.”



Dr. Wes and the teens tackle real life problems that kids and teens write to me about all the time. For instance:

I don’t like my teacher so I don’t work hard in her class. What should I do?


I am constantly being ditched by my best friends…what do I do?


How do you deal with a parent who blames you for everything and doesn’t own up to his or her own mistakes?


If you want to find out their answers, and maybe have some of your own questions answered, get these books. I really think they’ll help both parents and teens alike; not only for the information provided, but also as a great way to start conversations between you and the kids you love. It’s published by Family Psychological Press and it’s readily available on-line via Dr. Wes’ own website or in book stores.

Girls Showing Us the Way

Written on December 27, 2011 at 12:26 pm , by

Let’s look to girls to inspire all of us as we end this year and get ready for the new one! Check out four year-old Riley protesting to her dad in a toy store about the usual assortment of pink non-superhero toys for girls. Riley teaches all of us to never lose our passion for speaking out when things aren’t right. Even though I don’t have daughters, you can bet I’m showing this to my 8 and 11 year-old sons to show them how much I respect girls for speaking out against sexism.

The second video is a co-presentation at the TedXWomen conference by my colleague, Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out and founder of the Girls’ Leadership Institute, and 8th grader Claire Sannini.

Again listening to girls is inspiring. Claire speaks so powerfully about being a girl in this culture and reminds us of what we all deserve. Claire describes the painful and damaging cycle of trying to please a peer group in spite of their constant rejection. When she realizes she’s sacrificing her self-esteem, she leaves those relationships and develops friendships that are more authentic and healthy for her.

For all of us, Claire’s story is an opportunity to ask ourselves about the quality of our own relationships with the people that are most important to us. Are they based on mutual respect and dignity? And like Claire, if we find ourselves in unhealthy patterns, what can we do to develop better relationships that bring us up instead of tear us down?

Riley and Claire should be our role models. I know they’re now some of mine. Happy new year!

Teens, Politics and Social Media

Written on December 7, 2011 at 5:01 pm , by

I came across this great article on how teens using social media to express political opinion know and defend their freedom of speech, why that sometimes causes adults in positions of power to overreact, and what this changing landscape means for politicians, businesses and teens.   Yes, she could have been more eloquent, but sometimes this  new media world we live in is a good thing. What do you think? Agree or disagree?

Should You Discipline Other Peoples’ Children?

Written on September 29, 2011 at 10:50 am , by

When your kid’s friend gets out of line or you see a rowdy tween misbehaving in public, is it your job to step in and lay down the law? Family Circle‘s executive editor, Darcy Jacobs, shares her take on the subject on WCBS. Watch the video below.

What’s your personal policy? Do you feel okay disciplining your friends’ or relatives’ kids? What about strangers’ children? Share your thoughts below.

Which Is Worse, Shoplifting or Pot?

Written on June 1, 2011 at 4:46 pm , by

When I was editing the article Sticky Fingers about shoplifting, for our June issue, the thing that really got to me was that lots of kids don’t seem to take ethics seriously. According to the Josephson Institute, which tracks adolescent thoughts and attitudes, a third of kids say they’ve stolen from a store. Yet 92 percent of teens say they’re okay with their ethical stands. This means there’s a whole bunch of kids who steal but don’t see anything wrong with it.

But some of the research our writer turned up shows that parents do have a problem with kids stealing—and maybe a little too much of a problem. Some moms and dads are so afraid of having a child who steals that they say they’d rather their kids did drugs. Seriously. A study from Columbia University’s Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse found that 52 percent of parents would be more upset if their child shoplifted than if he smoked pot.

So, I’m asking. What’s going on here? Drugs not heists? Somebody, please explain.