The Columbia County News-Times isn't just a twice-weekly community newspaper; it also is the oldest business in Columbia County. We've been here since the first Columbia Advertiser rolled off a hand-cranked press in Harlem in December 1880.
As a local business, we support the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and do our part to promote other local businesses, charities and institutions. Our pages include both paid advertising - that's how newspaper employees earn a living - and local news.
As the main source of news in and for Columbia County, it is the duty of The News-Times to help inform other businesses in the county. That includes warning those businesses when a scheme masquerades as a benefit for one of our top institutions: the county's schools.
Fundraisers for education, public or private, are nothing new. Some help the schools more than others. And some are nothing more than a ploy to siphon off local money.
Like many businesses in Columbia County, The News-Times occasionally receives a call from an out-of-town company selling "advertising" space on various items - calendars, T-shirts, refrigerator magnets - and claiming to raise money for the schools.
One such telemarketer, for example, recently called to sell ads on T-shirts that supposedly would benefit Evans High School.
The cost for the space is hefty - a minimum $300 for one of dozens of ads on just 400 T-shirts. That means while the school could get $4,000 if it sold every shirt for $10 each, local businesses would have to funnel more than $10,000 to an out-of-town company to make it possible.
Evans Principal Don Brigdon says these telemarketers rarely get permission from the schools. They simply swing the deal, pocket the money and unload the items - if they follow through at all.
Schools always need more money. But they're far better off partnering directly with local businesses rather than falling for a lopsided deal from out-of-town profiteers.
Likewise, any local business seeking favorable exposure that also helps the schools can do more by buying an ad in school yearbooks or fall football programs. Businesses also benefit far more by advertising with local media - including The News-Times - rather than sending money to an out-of-town company.
Before spending a dime, call the individual school or the central office to verify that any deal is both local and legitimate.
Buyers, and businesses, beware.
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