When my husband's nieces and nephews were small he'd sometimes be asked to buy a raffle ticket or two associated with school fundraising projects. I was always struck by the energy involved in completing such transactions. Taking into account time on the telephone and sometimes travel between different municipal zones to exchange the cash, it seemed a ridiculously inefficient way of eliciting a sum that lay in the vicinity of $2.50 and $5. The petrol cost would have been higher than that. This was definitely not eco-friendly fundraising.

I wasn't convinced by the sponsorship drives either: "Hey, I'm not really interested in paying $10 so you can jump rope for an hour but if you feel like washing my car we can talk." I still don't get it. Surely an "odd-job drive" would be more useful and more enlightening for the children than getting paid for performing some random physical activity as if they're Beckham, Bolt, Federer or Woods.

I always vowed that if my children came home from school with a bunch of raffle tickets to flog I'd just buy them myself thus cutting out the middle man and avoiding those slightly awkward reminder phone calls and transfers of small change between family members. (Plus the merits of involving children with an activity that the Department of Internal Affairs defines as gambling are yet to be established.)

Well, it may have taken 20 years but last week my daughter came home from her small country school in Hawke's Bay with 10 raffle tickets. My heart sank when I saw them. Who would we sell these to? How would we get rid of them? Then I remembered I had it sorted. I sent her back to school with them the next day with a cheque and a note that read: "Enclosed please find a cheque for $30. We're happy to make a donation but don't really need the raffle tickets. Thanks."


By now my strategy had evolved from "buying the tickets myself" to "making a donation in return for not having to take the tickets". Let someone else have the thrill of winning the $300 grocery voucher and other assorted prizes.

A few years ago my daughter came home from her Auckland school with a brand new fluffy fundraising towel for which $40 would be charged to our school account. The colour was all wrong for our house and - although someone has since advised it "washed up beautifully" - it looked suspiciously like a towel that would leak its vibrant colour over the rest of the washing. What would I do with this? I decided that if we hadn't taken it out of its plastic wrapper within 12 months then clearly we had no need for it.

Sure enough, the following year I donated it to charity: one brand new towel, still in original packaging. But it got me wondering whether there was an opportunity for the school to raise funds differently from parents with an aversion to random objects turning up unsolicited in their homes. Sure, I paid $40 for that towel we didn't need but I would have paid $50 to have not received it in the first place. An extra $10 for not having to transport it, contemplate it, discuss it, store it for 12 months, transport it again then dispose of it seemed reasonable - not to mention much more profitable for the school.

In the 1990s we attended a fundraising auction for Kidz First children's hospital. Keen to support the worthy charity, my husband had made some half-hearted bids on various items but even then we were averse to clutter so he'd failed to win anything. At the end of the night, the auctioneer announced that the final item was very special.

"What will you pay for nothing?"

From memory, there were a few bids but, sure enough, my other half secured the deal; he paid $600 for the privilege of purchasing nothing. The charity got their money, he could feel benevolent and we weren't lumbered with some inanimate object. It was a win-win-win transaction.

Roxane Horton, a long-time fundraiser for the Liggins Institute, was reported in Deborah Hill Cone's Long live the booze-soaked schmoozefest as saying: "We thought of asking for $200 a head not to come to dinner. And we'd send you a teabag and a packet of Tim Tams [for a pleasant night in front of TV]." At a time when charity auctions and black-tie events have lost some of their lustre, that just might be an idea whose moment has arrived.

What are your thoughts on raffles and other types of fundraising? What's the most effective fundraising method you've encountered? Which ones would you like to see the end of?