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What Fundraising Hunger Games Looks like

Welp. I finally witnessed what making fundraising events turn into the Hunger Games looks like.

If you haven’t seen the video of an amateur Sioux Falls hockey team who invited teachers to scramble around for money to pay for school supplies – here’s a link to watch, with a clenched fist and jaw - the spectacle.

Gross. Just gross.

Having nonprofits compete in such ways so that they can serve their communities (or God forbid, get supplies for our students!) is humiliating and should be called out for it.

First off, teachers should have access to funding for supplies. Period. No matter what your politics, upbringing, or background – our general social contract should resolve to provide students with the resources to learn, grow and be supported to become the next generation of employees, employers, and entrepreneurs. The fact that this minimal financial carrot is being dangled in front of teachers who are charged with educating our children is humiliating – not only for the school board and community – but for the institutions they work for.

Secondly, this is akin to having doctors scramble for cash to pay for medical equipment for their patients, nurses competing for mental health access, homeless shelters racing for money to provide additional beds for the chronically homeless or food pantries vying for funding to purchase fresh fruit for families who deal with food insecurity. If making a sport for funding, and showcasing this in front of children and young adults, that positions forced competition for compensation is acceptable, we’ve really lost our way as a culture.

Third, the nonprofits and organizations that serve our community should be treated with as much respect and dignity as any other business that provides services to the public. No business would allow or approve their employees to act in this way – or compete, like Roman gladiatorial games, for contracts, business or bonuses. Yet, we allow nonprofits – groups that fill social service gaps the government won’t, can’t or shouldn’t do – to be put in a position to fight over funding scraps rather than be provided with the investments they deserve for the services they provide.

Finally, just the common sense and decency to treat our teachers and educators with the kind of respect they deserve after we have all witnessed the incredible lengths they have gone to help our kids learn during some of the most tumultuous times this country as ever seen, is something to really question here. How on earth did the optics of “fighting over money” seem like a good idea when countless teachers are grossly underpaid, chronically overworked to help students behind from distance learning experiments, and having to be amateur therapists for children who’s home life is chaotic?

However, nonprofits should take responsibility for their role in this as well.

In general, our sector is so worried about where their next check is coming from in order to continue to do their good work that they justify acts like this when a dollar is dangled in front of them. Involving or associating with fundraising activities like this because of their fiscal scarcity mindset, makes the entire sector suffer – and leads us to accept things like this dash for cash spectacle to be deemed as acceptable.

We have to continue to train our non-profits to see themselves as valuable to the community, working in a dignified career, and provide resources to enhance our self-respect.

You are not an entertainment company. You are critical to helping individuals who fall through the cracks. You are important. You kick ass!

If you are a donor, and want to give, please don't make organizations jump through hoops to use your generous gift. If you're a foundation, just get the money to folks that need it. And for the love of all that is holy, use some freaking common sense and self awareness before you green light something like this.


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