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4 Things Middle Schoolers Taught Me About Fundraising

As a company dedicated to helping small and mid-size nonprofits, one of the best things we get to do is actually go out into the community and see nonprofits in action. Network for Good staff recently spent the day participating in Junior Achievement USA’s JA Finance Park program, and it was priceless.

Imagine a world where you have the chance to be an adult for a day and magically go back to being a child when you run out of money. That’s exactly what Junior Achievement provides—and exactly what the middle schoolers of John T. Baker in Montgomery County, MD got the chance to experience.

JA Finance Park teaches middle and high school students the importance of financial responsibility. The students are assigned a real-life scenario relating to income, expenses, savings, and credit. Throughout the day, they advance through several stations comprising a makeshift ‘market’ of all necessary components of living, from utilities to groceries to banking.

The student’s ‘ooh’s’ and ‘aah’s’ echoed through the auditorium with the grand reveal of Finance Park. Spending a day with over a hundred seventh graders as they navigated the waters of ‘real life,’ reminded me of these four life lessons:

1) Planning

“Why would I go to college when I can start making money now?”

Almost all the children in my group initially wanted to skip the higher education route and go right into making money. They were quickly introduced to the adage ‘short term pain = long term gain’ and understood the importance of a higher education when they ran out of money and couldn’t go out with their friends or purchase the car of their dreams.

Did they have the same opinion of rushing into work-life after their experience? Absolutely not.

2) Time

“So, you’re telling me money really doesn’t grow on trees?”

The children naturally have a ‘go, go, go’ mindset. In reality, it takes time and patience to become successful in any and everything you do. They expected to have a huge chunk of savings from the very beginning and wanted to purchase all the luxuries immediately. However, reality set in and they realized that financial freedom takes time.

3) Gratefulness

“My parents do this every day?!” 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to just go home and frolic in the yard with your dogs when you drop your children off at school every day? The look on their faces grew serious as they got a first-hand look at the ‘behind the scenes’ their very own parents face every day. The clothes don’t magically appear in the closet and the food doesn’t suddenly appear on the plate at dinner. People actually have to work—and work hard to provide.

4) Organization

“How am I supposed to keep track of all of my bills?”

From car payments to health insurance to utilities and dining, the responsibilities piled up and the kids had over two dozen action items on their ‘to-do’ list. I stressed the importance of staying organized to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Organization looks different for everyone and it’s ultimately up to you to determine what systems work best to keep you on track. If spreadsheets and sticky notes are your go-to method of organization, fundraising may feel overwhelming and daunting most days. Adopting a system that helps you track donor activity, send communications, or plan events, will allow you to more effectively and efficiently drive the mission of your nonprofit. Plus, better planning and organization on your end will result in more time to show your gratefulness to your donors.

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