27 September 2014

Ethics in fundraising

I have made a commitment to work towards ethical options for fundraising in organisations I am involved with, and I'm delighted to share a current buy-local fundraising initiative I have arranged.

Last year, Eva's three-year-old kindergarten did a book fundraiser and bought all the books online. It was cheapest (they claimed). I suggested using our local independent specialist children's book store (Westbooks); the fundraising committee declined, despite the store offering a substantial bulk-order discount.

Later in the year toy catalogues were sent home for two online stores that give a percentage of sales to the kindergarten. I used my catalogue to browse for ideas then took it into our local independent toy store (Toys in the Park) and asked the manager, Jan, to order in a few items for me.

And of course there are the ubiquitous chocolate-sale fundraisers. Twice last year (two different groups) we were asked to sell Cadbury fundraiser chocolates. Both times I politely but firmly declined, on the grounds that I thought it was unethical to raise money to benefit my own children using products known to frequently be produced with the slave labour of other children. Both times I suggested using fair trade fundraising options (coffee or chocolate). One group got so far as to ensure their boxes included plain dairy milk blocks, the only Cadbury fundraising line that is certified Fairtrade, and noted this as a fair trade option in their promotional material.

This year, at Eva's four-year-old kindergarten (McDougall Park Community Kindergarten), I joined the kindy committee. The committee has opted for no fundraising chocolate drive at all. When the topic of online toy catalogues was raised I tentatively suggested approaching local businesses to see if they could offer us a similar deal and was given the go-ahead to at least try.

Both Toys in the Park and Westbooks agreed to assist with our kindy fundraising. I am even more pleased that our kindy committee decided to go with these offers and not send home the toy catalogues at all. (If you would like to participate, details of our fundraisers are at the bottom of this post).

Initial Time: Each time the issue comes around, there is a bit more research, a few emails and conversations, and for the buy-local initiative a bit of extra time in emailing and talking. Maybe an hour or two a couple of times a year?

Initial Cost: Zero. Buying local does not necessarily cost more, especially when the wider economic benefits to the local community are factored into the price. For example, some studies suggest local businesses spend twice as much of their income in the local community as chain-stores do (never mind online purchases, which don't have a local community at all!)

Ongoing time or cost commitment: As above.

Impact: Many, many sources show the social and economic benefits of shopping from local, independent stores: community well-being, healthy local economies, product diversity, better service, local employment, reduced environmental impact (transport costs etc). For books, buying local also supports the Australian publishing industry. For toys, buying from an independent generally means more thoughtfully chosen stock, less plastic rubbish and better quality items.

As for supporting fair trade, I will just refer you to the Fair Trade website, which says it comprehensively. In brief: my lifestyle should not be at the expense of the workers who provide it to me. For a clip on what might be in your chocolate if its not Fairtrade, see Heart of Chocolate.

If our thirty-one kindy families each spend $50 at both Westbooks and Toys in the Park during the promotional month (details below), that would be $3,100 spent locally instead of going into multinational pockets, and $465 worth of books and toys for a fantastic local community kindergarten. Some families are planning their whole Christmas shop to line up with our fundraiser; others won't participate at all; this is a guesstimate! I'll try to post in the comments later in the year what the actual numbers are.

Even when my actions didn't change the fundraising that was undertaken, raising the issue was an eye-opener for most of the people involved in the committees behind the decisions. On chocolate, in particular, most of those involved in choosing to sell chocolates had no idea child slavery was an issue in chocolate production and were grateful for having been informed. I am hopeful this might influence their future choices.


- Three slightly different but overlapping lists of reasons to shop local: One Two Three
- A similar list but with every item referenced to studies providing evidence of the claim (with an emphasis on local vs Walmart)
- Article arguing for supporting Australian independent book stores
Get involved:

In October, shop at Toys in the Park (403 Albany Hwy Vic Park 08 9470 3981 - featured in all the pics on this post) either in-store or online and mention McDougall Park Community Kindergarten and 10% of your sale price will be put towards a credit account for the kindy to purchase resources. If you order online, send an email through the contact form to ensure the kindy benefits from your purchase.

In November, try it at Westbooks for kindy to get 20% of the sale credited (although you may need an appropriate bit of paper in your hand - I am still working on details with the store, who are currently moving premises - contact me in late October if you would like more info)