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This page covers:

  • How fundraising is a given no matter the school
  • The types of fundraisers your child might participate in during the year
  • How the funds earned may be spent, and how they benefit the school
  • How you might become involved in the overall fundraising effort

Now that you have put your head around volunteering let’s talk about how a big chunk of that goes toward fundraising.  No matter where you end up – be it a public school that battles budget cuts annually or a private school that seems to have an abundance of resources – all schools rely on fundraisers to meet their varying needs.  And if you don’t have the extra funds to contribute (which you might be ever so subtly pressured to do) you will likely be asked to give of your time to a variety of fundraisers.  Let’s look at this world of raising cash, as it goes far beyond the bake sales of your childhood:

PTA/PTO Fundraisers

Throughout the year, the PTA/PTO might organize a variety of fundraisers to maintain (or grow) their pool of cash which goes toward purchasing materials that support the school, or aids in a variety of programs or needs that arise on campus.  These fundraisers might mean your kid is coming home with a “mandate” to sell wrapping paper, magazines, or other such stuff (whether its useful stuff is open to debate…).  And chances are your child will participate in Run for the Arts and hit friends and family up for a per-lap pledge.  Scrip is another popular one – during the week parents will sell gift cards essentially, where a percentage of the proceeds go towards the school. There may also be other one-of-a-kind fundraisers to match the diverse personalities of the schools out there.

School Foundations

Many schools these days have a second parent organization, aside from the PTA or PTO – a school foundation.  The school foundation’s sole function is to raise money, which it often accomplishes by putting on an annual auction.  The unique thing about the foundations is that their funds can be used to pay for staff, albeit only on a year-by-year basis.  Despite other strict parameters for how the money may be used, many an art or music teacher out there is paid from foundation funds. 

One interesting thing to note about foundation funds is that Portland Public has a program to share the wealth.  Schools that have a foundation are obligated to give one third of their profits to the PPS Foundation to redistribute through grants to other schools in the district without the means to raise such cash. 

School Auctions

The crown jewel of most school fundraising is the school auction, which usually takes place in the spring.  Chances are you’ll be asked to participate in one form or another, so be prepared to embrace it.  The auction committee will solicit donations from the parent population, as well as the community at large. These can range from home-made goods, to products and services, to vacations, and more.  Then auction attendees bid on the items, which allow the school to raise anywhere from under $10k up towards $200k and beyond. It’s usually a big event with dinner, drinks, and features items (often surprisingly beautiful) created by the students themselves.  Most auction events have a silent bidding portion, where participants bid by writing their name on a sheet of paper, with the highest bidder winning the item.  There will be the public bidding portion as well, complete with traditional auctioneer calling.  Some of this can be fun, though fair warning, you might feel fatigued by all the money solicitation.

Not every school will put on an auction – either because they don’t have the parent population to support one, or because they find another way to raise such sums of cash without the hassle of producing a big event.   But if you do end up at a school with an annual auction, figure that you’ll come up with an item or creative service to donate.  And if you won’t be parting with hard earned cash to support the event, you’ll probably donate some hours to the cause. 

Put your head around the fact that whether your kid attends a public school or a private school, you’ll likely end up in participating in some form of fundraising.  While it may be a chore, try to get in the frame of mind that it’s ultimately going to help kids learn. And in the process you might meet some interesting people, and ultimately feel more invested in your kid’s school.

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