So, you are forming or running a booster club to help support an elective or extracurricular activity at your child’s high school or middle school. But how do you legally run your volunteer organization, and what are typical items booster clubs pay for?
Booster clubs back a team or student organization by fundraising outside the school and don’t try to change or manage its operations. The items a booster organization pays for or buys directly depend on the type of club, the school’s culture, its leaders, and policies. Volunteer organizers must also adhere to the district and regional regulations.
This article looks at booster club best practices for fundraising and offers a guideline to what you can and cannot pay for. It also answers questions like, can booster clubs give gifts, sell tickets, and other uncertainties? But first, let’s go over the different types of boosters.
Types of Booster Clubs and What They Can Pay For
How your booster supports specific activities depends on the type of club. Most fit into one of three categories, Athletic, Drama/Music, and Academic. However, we will touch on multiple booster clubs beyond these groups later in the piece.
Who Controls the Money from Fundraising?
The first thing you must remember is your organization cannot dictate how the school spends the money you raise. You are welcome to offer suggestions, but you must donate the cash or purchased items without any strings attached. Once your funds or items are gifted to the school, they are for the school to use as it sees fit.
|AIM recommends Booster Clubs make a blanket donation of money to the school or ensure they manage the scheduling, manpower, and provision of services like food and transportation for liability reasons in the case of a claim.|
Meet the Superintendent
Many states follow a similar structure to Texas’s University Interscholastic League (UIL), where the school superintendent is solely responsible for all booster club rules and policies. All school activities, events, personnel, for-profit, and nonprofit organizations are under the superintendent’s jurisdiction. Therefore, your club must work within the guidelines arranged by the school administration. Check with your state’s governing organization for rules and policies for interscholastic activities.
Now let’s look over the types of clubs and what they can fund.
What Your Athletic Booster Can Pay For
Athletic booster clubs are widespread across the US, helping support underfunded school sports programs. Their monetary contributions provide additional funds for sports coaches and staff members to oversee. Athletic teams love to compete in sports tournaments, but travel and competition fees can soon mount up and put a strain on already overstretched budgets. That’s why booster fundraising is so important.
Booster contributions typically go on equipment and supplies, transportation and travel expenses, meals, practice facility improvements, and other necessities.
The most obvious thing coaches and staff cannot use fundraising funds for is to pay student-athletes for their performance.
Point to note: The UIL Athletic Amateur Rule restricts what athletes can and cannot accept compensation for. This rule exists to safeguard middle school and high school student-athletes against exploitation and commercialization.
Group members and school employees embezzle funds from parent-teacher groups more than you think. AIM Insurance provides tailored, economical insurance packages that protect your booster club’s property and funds from theft, embezzlement, and loss.
What Music and Drama Boosters Pay For
Contributions for performing arts cover a wide range of programs. Examples are new instruments, attending interscholastic competitions, and partaking in one-act play and band competitions. There’s also support for transportation costs for off-campus events like educational field trips sanctioned by the district.
Booster fundraising can finance coaching, judging performances, and other related expenses. Private tuition, training, and performances are others.
What Academic Boosters Pay For
Academic boosters can offer financial assistance for most academic programs at all grade levels. Fundraising efforts provide budget certainty for curricula like journalism, speech & debate, awards ceremonies, academic decathlons, science bowl competitions, grants, etc. They can also provide funds to purchase gear and supplies for programs like photography clubs and student newspapers.
What STEM Boosters Pay For
Group support goes towards supplies for STEM-based activities, professional speaker events, travel, after-school pursuits, spirit gear (customized clothing), and awards. STEM boosters can also raise funds to award scholarships for post-high school education. Other support may include heuristic learning of math, science, engineering, and technology projects.
Can Booster Clubs Award Scholarships?
Yes, in fact, many booster organizations earmark funds for scholarship awards. However, dedicated clubs also raise scholarship funds to finance deserving students who excel in various categories.
Parental Engagement and Fundraising Matter
The US Department of Education recognizes that raising the next generation is best done as a shared duty. That means families, communities, and schools working together for the good of their students. And booster clubs are an excellent example of how family engagement is helping achieve this.
|Researchers found that parental engagement in schools results in better student behavior, higher educational achievement, and improved social skills.|
The most successful clubs raise and donate funds in a transparent, accountable, and ethically responsible manner. And that means following best practices for your parent-teacher group.
