Fundraisers: Go Easy on Selling the Sweet Stuff!

Despite the girl selling cakes on the cover, readers of my book The Volunteer’s Guide to Fundraising know that I think the time has come to cut the sugar and other junk that so many nonprofits have come to rely on in selling goods for cash. The mixed message — we’re trying to help society, but we’re going to close our eyes to the health implications of what we’re purveying — is just too strong.

It’s not that I’m anti-treat. (Ask anyone who knows me!) But rarity is part of what makes something a treat, and sweets and other junk food are anything but rare in people’s lives these days, including those of children. That message rang out loud and clear with the publication of a study finding that, despite years of outcry and supposed efforts to curb the problem, junk food remains ubiquitous at the nation’s elementary schools. (See “Junk Foods Widely Available At Elementary Schools, Study Shows,” by Lindsay Tanner.) School lunches are nothing to brag about nutritionally, and then the kids can head straight to the vending machines for sugary, fatty, or salty chips, cookies, and so on.

Any fundraiser considering selling cookies at school, or even asking kids to sell them on behalf of a group, should consider that context. Fortunately, healthier alternatives are available, such as granola, low-salt pretzels, or home-baked items using whole grains and recipes adapted to reduce the common baddies. (In fact, now that I look again, the girl on my book cover is selling un-frosted cakes. Good job, cover girl!)