I read a story today on PTO Today’s website about providing incentives for fundraisers and how effective they can be, and I have to say that not only do I disagree with the idea, but also with the true effectiveness.
Why is it that we need to be rewarded for doing something? I think constant rewarding creates a self-centered culture where we only do things if it can benefit us…not because it will make it better for everyone. By rewarding our children (and adults) for participating in each and every thing – they lose sight of the why. For parent associations, it’s the why are we fundraising? Why are we hosting a pasta dinner? Even if it isn’t clear – there is always a reason. Are you trying to raise money to give the kids a safer playground or are you hosting a pasta dinner to bring the families together and boost community spirit? Those reasons need to be highlighted. They are what is important…not the prizes. If you spend as much time and energy on building the excitement around the why one should participate as you do in promoting the prizes – you don’t need to cloud the purpose with rewards.
My thinking is, I love to go to things where I think I’m going to have fun (someone has convinced me that it will be worth my time). I also like the feeling of knowing that I have positively impacted someone or something. I don’t think I am alone with those. Attending or participating because I will enjoy myself or make a difference means I will do it with a genuine smile (you won’t need to drag me kicking and screaming). If someone has to offer me a reward, that to me means that whatever it is, it won’t be enjoyable. That one would not want to do this unless there is personal gain. I have formed a negative impression before it even starts. The likelihood of having a genuine smile is now slim to none. That impression, I believe, can single-handedly ruin an event. Rewards are short-term, they get people to join in this time – but if it wasn’t enjoyable, the chances of getting them to come back willingly (and thinking larger, getting them to join in leading future efforts) are slim to none.
This year, we only had 1 event/fundraiser with an incentive to participate (in prior years some incentives were offered). I asked at the beginning of the year for each chair to bring energy and excitement to their events. I can happily say that the events/fundraisers run by someone who was passionate about it, were a booming success. We had raised more money and had larger crowds. The ones that the chairs didn’t share the energy were the ones that drastically suffered. Ones that would make you think we need to offer a reward for joining in.
I say, instead of spending money to bribe people to support your causes…share with them your energy, passion and why. When people step up and contribute their time and money, recognize them with a thank you card, in person, on your school/associations website, blog or social media, or even a recognition board at the school. Let them know how much you and the kids appreciate their efforts and how they have contributed to the greater good. Making the school experience better for not only their own child, but all of the children.
A great video of a TED talk by Daniel Pink (thank you Public Speaking for Kids for sharing). The Puzzle of Motivation supporting this discussion of incentives provided for tasks completed.
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