On Fundraising

by F.

Our neighborhood has a pretty good elementary school. At least I think it must be pretty good because many of my rich neighbors, who could afford elite private schools, send their children to it. Usually, the school doesn’t have much to do with me and I don’t have much to do with it, other than being stopped by 10-year-old crossing guards when I drive past it. But then comes fundraising season.

We get few unexpected visitors at our house so a knock on the door means it’s a solicitation. Usually, it’s a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee, or the Sierra Club, or someone selling magazines subscriptions. My neighborhood in fairly wealthy but it also happens to be Democratic. So we’re good targets for canvassers and girl scouts and putatively poor kids wanting to sign us up to 52 weeks of Rolling Stone.

My least favorite solicitation is from the kids at the local elementary school. Usually, there’s a timid little knock. If I can’t see a head through the fluted glass of our front door, I know it’s a munchkin of some type. I go to the door and get a rushed speech about sponsoring the “wash-a-thon” or turtle racing or the science-o-rama. Which is all fine. I want to support this stuff and I do. I glance at the clipboard the kid is holding, see what my neighbors have given, calculate a quick average, and give him or her that much.

But there are a couple kids that I don’t want to give much to. These are the kids with the really rich parents, retired from Microsoft, who don’t work. It’s not entirely jealousy. I just don’t like either of the parents, who are divorced and live a few houses apart. She’s a busy-body. Saved from having to make a living, she lives vicariously through the rest of us. He has the personality of petrified wood, so it is only natural that he is now attending the local community college with a view to getting a Ph.D. it psychology at the local university. This is another example of the truism that the helping professions attract those who need the help.

I’m sure these rich kids are like the other kids that I don’t mind subsidizing: just kids. But each year I want to say, “You know, Jake, why don’t you just ask your dad for my share. And, come to think of it, why don’t you ask your dad for all our shares on this block. I’m sure he could cover it. I’m into public goods and stuff, but my substantial taxes cover that. You want to fund a new iguana terrarium at the elementary school? Ask your dad to sell some stock. And by the way, I need a new roof. Can you make a contribution to my roof-a-thon?”