Ep. 10: How to Successfully Run a Booster Club with Steve Beden
In each episode of The GameDay Playbook presented by FanFood, Rob Cressy discusses how leaders are transforming the sports and live entertainment industry by leveraging technology to enhance the fan experience and operate gameday more efficiently.
Steve Beden, Executive Director at National Booster Club Training Council, joins Rob Cressy to talk about best practices around booster clubs and concessions. What does someone need to do to improve their booster club? Why is communication and process so important to running an efficient boost club? Do booster clubs need a written strategy?
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Rob Cressy: (00:04)
Welcome to the Gameday Playbook presented by FanFood, a discussion around how leaders are transforming the sports and live entertainment industry by leveraging technology to enhance the fan experience and operate game day more efficiently. I'm your host Rob Cressy and joining me today is Steve Beden, Executive Director at National Booster Club Training Council. Steve, super excited to have you on the show.
Steve Beden: (00:33)
Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here. Thanks Rob. Looking forward to talking with you.
Rob Cressy: (00:36)
So can you give a quick overview on who you are and what you do?
Steve Beden: (00:40)
Yeah, so I'm the Executive Director of the National Booster Club Training Council. We're actually the governing body of the booster club association. Sur main focus is guidance, education, training and support to a group of about 600,000+ booster clubs. They range anything from your K-12 up to your non-school based groups, both sports, music and arts. But our focus is primarily on education and training. So most of the workshops that happen around the country, if they're done with the state interscholastic athletic associations or some of the national associations, they're either partnered with us using our content or we're the ones that are out there doing the training and education.
Rob Cressy: (01:16)
So if we're looking at booster clubs, what does someone need to do to get better and improve or optimize what they're doing?
Steve Beden: (01:24)
Yeah, the biggest thing is, and this is an area that I can say 20 plus years ago, compliance and best practices wasn't something that groups really looked at. It was a good old boy club, I'll call it. And unfortunately, history has shown us that there's a lot of challenges out there. You've got some very passionate parents. They get involved in helping support their kids in a given extracurricular program. And unfortunately, they're pushed into or step into a program with no background, no training, no formal oversight. And so they start doing what the groups before have done. And unfortunately what happens is a lot of these groups, they fail to become compliant. And even conduct activities and best practice. And when I say compliant, it could be at the state level or the federal level. So it's not uncommon to see booster clubs that...unfortunately maybe they were tax exempt five six 10 years ago, but for whatever reason they didn't know they had to file annual renewals. So compliance and best practices across the board is probably the No. 1 area of focus and boosters really should focus in on if they want to become successful and really thrive to help their programs.
Rob Cressy: (02:28)
So let's get to the booster clubs who are already established and let's say they're already doing that and they're like, Steve, you know what? We want to elevate our game even more. What's the next thing for this that can help them become even more efficient?
Steve Beden: (02:44)
Yeah, so it's booster clubs do two things. They provide volunteer support and they raise funds and unfortunately it doesn't matter if it's a school-based program or if it's a non-school based program, they're all having to raise more dollars. So it's really based around how do we then raise the most amount of dollars for our program with the least amount of work. And I know that concessions for a large number of them. In fact, years ago we partnered with Sam's club because they really wanted to help to educate the marketplace more and how could we really do some things. So now we've got some great programs because they're partners like FanFood in them. And so concessions is a game winner for them. If they can do it right, do it efficiently, make sure they've got the good volunteers in there, good security practices. But the fundraising is No.1 for groups.
Rob Cressy: (03:30)
What makes running concessions right? Like when you say, hey, running concessions right, what does that mean? Can you give us sort of a framework?
Steve Beden: (03:42)
Yeah, well you've got some groups that just go down to the local convenience store and they'll pick up product and they're really not buying those products at the best prices. You've got other groups that they don't take the focus on. How do we brand and market what we're trying to do? How do we get the word out? You know, maybe we put out an open door of a concession stand and we hope people come, but there's no marketing and branding to it. So it's really, it's a nucleus of buying your products at a good efficient price point. Getting the marketing, the branding out to the customers - are you going to support and then be able to efficiently and effectively provide them with whether it's popcorn or hot dogs or soft drinks. And what you'll find is a lot of people are turned off because they'll go to that little concession stand at the game and they see a line of 30 people in that. Unfortunately it keeps a lot of them from wanting to purchase. So getting a good marketing strategy together is really key and foremost and be able to pull the, maximize the revenues that are generated, a concession stand.
