Fundraising is dangerous

  • Posted on: 25 February 2007
  • By: Amanda Fritz

Yesterday, a thief got away with more than $500 cash earned by Girl Scouts selling cookies outside the Hawthorne Fred Meyer. Stealing from Girl Scouts has to be pretty high up on the list of Actions That Will Bring You Bad Karma.

My daughter and I used to sell Camp Fire candy. When she first joined, the quota required for each kid to sell was relatively low, fifteen boxes. I bought the lot and took it to work or gave it away for birthday and hostess gifts. OK, OK, I ate a significant amount, too. Those Thin Mints are delicious, up to about four a day. Each year the mandatory "target" got higher, so we progressed through tapping on our neighbors' doors the day before the Super Bowl, to joining the ranks of the desperately-smiling, shivering kids-and-parents selling to strangers outside stores in the effort to unload three or four cases.

One year, Ali and I were assigned to the US Bank by the A-Boy on Barbur. We were not very good salespeople - we don't like to bother folks. So instead of brightly greeting every exiting customer with, "Hi, would you like to buy some Camp Fire candy?", as we were taught to do, we merely smiled and looked winsome next to our piles of candy boxes, hoping customers leaving the bank would take pity on us.

That strategy may have saved our lives.

We'd been selling for about an hour, when the manager came out and told us we had to pack up, the bank was closing. It had just been robbed. I felt ill, imagining what might have happened if we had greeted the departing armed robber with his bag of loot with, "Hi, would you like to buy some Camp Fire candy?"

It turned out into quite the educational experience. We were interviewed by a dashing FBI fellow, although we were sadly unable to give any useful information whatsoever. Mostly, we learned that selling stuff isn't among our talents and gifts. Fortunately or not, the troop broke up the next year, so I wasn't faced with the question of whether I could consume four cases of Thin Mints by myself.


I sold outside a different Freddy's with my daughter this year. It wasn't too bad--despite the fact that they changed the shifts around without telling us and so we ended up working 2.5 hrs instead of 1.5--but I agree that the burden placed on these first grade girls was a little embarassing and unrealistic. I walked around our hood with my daughter on a different Saturday, and we did pretty well, but it still felt like we were being browbeaten into selling, selling selling. They wanted to give us MORE candy, and we said hell no. As a Dad though, I was in a distinct minority. The large majority of the time it's moms who help out--and in that context, a young girl and her mother holding a leather pouch with a couple hundred bucks in it are rather vulnerable.

I'm afraid we burn out our kids on fundraising before they're even teenagers. They sell for school, for clubs, for sports, for religious groups. And pretty much all it teaches them is how to smile and hock stuff. In my youth in England, the Girl Guides' fundraiser was "Bob-a-job". We had to go round our neighbors asking for handyman type jobs which we would be paid a bob (which was a shilling, about a quarter in today's value). Things like mowing the grass, shining shoes, pulling weeds, etc. People would give us more than the pittance, sometimes, but the point was not only fundraising, it was helping out your neighbors and learning that labor can sometimes be rewarded.