Booster Club volunteers typically consist of parents of students, community members, and other willing helpers. These people work hard to raise money through fundraising events. So, why do some organizations ask for booster club membership fees?
No booster organization can survive without money to support it. It must raise funds to finance extracurricular activities, equipment, administration, and other student expenses. Even fundraisers have costs. But donations, events, and merchandise sales are never guaranteed. An ill-timed or poorly executed fundraiser could actually cost your group money rather than generate it. However, booster club membership fees can offer a more reliable source of income.
Booster club support from paid plans is neither right nor wrong. It’s an ideal solution for some organizations, but not all. This piece looks at why a booster club might consider membership fees. It also explores ways to introduce fees for memberships and addresses the concerns of those who oppose them.
|When Community Fundraising Alone Is Not Enough|
Booster fundraising events tend to be successful, but they take time to organize and use up material resources that must be invested into fundraisers. On the other hand, charging fees for membership does not, yet it’s often an overlooked and derided means of fundraising.
Typical Fundraising Channels
The mainstream approach to fundraising is through donations, community events, sales, and sponsorship. Some larger organizations are well-experienced at this and feel no need to introduce paid plans. Other groups, though, may struggle, so for them, collecting these fees offers a more reliable source of income.
Paid memberships sound ideal, but there are cons as well as pros. Most disadvantages relate to affordability, and we’ll look at how to overcome that later. The first thing to consider with paid memberships is the end result, what do dues pay for?
What Boosters Pay For
Internal group costs and student expenses can quickly mount up. That’s why boosters are always looking for creative ways to raise more funds. And introducing paid membership plans is one of many such ways.
Boosters typically raise funds for the following:
- Approved promotional items
- Help with facility improvements
- Club events
- Class/club equipment not covered by school budgets
- Musical instruments
- Fall and Spring musical events
The list goes on.
Members Against Membership Fees
Paid memberships are not a compulsory part of a booster club rules and regulations. Yes, encourage parents to take out a plan, but fees must always be voluntary, not mandatory. The same rule applies to pay-to-play practices (more on that later).
Why Paid Memberships Are a Hard Sell
No one buys a membership plan unless they know what they’re paying for. That is why you must highlight the value parents will receive. And even more important, how those raised funds will help the students. The best plans should highlight the tangible and intangible value to paying supporters—not the organizers.
Tangible Vs. Intangible Assets
A tangible asset could be some form of merchandise. Examples are branded apparel or window decals that sport your cause or logo, but all tangible assets must be non-financial. And intangible value informs the paid member exactly how you intend to use the raised funds to benefit families and students.
Point to Note: The monetary value of any tangible assets must meet your Booster Club IRS requirements and best practices. Exceeding that value could be misread as a reward or compensation instead of a membership perk.
|Over 30K Athletic Boosters in the USA and Counting|
In 2020–2021, there were over 30,000 active high school athletic boosters in the United States. Combined, they account for $4 billion in spending per annum and even more when adding non-athletic boosters to the statistics.
Why Should You Pay Booster Club Membership Fees?
No one should feel obliged to pay for membership. Furthermore, some parents won’t be able to afford them (more on that later). But the only way to sell the idea to the interested parents and community members who can to get them excited.
It’s Not What You Do; It’s How You Portray It
Let’s face it, starting a booster club can be challenging, especially for first-timers. Simply inviting busy parents to give up their time and work for free is a hard sell. Asking people for money is another tough challenge. So, to attract volunteer participation and encourage membership fees, you need something to impress.
Protect Your Booster Events with AIM Embezzlement Insurance
Events take a lot of time, people, and resources to organize. Protecting community fundraisers from potential liability is affordable and the right thing to do. AIM insurance has you covered against embezzlement and ensures your students never suffer due to theft of your group’s funds.
Learn More About AIM Embezzlement Insurance
Get Parents Excited
Booster club membership fees and volunteer retention won’t just happen. The way to get existing and potential volunteers on board is to enthuse them.
- Highlight how projects have a positive impact on learners and their families
- Polish your elevator pitch; make it short and snappy
- Offer welcome packages that quickly onboard new members
- Share the ‘why‘ of your organization
- Keep your message upbeat and fun
- Always keep club members in the loop
Your booster must remain a constant source of the above attributes. That means sharing the positives with the community at every opportunity. Social media, email, and booster newsletters are excellent ways to stay connected with parents and volunteers.
|Why Boosters Need Constant Funding|
Budgets and spending vary greatly between Boosters. Every organization must have an adopted budget for its annual spending estimates. Typical expenses cover operations, fundraising, purchased items, hospitality expenses, media guides, programs, etc.
