Thursday, January 08, 2009

Incidental Guilt

As many of the regulars know, Dr. Mad Scientist is quitting his job in a week.

When I sat down a few months ago and ran the current numbers (i.e. what I'll be making minus our expenses) I forgot to include one catergory in the "expenses" column: School Guilt Fundraising.

Chunky brought home a flyer for a Tricky Tray his school is having in March.

And for those of you that don't know what a Tricky Tray is--I didn't either--it appears to be a somewhat New Jersyish term (if you google "tricky tray" you get a lot of NJ websites). For the uninitiated here's the definition as per

Pronunciation: 'tri-kE 'trA

Function: noun

Plural: tricky trays

Synonyms: penny sale, penny auction, penny social, gift auction, chinese auction, silent auction, brown bag auction,dark horse, basket games

Alternative Spelling: trickytray, trickytrays

1: a fund raising event for a church, school or other organization where guests buy tickets, then place them in a container next to the item they would like to win. Items can be a single item or a group of items based on a theme. Once everyone has had the opportunity to place his or her tickets in the container, the drawing for the prizes begins. If your number matches the winning number drawn, You win that prize.

Chunky's school is asserting that in the past forteen years they've been holding this event, every family has donated either $25 or a themed basket to be tricky trayed off (that must have a value of at least $25--not including the cost of the container/basket). Pish, yeah EVERY family.

They sent home with the flyer a list of example baskets:


So I've got three choices, I can:

1. Ignore the whole thing.
2. Put together some type of basket.
3. Send in a $25 check with Chunky.

I'm waffling between items number 1 and number 2.

I thought I could easily put together a simple "How to Knit a Scarf" or whatever basket using some nice stash yarn I have on hand that is easily worth $25 or more in and of itself! But that seems too specific. As much as I'd like to believe it, not everyone knits.

Although looking at the examples they listed, not everyone has a family room where they engage in drinking martinis and margaritas. Nor do I have a laundry room where I could put a cute little basket of fabric softner and upscale laundry detergent. Shoot, I don't even have a garage!

The other idea I'm toying with is putting together a Recession Survival basket. Maybe make it chock full of things like Government Cheese and Pilot Bread, coupons for Spam and tuna, some candles and wool socks.

I'd love to do something tongue in cheek as a passive agressive protest against being guilt tripped into donating money to the school.

But on the other hand, I could easily do number 1. I mean even if I did number 2--I'm not going to GO to this Tricky Tray because the tickets are $20 just to get in the door and there's no kids under 18 allowed in.

I love school functions that don't allow the students of the school to participate!!

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Blogger Michelle said...

Wait, so let me get this straight. They claim that EVERY family has given a $25 donation basket to this thing, PLUS they're collecting $20 per ticket, which you can put into ONE of those baskets (supposedly worth $25) and you MIGHT win it.


I mean, overpriced cookie dough/wrapping paper/nuts is one thing. There you at least are guaranteed to get something for your "donation."

Yeah, go with #1 or #2. Your time is valuable, so making a "how to knit a scarf" basket is totally appropriate, materials of about $10, your labor makes up the rest. Or tell them to chuck it, and buy something from a fundraiser where you actually GET something.

Like a car wash.

8:17 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

This is about the dumbest thing I've ever heard of. That's crazy. PLUS $20 to get in and kids can't come?!?!?! That's insane.
I would go with #1. You have a new baby. Seriously, use that baby for everything you can!

8:24 AM  
Blogger Rebel said...

What a crock. I'm sorry but this kind of thing is lame. Do I really need more picture frames or other random impersonal do-dads? I say ignore the whole thing, when it comes time for the trip, or whatever they're fundraising for, chip in the $25 or whatever for Chunky's share and call it good. OH and this is the *PERFECT* time to pull the "I just had a baby" excuse. Seriously, show up with Jersey Boy in hand and no one will question you.

8:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree #1 or #2 is your best solution to this thing. I also agree USE THAT JERSEY BOY for an excuse!!
Oh! I do not miss the schools nickel and diming you to death!!!
Love, Mom

8:49 AM  
Blogger Cindy in Happy Valley said...

I've seen a few "Knit Baskets" including one for socks donated to our church. Apparently they are popular. I'd go for it. Only the interested take chances on it anyhow.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

As a teacher, I get the need schools have for fundraising; there just isn't enough money for basic education a lot of the time. BUT, this is a crock. My school requests donations from the community for our major fundraising and the eighth graders do a t-shirt sale to fund their end-of-the-year field trip. I would totally ignore it, especially since you weren't going to go. If you were going to go ($20 to get in?!?), then maybe it would be worth it to do a recession basket or something else, just to see how people responsed.

9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd go with #1. I went to Sounds like it's more of a social event for the adults. Sounds like they are out to make big $$. Sad that they don't do something that the kids can attend since it is a fundraiser for a grade school. Don't they have a parent organization at the school that goes out and tries to get donations from local businesses? That's what we would be doing here in the QCA. Local businesses are usually pretty generous when it comes to kids. Love, Aunt Susan

9:29 AM  
Blogger Tactless Wonder said...

Hmmm fundraisers seem to have changed since I taught school (wow, that made me sound super old...okay let's say 5 years ago...)

I'd keep an eye on how much the teacher harps on the kids to bring stuff in. Are they offering extra credit? Is it like an assignment? Will there be peer pressure?

If none of the above, totally #1 here.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Mag said...

This is probably not helpful to you, but if your child's publicly funded school requires a tuition, they should just make it plain up front that it will cost you $45, (25+20) for your child to attend school this year.

I have an attitude about school districts wasting money on ridiculous things and then begging for the basics. All you have to do is drive down to west Sahara ave. in LV and see the brand spanking new multi-million dollar Clark County school district building and know that the head bureaucrat makes $250,000 per annum! to understand why teachers are begging for paper and pencils.

My vote is for number 1.
1. Trickytray is complete bullshit.
2. Trickytray is against your culturaland moral values.
You family is doing great because of your frugal philosophy of living. This has served you well and will continue to. It is too bad you can't go in to the school district and show them where to cut the fat.

9:48 AM  
Blogger lisa said...


because the whole thing is just crazy.

i was the mom who threw away all the fundraisers. and i don't feel guilty about it. and i don't buy the crap when coworkers bring it in now. 'it runs against my prinicples'

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a teacher, but at our school fundraising events are organised to include the children. We do a big walk(8 kilometres) each year where the children must go out and get sponsors for every kilometre they walk. We also have two CCC days(cake, candy and civvies) where the children provide the cakes, candy and small prices. They play games and then win the small prizes. They buy the cakes and candy. There are all sorts of games and activities. Each game/activity has an entrance fee of R1(one rand - South African currency). That is cheap. They have a lot of fun. For a fee of R5 they do not have to wear school uniform to school and can come to school in their civvies clothes. We also have a family camp out at school one weekend night. For a small fee the families get a 'camping space' on our rugby field. They then camp there for the night. It is a big social event at our school with games and barbeques. Not one of our fundraising events are compulsory. This tricky tray event is far too expensive and to not include the children is ludicrous. If you decide to donate a basket(for Chunky's peace of mind) I suggest a knit basket or if you have time a basket of biscuits(your biscuits look yummy!). I will pay a lot for a basket of your biscuits. Sorry this is so long, but when I read about this silly way of raising funds I just saw red!! Alida South Africa

10:21 AM  
Blogger Kay aka dkswife said...

What Mag said. BS - total BS

10:44 AM  
Blogger Erin said...


11:15 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

This sort of thing drives me nuts. I usually ignore the annoying fundraiser crap (shitty rip-off candles and gross chocolate), but your passive-aggressive basket is such a great idea. If Chunky plays t-ball/little league eventually, then you'll be faced with more of this smiling extortion.

