Forty student-athletes from Covenant Christian High School in Chula Vista, California helped clean the stands after May’s Indianapolis 500, earning their athletic program $7,000. Fundraisers like this are creative, original, and involve students and parents alike. Earning extra funds for high school athletic programs has become a necessary task headed by interested parents and members of the community. To be competitive, the school budget has to be padded by industrious volunteers so that their school’s programs have more than just facilities to work with.
Unfortunately, there has been misappropriation as well. In Lakeland, Florida, the former president of Kathleen High School booster club was arrested for illegally using $10,000 of booster funds. He now faces charges of fraud and grand theft, not to mention the shame of stealing from a booster club. These examples show the highlights and benefits of booster clubs and the challenges they can face. Booster clubs assist high schools by helping to raise money for uniforms, equipment, and travel expenses.
Booster Club Organization and Goals
First and foremost, booster club members need to gather for a meeting to discuss job responsibilities. Because a well-organized team spreads the workload over multiple people, if each volunteer has a unique and equal job, everyone will have a manageable workload.
Booster clubs also need an organized set of bylaws that are clearly written and agreed upon. These laws will be the guidelines by which the club will operate and keep miscommunication down to a minimum. Communication is vital for smooth operation.
Once members have been established and bylaws have been decided, a budget can be drawn up. This budget should be realistic and kept up to date. The budget reflects the most important part of booster clubs existence; their mission. The budget is directly related to the club’s mission statement, as the whole concept is raising money for the school to utilize.
Throughout their existence, booster clubs need to strive for transparency. When a nonprofit refuses to share its numbers and data, it creates a good amount of tension and apprehension. There is no reason booster clubs cannot be transparent so that everyone knows where their funds are being spent.
Common Booster Club Challenges
Originally intended to provide athletic programs with extra’s or new equipment, booster clubs have now become the primary source of funding. Now, boosters raise money for equipment, supplies, travel expenses, and uniforms while schools only provide the facility and coach salary. These financial responsibilities changing hands without obvious acknowledgement is disconcerting, especially with the challenges it creates.
Clubs operate as independent entities with little oversight, control, or accountability. They work with the school, and the hierarchy of decision making can become garbled. It may seem innocent in the moment, but booster members may use their financial support as a way to influence decision made for the athletic program.
Single-sport boosters can be problematic as well because they are biased on how their fundraising is spent. They may want the funds to go proportionately to the team they support instead of to the athletic program in general. Boosters that are too specific in spending and goals create inequities in programs. Many feel that the boosters should simply raise funds and donate them to the school to be used as the administration feels appropriate.
Following the Law
Booster clubs are nonprofit organizations, but most members don’t realize there is paperwork involved. The IRS requires that any business or organizations that brings in $5,000 needs to file the proper tax forms. Parent Booster USA is an organization intended to help people correctly and legally begin booster clubs by offering all of the necessary information and a startup guide.
Boosters need to obtain 501(c)(3) status so that they are recognized as charitable organizations, and may file the IRS 990-series return. This ensures the booster won’t pay taxes on funds received. A group that does not have 501(c)(3) tax-exemption may be expected to file a corporate tax return.
Booster clubs must also operate within Title IX regulations. Title IX states that, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Basically, boosters cannot favor one sport or sex over another and the athletic program must stay balanced. The budget for male and female programs do not have to be the same, but the program quality does. Further, if one sport such as football is favored, the difference needs to be made up in another area such as cheerleading.
Alternative Fundraising Methods
Recently, schools have seen an increase from corporate sponsorships in the form of new bleachers, scoreboards, and other expensive one-time buys. It is a good way for larger companies to make a community connection while knocking out high-cost items so that booster clubs can focus on better uniforms and equipment.
Websites like gofundme.com have also been incorporated into fundraising. Parents, adults, teachers, and coaches have been able to raise smaller amounts of money through crowdfunding that can go to budgets like travel.
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