What Booster Officers Need to Know About Title IX

Published online at Boosterland.com

As schools continue to face shrinking budgets, funding for extracurricular activities is often first on the chopping block. Administrators increasingly rely on the hard work of booster clubs to keep these programs open to the students who benefit from them so very much. But while generous, donations from booster clubs can cause problems for school officials who struggle to remain in compliance with Title IX, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions, especially when funding athletic programs. Fortunately, there are steps booster clubs can take to make sure their fundraising and support efforts meet the needs of students and coaches and are Title IX compliant. Here’s a quick rundown of the law and how it affects booster clubs:

What is Title IX?

Title IX of the Educational Amendments prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs or activities. The law requires all students have access to the same education and extracurricular benefits. Today, Title IX’s impact is seen most often in high school and college sports programs. Athletic directors are responsible for making sure all students participating in extracurriculars are granted equal access to equipment and supplies, facilities, support services, and many other opportunities.

How Does It Apply to Booster Clubs?

Generally, schools have gender equity covered when it comes to things like balancing the scheduling of desirable practice times to meet Title IX standards. But when outside support comes into play it can get messy, especially when booster officers don’t work closely with school officials. While school, district, and genre-wide clubs may have an easier time with Title IX than genre-specific clubs, working closely with school representatives and understanding the law are important steps to ensuring compliance. Program directors have been forced to turn down donations from boosters because the disparity the funding would create between boys’ and girls’ teams would be too great for the school to even out.

When a booster club donation or event is specifically directed to one team or gender, it’s on the school to compensate other teams accordingly. While this doesn’t necessarily mean matching budgets dollar for dollar, the school is required by law to find the resources to provide equal benefits to all. Athletic directors anticipate the potential impact of the donation, and look within their own programs to find a way to provide the less-privileged gender a benefit of equal weight, making sure the athletic program overall is balanced. A gift of new shoes to a men’s soccer team might mean a women’s basketball team is moved to the front of the line for new uniforms, for example.

What Can Booster Clubs Do to Ensure They Comply With Title IX?

1. Consider their turf. District or school-wide umbrellas and clubs organized by genre put the power of funding distribution in administrators’ hands, and make it easy to follow Title IX guidelines. Single-activity groups can be very successful at fundraising, but one club that outperforms all others is a recipe for Title IX disaster. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office For Civil Rights, boys’ teams generally attract more sponsorship than their female counterparts. It’s often the case that it’s easier to whip up support for football than it is to get the whole town behind the cross-country team. While it’s understandable to want your efforts to benefit a program you are passionate about, spreading the wealth a bit may be the best way to make sure all students are legally able to benefit from your club’s hard work.

2. Communicate early and often, with one another and with school officials. A program director may have suggestions for boosters about what kind of donations or activities will have the biggest impact but create the least inequity.

3. Work together. Individual clubs can work to support one another, and even partner where they’d be more successful together. Umbrella clubs should make an effort to reach out to a varied group, to ensure all interests are represented.

4. Ask for Title IX Training. Your school district should have a Title IX officer who can break down the law, explain its benefit, and answer any questions your members may have. A close relationship with the Title IX officer can help boosters spot potential problems and make sure all members are onboard with any legally required changes to club operations or structure.

Ultimately, the best step booster officers can take to comply with Title IX is to stay informed. There are a number of great resources to turn to when in doubt, like TitleIX.info, and experts like those at the National Women’s Law Center who are eager to share their knowledge. The more booster club officers and volunteers know about the law, the better able they are to ensure their hard work has as much positive impact as possible.

A New Kind of Bake Sale: Ditching prices for donations

Published online at Boosterland.com

If you’ve ever participated in an extracurricular program or know someone who has, chances are you’ve been to a bake sale. A classic, bake sales have been a staple fundraiser for teams, clubs, and groups of all kinds for many years. While they’re a reliable go-to event, they can come off as stale. And while some bake sales are very successful, many cost more in ingredients and effort than they’re worth. However, one elementary school shook up the traditional bake sale model, with amazing results. An elementary school group  set up a bake sale at a local street festival, but didn’t set prices for the baked goods, instead giving buyers the option to leave a donation of an unspecified amount in a jar. Surprisingly, the sale was a great success. And it wasn’t an anomaly; all over the country, pay-what-you-will restaurants, coffee shops, and retail stores have sprung up, and many are thriving. So what’s the secret?

