Giving money instead of stuff to school events

Schools often seem to be really into the idea of kids bringing stuff from home for parties and for crafting.  (DC1’s middle school probably spends more class time making pointless crafts than any prior school year experience, even back when ze was taking a daily art class at private school.  *grumble*.  Also they seem to have a ton of pot-lucks.)

One of our new discoveries this year was that instead of trying to figure out how on earth DC1 is going to get a pie on the school bus and to an appropriate teacher without destruction (or worse, one of us having to drop it off at school!), was that we could just write a check or send DC1 with a $20 bill for these events and the teachers will use it to purchase whatever it is they’re asking for.  This has improved our lives tremendously.

I do wish they could be a little bit more like the school back in paradise and just ask for a lump sum donation at the beginning of the year instead of these small sums throughout the year, but I also realize that where we live now doesn’t exactly have the same donations base that Paradise had so it’s not quite as easy just to ask for $500 and then have that be enough to cover all the kids who can’t pay or whose parents won’t pay.  It turns out that there’s even a state law of some kind that says the orchestra can only do fundraisers to cut the costs of all tickets to events, not to make the events free for kids whose parents can’t pay.  (It turns out, however, that directed donations can still be used for that purpose– I got a nice note of thanks with a receipt when we wrote a $64 check instead of a $32 check for DC1’s most recent orchestra field trip. $32 is a lot of money when you’re trying to make ends meet!)

So yay, even if they don’t always ask for cash, cash can still be king.

If you have school children (or if you teach), how does your school deal with needed stuffs?  What would you prefer they do?

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21 Responses to “Giving money instead of stuff to school events”

  1. Mary Says:

    Maybe this varies by state/school district? When my kids were in public school, the school never asked for contributions (monetary or in kind) of any sort.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It definitely varies by district, though over time there’s been a lot more asking for money because state education budgets have been cut a lot of places.

      • Mary Says:

        Good point. I guess the public schools here don’t ask extra money from the parents is because the district’s funding for schools (already the second-highest in the state) has been increased substantially this year. Which is not to say that the public schools are particularly good. And that’s why my kids are in private school. Hopefully I’ll be able to move them back by the time they’re in middle school….

  2. Mary Says:

    Their current private school is always asking for donations. But these are to bulk up their endowment/building improvement fund/whatever and are unrelated to any events or activities.

    I figure the hefty tuition I pay is more than sufficient and don’t make additional contributions.

  3. Cloud Says:

    We do a big donation at the start of the year, and then contribute to the stupid silent auction baskets that each class assembles in the least annoying way we can. Sometimes, that’s a check. Sometimes, we buy a gift card for the basket. I know that if I was willing to put in a little time on the phone, I could probably get gift cards donated but I hate phone calls, so I won’t do that. There’s also a jogathon every year, and we donate to that based on how many laps our kids run.

    We sometimes send school supply donations if the teacher sends out a specific request. When there are class specific costs, like the class picture book some room moms like to put together or a field trip that requires parents to send some money, we always make sure the class mom knows we’ll help pay for other kids if needed. This isn’t much of an issue on field trips, since I think CA state law requires that all kids get to participate. Anyway, the PTA has a fund for that, which part of what our big donation pays for. But I don’t want any kid to be left out of getting a class picture book, and each year, we end up buying at least one extra. Food events are limited- usually just the kid’s birthday month. Since that party is usually on the last Friday of the month and I work from home on Fridays (and school is just a couple blocks from home), I can swing by with whatever goodies are needed. The older kid is now at the point where she is OK with just taking them in on her own, too.

    I really feel like we lucked out in this regard with our school. We get a lot fewer random middle of the work day events that a lot of my friends at other schools get. Maybe that is because we’re a magnet school that pulls from a large geographic area, but it could just be luck in how the school culture happened to develop.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Right now it’s the preschool events that are irritating me. 4 in a two week period (mother’s day, which I couldn’t go to when they moved it from early morning to late morning, end of the year party on a Saturday which DH and DC2 went to but DC1 had math, ballet recital which I will be going to but DH has to be at an event for DC1, and pre-K graduation that we will all be going to– they just called me about that even though it says CALL FIRST next to DH.. my phone cut off before I could answer because one of the reasons it says to call him first is my office has terrible reception.)

  4. chacha1 Says:

    I’m not familiar with private schools at all, and my experience with public schools is a loooong time ago. I have given Stuff to public schools via my sister who was an art teacher ($300 annual budget to teach five classes a day. You can imagine how far that went). I have not given money to any school ever. I *have* given money to NGOs that do educational programming, e.g. Audubon chapters, Nature Conservancy, or USA Dance. I have also bought books that were on NGO wish lists, and in one case for a small school library in northern California. For some reason the library budget is high on the cut list. :/

  5. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Ironically (given the timing of this post), this morning DC1 went to school with two sliced loaves of homemade raisin bread/cake. For a school project. Luckily hir Social Studies teacher emailed last week to give us a head’s up that zie would be needing to bring in food from Greenland because otherwise DC1 probably would have requested we make shrimp for 25 people last night around 8pm, give or take, when zie remembered the assignment. As it was, it was pretty tough trying to figure out something available that wasn’t either seafood or alcoholic. Sadly not even nuts.com carries crowberries.

