How to bum a kid out |

How to bum a kid out

Danielle Howard
Personal Finance
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Danielle Howard

Fall is upon us, and families are settling into school routines. Along with sports and homework, school fundraising programs are as inevitable as the falling leaves. You may be impacted in one of two ways.

First you are the parent. Next thing you know, your child will bring home the school fundraising agenda. I remember it well. “Mom – look what I can win! All I need to do is sell…”

Or you are the unassuming neighbor or business associate of a friend with children. The smiling face shows up at your door, pen and order form in hand. “Would you like to help our school raise money?” The heart strings go ping! You fill out the order form and make the purchase of cookie dough, magazines or wrapping paper. Myriad household items to fill your fridge, your face, your cabinets, or your closets – more stuff. But, hey it’s a good cause – right?

What if we asked ourselves a few questions?

Do I need or want what is for sale? Yes, Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies are considered a “need.” How much of the proceeds are actually going to the school versus the company that is providing the products? Would it be wiser for me to write a check directly to the school and skip the stuff? If I go direct, what long-term emotional damage will be done to this adorable, hard-working child when they don’t win their prize? See the conundrum?

My kids would lament for a while, but I don’t think I caused irreversible harm. If we dig deeper, we can ask a few more questions. Where does the school need help? Could I do something besides write a check? Could I volunteer my time? Do I have a skill that would be useful? Are there resources in my home or office that may be of benefit to them? These questions take time, and then, are we willing to take action?

Wouldn’t it be nice if kids could come home from school, focus on homework, share their day, help with family chores and go outside and play instead of knocking on doors being little product pushers?

It’s fall fundraising time – not only in the schools, but in public broadcasting and across the nonprofit sector. Soon, the letters will be going out for end of year pledge drives. One of the biggest time consumers for non-profits is fundraising. Wouldn’t it be a beautiful thing if we got in touch with causes close to our heart, evaluated our lifestyle to determine “how much is enough” and put giving plans in place that created sustainable cash flows for our schools, our places of worship, the arts and humanities, environmental or social justice concerns? Call me idealistic, but I can see a time where development directors are planning celebration parties instead of silent auctions. A time when they can focus on their mission and build their programs, serve their community and better our world. We can be a part of this, but it will take some hard work and willingness to shift our perspective.

In the words of our school crossing guards, we need to “stop, look and listen.” Stop doing it the way you have always done it – just automatically writing a check in exchange for unnecessary paraphernalia. Sure write the check, give the appreciated stock, put a nonprofit as the beneficiary designation on your IRA – but think it through first – be intentional. Look for creative ways to participate in organizations that excite or impact you. Then, listen for the quiet applause and appreciation from people you touch and the lives you change.

Danielle Howard is a Certified Financial Planner ™ practitioner and Financial Life Planner®. Her office is located at 23300 Two Rivers Road in Basalt. Visit her at or call 927-3909. E-mail her at

Advisory services offered through Lighthouse Financial LLC, a registered investment advisor. Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research Inc., a broker/dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Cambridge and HFR are not affiliated.

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