11:45 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Recession basket - ha, ha, ha! LOL! I love it!

I've never heard of a tricky tray, but my kids' (Catholic) school has this big "Life on the Lake" fundraiser every year, with a sit-down dinner, dancing, three course meal, raffle, etc. for $50 a person (yes, adults only).

They do themed baskets too for Life on the Lake, but the "class mom" (or dad) puts together the basket, and each family has to donate $5 per child they have enrolled in the school.

The school gets donations from area businesses too, and they do quite good - they make about $50,000 a year off this thing. The school has a lot of kids with parents/relatives who are business owners, city council people, etc, and these families think nothing of donating $500-$1,000 to the school for the Life on the Lake.

It seems like every month there's something else - field trips, donations, books to read in class (that parents have to buy, because good luck finding them at the library when 60 other kids need the same book), snacks for school parties, materials for special projects, etc. They also make each family sell $175 worth of raffle tickets each year (this is separate from the Life on the Lake) a year, or have the $175 added to your tuition.

Most of the families are comfortably middle-class, so $5 or $10 here and there for field trips, etc., isn't a big deal for them, but with mine and my husband's shaky job situations over the past year, it often is a burden for us.

I bought my daughter two gym shirts from the school at the beginning of the school year, and somehow they disappeared over Christmas break. I can't find them around the house anywhere, so I sent her to school for gym this week wearing a different t-shirt, along with a note to the gym teacher. Well, my daughter said the gym teacher got mad, and said I need to buy a her a new shirt.

OK, if I was still working, that wouldn't be a big deal, but being laid off with no unemployment pay, I don't even have the $12 bucks right now for a new shirt. It's frustrating when schools think parents just have

P.S. I think the knitting basket idea is great!

12:48 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Ooops, I meant to say it's frustrating when schools think parents just have endlessly overflowing wallets.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

They are definitely stretching the truth. Honestly, they have NO children on reduced/free lunch? With the recession, there must be a lot of students whose families can't afford this.

I'm the bad mom who won't even tell the grandparents about the stuff that the kids are supposed to sell. I'd just blow it off.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

I'd be very opposed to a fundraiser where kids can't be involved. The local elementaries do an annual school carnival. A major PITA to organize (which is why I never helped, hee), but huge fun for the kids, and you could pay ala carte for activities; bidding on auction items was totally optional.

But still, if Chunky sees other kids bringing in baskets and he doesn't, that might make him feel weird. I'd go with the knitting idea. Looks nice, keeps the cost down. And surely someone will want it, for themselves or as a gift to someone else.

2:54 PM  
Blogger knottygnome said...

i would be tempted to ignore the whole thing just to be contrary. however, what exactly does the money go to and how badly does your son's school need money? if the building is falling apart and the teachers are having to pay for supplies out of pocket maybe it is worth it. call it an investment in your son's edumacation.

i would make a kitchen basket with a stack of dishcloths or scrubbies and toss in a handtowel and some soap. maybe some coasters.

3:02 PM  
Blogger knottygnome said...

ok after reading more of the comments, i say screw it. if the money doesn't go toward much needed necessities, forget it.

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Audrey S. said...

L.A. Unified would not have anything if it weren't for the fundraisers--no textbooks, playground equipment, anything. Our school fundraisers paid the salaries of teachers aides for special Ed students and teachers to keep to mandated pupil ratios even. It's a huge problem here, although they paid half a million to buy out the superintendent's contract.

I vote for the knitting basket so the teacher has no excuse to harass Chunky about it...because they definitely apply the pressure!

4:31 PM  
Blogger Disco said...

Since DS#1 has been in Kindergarten we haven't bought ANY of his fundraiser stuff. I can do without overpriced cookie dough. I'm overweight enough. I have enough gift wrap that I got in the sales previous year. And overpriced tat - I can get that cheap at TKMaxx.

Although we did buy a couple things at the book fair, including an expensive book on the teacher's list.

I'd rather donate a check that I can take as a tax deduction.

