5 Ways to Manage Booster Club Grants

MoneyJust as there are different kinds of booster clubs and ways to raise funds, there are many ways for booster clubs to distribute grant funds they raise among different groups. I’ve observed numerous clubs take different roads in managing budgets to meet their individual needs. Understanding the five most common modes of funding allocation can help board members choose the system that will best benefit the club, school, and students.

1. Monthly: Booster clubs evaluate requests for funding and available resources at monthly meetings, and make funding decisions on a case-by-case basis.

  • Why it works: Board members are able to respond to groups’ needs as they arise, and volunteers quickly see the results of their hard work.

  • Why it doesn’t work: Without long-range planning, booster clubs may have to work harder to ensure all groups benefit from financial grants each year. Board members must also be careful to ensure the case-by-case funding doesn’t create an imbalance that would put the school in violation of Title IX. The ad hoc nature of monthly fund distribution necessitates a strong rubric for assessment of requests, which should be rooted in the mission statement of the club.

2. Annually: School administrators and groups submit requests by a specific deadline, usually at the beginning or end of each year, and the booster club meets shortly after to vote on grant distribution. The board makes decisions about funding based on an existing or projected budget for the year. In special cases, annual budgets may be supplemented with monthly fund distribution.

  • Why it works: Booster clubs are able to address the changing needs of the school groups without sacrificing the transparency and security of a long-range budget.

  • Why it doesn’t work: Clubs might feel limited by a possible or simply perceived lack of ability to meet groups’ needs as they arise. Additionally, this mode of grant distribution presents challenges for funding needs that don’t fit neatly in the annual schedule. For example, many schools issue the purchase orders, and schools often end the purchase order process before spring activity season begins. Unanticipated turnover in activity leaders can also present problems on an annual schedule, as the booster club then must  find a way to set aside money until the new program leader is hired.

3. Alternating Annually: Different groups are scheduled to receive funding on an alternating schedule — the  band might receive a large sum in grants this year, while the basketball team sits aside until next year for new funding. But they don’t have to spend it all. Clubs  have the option of distributing some of their yearly funding, while  holding some in reserve for future projects.

  • Why it works: Each group feels that at some point they get a fair shot at the community’s support and fundraising resources. Allowing schools or districts to allocate grants also makes it easy for administrators to adhere to legal guidelines for funding. The yearly grants are larger than monthly or standard annual distribution, giving the groups much more to work with and the ability to plan for big-ticket projects and purchases.

  • Why it doesn’t work: Those groups on their off year may be upset by the dramatic disparity in funding. Additionally, booster volunteers may feel frustrated that they aren’t able to see the groups they work hard to support benefit directly from their efforts.

4. Individual Group Fundraising: In umbrella clubs that encompass multiple activities, specific groups might be required to match club grants, doing individual fundraising to meet a request. For example, I visited one booster club that was approached to contribute to the purchase of a special lawn mower for the baseball infield. The athletic budget contributed some of the money, then the remainder was split between baseball fundraising and a matching grant from the umbrella all-sports booster club.

  • Why it works: Volunteers might feel this allocation is most fair — those groups who put in great effort see the fruits of their labor benefit their interests directly. Smaller groups may also be motivated to increase their efforts to attract volunteers, or come up with creative fundraising ideas.

  • Why it doesn’t work: Certain groups may have greater established support than others, or a history of fundraising success, and newer or smaller groups may be frustrated by a perceived disparity in fundraising resources at their disposal. This can also create competition between groups, who might feel pressured to outdo one another, and discourage struggling or small groups of volunteers.

5. Budgeting Decisions Correspond to Number of Participants or Volunteers’ Efforts: Some multi-activity booster clubs choose to distribute grants based on the activities of individual groups. A group that fails to participate in certain required fundraisers, for example, might see their portion of the allocation scaled down to reflect their representation at these events. I visited one club that helped to run a BINGO hall with several other nonprofits from different schools and programs. The proceeds were split between the programs based on the number of volunteers they provided.

  • Why it works: Like individual group fundraising, this method can keep hard-working groups happy — the efforts of their volunteers are recognized, and no one feels like they’re carrying less-involved volunteers or groups.

  • Why it doesn’t work: Again, like individual group fundraising, this method can foster problematic competition — volunteers whose groups historically have less support or are newer may feel discouraged by their perceived inability to keep up.

As board members evaluate the needs of their programs and their volunteers, it will become more clear how to best manage grants. It’s important to adjust existing modes to meet the needs of each booster club’s students, and establish clear guidelines for the club going into the future, so the hard work of dedicated volunteers doesn’t go to waste. It also doesn’t hurt to clearly document what your club will or will not fund as this club in Livermore has done.

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