Posted by: Staff | 02.07.2008

Investigating Beaver’s Fundraising Guidelines

JEFF HIGGINS ’08

For Beaver’s celebration of Martin Luther King and Social Action Day, Mr. Principe and a number of students organized a t-shirt drive. They charged t-shirts home for a ten-dollar price− a common practice at Beaver. They plan to donate the money to an undecided charity. Little did they know, their tee shirt drive broke a few school rules.

“We screwed up,” admits Mr. Principe in response to the incident. But the incident seems so innocent, so benevolent. All they did was sell t-shirts for an important cause–at 10 dollars, too, an unusually low price.

At Beaver, fundraising for charity breaks school rules. This, of course, includes Mr. Principe’s harmless sale of t-shirts. The following rules can be found on page 20 in the student handbook everyone received at the commencement of the school year:
All fundraising activities must meet the following criteria and be approved by the Director of Development:

1. Fundraising must be for Beaver-related activities. Fundraising for other
organizations will not be allowed as it:
a) Implies a choice of one
organization over another and
b) Competes with efforts to support certain
organizations though the Hiatt Center.
2. Student-to-student fundraising is
permissible. Student to parent fundraising is not. No letters will be sent home
to parents asking them for donations.
3. The contribution limit is 15
dollars, whether for an outright donation or to purchase an item (food at a
game, flowers at a performance, t-shirts, etc.)
4. Students will not be
allowed to charge donations to school accounts.

I talked to Beaver’s Director of Development, Karen Hill, to try to understand why these guidelines are in existence. One of the focal reasons behind the guidelines is that fundraising for charity robs money from Beaver. The logic is: if parents are relentlessly hounded for money for x, y, and z charities, when the school asks parent to donate to the annual fund, they are likely to donate less money. Since the school rarely receives large endowments, Beaver relies considerably on the annual fund. Karen Hill elucidated that such charity fundraising would not only make it more difficult to raise money for the annual fund, but also for prom and other student activities.

In addition, restricting fundraising for charity apparently inspires students to support the community around us in others ways, such as through the Hiatt Center. The administration wants students to impart time and work hours, not just money. In addition, Ms. Hill also made the point that if there were nonstop, weekly fundraisers going on around the school, they would likely become disorganized, jaded, and unsuccessful. She also said the reason for the fifteen-dollar cap was to level the playing field for Beaver students who are not as wealthy as others.

In the words of Coach Will Morrison, “C’mon, you guys!” The fifth and final part of Beaver’s bullet-pointed Mission is “Serve both school and society with integrity, respect, and compassion.” This is a school that prides itself on events like the winter holiday celebration and on its strong relationship with the Hiatt Center. This is a school that boasts three faculty members solely devoted to community service, social action, diversity, and cultural issues. Yet, we are not allowed to fundraise for charity.

However, there is some fundraising allowed. For example, the Spare Change Drive to benefit soldiers fighting overseas. The drive was followed up with a Wednesday forum presentation, and was heavily influenced by the faculty. The drive was enormously successful. Just imagine though, without the school’s strict rules, individual donations could soar from 75 cents to 16 dollars. But wait! That would prevent parents from donating to the all-important annual fund.
Personally, I do not see the logic behind some of the guidelines. Fundraising is not allowed because it “Implies a choice of one organization over another.” Honestly, who has ever been ridiculed for donating to one charity over another? It is the equivalent of saying there can be no more fundraising to support victims of Hurricane Katrina because it would not be fair to organizations helping the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

Let us take a look at Mr. Principe’s t-shirts. What harm did that do to the annual fund? Technically, it was not even a fundraiser. The purpose of the drive was to spread awareness of Martin Luther King Day, so students would “make it a day on, not a day off.” Mr. Principe has not yet even counted how much money the drive made or decided upon a place to donate the money. Yet somehow, he “Screwed up.” The drive charged home shirts for a non-Beaver related activity.

Here is the bottom line: I think there should be momentous edits made to the guidelines. At a gut level, banning charitable fundraising is flat out wrong and even immoral. Giving charity and helping the needy is a fundamental value in our society. I like the idea of having fundraising activity approved by the director of development. Yet, do we really need to ban fundraising all together? I think not. If a student has a solid plan for a fundraiser, such as the spare change campaign, it should not be limited. If fundraisers are well planned and approved, I do not see the reason for a fifteen dollar cap, a ban from charging items home, or student-to-parent fundraising.

I wonder which unnecessary school rule Mr. Principe will undermine next.

Image from: John Wiley & Sons Publishing

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Responses

  1. Jeff. I completely agree with you. Whatever donations our family has made to special causes or projects at Beaver have never influenced the amount of our annual fund gift. We consider the two to be separate. Beaver needs to control fundraisers, yes, but certainly not limit them the way they have this year. Thanks for your work on this.
    – From a parent (who is actually reading the newspaper!)


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