There comes a time in nearly every PTO’s evolution when fundraising comes of age. It’s kind of like the human maturation process—you stay in the same body long enough, sure enough you will eventually grow up and grow old.

Become one with the bone and sinew of your school’s fundraising arm, and a similar phenomenon occurs. Merrily you’ve been rolling along while your organization has “been there, done that” on virtually every imaginable prefab moneymaking effort out there. Then, as unexpected and as undeniable as a preteen’s first pimple, there it is: inspiration.

I guess it’s only natural that after a few years of searching the Net for new ideas and coming up empty-handed, members begin turning to each other as they cast their nets in search of the next big thing. Sooner or later, some brave soul who can no longer deny the nagging of his or her inner voice—the same voice the rest of us muzzled long ago—blurts out, “What if...what if we organized our own fundraiser?”

In our case, it was Becky who was all aglow. You could practically see a light bulb dancing atop her head.

“Aren’t we all deathly tired of selling candy and gift wrap?” she asked.

“And buying it!” came from the back.

“Don’t forget cookie dough and cookbooks!” someone else shouted.

I’ve never had a flashback that I know of, but at that moment, I swear I swooned and felt immediately displaced as if transported to another time and place. The thing was, I couldn’t quite tell if I was in the ’60s among flower children or at a high school pep rally. “Go Bearcats!”

Someone please tell me I did not, just now, enthusiastically invoke the name of my high school mascot in public.

Becky: “Brenda?”

“Yeah, let’s do it!” I yelled. Hey, I was among the world’s finest pep club presidents in my day.

“It” turned out to be hosting our very own auction and raffle, for which we would solicit donations from local businesses and for which I agreed to handle publicity. My plan was to play off the same angle Becky presented in our meeting: PTO is anxious to escape from the same old, same old.

The short version is that our “new” approach was so well-supported, even we were surprised. I came home from said event exhausted and ecstatic.

Until I opened the mail. While our PR campaign was successful, thank you very much, I had also managed to tick off a local cookie dough company with my comment about scrapping other tired fundraising methods.

There was only one thing to do. As a public flogging was in order, I sent the following to our local newspaper for inclusion in its next community thank-you column:

“Thumbs down to myself for inadvertently dissing on some fundraisers. Thumbs up to Cheri Romine of Bammy’s Gourmet Cookie Dough for pointing out that my overzealous comments in reference to our school auction/raffle could have been misconstrued as negative toward her company and others. I am guilty of doing precisely what I abhor about politicians, who instead of campaigning on their own merits expound on their opponents’ supposed demerits. Thank you, Cheri, for removing my foot from my mouth and applying it ever so gently to my backside. While my intentions may have been good, my words were ill-chosen, and for that, I apologize.”

In fact, cookie dough, wrapping paper, and all those other fundraisers work great for thousands of schools. And they worked great for us for a lot of years—and probably will again.

Nothing like a little humble pie with one’s cookie dough. I plan to keep some stocked for the next time inspiration strikes.

Brenda Rader Mross is a veteran parent group volunteer in Wellington, Colo.