Innovation in Fundraising: Overhead, Risk, and Pancakes

Booster clubs I speak with tell me that they have to raise more money than ever before. More than ever, school districts depend on booster clubs to fill the ever-growing gap between after-school budgets and actual student need. How can booster clubs radically increase revenues? Does reducing overhead mean more money for programs? When does fundraising clash with a club’s mission? Experts address these questions in very different ways. In this post I borrow points from Dan Pallotta’s TED talk … [Read more...]

LinkedIn for Booster Clubs?

LinkedIn is a professional networking site. For some, it’s just a place to post a detailed resume. For others, it’s a forum for discussion, especially related to job searching, business practices, and industry news. For booster clubs, LinkedIn offers a number of opportunities. It’s a good space to recruit for volunteers, and has a few lively discussion groups focused on booster clubs themselves. (We’ve been following discussions on AMP, the Association of Music Parents, as well as the Sports … [Read more...]

Everything Booster Clubs Need to Know About the Fiscal Year

What is a fiscal year, in a nutshell? A fiscal year defines the start and end dates for an organization’s accounting. Annual and quarterly reports to donors, as well as tax filings, all flow from the fiscal year. So do budgeting and revenue goals. While the majority of U.S. companies’ fiscal year perfectly overlaps the calendar year (Jan. 1st to Dec. 31st), deviating from those dates is more common than you’d think. For example, check out the fiscal years for these organizations: Feb. 1st … [Read more...]


How Companies and Charities “Colorwash” Ever notice how every major cause today gets a color? Pink for breast cancer, green for the environment, red for AIDS--causes cover the rainbow and beyond. This kind of branding is effective, raising millions of dollars in the name of various organizations. Yet like most branding, the color codes have a great potential for abuse. With no clear standards for what counts as pink, green, or red products, fundraisers inevitably find themselves in conflict … [Read more...]

Booster News: Tax Alert!

While some booster club board members are focusing on recruitment, funding requests, and fundraisers, treasurers should take a minute right now to think about tax filings. Nonprofits are required to file a tax return, even if they don’t owe any taxes. Small organizations with under $50,000 in gross receipts have to file, too. However, they can use a 990-N “postcard,” which is more simple than regular nonprofit filing. Either way, it’s time to start gathering receipts and training new volunteers … [Read more...]

How to Write Booster Club Bylaws Like a Founding Father

If you’re drafting a set of bylaws for the first time, don’t worry.  Anyone who’s taken a high school civics class or worked for an institution intuitively understands bylaws. Like the U.S. constitution or an employee handbook, bylaws enumerate rights and responsibilities. The process of writing bylaws is like a structured conversation about what those responsibilities should be and how the club should conduct business. How to structure bylaws and what to include will vary depending on the club. … [Read more...]

Booster News: Booster Club Loses Nonprofit Status

Booster clubs can lose non-profit status with the IRS. A recent Forbes article brought this to our attention again, highlighting an IRS ruling from late August. “Capital Gymnastics operated in a manner that allowed substantial private inurement,” said the ruling. “[Capital Gymnastics] promoted private, non-public interests.” How did Capital Gymnastics ruin it’s 501(c)(3) status? Using a point system. Parents who didn’t want to fundraise paid, while other parents did collective fundraising … [Read more...]

Spend It This Year

What 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 … [Read more...]

Does your help hurt?

Creating Dependency In developing countries, aid programs give things and services. They compensate for the state’s shortcomings in education, food, or shelter. I was reminded of this by a Forbes article which highlighted the failures of an NGO in Eastern Europe. By pursuing the classic charity model--giving locals things they didn’t have--the NGO created dependency on their services (mostly clothing and food programs). They choked development. Recognizing this, the NGO switched gears. Instead … [Read more...]

3 Ways to Get 501(c)(3) Status and Become a Nonprofit Booster Club

Thinking about starting a booster club? Not sure how to certify it as a nonprofit organization? As you may know, becoming a nonprofit makes your club tax-free* and allows donors to make tax-deductible donations. But if you’re starting a new club or resurrecting an old one, it can be a daunting task. Don’t worry! Others have come before you, and done what you’re about to do. There are at least three ways to become a nonprofit, or more specifically, an IRS-designated 501(c)(3). I’m not a lawyer, … [Read more...]