Before you launch a sales fundraiser, you probably already have a clear idea of how it will benefit the school. Perhaps profits will pay for technology upgrades or fund field trip scholarships to enhance students’ education.

But product sales can also provide some tangible learning opportunities for students. Talking to potential customers, tracking orders, handling money, and delivering goods all can teach kids lessons that will benefit them in other areas of their lives. Children may gain confidence, improve communication skills, learn about personal responsibility, and practice their math and financial skills, to name a few. While helping with these skills certainly won’t be a primary goal of your fundraiser, you might consider incorporating them into your plan as an extra benefit.

Customer Service Skills

It’s easy to see how students can learn customer service skills from participating in fundraisers. Smiling, making eye contact, and using clear, direct speech are skills kids need to develop for future activities such as student government,

academic competitions, and after-school jobs. Fundraisers show them the significance of presentation, setting and reaching a goal, and accepting responsibility for completion.

Most parents and schools don’t want their children going door to door and, in fact, most fundraising companies recommend against it. But children can still practice their presentation skills with family friends and extended family.

Juan Franco, president of AIM Fundraising, suggests creating a fundraising campaign that recognizes students for meeting personal as well as financial goals. He recommends setting goals for each day of the fundraising campaign, such as maintaining a positive attitude, having friendly competition, being resilient, and working as a team. For example, day one’s goal could be positivity, and teachers could try to incorporate in-class lessons on why a positive attitude is so important.

“There is not a better laboratory to learn skills such as these than dealing with people,” Franco says. “Fundraising gives students a chance to test their skills and learn new ones if applied properly.”

Pamela Holz, who worked as a fundraising support staff member for A Part of Something Big, noted an increase in confidence in her own son through his participation in product sales fundraising.

“My son now has the maturity to be able to talk to people, and neighbors comment positively about how he interacted with them,” she says. “This is teaching him good social interaction, helping him to be responsible for collecting money, getting orders back to people, and practicing good manners.”

Mention some of these skills when communicating with parents about the fundraiser, whether in person, in a newsletter, or through social media like Twitter and Facebook.

If your group hosts a fundraising kickoff event, have adults role-play good and bad ways to approach potential customers. If time allows, set up stations where children can practice what they would say to customers. Reward students with stickers or certificates of commendation.

Goal-Setting

As Girl Scouts begin selling cookies each year, the Girl Scouts of the USA emphasizes to parents the skills girls take from the experience: goal-setting, decisionmaking, money management, people skills, and business ethics.

Such skills can help with future goal-setting and long-range planning. “They don’t realize at the time, but they will use these skills forever,” says Michelle Tompkins, media manager for the national organization. “Balancing budgets, talking to other people, these are tangible skills.”

She notes that product sales help teach children the power of choice—letting them choose how and when to do their selling and how much they need to sell—and set their goals accordingly. “They learn that a well-thought-out plan has better results than just doing it without any expectations,” Tompkins says.

That’s a lesson that can apply to any product fundraiser, and to many areas of life, for that matter. Catherine Nickerson, past president of the St. Pius X Catholic School PTO in Indianapolis, recalls the positive feedback she received from a parent after the PTO’s annual spellathon.

“One mother told us her 4th grade son wrote out a script and used it to call his grandparents, aunts, and uncles to ask for support,” Nickerson recalls. “He was determined to reach a certain goal, and he did, coming in 3rd place for the school and receiving a prize. He truly learned how to create a goal, make a plan, implement it, and succeed.”

Fundraisers are also an opportunity for kids to work together toward a group goal and make a positive contribution to their school. “I think it gives them a feeling of ownership of their education and their school—they can be proud when they use laptop computers in the mobile computer lab, Smart Boards in their classrooms, or see the new mural on the gym wall, because their work contributed to these things,” Nickerson says.

Encourage parents to talk to their children about how much their fund-raising will help the school and community. “Instead of complaining that it’s time to fundraise again, show them the opportunity they have to benefit and change their community—the chance to make a difference. Speak of the need to fundraise in positive terms,” says Kim Wahl, director of marketing for Crazy About Cookies.

Fundraisers can provide an opportunity for kids to grow and learn. If you take time to communicate the possibilities to parents, you might just get a few more people excited, and see a few extra positive results beyond your sales numbers.


Connect Fundraising and Academics

School fundraisers provide an opportunity to reinforce math skills and to start discussions about money with your child. Some PTOs provide teachers with sales figures so that students can calculate what percentage of the fundraising goal has been met or do other math exercises in class.

In addition to helping with math lessons, fundraising can help children learn to speak more clearly and effectively and understand communication, spelling, writing, and other language-oriented tasks. PTOs can partner with language arts teachers to assign students to write fundraising support letters or thank-you notes as a class lesson.