A recent study attributes the success of the pay-what-you-will model largely to pride. Scientists found that we’re willing to pay much more for products when given the option to choose their price and we’re told their purchase will benefit a good cause. Giving generously of our own accord makes us feel good about our charitable spending, more so than if we’re asked for a specific donation. For example, a customer might perceive himself to be more generous if he voluntarily hands over $10 for a cookie than if he’s charged half the price for the same treat. Removing the set price makes the “sale” all about the donation and the giver’s generosity.

At the elementary school’s pay-what-you-will bake sale, a second factor contributed to the event’s success; the baked-good reward. Customers were rewarded with the positive feeling of having donated as well as given the tangible benefit of a sweet treat for their kindness, a bonus for their generosity. The baked good had no set value, and the donation was not being asked in exchange for the treat, so there was no limit to the donor’s spending. Instead of being asked to give enough money to get a cookie, donors were asked simply to give as much as they liked to the school, putting the cause front and center.

This simple and unexpected spin on the classic bake sale is an interesting way to boost the productivity of the old reliable of fundraisers, and gives it an interesting new twist that will catch a donor’s eye. Booster clubs can take this inspiration to consider how their own go-to fundraisers can benefit from a little shaking up. Could the pay-what-you-will model work for any other fundraisers? Is there another way that clubs could encourage and reward donation, instead of making a sale?


Should Your Booster Club Buy Insurance?

Published online at Boosterland.com

It was a booster club’s worst nightmare: A referee at a charity volleyball game injured her ankle when the stand she was sitting on collapsed. The booster club turned to the school district for help, only to be told that the district’s insurance would not cover the referee’s worker’s compensation claim, and that they considered the club financially responsible. The ensuing legal wrangling led to the dissolution of the booster club under threats of a lawsuit.

“I’m just a mom, you know,” Karen Trimble, the former club president, told the local newspaper. “I do think people are worried because why should you volunteer if [the school district] didn’t stand behind us?”

In another case, a booster volunteer successfully navigated the existing legal protections of the Volunteer Protection Act to avoid liability when a volunteer working for the high school sued him for personal injuries after a ticket booth they were constructing fell on her.

These cases seem to send conflicting messages about booster club insurance. Do clubs really need it? In some places, it’s required. A school district in Southern California recently announced that booster clubs would be required to carry liability insurance in the minimum amount of $1 million combined single limit. In places where the district’s liability isn’t clear, it’s a mistake to assume your school district has your club’s back, according to Sandra Pfau Englund of Parent Booster USA:

“Booster clubs and schools often mistakenly believe that the school’s insurance will cover liability and legal claims of its school booster clubs. School insurance policies, however, typically don’t cover the activities and liability of the officers and volunteers of the booster clubs because these organizations are usually considered separate legal entities from the school.”

What does it mean to operate without insurance?

Booster club volunteers are protected to an extent under the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997, and individual state laws protecting volunteers. However, only about half of the state laws protect volunteers beyond directors and officers, and both state and federal laws have numerous exceptions. The booster club volunteer who was found not liable in the ticket booth case would have been in a very different situation had he been towing passengers at a club-organized hay ride, for example. The Volunteer Protection Act provides immunity for volunteers only if:

  • The volunteer was acting within the scope of his or her responsibilities.

  • If appropriate or required, the volunteer was properly licensed, certified or authorized to act.

  • The harm was not caused by willful, criminal or reckless misconduct or gross negligence.

  • The harm was not caused by the volunteer operating a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft.

State and federal protections can be useful, but are not foolproof. So how might booster clubs without insurance ensure that their organization and volunteers are protected?

The National Booster Club Training Councilrecommends clubs form committees to develop risk management plans to identify, assess, and control potential risks, anticipating and planning to avoid risks too great to bear.

As school districts increasingly rely on booster clubs to bear the brunt of extracurricular financial needs (and close legal scrutiny follows), given the option many clubs choose to purchase insurance. In today’s litigation-happy society, there is no shortage of opportunities for your club to be held personally financially responsible for someone’s misfortune — Just ask the Dunbar Athletic Boosters Club, who faced a personal injury lawsuit when a woman slipped and fell on their premises.

What does it mean to have insurance?

