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Fundraiser Etiquette: How to Help Out Without Hurting Your Budget

It’s fundraiser season!

The cheer team needs to pay for a trip to Nationals. The Cub Scouts need to earn their wilderness badge. The youth group needs to fly to Mexico. It seems like there’s always a wonderful group to support and a fundraiser to help you do it.

Even if you don’t have kids, you know people who have kids. And they want you to buy stuff—all the time. But what if your budget doesn’t have room for boosters? Or what if you’re on a diet and don’t need five boxes of Girl Scout cookies on your counter? Feels bad, right?

There’s no need to feel guilty. It’s understandable that you can’t accept every offer to buy some cookie dough or a coupon book—even if it’s your own kid selling it. So what do you do instead? Well, we have a few ideas:

1. Leave it to the kids.

The good thing about fundraisers is they teach your kids some business basics. If they want to reach their goal (that trip to Camp Winnebago), they’ve got to make some sales. And they’ve got to perfect their sales pitch in the process. Sure, it’s easy to ask all your coworkers to buy popcorn, but think about the satisfaction your kiddos will get from landing a customer themselves. You don’t have to send them door-to-door alone, but you also don’t have to do all the work for them (or buy all the cookie dough yourself!).

Related: The Goal Is Not To Raise Good Kids, But Great Adults

2. Offer an alternative.

If you’re asked to help organize the fundraiser—like if you’re a Cub Scout leader or a parent volunteer at school or church—offer some ideas that people actually want. How about providing a useful service, like a gift-wrapping drop-off station around Christmas or a lemonade and sandwiches booth at the church carnival? Solve someone’s problem and you’ll sell more. Plus, it’s just way more fun than an order form.

3. Choose what you’ll use.

You know all the fundraisers by heart. And you know which products you’ll use and which ones you’ll buy, forget about, and eventually throw away. If you love Girl Scout cookies, hold out for them. If you actually use the discount card each year, then buy it. But don’t spend out of guilt. Respect your budget enough to be choosy about what you buy. Money is money, after all.

4. Set your budget.

Speaking of budgets, how much are you going to spend on fundraisers this year? They aren’t a normal part of your monthly budget, so they’re easy to forget. Take a minute and figure out where your fundraiser money will come from. Maybe it’s your “Miscellaneous Expenses” envelope. Or maybe you have a “Giving” envelope with small bills. Or maybe you use your “Fun Money” if you’re buying a sweet treat for yourself. Regardless of which envelope you decide to draw from, you’re still budgeting for it! So be smart when it comes to what you can actually afford.

Related: The Envelope System Explained

5. Just say no.

Here’s the hard part: saying no to all those sweet, doe-eyed children. But, you must take care of your own family before helping your coworker’s kid pay for baseball uniforms. If you’ve already ordered what you set out to buy, say no to the rest. You’re not being mean—you’re setting a good example about budgeting boundaries.

Related: Fall Fun for the Budget-Conscious Family


Start budgeting with EveryDollar today!

Fundraisers aren’t always fun, but they benefit thousands of wonderful causes each year. So make the most of them by encouraging your kids to do the work, budgeting wisely, and offering practical alternatives. And only give what you can afford. Then you can enjoy the sweet feeling of helping others while downing that seriously delicious chocolate bar.

Not sure how to budget? If you want to learn how to budget, save, and win with money, check out Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.

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Ramsey Solutions

About the author


Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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