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Make Money and Make a Difference with Fair Trade Fundraising

ee-ashley-symonsBy Ashley Symons, Equal Exchange

I went to elementary school in the Midwest in the early ’90s. Every fall, we entered the school gymnasium to get pumped up for our annual fundraiser. This kick-off event was meant to energize us to sell, with lures of all the prizes we could win if we sold the most candy bars, tubs of popcorn, or wrapping paper. The philosophy was, “the more you sell, the more you’ll win random stuff you really don’t need!” Never did we talk about how what we were selling might impact people or places. Just get the most money, and you too could win a neon-pink kazoo keychain. Woo-hoo!

Fifteen years later, I’m so pleased to be a worker-owner at Equal Exchange, where we offer schools a different kind of fundraising. My co-worker, Virginia Berman, started the Equal Exchange Fundraising Program after getting requests from teachers and parents who wanted an alternative fundraiser. After three years, we’ve partnered with over 300 groups. And the momentum continues to grow every day.ee-montgomery-blog

So, what’s special about this fundraiser? Well, for one it offers totally yummy fairly traded and organic coffee, tea, chocolate, nuts and dried fruit. It’s stuff that people already eat and drink, so it doesn’t feel wasteful like typical fundraisers. Plus, it’s fairly traded, so you can feel good knowing your fundraising dollars are supporting small-scale farmer co-ops and their communities. Additionally, the products are organic. The farmers use sustainable farming methods, without all those nasty pesticides and fertilizers. It’s better for them, it’s better for you and your kids, and it’s better for our earth.

Equal Exchange also developed a Fair Trade and co-op economics curriculum to accompany the Fundraising Program, to teach children that their everyday choices can make a difference in the lives of others (it’s free to download on our web site). We really believe that change is on the horizon - and we need the help of future generations to make sure we are supporting farmers internationally, while also making efforts toward greening this planet of ours.

The bottom line? Your school fundraiser can make a difference worldwide while raising money for your own community. Sounds way better than a neon-pink kazoo keychain, if you ask me.

To find out more about the Equal Exchange Fundraising Program, please visit www.equalexchange.coop/fundraiser


  1. Scott

    Hi Ashley,

    Thanks so much for sharing Equal Exchange’s great ideas on purposeful, informed and meaningful school fund raising.

    Your own high school experiences are similar to the Australian High School fund raising contexts…which are ultimately all about the student’s self interest.

    Also loved the economics curriculum. It really changes the fund raising dynamic in so many ways.

    You mention that after 3 years you have ‘partnered’ with over 300 groups. I am really interested in your use of the word ‘partnered’ in this context.

    I was wondering if you would be willing to share more about what you mean by partnering here? Do you have a partnership purpose? Do the groups see themselves as Equal Exchange ‘partners’. Are there partnership expectations? How are the partnerships maintained and developed?

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hello, for all students (at least high-school and the undergraduates) and others with an interest or enrolled in economics I have started a blog which will comprise study literature in a more entertaining form than standard textbooks, see
    CrisisMaven’s Economics Study Guide. While still in its initial stages it will be added to constantly and covers general ecenomics subjects while at the same time dealing with current topics from the news that provide a welcome backdrop to an elucidating chapter in economics as well, e.g. Of Mortgage Brokers, ARMs, Attrition and Marathons .

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