Rob Cressy: (04:35)
So what do you do to combat the lines? Because yeah, I'm sorry, go ahead. No, keep going. I think you got what I was going to ask. Like, what do you do to combat the lines?
Steve Beden: (04:44)
Yeah, so, so one of the things, in fact, FanFood, I wanna kind of highlight these guys today because you know, they've got some technology that allows the consumers to be able to go on to their cell phone and through the app, they can literally make a purchase. And the niceness to it is that the product can be brought out to them in the stands. So it's no longer having to run down the stands, go to the concession stand. You know, those kinds of cutting-edge technologies is what's going to help, not just our concessionaires to make more dollars, but to actually service more people and to do it in a better framing.
Rob Cressy: (05:17)
I agree completely with you on the technology side of things. But if we look at what you said in the very beginning where someone's taking over where there was an inefficient process to begin with, and now we're starting to talk about, we're going to start layering technology on top of this, which seems a little bit more advanced, albeit it's the right way to do so. So where is the intersection between these two adoptions in making sure that they can still do what they're setting out to do?
Steve Beden: (05:47)
It's kind of the old curse, to keep it really simple. And so anytime we can have training, we can have technology that's going to come with some walk by step-by-steps. And again, FanFood does a great job. We do it in our concessions. Best practice workshops as well. You know, we teach and preach the fundamentals of, it's just the, the prior proper planning is going to help position those. So the basics again, cause you're right, you've got the parent who yesterday couldn't spell booster club. Next thing you know, they're pushed into becoming the fundraising or the concessions director. They have no idea what to do. So helping them pre those events in the basics of the fundamentals of what kind of volunteers do we need, why do you need health permits, which a lot of people don't realize they need health permits, you know? And then what kind of other products and then implementing the technology and stuff. Companies like FanFood, they bring the training for those people and a very simplified step-by-step. That combination will help bring success for their programs.
Rob Cressy: (06:41)
What other types of technologies are there that are being used in concessions and booster clubs?
Steve Beden: (06:47) You know, unfortunately there's really not a lot for concession stands in our world. Now when we go into the world of the professional sports and such, which is not our market, but when you talk about those school-based programs which dominate the concessions and more specifically a lot of your high school programs, we didn't have booster clubs that are running those. Again, what we have to understand is again, you know, a couple months prior to them taking on those positions and starting to launch concessions, they had no experience. And so unfortunately there really isn't a lot of technological training within the marketplace. So these new companies like FanFood help these groups to slowly bring technology into what they're doing. Basically it's the same old they've been doing for years and decades and that is they buy the product, they throw it in there, they open the door and they hope they can make some sales.
Steve Beden: (07:37)
Well though they're usually positioned in a good location where they've got good visibility. But now let's just start to expand that marketing and branding. And again, let's use stuff like FanFood to really help get the word out to their customers. Well, what's nice about it too is that I'll end with this and that is boosters. You know, we're teaching and preaching them that it's really important to build your databases, build your database to start communicating with them regularly. So that fits hand in hand with these companies like FanFood, cause that we've got a database as a booster club, we can start sending out pre-game announcements and notices, letting them know, download the app. Get online. When you come down to the concessions to buy, you no longer have to get out of your seat. You can actually go on the app and you can buy it from us right out there in your seat.
Rob Cressy: (08:19)
So I see two areas of communication right here. One, the communication with the person who is now in charge of the booster club or the concessions and then their communication with their community. And in, once again, we're looking at the opportunity, the opportunities or the potential pitfalls. Because once again, if the communication structure was not established properly on either sides of those that can fail and really hinder everything. So talk to me a little bit more about the communication side of all of this.
