Booster Club 101: How to Fundraise Effectively
Booster clubs are a big reason why kids can enjoy school. It’s hard to imagine a high school experience without field trips, marching bands, snacks from the concession stand, school swag…but these are all thanks to money raised by booster clubs.
(If we have been taking these for granted, maybe it’s a good time to pause and appreciate the effort voluntary parents put in to provide not just their own kids, but all students, with the best memories possible.)
And we have to acknowledge that it’s a tough job being a booster club parent — fundraising is never easy. While the internet is inundated with fundraising ideas, just having a creative idea isn’t enough to reach your booster club’s full potential. That’s why we came up with this easy, comprehensive step-by-step guide to fundraising for booster clubs. You can also download our ultimate guide to successful booster club fundraising here.
SETTING A FUNDRAISING GOAL
Every booster club has different fundraising capacities and goals to fulfill based on their school size and budget. Normally as the booster club president, you will work closely with the AD, who will tell you how much of the budget the booster club to cover. If there’s a very clear instruction relayed from the school, that’s probably your goal.
However, most of the time the instructions from the AD may not be that straightforward. If that’s the case, you may need to set the goal yourself: what are the school’s needs that you need to fulfill? Does the school need new equipment and should the booster club jump in and help?
And in addition to that, what’s the extra value you want to provide to the students? Do you want to subsidize a field trip? Do you want to compensate for some of the cost to join the marching band? Be it carrying out instructions from the school or setting your own values, it’s necessary to know what you are fundraising for. That helps you to come up with an action plan for how to go about doing that.
COMING UP WITH A FUNDRAISING IDEA
Yes, we just said that having an idea isn’t enough, but that’s where everything begins.
You are most likely already familiar with laundry lists of possible fundraising events. Here’s a recap, but feel free to skip if you want to:
- Bake saleCharity concert
- Concession food sale
- Percentage donation night at a local favorite restaurant
- Talent showHome run derby
- School merchandise sale
- Field day (with local businesses advertising)
- Custom T-shirt sale
However, it’s important to note that not all these events are suitable for your school. As a booster club president, here are some factors to consider when you are strategizing fundraising events:
1. What’s your community passionate about? For example, if sports is a major part of your community culture, maybe running concession stands at sporting events will be a good way to raise some money for your school’s athletic programs.
2. What are the skill sets of your booster club members? If someone is particularly great at baking, consider hosting a bake sale; or if there are members who are especially gifted in craft skills, maybe a fundraising sale of handicrafts would be very effective.
3. Hone your own event planning skills or recruit someone who’s good at that. Fundraising events often require quite a bit of planning in advance, such as finding a good caterer, locating the perfect venue for the crowd size etc. (Murphy’s Law seems to always apply at live events: everything that could go wrong will go wrong.)
RECRUITING & RETAINING VOLUNTEERS
Volunteer recruitment and retainment is a whole other conversation for another day. Many booster club presidents have very different experiences recruiting volunteers, some of them easy as a breeze and others quite a bit of a struggle. It really comes down to how devoted your community is and how passionate they are about the school spirit. Here are two quick tips on pitching to people when recruiting that you can start using right away:
1. Use the kids in your ask. When you are recruiting, make sure you bring up the programs you are raising money for and how they directly impact the kids. You can be as specific as mentioning an X amount of money would mean Y number of gear for student athletes. When people can visualize the impact, they are more likely to help.
2. Don’t take “no” for an answer from a past volunteer. If someone turns you down, ask them why that is the case and be flexible with the tasks you want them to perform. If they don’t have enough time, try another time slot. If they don’t want a certain task, ask them what they like and place them there instead. Be flexible and ready to compromise.
KEEPING A CLEAR LEDGER
We know, accounting can be a big hassle. And if you don’t like numbers, that job could get ten times worse. But this is a crucial step not just for fundraising purposes, but for legal reasons as well.
It starts with budgeting your expenses well. List out everything you need to spend money on and prioritize them. You are likely operating with a limited amount of budget, so knowing where you should focus your resources on is very important. When prioritizing, keep in mind how you can leverage the skills / time /connections of your volunteers: if one of them has connections at a print shop, maybe you can spend less on printing posters; if some of them are willing to pick-up the t-shirts you ordered, maybe you can avoid the delivery fee altogether. Sometimes creativity is needed if you want to be frugal!
Next is documenting your revenue clearly. This helps you to not only keep track of how much you make, but also whether someone lifts any cash when you aren’t paying attention. The concession stands are more often than not a hectic scene, and especially if you are short-staffed, it’s difficult to keep a constant watch over the cash you collect. In fact, thousands of dollars were reported missing last year at booster groups in the U.S. that raise an average $23,000 each, according to the National Booster Club Association. If you’ve experienced something similar — you are not alone.
A great solution to this would be adopting a mobile ordering platform that handles secure transactions through a POS system. If you need more convincing, here’s an article about why credit card payments aren’t as scary as they may sound.
MARKETING AND PROMOTION
Finally, let’s talk about ways to get the word out about the events that you sweat for. Because after all, no fundraising can be successful without a high turnout right?
Needless to say, social media is the way to go nowadays, especially if you are dealing with high school students. It’s a good way to keep your audience regularly updated, and great for building relationships with your community. However, it does take up quite some time to manage. If you have enough people on your team who happen to be social media-savvy, we’d highly recommend it.
If you’d like to take a deeper dive into this topic, there are many articles on the Internet about social media strategies for booster clubs. Here’s a tldr version of what we recommend:
It’s safe to assume that pretty much all of your fans would be on Facebook, even the parents. So this is definitely a great platform for you to be on. Facebook is especially for uploading photos and short videos, and interacting with your community. It will also direct people to the right contact information to get in touch with your booster club.
If you wonder where the kids spend their time when they are glued to their phones, Instagram is probably the answer. This highly visual platform is ideal for sharing exciting moments like the final touchdown or the boiling fans cheering from their seats.
Twitter is a quick way to share updates throughout the game, including announcements from your AD, promo codes and discounts, or retweeting your school’s athletic department and any tweets posted by your fans.
We thought we’d mention this platform due to its high popularity among high school students and cool features like geo-filters. This may, once again, require some special talents and time commitment from your team, but if you are interested, here’s a full report on how to use Snapchat for athletic games.
This is the most effective and direct way of attracting fans’ attention and eliciting actions right away. Based on FanFood’s experience, fans most likely download our app after noticing the call-to-action stickers on their seats. We also provide our partners with banners and posters to direct fans to the right pickup stands. All these physical signs have proven very effective on the game day.
This may fall under a longer-term strategy for communication. It’s great for newsletters and booster club updates, which help to maintain constant communication with your community and build a relationship in the long run.
At the end of the day, fundraising is difficult and there’s no doubt about that. It involves many stages, many people and lots of planning. If you want to see a more complete guide on how to effectively run a booster club, check out FanFood’s booster club white paper. But while you are working hard, don’t forget to enjoy the process of connecting with your community and celebrating every success along the way!