Spend It This Year

iStock_000018788821XSmallWhat should a booster club do with an unexpected surplus? I attended a booster club meeting this spring where board members discussed this desirable dilemma in the context of their own school’s athletics program.  Some members wanted to save the surplus as a safety. Others wanted to spend the funds on useful items–neither essential nor frivolous–such as tractors to cut grass on athletic fields and netting to protect track athletes from stray lacrosse balls.

After listening attentively to the board members’ ideas, the principal looked around the table of the quiet school library. He looked down at his papers, and addressed the board.

“When people give money, they expect you to spend it,” he said. “You can’t hoard it, unless you tell [your donors] in advance that you have a big capital program. They expect you to spend it on their children and their [children’s] teammates.”

The board unanimously approved the expenditures and saved only their standard cash reserve. The principal had made a convincing point. The surplus came from families or friends of current students. Those personal relationships fueled the fundraising. New fundraisers are going to be about new relationships, not old ones.

Certainly, booster clubs still need a cash reserve. A good rule of thumb is %100 of the following year’s anticipated budget. I’ve seen clubs hold onto a lot more or a lot less depending on anticipated revenues and looming capital projects expenditures. Whatever your normal reserves are, don’t hoard additional money from last year’s donors. Set a budget and manage to it. Be transparent and set expectations clearly with your donors, but keep in mind that they probably expect you to “spend it this year.”

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