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. For instance, a fundraising campaign can recognize students for meeting not just financial goals but also personal ones, such as maintaining a positive attitude, having friendly competition, being resilient, and working as a team. One day’s goal could be positivity, and teachers could try to incorporate in-class lessons on why a positive attitude is so important.
Participating in product sales fundraising can give kids a confidence boost. It allows them to work on their skills around social interactions, practicing good manners, collecting and being responsible for money, and following through by getting orders back to people. Mention some of these skills when communicating with parents about the fundraiser, whether in person, in a newsletter, or through social media platforms.
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.
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 fundraising will help the school and community. Focus on the opportunity it provides to benefit their community and make a difference.
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.