  6. crazy grad mama Says:

    Little Boy’s daycare switched up how they did teacher appreciation week this year: instead of asking all the parents for $10-20 to be pooled to buy teacher gifts, they made each day of the week a different theme and asked us to bring theme-related gifts every day. One day was coffee/beverages, another was flowers, etc. So instead of writing a check and helping my kid color one set of cards, we had to buy a bunch of separate things. I was not a fan.

  7. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I had to explain the daycare Teacher Appreciation week to a friend and it went over like a lead balloon. But I don’t really mind doing a few things to thank the teachers who work their butts off chasing/herding toddlers calmly and professionally all freaking day. I would lose my mind doing that for a full work day, forget a work week. We have a sign up sheet for whatever we can bring and then might put in an hour here or there to help out but I often wonder if that’s truly helping or if we’re just in the way.

    I don’t know how our school district is going to handle funding stuff but I’d rather know months ahead of time what they’ll want and pay into the fund if I know it’ll be managed or be given plenty of notice and a sign up sheet so we can do what’s sensible.

    Of course I suspect there will be a huge difference between our high cost daycare and the local school district so we’ll see.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Teachers prefer gift cards to target and heartfelt notes…

      • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

        Yeah we cover the gamut: contribute to a Christmas fund for their gift card / cash gifts, Christmas notes, thank you cards, and coffee on Teacher Appreciation Day. When I have it, the odd gift card directly to the best loved teachers.

    • Leah Says:

      You both make me so glad our daycare doesn’t arrange anything like that. I think it’s because we’re at a head start combined program, so a lot of the families are low SES. I sporadically write cards to her teachers and include a gift card or often even the “universal gift card” (ie cash). Tho her last teacher always used the money for classroom stuff and not for herself, tho I suppose she also uses her own money for classroom stuff too . . .

      Hard right now because I don’t love my kid’s current teachers (there’s been communication issues). I do need to write a card to the teacher in her last room. She “aged out” and had to leave a teacher she loved, and I’m still upset about it. She tells me regularly that she misses her and wants to go back to her room. Sigh.

  8. Alyssa Says:

    Our school asks for supplies, and it’s getting to be a couple times per month. I would much rather make $$ donations instead.

    I’m a teacher, but in high school, so this doesn’t come up much.

    • Leah Says:

      I teach HS too. I’m at an independent school with a good budget so don’t need much these days (tho we do have a parents’ association that solicits donations once a year and has us write “grant requests” — I got a few water bottle refillers this year! Have been asking the school admin for years about them and finally realized PA would be a quicker route).

      When I taught public school, I gave extra credit at the start of the year for students who brought in tape, as I do a science notebook thing. I got TONS of tape, and that really filled our needs for the whole year. That’s the only ask I did, tho I think our school did some other fundraising too, but I didn’t have to worry about it.

      With my little one now, the only fundraising we have is for gymnastics. I just write a $20 check when they do this and call it good. I really don’t like having to sell stuff.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Selling stuff is the worst. Whenever I look up the % that the company gives back to the school it seems ridiculous. It takes a lot of bad quality candy bars to get $50 to the school.

  9. Ana Says:

    If specific things are asked for, we’ll try to bring them (snacks, tissue boxes). We also give quite a bit of money to the school overall at various points throughout the year (through the silent auction and donor’s choose for specific projects) but haven’t given cash to B’s classroom teacher—I’m not sure how that would work exactly but this has inspired me to ask if $ for buying snacks would be acceptable, instead of bringing random snacks whenever they run out and the note comes home.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Generally the way it works when there isn’t an explicit program set up and you want to make a general donation to the classroom is that you call/email the office (or the teacher, depending) about making a directed donation for X.

      For little things, we just responded to an email that asked for potluck stuff with a question if we could just give money instead (we asked if we could give money to order pizza, but they responded they’d rather just have the money to spend at the grocery store and we had a light bulb moment that money is almost always an acceptable substitute for stuff). As the year has gone on we’ve noticed more “bring X or $5”. And anything that DC1’s science teacher is involved with also comes with a blank for donations for other kids, which is nice (the other teachers accept donations for kids who can’t pay but don’t make it so easy).

  10. Rosa Says:

    lower elementary, all the teachers had wishlists. We bought stuff pretty regularly. Everyone should have enough Kleenex and colored pencils! Plus relatives sponsor the kid in the annual Readathon.

    We donate to a school fund that’s for the whole district (or ask for that as a Christmas gift), and to our school’s specific PTO as subscribers/sustainers, then usually for field trips I sponsor an extra kid. About half our kids are on free lunch and the PTO tries really hard to make sure everyone gets to do everything regardless of if the family can afford it.

    The annual fundraiser is a plant sale, which is not terrible, and I told all our friends & neighbors we’d pick up/deliver plants if they ordered them, but we didn’t do door to door. Some of the middle school kids are downright entrepreneurial with fundraising for extracurriculars – as long as not every kid is selling chocolate bars, they can make a lot of money. Having everyone fundraise at once is pointless.


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