There are five types of coverage booster clubs generally carry:

1. General Liability Insurance, which covers the club  in the event of claims from accidents and injuries to individuals. Generally, coverage limits of $1,000,000 or $2,000,000 per occurrence are the norm.

2. Property Insurance, which covers loss of property or assets of the club, like damage to facilities, owned and rented equipment, and property/inventory related to merchandising or fundraising.

3. Accident Medical Insurance, which covers out-of-pocket medical expenses resulting from an accident at a sponsored activity or covered event. If a child breaks his arm at the booster-sponsored carnival, your organization and members won’t be personally on the hook for the cost of his emergency room visit.

4. Bonding Insurance, which will cover an organization’s loss of funds due to embezzlement and other forms of dishonesty or theft.

5. Director and Officer Liability Insurance, which offers personal liability coverage for officers and directors in their legal responsibilities serving the organization. Board members make a lot of decisions, and can be sued for any that they make individually or as a club — everything from the management of funds, to where to hold the bake sale. Coverage of up to $1,000,000 per occurrence is common.

Booster clubs can purchase basic general liability insurance for $90 – $200. Assuming your club purchases more comprehensive insurance, the cost would be around $500 a year.

Insurance decisions can be tricky, and can make or break a booster club. Organizations like Parentbooster.org and the National Booster Club Training Council offer extensive resources for booster officials, and can help board members decide what (if any) insurance is right for your club. Regardless of whether or not you decide to insure your club, it is important to be aware of risks and safeguard the future of your organization, your volunteers, and the programs you support.

How To Raise Funds Outside Your Community

Published online at Boosterland.com

When it comes to fundraising, there’s no business too big or too small to approach for help. Some of the big-name businesses may seem out of reach for booster clubs, but you’d be surprised to know how many have programs in place for just such donation. From airlines to retail stores, many of the places you already shop are glad to lend their support and name to charitable causes. Some businesses offer contests and large sums in charitable grants, while others offer up gift cards and products as prizes for fundraising raffles or contests. Follow these tips to increase your chances of gaining funding from outside the community:

1. Start now, and work hard: You may or may not be thinking about spring fundraising, butlarge corporations will be. Many have formalized processes for donation requests, meaning your email or application will be added to a pretty large pile, which will take some time to go through. Fall is a great time to round up a few booster club members who will devote their energy to reaching out to these companies, ensuring donations will be awarded in time for spring events. Christy Forhan at PTO Today advises designating “one or two tenacious volunteers to focus on national donations. They should start early, about four months in advance, looking for possible donors and sending out your standard letter to those corporations that would appeal to your community.”

2. Standardize your request: Most national corporations have online request forms, but for those that don’t, be prepared with a well-crafted letter. A letter should include a brief description of your club, the purpose of your fundraiser, the event date (if known), and a club contact. Forhan recommends formatting the request on club letterhead, and getting it signed by both the club president and the school principal.

3. Do your research: Know which companies have established guidelines for requests, and follow them to ensure your application will get into the right hands. And while most larger businesses require donation requests go through their corporate office, keep in mind that locally owned outlets might have the freedom to make their own decisions — it can’t hurt to reach out!

 For more fundraising tips, see our post (tomorrow) on Fundraising Inside Your Community.

How To Raise Funds Inside Your Community: Partnering with local businesses for mutual gain

Published online at Boosterland.com

Local business can be a great fundraising source for booster clubs, and most are happy to help. Parents, friends, and fans of student clubs and teams are potential customers, and partnering with booster clubs can be beneficial for both parties — booster clubs can raise funds through established, profitable businesses, and business owners can expand their local client base. But many of these establishments are approached by numerous teams, clubs, and charities for donations, and end up having to make tough choices about who to help. Some instead opt to make a number of donations to multiple groups, but are forced to dole out many small contributions that can be almost ineffective.

The partnership can easily be limited to a single small donation if the exchange isn’t equally beneficial. Local businesses who agree to program sponsorship may simply see their logos on banners, and while that can be important to boosting their reputation in the community, it may not translate directly to customers in seats. On the other hand, if a business chooses to make  small, one-time donations, booster clubs miss out on the potential support of the business’s loyal patrons. Fortunately, there are a number of ways booster clubs can ensure that these partnerships are profitable for all involved, and lead to long-lasting relationships with local businesses.

