Fundraising Season: It’s Not About The Product

fundraising, buying fundraising items, charity

I opened the front door to face a young man who lived down the street, his dad standing about fifteen feet behind him as to give him some space. I caught a glimpse of the piece of paper in his hand and knew immediately that he was a Cub Scout selling popcorn for their annual fundraiser.

I looked at the list of items with my wife and we picked out three products. I filled out the appropriate columns on the order form and added up how much we owed, then wrote out a check for $55. I didn’t think about whether the product I was purchasing was worth the price because I knew it wasn’t. Very infrequently can one find a fundraiser product that is worth the price, or can actually save you money. This was not one of those instances. In fact, I calculated in my head that I could probably buy similar items at the grocery store for a third of the Cub Scout price.

I wrote the check anyway, knowing that the products weren’t worth the amount charged.

When deciding whether to purchase any fund raising product, it’s important to remember some key points.

Prices Are Purposefully Inflated

A phrase I like to use is, “fundraiser prices apply.” The prices of the products are jacked up to generate enough revenue to pay for the product and provide enough profit to help the charity holding the fundraiser.

Proceeds Are Put To Good Use

My son had been had been a Cub Scout when he was younger, and I was that dad standing a few feet behind making sure he stayed safe and answered all the questions correctly. The money partially went towards paying for the actual product, partially to support the Cub Scout organization as a whole, and partially to the actual Cub Scout to pay for things like summer camp.

It’s A Donation, Not A Purchase

I didn’t think of the exchange of money for popcorn as a purchase. I thought of it as a donation to Cub Scouts with the side benefit of getting some popcorn. Had I thought of it as a purchase, it wouldn’t have made the cut of having enough value to earn the right to spend my hard earned cash. But when I think of it as a donation, my perspective changes.

When fundraisers come knocking at your door, keep the above three things in mind and leave the value of the actual product out of the equation. Think about whether you believe in the organization that is collecting the funds, and whether you want to help them out. If you do, then proceed. Otherwise politely say, “No thank you.”

Have you typically thought of fundraiser purchases in terms of value of the product you’re getting, or as a donation?

Brought to you courtesy of Brock

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • Depends on whether we’re talking about Girl Scout cookies, or anything else! 😉

    But in general, I view all fundraisers as donations and it comes out of my “Charity” budget. I try to keep the charity budget up to a point where I can fund my own volunteer/fundraising activities, and also be able to donate whenever someone I know participates in a fundraiser (unless they are fundraising for an organization that I disagree with, in which case I just politely abstain).

  • I like the point you made about it being a donation and not a purchase. I think a lot of times people interested in personal finance and improving their situation forget about the importance of giving to those around us. In this case, you gave to a worthy cause and scored some popcorn to go along with that. Depending what your overall charity strategy is (and I think we should all have one), this a fun component in my opinion.

  • @MoneyBeagle – It’s hard to find value in anything people sell as fundraisers…I mean if you’re comparing it to the cost. But supporting certain organizations makes it worth while. thanks for reading!

  • @Stephonee – Ooh, a charity budget….that’s a great idea! We tend to take it out of our Entertainment budget ourselves. Oh, and yes….Girl Scout Cookies ROCK!

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