Booster Organizations – Nonprofit Best Practices
You can support students and run your booster with confidence when your organization checks all the best practices boxes for charitable accountability. These include:
- Be fiscally responsible. Set up and maintain formal accounting policies and procedures to track your accounts receivables and payables accurately.
- Conduct an annual review and audit of your booster organization’s revenues and expenditures.
- Ensure your registered booster club remains compliant with both state and federal guidelines at all times.
- Keep up to date with district policies that affect your club’s activities.
- Clearly define the club’s policies, procedures, and volunteer roles and periodically review them for accuracy.
- Maintain consistent communication to engage volunteers at all roles and levels.
Following these best practices will help ensure the funds that you raise provide the maximum amount of benefit for your students and deter embezzlement, unexpected tax obligations, and other fiscal issues.
Booster Clubs DOS and DON’TS You Need to Know
There’s nothing complicated about setting up and fundraising for a booster organization. But you need to know what rules apply to your club and adhere to them. Those rules and regulations depend on your state, school district, and the specific nature of your club. Always follow best practices and know what to avoid.
On the financial side, the IRS makes the rules clear, so there’s no room for confusion. Your booster should qualify as a nonprofit, federal tax-exempt status, so let’s start with that.
Don’t Run into Legal or Monetary Issues
Suppose you don’t register your organization for federal tax-exempt status. In that case, you must collect your sales tax and file a tax return on the club’s net income. Failure to do this risks IRS tax penalties, so pursuing 501(c)(3) status makes perfect sense.
|Latest estimates suggest that only 12% of US booster clubs register to become tax-exempt; most are put off by the extra hoops and red tape.|
Do Pursue 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Status
First, you become a nonprofit at the state level; then, you can file for 501(c)(3) status from the Federal government. You don’t have to, but you miss out on several growth opportunities if you don’t. A 501(c)(3) booster club offers six notable benefits.
- Legally take part in fundraising programs
- Accept charitable, tax-deductible donations
- Exempt from federal income tax on earnings
- Sometimes exempt from paying state income on earnings
- Can apply for state sales tax exemption
- Qualify for a gambling license to legally run games like BINGO
Becoming an official 501(c)(3) can help make your group’s annual taxes easier, offer the ability to accept charitable donations, and provide you with the opportunity to run popular fundraisers like BINGO while avoiding legal issues. Best of all, many accountants and attorneys offer pro bono services to help groups like yours become a registered 501(c)(3) organization.
Don’t Neglect Your Mission or Vision Statement
Without a clear mission or vision statement, your organization has no identity, little influence, and can lack direction. Create a message that specifically identifies who you are and your group’s core objectives. This statement should tell your volunteers and supporters precisely what you’re about and why you exist.
You will get more support from parents and local community when you’re specific about your fundraising mission. Are you buying new uniforms, maybe instruments? Make it crystal clear what you group intends to do with the money they’re raising and why.
For more information about creating your mission statement and other tips, read AIM’s guide: How to Start a Booster Club.
More General Dos and Don’ts
Don’t ignore state and federal guidelines.
Do keep your organization compliant with all state & federal guidelines.
Don’t use funds to support non-school individuals or activities.
Do use raised funds to solely boost school activities.
Don’t have senior student parents running your booster club.
Do promote underclassmen parents instead as it creates leadership consistency.
Don’t isolate your organization.
Do coordinate with other parent-teacher groups.
Don’t be vague about—or neglect to add—group officer descriptions and responsibilities.
Do clearly outline club officer descriptions and responsibilities on nomination forms.
Don’t ignore the importance of coaches, administrators, and superintendents.
Do develop working relationships with coaches and your school’s administration.
Don’t lose touch with business supporters and alumni.
Do develop ways to maintain contact with business supporters and alumni.
Make Your Booster a Success
Volunteering time, money, and coming up with creative fundraising ideas is incredibly rewarding, but that’s not all. Your financial and emotional contribution directly impacts the performance of an activity or program.
Cover Your Booster Club and Its Officers
Protect your organization and its officers against possible misrepresentation or discrimination. AIM insurance covers your directors and club officers against misusing bylaws, running elections the wrong way, and decision-making.