The pre-school DS#2 goes to (as did DS#1) does what you call a trick or tray every year at the christmas pageant. I've donated several things, including this year a knit scarf (yeah, in Florida!!!).

If you can afford to do a knitting stuff basket, send that in. Only people interested will drop their tickets in anyway. Otherwise, hit the ignore button. They'll get over it.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Tricky tray? What a strange term! At Pi's school. we need to sell $200 worth of candy bars a year. If you don't, they just tack a bill for $200 onto your tuition.

I say make the knitting basket. I once donated crochet stuff for an event and it went over really well.

I agree with Laura, the Catholics schools are ridiculous with the gym uniforms. Pi's teacher last year told them to wear white gym sneakers, so we bought white ones for this year too. The new gym teacher wanted black sneakers. Oh well, too bad! I wasn't about to buy new sneakers.

5:26 PM  
Blogger Poops said...

If you're up to it, I vote for the Political Statement Basket.

And include your labor in assembling it as part of the "value" of the basket.

5:27 PM  
Anonymous knitting-cat said...

How about a "felted basket" with a few goodies. People will like the felted bowl/basket.

Maybe a batch of your cookies and call it done.

5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think teachers rely on these fundraisers to equip their classes. Regardless of all the beaurocracy, if it helps the kids and the teachers - it is a good cause. I say go with the knitting basket: a skein of yarn, a pair of needles, a sheet with links to some websites that will give some knitting instructions - call it a day and rest well knowing you've done your part!


5:36 PM  
Blogger Dianna said...

I have four kids. I hated those sorts of things when my kids were younger, because that made me do these things times four. I gave up, or just sent a donation myself because it simplified things, de-stressed me, alleviated my guilt level and was more direct and honest. I wish you luck on the decision.

When we livedin SLC, local businesses contributed money to the grade schools for buying school supplies for the kids. It was wonderful.

6:10 PM  
Blogger Andey Layne said...

I vote for ignoring it or making a basket of knitty stuff. You might find a new knitting friend that way.

6:56 PM  
Blogger turtlegirl76 said...

That sounds like bullshit. I say ignore it. Maybe write a letter to the school with a list of the many suggestions in the comments on this entry of ways that make way more sense to raise money.

7:12 PM  
Blogger Zonda said...

Hehe..another post close to home! Our school decided to do an auction to raise money. We were asked to donate to the class basket, which was a specific theme. I made a quilt one year and 2 scarves the next year. Both raised money and I used stash fabrics and yarns. They've been having them for like 7 years and I never attended said auction as we are very poor school as it was and I couldn't afford to bid or wanted to. One felted purse sold for $400...yes, that much. The last few years, I just donated to the class basket. Not sure who attended these things, but kids weren't allowed and most people were paying tuition for 3 or more kids. Needless to say, I disliked this fundraiser so even though I donated to help the class a bit. By not attending, it was my protest in my own little way.

10:00 PM  
Blogger Connie said...

This is peanuts - our school holds a huge fundraiser every year. Each family is required to "sell" 10 $10 raffle tickets per child enrolled - I have 3 at the school -=30 tickets. I don't sell to neighbors and have a small family. We are also required to work about 5 hours during the event plus come to spend a lot of money. There is a huge silent auction, a games tent with $.50 tickets, beer, wine, food, and a band. It cost us about $450 this year.

6:47 AM  
Blogger Donna Lee said...

Fund raisers that don't involve the children seem wrong. I never minded helping at car washes or bake sales or the like if the kids did the work. I hate to see these kind of things where the kids are shunted off to the side. I also hate to see kids "begging" outside of stores and such for donations. Can you ascertain how much pressure Chunky would be under if you opt out? If it's nothing, I'd forget it. If it'a a major big deal, I'd put together a family basked of popcorn and a family movie or something like that.

7:24 AM  
Blogger Batty said...