What Booster Club Membership Fees Offer
Paid plans are not new, but they are unique, shaped by your organization’s size, budget, and the causes it supports. If your club is big enough, you might want to offer several plan tiers such as Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Use the mockup table below for ideas.
|BOOSTER CLUB MEMBERSHIP PLANS||Bronze||Silver||Gold|
|1 window decal|
|1 vinyl 13 oz. yard sign|
|2 branded unisex t-shirts|
|2 vintage cotton branded twill caps|
|Invitation to all club meetings + voting rights|
|Recognition on the official website|
|1 team duffel bag||—|
|2 new custom stadium chairs||—|
|4 stadium chairs||—||—|
|Admission to all home-based events for 4 people||—||—|
|1 custom made foldable stadium seat cushion||—||—|
|1 commemorative engraved brick||—||—|
The above table is the type of thing you could send to the board of directors for approval.
Are Booster Club Membership Fees Legal?
All US clubs can offer paid plans, but they must be optional. Also—and to meet non-profit requirements—you must link the funds to a specific purchase or program. Even with a thriving paid membership plan, those who don’t sign up must always be treated as welcome participants.
Boosters exist to serve every student, and the club must make that clear.
Suppose you can get enough people to subscribe to membership. In that case, the extra fees raised can take a significant weight off your fundraising efforts and lead to an excess of funds that can be used to upgrade your group’s planned support or saved for a later project.
Setting Your Membership Fee Structure
To be successful, your club must strike the right balance between the value, affordability, and meeting the fundraising goal of your club’s fees. First, make a determination as to how much money you would realistically like to raise through selling memberships.
Second, consider how many total members your group has and consider their level of commitment and capability to pay for dues. Doing this will help you determine if it makes sense to expect 25% of your current membership to pay a higher fee or perhaps 75% to pay a lower fee.
Determining the fee and the percentage of expected members to pay will help you decide what value and tangible assets your club can offer to entice parents to pay your membership fee.
Support Those Who Can’t Afford Member’s Fees
Boosters are friendly clubs, accommodating, and community-centered. That means anyone who wants to be part of the organization should feel included. So what happens to those who wish to be paid-up members but can’t afford the fees?
Offer Alternatives to Booster Club Membership Fees
In this case, the management needs to be resourceful and develop alternative options or compromises. One example is to offer memberships on a pay what you can afford basis. That could include reduced fees or more manageable monthly installments. Waiving fees for parents who volunteer their time is another way to help.
Say you have different levels, as in the sample table above. Then, you can determine which plan the parent gets by the volunteer hours served.
Another alternative is to allow members to purchase “gift memberships” that are randomly gifted to non-paying members of your group.
Draw the Line on Pay-to-Play
Each state is different, your state might explicitly not prohibit the pay-to-play practice, but is it right or popular? It can be tempting for clubs struggling to raise funds in other ways. But most would agree that charging students to participate in activities is unethical. Nevertheless, some still do it while making pay-for-play a mandatory—albeit illegal—policy.
|Issues Surrounding Pay-To-Play (P-to-P)|
P-to-P moves focus from students and onto paying club members. Also, favoring fee-paying contributors creates a moral dilemma. Moreover, those who make significant donations may get more say in the club’s direction.
Pay-to-play is unfair as it only favors better-off families while leaving less well-off kids on the sidelines. If fundraising efforts fall short, consider membership fees. Remember, the purpose of your community organization is to remain open to all. Thus, the flexible Booster Club membership fees offer a more equitable option than P-to-P.
AIM Directors and Officers Liability Insurance
Directors & Officers Liability coverage offers sound protection for your booster club and its serving officers. It defends lawsuits brought about by those who seek to sue you on the grounds of wrongful or inappropriate actions, decisions, or statements your officers might make.
Booster Club Membership Fees Closing Thoughts
When introduced the right way, paid membership plans can be an excellent source of reliable income for your organization. But always remember, non-paying participants must always be as welcome as those who can afford to pay.