Principal Helpline: “Should Teachers Do Fundraising on Their Own?”

Teachers showing initiative should get credit

Should Teachers Fundraise On Their Own?

Last month, one of my teachers held a GoFundMe. The money was raised to take her students to a live theatre production of Romeo and Juliet. She told me about it after the funds had been raised, so I felt obligated to approve the activity. I admire the initiative and commitment she showed, but afterward I began wondering about teachers raising money online for their students. Should teachers be fundraising for their own projects?

As long as the principal is aware, fundraising can be a good idea.

Raising money online doesn’t seem much different from other kinds of fundraisers schools do these days. Students are always selling cookies, magazines, candles, and frozen pizzas. Cheerleaders have carwashes; the booster club sells 50-50 raffle tickets at basketball games.

I’ve been involved with three fundraising efforts in different schools to build playgrounds. My favorite project was raising money to blacktop an area so that older elementary kids would have a place to play basketball. We called the project “A Yard Is Worth 1000 Feet,” and donors could “buy” a square yard of blacktop for $50.

Some teachers have been able to write successful grants to enhance instruction. A biology teacher I know was awarded funds from the local community foundation to build a greenhouse next to the school. The same foundation bought snare drums for the high school band.

So unfortunately, fundraising is here to stay—for the near future anyway. And GoFundMe can be a great way to raise money without having to send your students out to ask family and relatives to buy more stuff.

Perhaps what’s more bothersome than the manner of a teacher’s fundraising is not knowing about it beforehand. That, I think, is a legitimate concern. If you don’t have fundraising guidelines for your school or district, you absolutely should get a committee together and write some.

I mentioned my favorite fundraising project. My least favorite fundraising project was the candy sale in which the PTO mom in charge skimmed off thousands of dollars in sales, and we had to have her arrested. That was a huge, eye-opening experience for me, and it also prompted my school district to establish guidelines for fundraising.

As principals and administrators, it’s wonderful to have teachers on staff who want to enhance their students’ learning by organizing field trips and other activities. But when extra funds are needed for those excursions, it’s important that everyone is on the same page, that money-raising efforts are transparent, and that all decision-makers are aware of each step of the process. By setting and sharing guidelines with your teachers and other faculty members, you make sure everyone is clear and everything is above board. Most importantly, you make sure that your students have a seamless, memorable educational experience.

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Suzanne Tingley

Posted by Suzanne Tingley

Suzanne Tingley has been a middle/high school teacher, department chair, principal, and superintendent. She taught graduate classes in education administration for the State University of New York. She developed a series of education videos and has been a Scholastic Administrator blogger.