Steve Beden: (08:51)
Yeah, so you're exactly right because a lack of communication, lack of transition, lack of continuity. I mean that's a key component of what makes up our organization, our booster clubs out there. And it's unfortunate because what you have is when you take a high school booster club, it's not uncommon to find that it's the senior parents that are running the executive roles. Well, what happens is at the end of the year, April, May, and they'll all of a sudden have new elections. Well, that's the same time the school was getting ready to transition out. So all those old officers, they leave that program. New officers take in their leadership roles and they don't know what to do. So for decades we have worked on helping to provide a continuity and transition process of teaching and educating these boosters. Hey, let's no longer put senior parents in executive roles.
Steve Beden: (09:35)
When we do that, we have an underclass person that takes on that leadership role. They're there to transition and mentor and train those incoming officers before they leave. Same thing with concessions. You've got a concessions director, they've got to have somebody that they're working with either in a cope position or they're working from a standpoint of transitioning to train them, so we've got that training that continues on. We do a lot of workshops around the country that we do what we call our booster basics and one of the components we do along with our concessions as practice workshop is that the fundamentals of how do we teach, how do we train, how do we educate those directors when there's officers a booster clubs to get the communications out and how do we do it in a in a better, more efficient, more effective manner, but it's the basics. Our marketplace, unfortunately, is not real high tech yet. It's not not real sophisticated. It's just the basic passing the word on teaching and educating face to face emails and stuff.
Rob Cressy: (10:26)
It seems that obviously one of the challenges is the turnover of this. It's just a natural part of, someone's child going to college, so I'm no longer needed to be in charge of the booster club. How much of this is there? Let's call it a written strategy. So something that if I look into my world when I'm working with brands, I create written social media strategies for them. Reason being employee turnover happens and the last thing that you want to do is every time someone new comes in to be part of your social media team, you don't want to have to start back at zero and so, you can say, Hey, let's reference this document and really create something that is foundation or that allows you to build a blueprint there. How important or how prevalent is, let's just call it written foundational stuff that becomes part of the booster club foundation.
Steve Beden: (11:16)
It's huge. In fact, there's two things we promote and we have a concessions best practice directory, a guide. The walks are everything from A to Z on concessions. We give that out to booster clubs. We hand it out at our workshops. It's something that we really enforce upon the groups because it helps them to understand, even just it's in the back of it. It's even got things like recipes for, you know, Frito, Frito Supreme and stuff, which groups don't think about those things. So it's really important to have that stuff to pass on. And then what we also teach is we teach these groups. When you get involved, we want each of you to put together officer books. So if it's a director, that concession director that needs to have a book, three ring binder, you know it's got information in there on tips and pointers and to-dos.
Steve Beden: (12:00)
And we tell people the most valuable part of that book is in the very back where those former concession directors leave tips and pointers to future ones and they pass that on. So between those two resources, it provides a lot and it's kind of amazing cause we tell boosters and we've got booster clubs that have been in existence for decades, and they don't have these things. And we should sit down and tell them, you know, you put this book together and literally today is the least valuable time it's going to be. Because think about five generations out and you're now that incoming concession director and you've got that. You've got the past historical information, the tips and guidance and pointers and resources from all these past ones. It's huge. And it's funny because I can tell you that doing workshops around the country, I had booster club officers would come up and say, you know, years ago, I remember you guys telling us about this and you're right. I mean this stuff is valuable stuff. So those two resources are great and those are just a starting point. But what we use for healthy boosters and concessions
Rob Cressy: (12:57)
And is that then digital written, so hypothetically speaking, that now lives in a a Google doc. So we can now be a little bit more technologically advanced. Instead of Sandy has the written document in her house, we have to track it down and then someone spilled on it. So has it at least improved with the digital era to now it's a little bit more shareable.
Steve Beden: (13:20)
Yeah, so the concessions best practice guide is digital, that's a PDF guide. That's given out. We teach though the three ring binders of the officers, we really want them to have them in hand and the reason why is there's a couple problems that boosters have and that is the lack of parent participation. That's No. 1 and foremost of all groups. Typically you find the handful of parents doing all kinds of work. Nobody else gets involved because they see it as another job. So what we teach them though is when they've got those guys and they're stepping out of their position, that person is maybe a little reluctant in stepping in to take on a role of that new position when they know they're going to get the association provides our members with train club advisors. So they've got somebody who can turn to, but most importantly when they're given something in their hand, they can open it up and start to read it and they can start to see there's information. It does take a lot of the stress and anxiety and you'll find parents who will step in and say, okay, y'all take this on. There is some information here. So we try to have them keep that in a print format. But the concessions guide is online and all the resources that are in that officer's book, they're online as well too. But having something you can hand to them, it is huge in our marketplace.
