Booster clubs can be the answer to raising funds for those extras” that aren’t in the budget.

Fundraising for athletics has become the norm as school districts become more cash-strapped and the costs of running quality programs continue to rise. 

In most cases, districts will provide the basics needs for a program: coaching stipends, equipment/supplies, uniforms, officials and transportation. Notice that doesn’t include extras like travel gear, team dinners, post-game snacks (usually on long rides), extra equipment for the team and/or fields, team bonding trips and end of season banquets. 

Good thing there are so many different ways to raise funds. Let’s take a look at one in particular—boosters. 

The Impact of Booster Clubs

About 15 years ago, I worked in a district with significant budget issues. The school department had to eliminate the entire athletic program’s budget. Many people from the community got together, lead by Mike Eruzione, former 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team captain (who scored the winning goal against the Russians). They fundraised nearly $40,000 in one night by asking local business owners to make $5,000 donation commitments. This saved sports for the school year. 

After that, they created a foundation, which is still working today to enhance athletic and other co-curriculars at the school. This is one group that supports everyone. They hold various fundraisers throughout the year, like “The Great Reunion”, which is for all classes that have graduated from the school, and an annual grant to teams that need funding for a special project.

Obviously this kind of success won’t happen on its own. There are a few steps every athletic director needs to take first.

How to Get Started

Creating a booster group or foundation for your program can be as simple or as detailed as you wish. I’ve seen the entire spectrum—from a small group of two or three parents/guardians organizing team dinners and small fundraisers, to large booster groups with a board of directors and certified 501(c)3 (National Non-Profit Status).

No matter what, the first step is for you, the school’s athletic director, to find parents that you trust to help get the organization started. You don’t want to try and do it alone. Locate some go-getter parents, guardians and/or community members to facilitate the creation. 

The next step is to check with your school’s superintendent or finance office to ensure you’re following district protocol when starting a booster club. Some districts have strict rules about fundraising and how accounts must be handled. (Knowing a parent/guardian who’s a lawyer and willing to work pro bono to create a non-profit 501(c3) status would be a bonus!)

Once you have volunteers, create a mission statement to inform future stakeholders of your fundraising goals. Who will the funding benefit? How much money are you seeking? Give specific examples of projects you plan to work on. 

Organize the Details

Now comes the nitty-gritty decisions. Will you have different booster groups for each sport? You have to weigh the pros and cons. Sport-specific booster clubs would allow each one to focus more on their individual program, rather than everyone. Your fundraising goal would probably be lower and more achievable, plus people are usually more committed to a specific need. 

But it becomes more complicated to ensure all Title IX rules are being followed, and that there’s equity between the programs. 

And what about genders for each sport? In my current district, there are different booster groups for each sport, but those groups work together for both the boys’ and girls’ programs. For example, our soccer boosters are a group of parents/guardians that give equal funding to both programs—everyone gets the same benefits. This also helps everyone see the programs as one sport instead of two different units. It’s similar for other sports like basketball and lacrosse as well. Both teams are supported by one group. 

As an AD, this is especially nice because I know we have equity between the programs. It’s worked out well for us.

Once your booster club is up and running with a dedicated group of individuals, it’s time to start your first project and fundraiser.

James Coffey attend­ed Endicott College in Beverly, MA where he got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Sport Management. He has spend the last four­teen years as an ath­let­ic direc­tor at three dif­fer­ent high schools. Coffey was named the Massachusetts Secondary School District A Athletic Director of the Year in 2012. He has also spoke about the pos­i­tive effects of social media on ath­let­ics at sev­er­al New England conferences.