Have I mentioned I’m a mentor? Don’t ask me why, but someone in Media Services at the head office in our system made me the mentor of a new media specialist. She’s in a school very close to mine and is also without a clerk, so that’s probably why. I get a slight stipend for being a mentor but I’d be surprised if it pays for the gas to get me all the way out to and back from the head office the every month or so we meet.
Anyway, at the meeting this week the discussion included book fairs and other fundraising. I learned two things that made the whole trip worthwhile. One is that there is an elementary school in my district that is similar to mine and has two book fairs a year at the exact same time as I do and does not take any cash. The idea blew me away so I had to have a chat with that media specialist later.
They take credit cards and checks and even money orders but no cash. She said some people didn’t like it the first time but it’s been two years now and they’re used to it. She swears it hasn’t cut into her profits. She says they do fewer transactions but the ones they do are larger, so it evens out.
I like this idea quite a bit. As I think about the things that stress me out about the book fair, the money is the biggest one. There’s the whole every-transaction-is-a-painful-lesson which gets old real fast. No, you don’t have enough for all that. No, not that either. No, you need at least fifty-three cents for that. Don’t forget the sales tax. Blah blah blah.
I realize this might be a good learning opportunity for these students, but sorry, that’s not an argument for continuing to take cash. The book fair is a fundraiser, not an educational experience. They can find other opportunities to learn consumer math.
Then there’s the “piggy bank kids” as I call them. The ones that bring in a bag full of coins and dumps it on the table and expects me to count it all to see how much they have. Sorry, I’m not a bank. I’lll never miss that.
Then there’s the rule that only employees of the district can handle the money. I get special permission which allows some of my volunteers to do it but it’s a pain and things happen. We end up short or over every day and I end up counting everything multiple times.
Finally, there’s the closing out each day. I print out a detailed report, get the incredibly specific paperwork, count out all the credit card slips, checks and cash for each register then fill out the forms for each one and make a deposit which I have to carefully go over with the bookkeeper.
The media specialist that doesn’t take cash? Runs the report, stuffs the checks and credit card slips in an envelope and goes home. Sweet.
I also wouldn’t have to figure out how much change to get for each register or have to leave to run get more change a couple of times that week.
The only drawback I can see, other than smoothing the feathers of those who don’t like change, is probably having to stay open later some days. We always do our book fairs to line up with conference week. In our district there are early release days so the kids go home early two days that week and parents come in for conferences. I tend to stay open very late one of those days. The rest of the time I mostly stick to school hours. By not taking cash I’d be tilting it more toward parent sales so I’d have to be open more for their convenience. But by only taking checks and credit cards I’d also be able to have more volunteer register help.
I’m thinking this would be worth it.
Oh, and the other big revelation. I don’t know how it is where you are, but here at the beginning of the year you have to buy school supplies but you also have to pay for various fees and things. They make it easier now by having it all online. There’s a page with little checkboxes and you pay all the fees and donations or untick the ones you don’t want to pay for and do it all on the website with your credit card or whatever.
Well, a high school librarian said that with principal permission you can create a new checkbox for a “Library Improvement Fund.” It has to be clearly marked as a donation but the default is that they pay it. They have to go in and uncheck the box not to pay it and in his experience most people don’t uncheck the box. He feels no guilt because everyone uses the library. It’s the easiest way to fundraise I’ve ever heard of. He said he started with $3 then went to $4 the next year and is up to $5 and it’s still fine. He plans on upping it “until it breaks” then sticking with the next amount down. I’d be happy with anything at this point. I’ve already mentioned it to the principal. She said she’d look into it but saw the obvious opportunities to use it to fund AR stuff or bring in more authors or to actually paint and buy furniture for the space and many other uses. So it would be worth it.
I need to talk to my media committee about both of these ideas but I’m excited to give them a try, that’s for sure. Anything that makes it easier to do stuff for the library sounds great to me.