Check out these examples for inspiration, and come up with a way for your club to foster support within the community through partnerships with much-loved local hangouts:

Dining for a Cause: This is a popular and easy way to work within the community for support. Local businesses partner with booster clubs and pledge a percentage of their profits to the club’s cause, sometimes offering supporters a special deal. Partnerships with restaurants and bars lend themselves most naturally to this fundraising model. For example, in Indiana, the Centerfield Sports Bar promised the booster club a dollar for each club supporter who spent at the bar, while the Cooper Booster’s Club asked supporters to bring flyers to a local Hardee’s restaurant. In exchange, 20% of each sale went to the club.

Targeting A Local Hotspot: Almost every town has at least one popular hangout where students shop, work, and socialize. Oftentimes these business owners have strong ties to the community, and are eager to support students. At Lane Tech College Prep High School, a member of the football coaching staff won Lane Tech a hefty prize from a national restaurant chain. His winning contest submission was a video that remembered the local outlet of the chain fondly as a meeting place for the team in his high school years. The partnership was definitely a win-win — both the restaurant chain and the team benefited heavily from the locals’ devotion. Think about the popular establishments in your town, and how you might team up to strengthen a connection with the community.

Drumming Up Business: Teams and clubs host dinners, meetings, and events at local venues, but often miss the opportunity to work with these businesses to build community support. A sponsored event at a local restaurant is a great alternative to the classic spaghetti feed or pancake breakfast (because let’s face it, supporters may be more inclined to cough up the cash for a restaurant-quality meal than for your home-cooked pasta). At the same time, business owners will be glad to see the real, tangible results of their support. Be sure to play to your strengths, and work within the community. For example, in Ohio, the Archbishop Hoban Boosters Club gave their fundraiser a 21-and-over twist with a beer tasting at the local brewery.

In Oregon, the North Bend High School Booster Club hosted a Poker Run, where motorists were sent from business to business collecting playing cards to make up a poker hand. Events like the poker run can be a great way to involve all kinds of establishments — stops can include the local hardware store, clothing shop, even orthodontist. In this particular case, the poker run began and ended at the local motorcycle dealership.

In both cases, the boosters met the locals where they were at, joining them in the places and activities they love. Equally important, the events drove customers into these establishments.

Showing Your Appreciation Online: While many local businesses still proudly display photos and plaques from clubs and teams thanking them for their support, booster clubs should think about acknowledging donors in the virtual sphere. Booster clubs should have an online presence, and they should promote their supporters there, as well. Again, this gesture can be mutually beneficial — if the local tire shop proudly displays the booster club’s logo on their website, they can link customers back to the booster page, and vice versa.

To raise funds and support within your community, think about the places your friends and family frequent. Is there a burger joint kids meet at after school? A market or drugstore that’s been around for years? Think of ways your club can join members of the community at their favorite hangouts, and forge long-lasting relationships.


For more fundraising tips, see our post on Fundraising Outside Your Community.

Donor Retention: Your booster club’s priority in 2014

Published online at Boosterland.com

The numbers have come in, and they don’t look great for booster clubs and other nonprofits. Recent surveys on charitable giving have found that engaging new donors will become more and more difficult:

  • Of the four generations surveyed, a majority in each group said they expected to give the same amount of money to charity in the coming year and to support the same number of charities.

  • Seventy-five percent of boomers said they would support the same number of charities in 2013 that they did last year.

  • A typical charity loses an estimated 50% of its donors between the first and second gift.

When the future looks grim, many nonprofits focus their energy on bringing in new donors — a worthwhile effort, but not when it comes at the expense of retaining existing supporters. And for booster clubs, who have more potential supporters appearing with each new class of students, it’s easy to forget the ones who’ve been around.

But it’s worth the effort: it’s estimated that improving donor retention by just 10 percentcan double the lifetime value of your donor database.

There is no shortage of resources for those looking to do so. A simple search for “donor retention” brings up pages and pages of tips and tricks to win the continued support of existing donors. All offer good advice, but most are band-aids on the bigger problem of declining donor loyalty. While many  bloggers are quick to dole out solutions, few make an effort to understand the problem itself, and in doing so perpetuate the issues that harm retention.

