September 17, 2009 at 9:14 a.m.
Groups such as PTOs (parent-teacher organizations) and sports boosters use fundraisers to provide supplemental funds used to continue essential programs and activities at area schools.
In the Chisago Lakes School District, the Chisago Lakes PTO and Taylors Falls Parents for Education (TFPFE) coordinate fundraising for the district's three elementary schools.
Both group's rely on a fall fundraiser to provide the majority of their yearly funds.
The CLPTO fall fundraiser has raised more than $18,000 the last two years, split between Lakeside and Primary schools.
The TFPFE fall fundraiser typically brings in around $12,000 to the school, but last year's total fell to $9,300. The group believes the downturn in the economy led to a lower profit last fall, but hopes this year's total will rebound after returning to a much-used fundraising company, Geckler Co.
The Taylors Falls group also relies on several ongoing fundraisers to bring in funds. Items collected and turned in for cash include General Mills Boxtops for Education, Tyson Foods labels, Land O' Lakes and Kemps milk caps and points, Our Family brand labels, cell phones and printer ink cartridges. Last year, the school took in more than $3,000 from the ongoing fundraisers.
In addition, TFPFE sponsored a fundraiser selling Taylors Falls Elementary t-shirts and sweatshirts, profiting $1,600, and took part in a one-day fundraiser event at Shopko in North Branch, earning the school $30.
The group has also produced TF Elementary cookbooks as a fundraiser every few years. Taylors Falls Elementary keychains are for sale through the group, with a profit of $1 per item.
Campbell's Soup labels and Nestle water bottle labels are also collected. Campbell's offers several school supplies and technology products schools can get using points, while Nestle points can be redeemed for playground equipment or field trip transportation funding.
Principal Joe Thimm coordinates a fall cruise fundraiser each year. Proceeds from the St. Croix River boat cruise - around $1,100 - go into an activity fund. Thimm said the money is used in a variety of ways, including paying for incentives and t-shirts for the district's new Olweus anti-bullying program. It also provides funds when parents are unable to pay for things field trip expenses, milk for break, or winter outerwear.
"We try to use it to help families in need as best we can," Thimm said. "And the need is going to be even greater this year."
He said the school fundraisers are essential, particularly this year and next when classroom budgets are being reduced.
A big part of the TF parent group's annual budget is spent on field trip transportation. The district does not fund any field trip busing, which amounts to around $6,000 annually at the school.
The CLPTO recorded profits of more than $26,000 each of the last two years through fundraising. It includes $5,000 from the 2008 spring carnival and around $3,000 each year at the fall craft fair.
Both group's fall fundraisers are held in September, with families being asked to sell catalog items to other family members, neighbors, coworkers and friends. This year's CLPTO fall fundraiser starts Sept. 18 and the TFPFE fall fundraiser starts Sept. 23.
Other CLPTO fundraisers include collecting Boxtops, milk caps, Campbell's labels and recycling ink cartridges. The group also hosts a Secret Santa holiday shop each December.
Teacher requests for supplies and activities in their classrooms are also funded by the groups. These include items such as library books and Accelerated Reader test, guest speakers and programs, instructional materials, classroom subscriptions, homework binders and communication folders.
Chisago Lakes Middle School holds a magazine fundraiser each fall; this year's sale started Sept. 10 and runs through Sept. 24. It typically brings in $18,000 for the school.
The fundraiser pays for many items, including field trips, mini-courses, scholarships for students in need, positive behavior "core rewards" and perfect attendance awards.
CLMS Principal John Menard said the magazine fundraiser is very important to the school.
"Without it, we would have to pass the full cost of these programs onto the parents, and then I'd have to really question doing them at all," he said.
He said there is enough concern about lower profits from the magazine fundraiser this year, to freeze scheduling of some field trips.
"We're concerned, like everyone else, that we'll have lower sales," he said. "We've put a lot on hold until we know."
Parents also turn in Boxtops, ink jet cartridges, Land O' Lakes and Kemps milk caps, Campbell's Soup labels and old cell phones for recycling at CLMS. Menard said around $300 is earned annually.
At Chisago Lakes High School, students and families aren't asked to take part in an annual fundraiser. The Chisago Lakes Parent Advisory Committee, with advisement from Principal Dave Ertl, started a different fundraising campaign three years ago, with positive results.
