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Desperate Measures Or Inspired Insanity

by Vickie Mabry

Leaning across our exhibit at the National Association of Elementary School Principals' Annual Convention last April, the Washington school administrator looked me square in the eye and told his story. "It's yellow. It's slimy. It's about the size of a banana. And I kissed it ... for the cause."

It was just another confession from a well-meaning principal - that special breed willing to stop at nothing to motivate student participation in fundraising drives, reading programs and other important school activities. But this was a first. I've heard of pig-kissing and cow-kissing. I've even heard of frog-kissing. But a banana slug? How far will they go?

Since we started asking the question, war stories from the front office abound. One assistant principal in Queens, notorious for his creative fundraising methods, stood in a chair with his back against the wall and charged students $1 to strap a foot-long segment of duct tape across his body, eventually suspending him from the cafeteria wall. Then there is the middle school administrator who instead of a kiss, received a nip on the thumb from an unimpressed pot-belly pig. The rejected administrator found himself in the emergency room, on the front page of the local paper and the butt of a long-standing community joke. Seemingly sane adults - our youth's role models - are now reportedly shaving their heads and painting them pink, green or - in the case of Andrew Yoxsimer, dean of students at O'Brien Middle School in Reno - red, white and blue. What is going on here? Are these desperate measures for desperate times?

Then I read this statistic in Time magazine: U.S. elementary school teachers spend more than $1 billion a year of their own money on supplies for their classrooms. That's $521 per teacher on average, 35% more than their own school districts give them to spend each year, according to Quality Education Data (QED), a market research firm. What the QED statistics don't include is the amount of money teachers receive each year from parent groups - an estimated $1.52 billion. That's how much money schools earn each year by conducting product sales, which often are helped along by the crazy antics of a good sport in the front office. And it's not just about the money.

"I think the kids learned that if a group or community joined together the results can be overwhelming," said one middle school teacher. "They learned that when you come together you can do anything you set your mind to..." including kissing a banana slug. Vickie Mabry is the Associate Director of the Atlanta-based Association of Fund-Raising Distributors & Suppliers, a trade association of companies involved in fundraising through product sales and frequent exhibitor at educational conventions.

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About the Author:

Vickie Mabry is the Associate Director of the Atlanta-based Association of Fund-Raising Distributors & Suppliers, a trade association of companies involved in fundraising through product sales and frequent exhibitor at educational conventions.

This article is from the Spring 2002 issue of the Fundraising Edge, an online publication of the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers, and is reprinted with permission. Visit their web site at for more information and a look at the complete issues of the Fundraising Edge.

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