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Samantha Kemp-Jackson Headshot

Stop Using Kids as Door-to-Door Fundraisers

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Who hasn't bought some waxy, chocolate-covered almonds from a kid that was selling them door-to-door? Or perhaps you may have parted with your hard-earned cash due to the incredible guilt felt after seeing a cute but wary child holding up a sorry-looking box of "candy" in front of your local supermarket. A decades-old standard of childhood, the "selling chocolates" (or similar items) mandate is, quite frankly, getting old.

And potentially dangerous.

We tell our children repeatedly not to talk to strangers, yet we may still consider sending them along on their merry way to strangers' homes, asking for money. Such an ironic switch on the age-old fear that parents everywhere warn their children about -- taking candy from a stranger. Now, we are telling our kids to give candy to a stranger, and also give them our blessings in the process.

As schools are increasingly looking for ways to raise funds due to funding cutbacks and otherwise, the topic of fundraising- by-child is not going away anytime soon. This model for getting money into the schools' coffers may be effective, but at what cost?

Way back when I was a child, being a chocolate huckster was the norm. All of my friends did it. We all sold chocolates door-to-door and there was very little thought given to the potential dangers or consequences of such actions. Indeed, as the years have passed and parents have become more aware of the potential dangers that lurk just beyond our threshold, many of us have pulled back on this practice. That being said, there are still a fair amount of kids that continue to appear at our collective doors, asking for money. In this day and age, the practice is not only dated but problematic as well.

Some issues with this fundraising model:

1) Aside from the obvious potential for danger, sending the kids out to sell chocolates and candy on behalf of the school automatically sets up competition between friends;

2) Our children will experience undue pressure and stress about meeting an "acceptable" quota of sales for the school and potential feelings of guilt and failure if said quotas are not achieved;

3) The parents are unwittingly dragged into an activity of which they neither asked for or wanted, causing resentment, aggravation and general irritation all around. It's not uncommon for parents to feel obliged to sell their child's chocolates at their own place of employment in order to help the child to reach their goal (making both parents and non-parents alike uncomfortable and often angry).

Either that or they have to make the choice between sending their child door-to-door, leaving mom or dad feeling uneasy and stressed, or go out with the kids to canvas and feel irritated and somewhat embarrassed that they've become a shill for the local school board. Neither option seems acceptable.

Recently in my area, there has also been a newer form of the old "candy-sell" practice in the name of magazine subscriptions. In this fundraising model 2.0, kids are provided with the millennium edition of the candy-sell game by now selling subscriptions to popular magazines.

In this current permutation, the desired end result is the same: as much money as possible is to be raised for the child's class and/or school. The problem with this method of fundraising is that not only does it have all of the negative elements of the traditional chocolate-selling method, but it also puts kids at a further disadvantage in terms of their ability to achieve.

After all, let's face it: these days, how many people actually read a physical magazine? In the digital world in which we live, e-readers, online subscriptions and easily-accessed .PDF files are the norm. This reality sets up yet a further barrier to children's ability to achieve the monetary goal behind the fundraising campaign.

And let's not even get into the part of this particular drive that gives "prizes" to the kids that sell the most -- often expensive tech gadgets such as iPads supplied by the magazine publisher -- that compel kids to want to sell, sell, sell. One has to wonder about the obvious question that this situation poses: if the magazine suppliers and publishers have so much money, why don't they just donate to the school? It's sad to think that the answer is that selling subscriptions is more important, and even sadder to think that children are being used to do so.

With both of these fundraising methods, the question remains - should we be employing our kids to raise money for their schools? Because that's what we're doing in a manner of speaking: getting our kids to "sing for their supper" through work detail.

Danger, stress and general irritation notwithstanding, perhaps its time that we rid our schools completely of these troublesome fundraising tactics. The chocolates that are supplied are generally substandard and the magazine-selling model just doesn't fly in an age of e-readers. More importantly, in our haste to send out kids out the door in search of money for their class, we are losing sight of the fact that they're kids -- and last time I checked, kids don't work. They play.

Just my two cents.