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Good Question: Are School Fundraisers Worth It?

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(credit: CBS) Jason DeRusha
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By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — They sell pie for the PTA, soup for sports and wrapping paper for … well, we forget which group they’re selling wrapping paper for. This is school fundraiser season, which is a time of year where some parents are afraid to answer the front door. But how much of that money really goes to the schools? Are school fundraisers a good deal?

It’s an important question, because 94 percent of public elementary and middle schools have fundraisers, according to the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

“I hate them. I hate asking my friends,” said one mom.

But when you ask the parent-teacher groups organizing them if they’re worth it?

“They are absolutely worth it. The programs they fund are fabulous,” said Jen Durand, fundraiser organizer at Oneka Elementary School in Hugo.

Durand has two kids and admits she gets sick of all the selling, but said “the benefits far outweigh the awkwardness.”

Oneka uses a St. Cloud-area company, The Chip Shoppe, to raise funds. This year, Oneka sold $51,718 worth of product. The school profits $20,687. That a 40 percent return on money raised.

“We couldn’t say, ‘We’re going to have a book drive, or a bake sale,'” and raise $20,000, said Durand. “There’s just no other way to make that kind of money,” she added, especially not in such a short period of time.

Fundraising has changed from the days of the bake sale (thanks to food allergies) and the candy bar.

“You’d have to sell a lot of candy bars to get to $20,000 profit this school has,” said Rick Anderson, co-owner of The Chip Shoppe. According to Anderson, his company runs fundraisers for about 30 percent of Minnesota schools.

“I’m a parent of four kids. So, I get it. I understand people get over-inundated with fund-raisers,” said Anderson.

But there are parents who wish the sales pitches would stop.

“Can not stand them at ALL!!! If the school wanted a donation of $20 from each family, for us, that would be more financially feasible!” wrote Frankie Marcell on Facebook.

“I mean that’s a lot of donations. Typically, if a school goes all donations. the first year parents are excited. Then they say, ‘I’m not getting anything for my money,'” argued Anderson.

Anderson said Anderson Middle School sold nearly $80,000 worth of product this year, profiting nearly $32,000. Eastview Elementary sold $47,000 and made $19,000.

There is certainly profit left over for The Chip Shoppe, and the other companies that run these fund-raising drives.

Anderson said his company is doing well, but noted, “I’m not driving around in a Lexus.”

“When you look at overall profit, school does very well. There’s not a ton left there after you pay for the product,” he explained.

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