5 Tips for Booster Club Continuity, From My Mom

Booster clubs host the same events year after year: awards ceremonies, car washes, and even crab feeds—if you’re in California. These booster club events are not unlike family holidays.

My mother hosts Easter. While each Easter is a lot like the last, some things change: how many people come, how much food is required, and what side dishes need to be assigned. My mother has mastered this change by maintaining records. She can tell you, for each of the last 35 years, how many people attended, how big the ham was, and how much was left over. Now my sisters are hosting holidays, and they’re looking to my mother for estimation records to help make them run smoothly.Passing the Baton

Every booster club would be better with a matriarch (or patriarch) to bring institutional knowledge across generations. Unlike families however, booster club generations usually only last about four years. How can booster clubs extend institutional memory without a mother who monitors things for 35 years? Here are five tips on recruitment and training that can help bridge those four year stints.

  1. Past Presidents: one booster club I met has an entire officer position dedicated to sustaining institutional knowledge. More than a short one or two meeting transition, past presidents stay on for a year or more mentoring the new president into their role. That doesn’t mean they have to continue working tirelessly. They don’t have to plan events*, prepare for meetings, or any of the president’s normal functions. More like a friendly grandparent, they are available for advice, and ready to bring their knowledge of the club’s past to the problems of the present. This might happen naturally in your booster club, but like any good officer position, it’s not a bad idea to put it in your bylaws. (*I have met one booster club “Past President” who runs a seasonal raffle.)
  2. Selective Recruitment—for the Long Haul: finding freshman parents that can be board members is great. Hopefully they’ll be around for four years. But what’s even better? Finding a freshman mom or dad with a few kids. Of different ages. Perfectly staggered. Hopefully, when their older child graduates, they’ll keep their booster club position to help their younger children through as well. Having one board member who sticks around for two or even three generations of students is about as close as you’ll get to having my mother.
  3. Great Notes, Great Numbers: good secretaries and treasurers don’t record information for themselves; they make it accessible to strangers. Secretaries: use full names and contact information in your notes. The next secretary shouldn’t have to guess who “Joe” is or how to contact him. Treasurers:  before recording data from an event, see what fields (e.g. # of items sold, attendance, etc.) have been recorded in previous years. Make sure to include those fields. There are so many aspects to keeping good records that I will write an entire post on it.
  4. Combined Age Boosters: there are a number of advantages to a combined-age booster (such as a sports booster club that fundraises for a high school and younger age kids). Like any umbrella booster, they cut costs by sharing volunteers, legal fees, etc. More than that, they reduce turnover because kids are involved for more than four years. I met one treasurer of a mixed-age football booster who started when her kids were peewees. She plans to continue with the club at least as long as her kids continue, about ten years in total if they play in high school. When it comes to knowledge about past events and club logistics, her long-term perspective is going to help the club. Of course cooperation across age groups doesn’t have to be formalized under a legal umbrella. I know of at least one high school that partners with feeder middle schools on big fundraiser events–bringing together parents with children from different age groups.
  5. Outside Help: transitions don’t always go smoothly. Sometimes entire booster clubs dissolve for years at a time. It is advisable to share copies of important records such as volunteer lists, treasurer’s reports, and meeting minutes to someone outside the club, such as a high school principal or athletic director. Administrators anchor clubs because their tenures can last decades. They also bring a broad perspective with knowledge about the school, parents, local government, and grant-giving agencies. This compensates for the typically short stints of the average booster club volunteer. When volunteers are kept informed about booster club activities, school staff can better advise them during leadership transitions and, if needed, the restarting of defunct clubs.

On a final note, it is possible to attract volunteers who stay beyond their children’s graduations. I once met a booster club president who had served for 25 years. He was also the son of the former president of the same club. However you create an institutional memory for your club, remember that you are forging traditions that could last for generations to come.

Looking for Fundraiser Ideas? Check out this post.

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