The importance of understanding donor loyalty can be understood by looking at direct mailing. A2013 study of the future of charitable giving provides some insight into how each generation responds to direct mailing. While mature donors are likely to give in response to direct mailings, younger generations very rarely do the same. At one time, direct mailing was the “answer” to donor retention — it solved the immediate problems that led to a loss of supporters. In truth, it addressed the bigger-picture problems in a specific context. But the context changed, and direct mailing is now considered outdated. It doesn’t prompt long-term commitment in the majority of donors.

With more and more families tightening their belts and cutting unnecessary expenses, it’s more important than ever for booster clubs to cultivate the loyalty of those existing donors who are willing and able to lend their support. A few gifts given while a child is in school or on a team won’t compare in the long run to the continued support of a parent or alum with strong ties to your club.

To truly improve long-term donor retention, we must understand what creates real loyalty to an organization. If you develop a feel for what inspires loyalty in your donors you won’t need to rely on top-ten tip lists, or the “next big thing” in donor retention — you’ll know what your donors need, and how you can adapt your efforts to fit the ever-changing context of their donation.

To learn more about keeping your long-term donors, check out our rundown of fundraising expertAdrian Sargeant’s three drivers of donor loyalty: satisfaction, identification, and active commitment.

Make donor retention and successful booster club operation a team effort: subscribe to boosterland.com, and share posts with your club to get the most from your members.

Fundraising Spotlight: #GotTurf?

Published online at Boosterland.com

In Southern California, one high school booster club has taken on an ambitious task. The Scorpion Athletic Booster Club (SABC) in Camarillo began fundraising this fall for their Turf Field Project, a $1.7 million plan to install artificial turf on the Camarillo High School athletic field and resurface the track.

While not alone in the scope of their donation, the SABC is one of a small number of booster clubs that have taken on projects of such size. In December, we discussed the club’s first steps in getting the project up and running: acquiring board approval, and working out the legal logistics. Over the next few months, Boosterland will continue to follow the progress of the SABC Turf Field Project, learning from the club’s planning and experiences.

After receiving approval from the school board, the SABC got down to business, extensively planning their fundraising campaign. In their third month of fundraising, the club has collected more than $26,000, of their $1.7 million goal.

So far, much of the money collected has come from individuals within the community.

“We are currently working on trying to get corporate donations because that’s what we have been missing,” club secretary Lisa Chishholm-Duran told the high school newspaper in late January.

While they’re far from meeting their goal, the club has done impressive work promoting their cause to supporters. The SABC focused much of their fundraising efforts on promoting a single, basic fundraising event, with a clear and consistent theme and message.

“Selling” the turf: Though exchanging symbolic ownership for donations isn’t by any means a new concept, the SABC came up with a fairly unique way of making the existing model a bit more exciting and personal. Many gymnasiums are bear plaques or paving stones engraved with donors’ names, an effective but expected way of thanking supporters. The multitude of names can diminish the intended feeling of importance in the donor, and can be easily missed. So the SABC took a different tack. Long before they received board approval, the club decided they would “sell” the new field by the yard. While many donors can still be involved, there are a finite number of yards that can be sold, making those who donate are part of an exclusive group. And selling “ownership” of the field itself creates a more powerful tie than a plaque or paving stone, as the yards donors own aren’t empty symbols of what their money helped to create. Donors will watch the student athletes run on their field, see it used at games, and will likely feel a strong and clear connection to what they helped create.

Promoting sales: The SABC decided they would need two slogans to promote the project and turf sales: One short  enough to fit on a bumper sticker, and a second longer phrase that would succinctly explain their goal. They came up with a long list of ideas for each before deciding on “Got turf?” and “Be a part of history, one yard at a time.” The short slogan keeps the focus on the most important part of the project — that the new field will be surfaced with durable, all-weather turf — while the longer clearly and easily supports the fundraiser.

Since the fundraiser, the SABC has been consistently promoting their message online using the same recognizable slogans — interspersing fundraising updates and donor thank yous with team photos and scores, all referencing the project. On Instagram, the club posts photos of football players covered in dirt, poking fun at the team’s “home dirt advantage” and calling for donations, or shots of donors holding checks.

The consistent message and tone is direct without being confrontational or pleading, and the connection to the health and happiness of students is made clear without inducing guilt or fear. Because the club started with a clear plan, it has been easy to consistently promote the project.

Though they’ve had considerable success with individual donors, the SABC does have a fundraising gap to close before they can break ground on the new field. Share their story to show your support, and subscribe (below) to the Boosterland blog to make sure you don’t miss next month’s post.