Have you been struggling to get funding for your growing music program? Though schools and districts have the bulk of the responsibility for providing the needs of school music programs, often they fall short of the mark. Many schools have opted to establish a volunteer-run booster program to provide additional support and opportunities to their music students.
The idea of creating a booster organization from scratch can feel daunting. Fortunately, it is not as difficult as it seems. Here are the simple steps you can take to get your organization up and rolling.
Step 1: Take a Meeting, or Two
Before engaging with parents and volunteers, be sure to meet with your school administration. Explain what you hope to accomplish with the booster organization. Invite suggestions on how it can best align with the school. Remind them that the needs of the program should still be met by the school, but that the booster organization can help provide extension opportunities, activity volunteers, and other resources.
Once approved, email parents who you know are supportive. Make a list of those who come to parent-teacher conferences and attend every concert. Let them know what you’d like to have happen and invite them all to meet with you.
At that first meeting, explain what the wants are for your program. Remind them that the necessities of your program should be covered by your school or district. Boosters are for the bonus items. Share with them a list of needs. Many organizations use their booster groups to fund tours, additional equipment, concert attire, or better concert venues.
The financial needs aren’t the only objective of a well-run booster organization. Your boosters are also volunteers, advocates, and public relations helpers. Ask if they will be supportive of calling a general meeting and ask if any of them would like to volunteer in leadership positions.
Once you have a core group involved, set a second meeting time and invite all of the stakeholders—parents, volunteers, donors, and administration. Be sure to send the invitation every way you can: email, Facebook, printed fliers, Google Classroom, and newsletters.
Then, prepare for the meeting. Bring donuts.
Step 2: Organize Your Organization
At your first general meeting you will lay out the design of your organization. This includes:
- The mission and vision
- What leadership roles are necessary
- What the structure of the organization will be
- Goals for the group: both financial and logistical
- Set meeting times for general attendance, executive teams, and committees
- A list of action items that have to be accomplished to move forward
Some of the first items you’ll want on your action list are to apply for a 501(c)3 tax exempt status so that you will not have to pay taxes on purchases and you can accept donations. Another will be to open a bank account and be sure it has at least two signatories.
This is your chance to ensure from the start that you avoid mistakes that other organizations have made. You’ll be well-organized and be able to fulfill your fiduciary responsibility.
Step 3: Assign Roles and Responsibilities
Most booster organizations will have these roles to assign:
- President: the person who plans and runs the meetings, helps make final decisions, and represents the organization.
- President-Elect or Vice President: the understudy for the president, who runs meetings if the president is not available, and can help in other presidential duties as necessary.
- Secretary: keeps meeting minutes and fulfills other communication roles.
- Treasurer: maintains the accounting of all funds that come in and what is spent.
- Webmaster: maintains the website and is administrator on the social media pages.
- Committee Chairs: one for each committee you have; serve on the executive committee and report progress on goals and objectives.
- Members at Large: attend meetings, provide guidance, serve as volunteers, can be assigned to committees, and are the body of the organization.
Once you have each of these roles defined, you can start making assignments. No one should be given a role or assignment without being willing and without a clear delineation of tasks. If your webmaster is in charge of the website, then anyone wanting to volunteer to help with the website should answer only to that person, not one of the other executive committee members.
Ideally, every member will be assigned to a committee, or given a volunteer assignment. For example, in my daughter’s booster group, of which I am a member, I volunteer both as a bingo caller and as a helper at our regional marching band show. My husband helps with building props and moving the front ensemble.
By giving everyone an opportunity to serve, you ensure their dedication to the group. This is particularly valuable when you need extra help, like when you need a parent to advocate for you.
Be sure to also delineate which tasks and decisions are the role and responsibility of you as the director, and which are those of the parent organization. Make it clear that you are in charge of the curriculum, the musical rehearsals, the student discipline, and any other tasks that are part of your job description. Do not permit parents to form a committee or volunteer in ways that make you as the director uncomfortable, even though they may be very well-meaning. You are the boss of the program and the booster group is there to support you, and thus, their students.
Step 4: Get Things Done
Now that you have your organization under way, it’s time to move things forward. That means you’re going to set up a regular meeting schedule.
Many organizations meet monthly. Some opt to alternate monthly executive committee meetings with general attendance meetings. Committee meetings may meet only during the months that the committee is most active. For example, your marching band committee may not have to meet in December–February, and your choir tour committee may not meet for the few months following your tour.
Make your meeting times regular and predictable. The first Thursday of the month, for example. Establish a standard meeting place, like your music room or conference room at the school. Provide a way for parents to virtually attend via online conferencing, like Zoom. Make sure students and children can attend, removing any barriers parents might have to attend.
Publicize meeting times regularly and ensure every single stakeholder knows that they are welcome. Even if they do nothing but attend, you’re still building loyalty. You never know when their talents, expertise, or experience may be exactly what your organization needs. Ensure everyone is welcome!
Similar to preparing a group for performance, managing your booster organization follows a pattern that looks something like this:
Plan > Implement > Assess > Review > Repeat
One of the big mistakes organizations make is not following this cycle every single meeting. If someone is given an assignment one month, it should be assessed the next month. No task should be assigned without a due date, and it is the responsibility of the executive committee to ensure the due date is reasonable and met.
By following this simple guideline you can assure your group will meet its goals.
Step 5: Financial Planning
One of the major roles of the booster executive committee is to fulfill the fiduciary responsibilities of the group. That means making sure to avoid fraud. Funds that are raised, whether by selling window clings or collecting donations, are to be used only for the purposes that the organization has laid out. Any other expenses are considered fraud. And if there is fraud the entire executive committee can be legally responsible.
There are some great safeguards against this type of activity, like having more than one signatory on the bank account. Make sure all of the checks go directly to the treasurer and all receipts are kept.
You will also want to have a financial plan. This can be one of the most intimidating things for a new organization, but it really is quite simple. You just have to answer two questions:
- How much money do you need
- How do you plan to get it?
Then lay it out. If you need $10,000 for a tour to perform at Carnegie Hall, then make a plan for how to get it. Will you ask for donations? Write grants? Volunteer to help with events in exchange for donations? Sign up for Amazon Smile? Have a yard sale? List all of the ways you can get funds and how much you think you’ll make from each one.
Now that you have your organization set up, your meetings scheduled, your committees assigned, and a financial plan, you’re ready to take the next moves—the ones that don’t have to do directly with funding.
Step 6: Take Action with Advocacy, Marketing, and Public Relations
Yes, a booster organization is a great way to take in and manage funds for supplementary program needs, but there are so many more ways that they can help support a robust music program. Many parents may not have the funds available to support, but they can help in many other ways, so invite them to!
Your boosters are your best advocates. When you need support with your school administration, you should turn to your boosters. If you need someone to post your concert on all of the local events calendars, you should turn to your boosters. If something negative happens with a student, you can turn to your boosters for support. Let them be your connection to the community at large. Let them be your supporters. Give them freedom to act and a whole lot of gratitude.
Most of all, give them ways to serve. That’s what the booster organization is all about.
You can find even more detail and lots of support for starting your new booster organization in my book The Music Booster Manual.
This article was originally published on alfred.com