Dear PoP – Are These Fundraisers Legit?

Photo from PoPville flickr user fromcaliw/love

“Dear PoP,

On my walk home today from the gym in Columbia Heights I was confronted twice by two different groups of teens (ages 12 – 16???) asking for money. I believe one was trying to get new uniforms for a basketball team; I didn’t listen long enough to find out what the other was for.

The method is always the same– the teens are carrying a plastic crate, typically filled with nasty boxed candy. I’ve been approached outside DC USA, Giant, the sidewalks of DC, and tonight they knocked on my front door. Sometimes they have a lamented card with a pre-written speech; other times they show some type of “ID.”

I donated a few bucks once and in return got a box of stale chocolate and caramel chews. Now I politely tell them I’ve all ready donated and they normal walk away.

Are these groups legit? Do people donate? I’d like to think these teens are doing something productive and staying out of trouble. A part of me wonders where the money ultimately ends up.”

I too have wondered if these groups are legit. I’ve actually seen them get kicked out Target on a few occasions. I actually feel bad for the little kids. I’ve seen small kids maybe 10 years old making this approach. Does anyone know if these fundraisers are ever legit?

41 Comment

  • Some kids about that age came to our door a while back, reading (almost unintelligibly) from a card about some school fundraiser. I ended up buying a box of really awful red licorice. Aside from it tasting like crap, there were about 10 strands of licorice for way too much money (forgot how much, maybe 5 or 8 dollars.

    Never again. They may be legit, but they’re not getting another dime from me!

  • They probably aren’t legit, but I hate to make a blanket assertion, having sold candy/magazines/etc. for my own fundraisers back in the day. The few times I’ve been approach by kids, if they aren’t being overly aggressive and patently scam-tastic (i.e., if I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt), I just say I don’t want the candy and need a receipt for tax purposes but will be happy to make a donation to their organization if they give me a name/number of someone to call. Sadly, the few times I’ve actually gotten the name of an organization, my call has either been unreturned, or it’s turned out to be bogus. Generally, my policy in DC is not to conduct cash transactions on the street with complete strangers, especially if I don’t initiate it.

  • Didn’t most of us grow up doing the same kind of fundraising in the suburbs? Seriously. So quick to judge and pessimistic, shame on you.

    These kids are raising money instead of hanging out throwing rocks or shooting each other, so I’m happy to give them a little something. And the way I figure, if they are being supplied with something to actually sell there’s a high chance they are “legit”.

    • This is the city. It’s a lot different than the suburbs.

      • You’re both wrong, at least in my case. Some legit & some scams exist everywhere. Some friends & I went door to door doing something very similar, but it was just to score pinball money. We had a clipboard & everything. Very slick. And that was way the hell out in suburbia (the pinball in question was @ the Laurel Zayre’s, before the mall came along).

        The lesson here is simple: children are not to be trusted.
        Then again, neither are adults.
        Dogs and owls, however, are okay.

      • Thank, Rick. I’m aware. “Suburbs” was not the important word in my post.

    • This is a scam. Sorry to say, but it is. Local news frequently does stories on this. The more legit fundraiser around here seems to be the car wash. I’ve seen local schools doing this on GA ave. a bunch.

  • Damn you people are naive. Yes – it’s a scam. Ask for the name of the school, coach, administrator and their phone #. You won’t get one. If you do, verify it’s legit. You won’t be able to.

  • Frankly, I try to always buy anything kids are selling (asides drugs and guns and the like of course). The candy is sub par but that’s not the point: you’re showing a kid they can sell things other than guns/drugs/bodies/etc. If you are looking for tax breaks and crap like that, you’re an ass. Give the kids a break, throw them $10 and some advice (like: be clearer when you read as I am a snotty upper class shit who will cruelly make fun of kids reading poorly off a sales pitch card).

    FWIW, I do choose not to donate to the kids who just have a piece of paper and are seeking donations for whatever.

    • I’d rather they just say “I’m selling sh*t to make some money.” Then, if the price is right (and convenience/not having to deal with CVS is a factor here) I’ll buy for it. Then it ceases to be a potential scam and just becomes commerce.

