Pennywise Choices for School Fundraisers

by R. Kellogg

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If you have school-aged children of your own or if your acquaintances have school-aged children, it is probably only a matter of time before you will be hit with a deluge of school fundraisers. It is not reasonable for you to shell out for every plea that comes along, but if you choose carefully, and especially if you use coupons or are willing to start, you can find fundraising choices that can help the school and help your wallet.

The best example of this is the Entertainment Book Available in most areas, the book is a fat collection of stores that want to give you a discount. For a long time, I held off on buying the Entertainment Book. Why should I spend money to get a discount? And then slowly I grew wiser. We spend money for the Sunday paper and enjoy getting the coupons, don't we? It's a "spend a little money, save a lot of money" proposition. My local Entertainment Book offers $5/month off groceries at a local store that happens to double coupons. (No, they won't double the $5 off coupon.) This book represents $60 total in grocery savings over the course of one year. The book costs $20 a copy. They aren't kidding when they say it pays for itself. I don't use the book for much else (just a restaurant meal or service here or there), but the $40 net in free groceries makes my $20 initial investment worthwhile. Plus, it helps my child's school.

A second good item to try for comes up during the magazine drive. Look for the All You magazine and pick up a subscription or three if you are a couponer. Why this particular magazine? All You is unique. It is published by Wal-Mart and brings all the substantial negotiation power of that company to obtaining great coupon values for readers. Yes, there is the occasional coupon redeemable only at Wal-Mart or only on a Wal-Mart brand. But I have also found my best coupons for ice cream and pasta in that magazine during months when such coupons at that face value were not available anywhere else. The current cover price of $1.97 means that even if you buy the magazine at the store, if you end up using a mere two coupons valued at $1, you will bring in the cost of the magazine and anything more than that is a pure savings bonus. If you can subscribe to the magazine through a school fundraiser (where it will often be offered at a discount), you will save yourself some trips to the store.

A third good value, though not coupon-related, is the school portrait offer. Where I live a portion of the proceeds of the portraits sold goes to the school. I like that the portraits are professionally done, it is taken care of at school so I don't have to spend time booking, meeting, and getting through a photo shoot appointment with my child, and the cost per sheet is fairly reasonable. So if I like the portraits, I will buy a few sheets of them. These are the best gifts for grandparents and cousins and all I need to add is the cost of a frame or a clear photo-holding refrigerator magnet.

Some school fundraisers bill themselves as offering great gifts. Well, judge these carefully. Yes, it is good to support the school and be generous, but also remember the person you are giving the gift to. Will they really appreciate this? Or would it be better to buy them something else you know they really would like for Christmas or their birthday and then have the items wrapped at a school-sponsored gift-wrapping fundraiser?

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