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School Fundraiser Freakout

Fundraiser Freak OutFor parents, there is nothing worse than when your little angel takes her backpack and pulls out a school fundraising catalog.

“Take this to work,” said Qiqi, my 10-year-old who then hops on the computer.

The fundraising catalog is the clown car of fundraising. Kmart is on the ropes, newspaper ads are withering on the vine, and Lillian Vernon’s catalog is on the ash heap of history. However, school fundraising will live on as long as the public refuses to invest in education. The catalogs are the biggest collection of cheap, overly priced claptrap.

Nobody wants a log-cabin container of corn syrup-honey or a handful of milkweed seeds with a couple daisy husks.

Looking at the catalog is like looking at a carnival mirror – everything is enlarged, distorted, colorized and texturized in the photos. And when the poorly described disintegrating sugar-coated nonsense finally arrives in the mail, the pony-tailed grafter is long-gone back to her classroom.

In the past, I would do what any sane father would do who is grounded in the ways of the world. “I’m not taking this crap into work. It’s unprofessional and why should anyone else care about our school?”

The reaction from both mother and daughter was intense, vindictive, and passively aggressively spiteful.  It was Shock and Awe with lots of stamping of little feet and overly dramatic arm waving.

I was called lazy, unsupportive, a nincompoop, and heartless. I’ll let you figure out who said what.

There were allusions to me sleeping alone on the couch with my logic and professionalism. When I asked what the big deal was, it turned out that Qiqi wanted to make $100 in sales so she could get a toy worth 50 cents.

When I offered to buy her the toy instead, the stream of vile, hateful, darkly clever personally damaging words that left her sweet mouth was as if Rush Limbaugh and George Carlin had a child who had a child with Margaret Cho who was born under a bad moon rising.

“Fine, I’ll take your stupid catalog to work,” I replied very maturely.

I left the catalog on the counter at work. Unsurprisingly, I sold about $60 of stuff to people I work with who met Qiqi. I bought some dumb tulip bulbs. In addition, I sold $25 to the cleaning lady who left the order and money pinned to my door.

When the fundraiser was over, I took the money and the order form and put them in an envelope for Qiqi to take to school.

Then I forgot about it.

One day, I found a note pinned to my door. It was from the cleaning lady. She wanted to know when she was getting her stuff from the fundraising catalog. It took me a minute to remember what she was talking about.

I figured Qiqi had not got the products delivered yet. Finally, when it got close to Christmas time, I asked when the gifts were being delivered.

“Oh, they came a long time ago. Everything was distributed to the buyers.” My heart sunk. Then I recalled the flower bulbs and candy on the dining room table.

“Hey, some of that was stuff I sold at work.”

“You said you weren’t going to sell anything, so I figured everything extra was a gift,”replied my girlfriend. Her nonchalance was Putin-esque.

Everything was eaten — some by me– or buried in the garden. There were no apologies or refunds. This was free market economics that would make Ron Paul cry like a little girl.

When I went into work the next day, I broke the news to my co-workers. Thankfully, they understood and said they were happy to support the school. I had to send out an email to the rest of my co-workers on my floor, because I did not know who might have put in an order. No one else did.

Then I called the cleaning lady at home. Since it was before noon, she was still sleeping. I am such a class act. She also did not want a refund and was happy to support the school.

The moral to the story is this: I work with some really cool people who are happy to support our local schools.

The second moral to the story: Never mix your messages. Do what you say you will do.

Do not complain about something and then end up doing it. You will never like the consequences.

And believe this: I will never take another school fundraising catalog to work.

Steven de Polo is 44 years old and lives in Grand Rapids, where he works in foundation relations at Grand Valley State University. Steven is divorced and has been in a long-term relationship with his girlfriend, with whom he is raising an 9-year-old girl adopted from China and a 5-year-old girl from Haiti. His Jamaican-American stepdaughter works in New York City and plans to get her CPA license. Steven enjoys being a dad, especially the trips to the comic book store and getting barbecue spare ribs. He dislikes long division and the idea that his princesses may start dating before they reach the age of 40. He supports Kids Food Basket and is on the board of the Local First Educational Foundation.


  1. Crystal Paschal

    March 18, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    I don’t think they’ve updated that catalog since we were in school. I always get the cheese spread.

    You’d think the schools would follow the Girl Scouts’ strategy and sell something delicious and highly addictive instead of summer sausage and wrapping paper.

  2. Prime Parents Club

    March 14, 2012 at 8:44 am

    I’m sorry, but I CACKLED at this post. I hate being on both ends (selling/buying) of school fundraisers, but it is SO FUNNY that people “bought” stuff and never got their goods from you. HAHHAHAHAAA!


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