  • These kids are sometimes trafficked (especially around spring break time and during the summer). Kids from poor areas around the country are offered “scholarships” to summer camps and their parents gladly agree to send the kid somewhere better/more educational for a few weeks.

    Not always the case, but a few rings have been discovered here in DC over the past 18 months. If you talk to them for a while you notice that they don’t quite have the right accent.

  • It’s a national problem, and has been around for a long time. There is an adult nearby, usually in a van, pressuring the kids to sell. Here is a link of a Washington State Atty General press release about the problem from 1999.

    A deeper search on the web would probably uncover people complaining about it, and news reports about it, from cities across the country.

    New York:

    San Francisco:

    And on and on…

  • My husband ordered a cheesecake, to be delivered in 4-6 weeks, from two adorable little girls who came to our door. Suprise– no cheesecake ever appeared.

    Don’t know if the kids with the crates of candy are legit or not, but what really galls me is when they have parents nudging them along, saying “ask those people”, “speak up”, etc.

    My guess is that it’s a minor scam, trying to capitalize on the success of girl scout cookies, and that there is no basketball team or summer camp. But as long as you get the candy you pay for, no real harm. That cheesecake thing kinda pissed me off, though.

    • I just ordered 2 tubs of cookie dough from an adorable little girl as well…but please note she didn’t ask me for the money up front said to give her a check when it arrives. I think this is legit…okay so she is also my neighbor and I bought 21 boxes of girl scout cookies from her too….Damn but she is adorable! and a good seller.

  • You latte sipping, tree hugging, whale petting liberals should relish the opportunity to teach the neighborhood kids how to be successful as shiesters. Learning how to lie about things to get money keeps kids off the bottle and on the narrow road to college. Teaching kids that lying about being a charity is definitely the way to make it in THIS town.

    briefly sure taught me a lesson.

  • Here’s a press release from the LA Department of Consumer Affairs about this issue. It says that it can sometimes be a scam.

  • And for those of you confused about the difference between what we did as kids and what most of these kids experience is we were doing it with some expectation of paying for a summer camp or a sports team. These kids are doing the work while an adult sitting around the corner is taking the money and putting it in his pocket. The kids are usually being exploited full stop.

    • Or maybe your looking for an excuse to be cheap. Do you ever ask the kids? Or do you just wave them away while mumbling about nappy heads and such? Usually what I see is kids nervous about selling, but with good back stories from local schools. They also sell in my ghetto neighborhood, which ain’t no upscale upper class place to be sure. If they were running scams, they’d go to upper NW and other wealthy areas, not Georgia and Missouri. But hey, you do what you want and I’ll do what I want. Tis me money.

  • who cares if it’s a scam? of course it’s a scam, They are offering you a product and you either buy it or don’t. At least they have the motivation to hustle. If the chocolate looks old then haggle.

    • I care. Because for every sap who rewards the hustle and pays $5 for something he otherwise could get for fifty cents, they annoy/harass another 10 people on the street. Quit feeding the beast.

  • I did sell thing when I was in school but it was never like this. They aren’t even selling candy from fundraiser kits – it’s unknown brands in milk crates. This just seems like a scam to me. Even if it’s legit, the mumbled reading of their lines is annoying. The followup question of making a donation is the last straw for me.

    I’ve been approached at Lia’s having dinner which is unacceptable to me. I go out to relax and have a nice time, not be subjected to panhandling. I’ve been approached at CVS (they sell brand name, non-sketchy candy). I wish managers would grow a pair and throw them out.

  • Whatever you do, don’t refuse to buy cookies from Girl Scouts.

  • If you believe these kids are being exploited or are scamming you and you still buy, you’re just enabling them to become lifetime hustlers, or worse you’re enabling the guy in the van around the corner who is exploiting them as part of his hustle. If there’s no market for this, the activity will stop. (And I’ve got to believe the market primarily involves middle-class people laden with liberal guilt.)