The committee sends letters directly to CLHS parents, asking them to consider making a donation to the school. Donors have the choice of making their tax-deductible donation under a specific category like arts or athletics, or they can choose that it be used wherever the greatest need.
Ertl said the group's goal of $5,000 has been met two of the three years of the capital campaign, and parents have responded favorably.
"We're telling them you don't have to buy something you might not want, or help sell," Ertl said.
He said the campaign targets high school parents, but eventually, he'd like to involve alumni or the community at large.
Ertl said all the fundraising money raised is used to support the school's Advanced Placement (AP) classes, funds additional field trips and classroom equipment for new classes, and is used to purchase school planners for each student.
Letters are sent out to parents in November. Ertl said the fundraiser is very important for the school.
"It's crucial, especially in today's times," he said. "We can provide needed textbooks and equipment that we normally couldn't afford."
Individual clubs and teams at CLHS organize their own fundraisers to help defray costs of overnight tournaments, uniforms, etc.
Districtwide, schools and specific clubs/teams benefit through United Way pledges designated to them, and the CashValue Card program.
Employees of companies running annual United Way campaigns can designate schools or a school district to receive their United Way contribution.
The CashValue Card is a shopper loyalty card that gives cardholders a portion of each purchase back in the form of a credit rebate on their card, and also gives a portion of each purchase to a nonprofit of their choice. Several Chisago Lakes businesses participate in the program, including Wally's BP, Goldstar Printworks, Wild Mountain and Brink's Market.
Each school also receives money through Target's Take Charge of Education program. Checks are issued twice a year to each school and the district, representing a percentage of Target cardholders' purchases who have designated a specific school. Ertl said the high school typically receives between $2,000-$4,000 a year, while the elementary schools receive between $1,000-$3,000.
The elementary schools and middle school receive a portion of funds generated at book fairs, held at each school during the year at conference time. The funds are used to purchase books for the school's media centers.
Primary School Principal Brenda Schell said the school's instructional budget cuts were not "very bad" this year, but anticipates bigger cuts will be needed next year, making fundraising even more important to the school.
She is grateful the CLPTO has designated a portion of each fundraiser toward playground equipment. A special spring book fair last year brought in enough to purchase one new piece of equipment, installed this summer.
Funds through the Target program are used for supplemental expenses at the school.
"It pays for special things around the school, like new paint, or helping kids when families can't afford something," Schell said. "We've paid for a student's school pictures, because we don't want kids to go without."
The fund also pays for certificates given out to students "caught" doing good things at school.
Lakeside Principal Warren Retzlaff said school fundraising money is no longer used for field trip busing. It was decided to ask parents to pay for field trips, and use the CLPTO funds to benefit students schoolwide.
If parents are unable to pay for field trip expenses, fundraising money is used for their portion.
He said the fall fundraiser pays for many extras at the school, like Open House decorations, advanced math programs such as Continental Math and Math Masters, Accelerated Reader prizes, playground equipment and support items that wouldn't be possible without CLPTO fundraising.
Realizing teacher budgets have been cut, the CLPTO discussed whether it should give money to each teacher at Lakeside and Primary. Retzlaff said they decided to take a "wait and see" attitude for now, because there may be an increasing need for school fundraising money in the coming years, and it would be nice to know it's there.
He also knows that regardless of the economy, fundraisers get a bad rap.
"I'm aware of the feeling about fundraisers - there's a lot of them and they're all good," Retzlaff said. "But the needs will keep increasing."
In North Branch, the high school raised more than $20,000 through fundraising efforts last year, raised by specific school groups. The band program, for instance, raised nearly $1,000 through magazine and fruit sales, the choir raised the same amount selling Happenings Books and French students raised almost $3,000 selling candles. Cookie dough was sold by four groups, netting more than $7,000.
Sunrise Elementary brought in more than $23,000 in fundraising last year, and NB Primary raised almost $18,000.
At North Branch Middle School, fundraisers are held separately for each grade level. Sixth graders sell Christmas wreaths, seventh graders sell candy and holiday gifts and eighth graders sell knick-knacks, wrapping paper and food. All NBMS fundraisers totalled just over $31,000.
The North Branch ALC also holds an annual fundraiser through a student-run store, earning $1,250 last year.
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