Growing up in the 80’s, I have distinct memories of running around with raffle tickets, sponsor books and cake tins trying to raise money for my school or the various causes they supported. There were Read-a-thons, 40 Hour Famine, Cake Stalls and raffles to name a few. My daughter has recently finished high school and she wasn’t expected to fundraise nearly as much as I was as a student. Maybe it’s the digital age, or perhaps teachers and schools are just more time-pressured, but kids don’t seem to be as engaged in fundraising.
Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe kids shouldn’t be saddled with the burden of raising money whilst they are completing their studies. This begs the question, is fundraising something that should be left for adults, or should kids be involved? There are schools of thought on both sides of the question, however some recent research conducted with 10–12 year-olds from four schools in Darwin, helps to shed some light on the topic.
The researchers were keen to understand if solving fundraising problems could assist in building the financial skills of school children. Their study was conducted in two parts:
Part 1 – Student survey followed by lessons and then re-surveying
A survey of 325 students was conducted that presented ten fundraising scenarios designed to test their understanding of basic financial concepts such as cost, price and profit. Using multiple choice, they were asked a series of questions such as:
‘It costs $6 to make 12 cupcakes. What is the cost per cupcake?’
The survey showed that 60% of students were able to correctly answer the survey questions. The survey was followed by a series of classes that were related to the survey. After those classes, the kids were surveyed a second time with some additional multiple choice questions added, such as:
‘If grade 6 wants to make and sell cupcakes to raise money for an end of year party, how much should they charge per cupcake?’.
The resurveying of 298 students resulted in 66% of kids responding correctly. The researchers were surprised that the correct response rate only improved slightly. What the researchers discovered was that many students struggled with the concepts of cost, price and profit. These findings were explored further in Part 2.
Part 2 – Student discussion groups
To understand the survey findings, the students were arranged in discussion groups to talk about the survey and lessons in more detail. To help the discussion the students were presented with a scenario:
‘Year 6 would like to raise money to donate to the RSPCA. The teacher has suggested making lolly bags to sell at school. Each lolly bag will cost $2 to make. What price should Year 6 sell the lolly bags for? Justify your thinking…’
The discussions uncovered some fascinating results. The responses were placed in two categories:
Group 1 – Students that gave loss-making and break-even responses were price conscious
This group gave responses that would lose money or break even. Answers included statements like:
Amelie: $1.50. Because $2 is a lot to be spending on a lolly bag.
Stephanie: I’d probably do $1.50. So it’s not so expensive.
Nicholas: I reckon $1.50. In the shops you’ll find lolly bags are normally $1.50. I reckon $2 is too much.
These students were price conscious. They understood some parts of the relationship between supply and demand wanting to sell as many lolly bags as possible at what they thought to be a competitive price.
Group 2 – Students that applied reasoning that was mathematical, financial and entrepreneurial
This group gave responses that would make money. Answers included statements like:
Joey: I doubled the cost to make the lolly bags. So $4.
Michelle: That’s what I put. I did the same thing. Because just to make it is $2, so I think it is only fair to double it.
Sarah: I think the Year 6 kids should sell the lolly bags for $5 because – so they can raise more money for the RSPCA.
These students were profit conscious. They were focused on the profit and were not as concerned about being competitive on price.
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So what does this tell us about our kids?
Well in true research fashion the authors relate the findings to numerous educational, political, and socio-economic factors. Putting these complexities aside, as a reader my key takeaways were that to foster the entrepreneurial side of our kids, or at the very least to help understand the basics of supply and demand, fundraising is an amazing way of doing that.
A test for you. If you have young kids, ask them the lolly bag fundraiser question. See which category they fall into.
- Cost, price and profit: what influences students’ decisions about fundraising? (Sawatzki & Merrilyn 2018)