Rob Cressy: (14:31)
So Steve, if we're looking forward, what do we need to be paying attention to regarding booster clubs and concessions to put ourselves in a position to succeed? Like what's on your mind looking forward right now?
Steve Beden: (14:44)
Yeah, so the biggest thing, and unfortunately there is a lot of them, media attention on misappropriation and fraud. And so I would say first and foremost from an accounting standpoint, and this is taking away all the other product and everything, cause there's a lot of products we can put, but making sure that we have got, you know, our accounting procedures and our financial procedures in place so that when we open the concessions, we've had at least two people reconcile the amount of money we're starting with. At the end of it, we're doing an inventory control. We're doing the reconciliation of the funds that have been made. And the reason I share that is because all the rest of it, even if we kind of slack a little bit of it, it's not going to hurt us. It's not going to hurt a person's reputation or credibility. But when funding or when the lack of, or maybe the misuse of funding comes into play, I've seen it destroy people. So that's the one area we try to teach and preach. So we made sure we were conducting our concessions and our booster practices in general in a good accountable way. And if we do that, the rest of it is just a learning curve. And companies like FanFood, when they come on and they started using this technology, it makes it so much easier. FanFood allows these booster clubs to be able to not have to handle the actual dollar, which then does to help some of the accountabilities so they can pay on their app, which is kinda nice.
Rob Cressy: (16:03)
Steve, is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience?
Steve Beden: (16:10)
Booster clubs is one of those big broad strokes. I mean, unfortunately if you gather a hundred parents up and say what's a booster club? Most of them have a misunderstanding. And so I think the biggest thing is if you have an opportunity and you've got kids in programs, whether it's sports, music or arts, and you hear a booster club meeting, I would encourage you to go out and attend the meeting because these booster clubs have the opportunity not only to truly raise a lot of dollars for programs that are in desperate need, but they can actually change the life of kids out there. And I say that because my personal experience goes back almost three decades ago, but I was one of those dads. I was a booster club president. And I remember I had a basketball coach that came to my house and she's sharing almost in tears that she's losing a senior player because her dad had lost his job and wasn't going to be able to send her to camp.
Steve Beden: (16:57)
Well, the moral of my story in that 20 month period of time as a booster president, we as a booster club, we're able to help about 13 kids continue on in sports and music and arts programs when they thought they had to quit. And the niceness of that is those 13 kids, nine of those kids got college scholarships. So I tell people that booster clubs, we didn't get the scholarship but we made it possible so these kids can continue on and programs that keep them in school at the gangs, off drugs, our pregnancies down, they give them life skills. And so I just encourage parents, get out, support your booster clubs, get involved. We're here to help provide the guidance and the education and the training, the support. And as a nucleus group they can do some tremendous things. And it doesn't really matter if it's low income, inner city title one or some of the bigger markets. It's the same across the board.
Rob Cressy: (17:44)
That's awesome. Steve, where can people connect with you in the national booster training council?
Steve Beden: (17:50)
Yeah, our websites boosterclubs.org. You can visit the website, there's some resources on there. Even if they're not member clubs, you're just somebody who's interested. In fact, we get a lot of groups that come to us and what we call pre-organizational. It's some parents that got together or the coach or an administrator at the school said, hey, we need a booster club. We need to either build the morale or the spirit or we need to raise some dollars. Um, you know, they can come, we don't turn boosters clubs away even. And we are a member-based association. Every year I think we're given about 6,000 scholarships to low income inner city programs. So yeah, come to boosterclubs.org, we can help them out or if nothing else, if you've just got questions and they're maybe considering, they can talk to one of the club advisors and they're getting some good guidance.
Rob Cressy: (18:33)
And as always, I would love to hear from you about this episode. You can hit up FanFood on Twitter @fanfoodondemand, on Instagram @fanfoodapp or on LinkedIn. And you can hit me up on LinkedIn by searching Rob Cressy.