I feel perfectly fine ignoring these, and I'm the person who gives her money to panhandlers all over Boston and Cambridge. This is just... annoying, particularly in a bad economy. And to not have any kid participation is the pits.

7:24 AM  
Anonymous Andi said...

I love that they call it a donation and then make it mandatory, seriously, I am so glad that my kids are out of grade school. Unfortunately if you choose to "ignore", then Chunky may feel slighted by his peers. It starts way too young! I'd go with the knit basket or a cookie kit basket - pack up the ingredients with your recipes. They looked great!
Good Luck!

8:17 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

I am all for helping out the school. I try to show up at the PTO meetings, would love to help out if they did things during hours that didn't cater solely to the SAHM. That said, I am also the mom that tosses the fundraising stuff. Dan shows me the page of all the stuff he could get if he sold $X. Yeah right. I could buy that stuff at the dollar store, you don't need to sell $100 worth of candy for a light up pen. This trickytray....I would def. be torn about what to do. I would def. think about ignoring it altogether, though a how to knit basket would be nice, and easy to do. Chunky doesn't seem the type to be put out if he sees other kids doing it but not him. I wouldn't worry too much if you choose to ignore it.

8:37 AM  
Blogger Ellie said...

So I read this the other day and decided to ruminate for a bit... and I say... WTF? I never went in for the whole fundraising thing (my parents thought it was unfair to impose on neighbors/grandparents/relatives), but we never were forced to buy a certain amount. We'd go to the Christmas Bazaar, just because we had fun, but never felt pressured...
Now that I'm likely going to deal with this in about 4-ish years, I'm scared - it seems so out of control! Option 1, that's my answer.

12:50 PM  
Anonymous Becca said...

Wow...everyone else has commented very well on the ridiculousness of this whole thing. I'd do #1 just on principle since kids aren't allowed, but reading about some other fundraisers, I guess that's not so unusual. It certainly sounds like a crock to me, though.

I'll just quietly write this down as reason #256 that I'm glad we homeschool. For everyone who tells me, "I don't know how you have the patience to homeschool.", I think "I don't know how you have the patience to deal with the school systems!"

8:22 PM  
Blogger weezalana said...

So you have to pay $20 to get a basket worth $25? Well, that's a nice return on investment.

Hey, since they don't allow entry to anyone under 18, how 'bout a basket full of knitted penises?

1:05 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

It all depends on your boy. If you can get away with doing nothing, do that. If he would notice, give a money donation but in the under $10 catagory. Don't donate a basket. These people have everything all set, they like it, you aren't there for the long run, it's what your child thinks is important. If the whole thing is over his head, bow out. You won't be the only one not giving this year surely.

11:10 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I love how they con people into that stuff. Our school posts who has given to the annual fund on the website. It's a good thing they aren't listing amounts because even if you give $10 or $10K you've given, ya know. I like a crafty basket- maybe papers, scissors, easy crafty type ideas?

3:10 PM  
Blogger Ina said...

I avoid this kind of fundraiser like the plague. That said, a recession basket sounds witty, a knitting basket sounds good.

A bit of decoding: "Tricky Tray" is a euphemism for a lottery, which in NJ is a regulated game of chance = gambling. Usually liquor is served freely, to make patrons more generous. The authorities wink as long as minors are not permitted.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Elspeth said...

I love that one of the suggestion is "game boy/cartridges". So you're going to go out and spend over $100 to buy a "game boy" and more for cartridges to give to the school fundraiser? Yeah, right.

I like the scarf thing too, they sell that sort of thing on Etsy, and it's not that someone knits, but that they don't know and want to learn.

Another idea - a handknitted baby set with some baby toiletries. That baby yarn is scarily cheap at Jo-Ann and people can either buy it for themselves or for a gift.

12:07 PM  
Blogger Elspeth said...

P.S. I agree with the teachers that this is a lame way to make money, especially if it's for the basics. One high school in my county has a *TV studio* and a friend's high school had a radio studio. Talk about not focusing money where it's needed.

12:10 PM  

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