    If they say they have a cause and you want to support that cause, find out what it is and give to it. Everybody wins. Hell, even if you just want overpriced candy right when they hit you, go ahead and buy it. But don’t delude yourself that you’re creating some relative social good by keeping them from selling something worse.

  • You are not doing the kids any favors by buying the candy–as someone else said, there is generally an adult forcing/tricking children into these situations and pocketing the money. Give money to a reputable local charity instead.

  • I’ve been approached by little boys selling candy to allegedly pay for a field trip to Medeival Times. Regardless of whether it’s a scam … that’s got to be the WORST field trip destination ever.

  • I have actually had one of these kids come to my door and yes I the bought candy from him. At first I told him I didn’t have cash to avoid having to buy something which is when he then informed me that they except checks and told me the name of the school it could be written out to. I don’t remember the name now but I looked it up and it was an acutal school in Silver Spring and the check was later cashed by the school. I know a lot of kids go around scamming people but unless the school was in on the scam I don’t think all of these kids are trying to scam you. Stop judging and just ask for a few details. We all did this as kids you know the drill.

  • If they were white suburban girl scouts, you would buy their product without a second thought. A couple of black kids in the city try to raise money to play basketball, and they must be up to something?


    • What a ridiculous comparison. You buy from Girl Scouts because they bear indicia of legitimacy — they have standardized order forms, or you can tell that they’re actually selling cookies packaged and labeled exclusively for the Girl Scouts; the cost is predictable ($4-5/box); they’ll take a check made out to “Girl Scouts”; there’s a long history of Girl Scouts selling cookies; and, you know, it’s probably being sold by an 8-12 yo girl in a little green uniform. So long as she has Samoas, I’ll buy from a black urban girl scout without a second thought, too.

      You don’t buy from these kids because there are numerous indicia of illegitimacy, starting with their inability to identify a legitimate or even identifiable sponsor organization, and ending with the fact that they only want payment in cash.

    • mandy think outside the box. i bought boatloads of cookies in columbia heights the other day from BLACK girl scounts.

  • Even when I was a Brownie, always thought it was a terrible idea to send kids door to door. Don’t they have kidnappers and weirdos here like they do on California? Just seems like a bad idea. Except on Halloween of course!

  • I bought some tea from a mumbling 10 year old kid a few months ago. It was cold out, I felt bad for him, and he was actually selling something. The tea was fine even if overpriced. After I bought it I asked again what he was selling stuff for and he said it was so he could go to New York. I thought that was strange. A few other kids came by later and I didn’t buy their candy (though they were articulate and made a good sales pitch).

  • Let me remind ya’ll how the school marketing worked. You went door to door in your own friggin neighborhood with a pledge sheet for crappy jewlery (I remember gold bull horn necklace as one product) or if a GS the pledge sheet for cookies. Then when the product came in you’d go back to (or call) those people who pledged and exchange the stuff for money. These days I think the parents just leave the GS cookie pledge sheet in the break room or near the sign in sheet at work.
    Are those kids hitting me up at my doorstep scammers? Probably. Since I don’t want anything of a questionable nature going into my digestive system I’ll pass. Same goes with those guys seling meat out of a truck.
    And don’t worry with 3 aggressive alumni associations, several church organizations, local non-profits, WAMU begging, and the odd natural disaster there is no lack of opportunity for me to be charitable.

  • I had a teenage boy approach me on the metro. Now, let me start by saying that I don’t buy from ANYONE on the metro, little white Girl Scout or not. Soliciting is not allowed on the trains, therefore I will not support it.

    Anyways, my boyfriend and I were, at the time, the only white people on the train. The kid went around to all the rows in front of us–no one bought anything. Then he approaches us and we both say no. Kid says, “Man, you people NEVER buy anything.” Uh…I’m sorry?

    Let me also say that this kid was wearing a giant belt buckle that said “F***”, which left me even LESS inclined to buy from him.

    • ahh so we are supposed to support the further exploitation of kids for money in this city? And for what? stale candy?
      makes me sick, and we wonder why dcs youth can never rise up.

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