Ambitious Fundraiser Has Cleveland’s PTSA Divided

by Cleveland High Staff Reporters

Board members planning sweepstakes that offers car, cash prizes

Cleveland High School’s annual Red & White Auction, the Beacon Hill school’s biggest fundraising event, is quickly approaching. Last year, the auction brought in more than $50,000 for the school.

To up the ante, Cleveland’s Parent Teacher Student Association’s (PTSA) executive board has joined forces with Mercedes-Benz Seattle to give away a car. What’s the catch? The group must raise at least $50,000 for the car to come into play.

“For every financial benchmark we hit, we will give away a prize,” explained Teresa Scribner, the PTSA’s secretary. “The car is the top prize, but we can’t give it away until we raise the $50,000.”

Phil Petty, a CHS alumni and sales consultant for Mercedes-Benz, had presented the idea to the PTSA for the past two years, but the group passed on the offer. After last year’s auction sold out and parents showed a renewed interest in participating, PTSA leaders wanted to try a different approach to fundraising. But not all of the members are on board with the sweepstakes. Several members have voiced their concern.

“I like the idea of a raffle, but I feel like the car is maybe too high of a goal,” said Stuart McFeely, whose son is a sophomore. “We could’ve done something like a capital campaign asking family or friends if they had something they could donate, like their services.”

Other parents thought the car sends the wrong message about Cleveland’s priorities.

“Cleveland isn’t in a community of a lot wealthy families,” said Nikole Hecklinger. “We would be putting people at risk if they were to win the car and aren’t financially stable to keep up with it.”

Hecklinger, whose daughter is a sophomore, said the car also distracts from Cleveland’s values.

“We’re drawing people in for the wrong reasons. We’re focusing on luxury items rather than humans and the help the STEM school needs.”

To counter Hecklinger, Scribner explained that Cleveland is no longer seen as a low-income school, and believes the sweepstakes is not that different from the auction.

“We are still asking people to make a donation to the school, and just like at the auction, people will be spending money hoping to win a prize,” Scribner said. “Why not make those prizes a little more attractive.”

The executive board held a meeting on Oct. 24, to hear parents’ concerns and to share how they came to the decision to hold the sweepstakes. McFeely thought the board should have communicated with everyone on their plans for the sweepstakes before making a decision.

“I’d rather see what all the parents could bring to the table,” he said. “We could of had an informed meeting presented to the students and families so they could understand the benefit of donations and participation.”

According to board members, Mercedes-Benz is offering the car to Cleveland at a discount, setting the price of the vehicle around $33,000. PTSA does not have to pay any money up front and does not have to pay for the car if they don’t raise enough money to buy it. The winner of the car will have to pay the taxes, licensing fees and registration. PTSA Vice President Connie So, whose son graduated from Cleveland and daughter is a sophomore, sees the sweepstakes as a win-win situation.

“If we do not make enough money to purchase the car, we will not be on the hook for it,” she said.

So explained that the sweepstakes entry is a “thank you” to anyone who donates to Cleveland.

“We ask people to donate $20, for example, to Cleveland’s PTSA – either for the booster clubs, the music program or for Class of 2018 or 2019 school activities. When people donate money for the cause of their choice, we will enter them into our sweepstakes.”

Although no donation amount has been set, for every donation given to Cleveland, the donor’s name will be entered into the sweepstakes. While the car is the top prize, other giveaway items include a Mac laptop, a TV system and cash prizes up to $5,000. According to Scribner, the prizes would be paid for by the ticket sales.

“If we raise less than $40,000, for example, we will provide a $5,000 trip or just provide smaller gifts,” So said. “We will not lose money on this sweepstakes.”

Since Cleveland has to raise at least $50,000 in order to give the car away, McFeely doesn’t like the idea of promoting a car as part of the sweepstakes then not giving it away.

“It feels like the idea is based on if you buy a ticket you could win a car, but if we don’t raise enough money then we will be letting people down,” he explained.

Despite parents’ concerns, the board is moving forward with the contest. Their first steps are to set up a website for donations and to start advertising. They are hoping to have the sweepstakes rolling before December to maximize sparking interest in the contest by displaying the car at quad basketball games in the winter.

Staff reporter Benet Sparks contributed to this story.

Featured image is a cc licensed photo attributed to Joe Wolf

2 thoughts on “Ambitious Fundraiser Has Cleveland’s PTSA Divided”

  1. My kids don’t go to Cleveland, but I’ll be sending a donation if they do the sweepstakes.

    As someone who’s been in PTAs, I would be feeling pretty bummed if someone squashed my ideas like this. I hear what Stuart McFeely is saying, but the volunteers who are actually doing the hard work of organizing these fundraisers should have the most say in how they do it. PTA boards get….well, bored doing the same event year after year. And it’s not like auction fundraisers aren’t an exclusive event in their own right. If someone wins the car who can’t support it, there’s something they can do. Sell it!