What followed was a difficult conversation that ultimately sparked a big idea. I told him we didn’t participate in this kind of school fundraiser because we didn’t really need these things and they were generally overpriced junk. We would simply prefer to make a donation.
My son scowled “All of the other kids are going to get prizes and I won’t!” I explained to him that we know a lot of parents who felt like we did and he was not likely to be the only one left out. My six year old son sat quietly for a minute and then asked, “Dad, if so many people don’t like this, then why don’t they change it?” In that moment, I realized that fundraising had not changed since I was a kid and it was high time we tried to do something about it.
I set out to interview all the people I could think of who are touched by this kind of product fundraising and look for opportunities to improve the experience. We found hundreds of parents, teachers, PTA presidents, and customers who were fed up with fundraising but felt compelled to buy things to support the people and causes they care about. That seemed to be the key. We decided we might not be able to get rid of product fundraising altogether, but we could make it more about the people and the causes we all care about.
Introducing... A Part of Something Big, an inspired fundraising company, founded by parents with the simple idea of fixing each of the things we didn’t like about our children’s product fundraisers. We sell only products that make a difference in our communities and our world. Our soaps are made by women in a substance abuse recovery program outside Chicago. Our coffee is from co-ops around the world who farm without destroying the forest. Our chocolate is spectacular and comes from the worlds only co-op owned chocolate company which has revolutionized a rural township in Ghana. We sell products which support fair-trade, micro-finance, social-development and environmental stewardship initiatives. We surround the program with educational activities and lesson plans to start the conversation in our schools and churches about the choices we make every time we spend a dollar. We believe that the value of a product is also a measure of the values it represents; and the stories of the people who create them are part of the pleasure.
In 2008, we piloted our program in six schools and are actively signing up schools for the fall of 2009. Our biggest challenge right now is finding PTA leaders who will seize the opportunity to do something bold, something that matters. Everyone we talk to tells us that they love what we are doing – but we need people to take the next step and sign up their school or civic organization. Our entire concept is based on putting your money where your mouth is and we need our fans out there to do the same thing! Fundraising is a necessary evil in most of our lives and few of us like it. But it doesn’t have to be a system based on guilt or an office quid-pro-quo. Like any endeavor we choose to be a part of, fundraising can be something we are really proud of if we choose to make it that way.
A Part of Something Big as a company will live or die on the backs of courageous moms and dads who decide to lead their schools, non-profits and communities along to a different future. It will take vision for them to imagine what fundraising can represent. It will take courage to be the person who says “Follow me” and we can raise the money we need and make a difference in our world at the same time. It will take perseverance to bring a concerned parent group along; nervous about the risk of switching the devil they know for the chance at something better. If you believe this idea is worth preserving, we are here to serve you and your community. Sign up today and be A Part of Something Big.
Contact Richard at http://www.partofsomethingbig.com