For many programs, parent booster groups are essential. They help provide access to resources that school districts can’t provide. In addition to fundraising benefits, individual booster parents bring many talents into our organizations. When managed correctly, these contributions can greatly relieve a lot of the stress associated with being a music director.
A colleague and I were recently talking about our booster groups. We compared their structure, membership, executive board, etc. Sharing ideas with other educators like this is always a great way to stay current. Based in part on our discussion, I’d like to share some tips that might help you form a booster group or better utilize the one you have.
Group Charter or By-Laws Considerations
One of the first steps is to write a charter (or your by-laws) and have the results notarized and filed with the school and other agencies required by your system, township, etc. When writing this document, be very clear about the purpose of the organization. Like a well-written business plan, this purpose should guide all you do, including writing your mission statement.
From there you’ll want to outline the decision- and approval-process for the group. It’s important to have defined guidelines about all handling of money (and it’s equally important that you never deviate from these guidelines). Finally, you’ll need to list the leadership positions and responsibilities for each.
You should also consider incorporating your group and filing for Charitable Non-Profit Organization status, 501(c)(3). Incorporating can help relieve some liability from the individuals in the group should something go wrong. Having a 501(c)(3) allows any donations to be tax-deductible as well as addresses other tax issues for the group (check your local laws as well). Here’s a link to the IRS website with more information about requirements for 501(c)(3). You will want a lawyer to help with the documentation for incorporation and 501(c)(3) status. We were fortunate to have a parent who is a lawyer donate their time.
Be sure to get approval of all documents from your local school board, principal, etc., then keep copies in your files, the school office, and your booster group’s files.
Organizing the Leadership
You will want to create an executive board. Typically this will include president, vice president (fundraising chair), treasurer, secretary, a parent liaison for each group being represented (we have one booster group for all music and athletics), fundraising coordinator, membership coordinator, school principal (or assistant principal) and music directors. This group needs to be large enough to bounce ideas off of one another and yet small enough to streamline discussions and actions (and get things done).
As a suggestion, your executive board might meet once a month. You’ll want to make sure the meeting is organized with an agenda. Typically the president runs the meeting from this printed (or electronically shared) agenda.
Our meetings use this format of parliamentary procedure:
- The minutes from the previous meeting are read by the secretary. The president asks for corrections, then for a “second,” and then approval by saying “Aye” or disapproval by saying “Nay.”
- The treasurer’s report is given with corrections, second, and approval.
- Each group (in our case-band, chorus, orchestra and athletics) provides a report of monthly activities, reminders of future events, etc. Each should take no more than a few minutes.
- The president presents old business, then new business.
- The board votes and approves/disapproves motions as needed.
- The meeting is adjourned – usually within an hour.
Keep in mind your organization’s responsibilities to your community as well. Other community leaders, parents and school personnel can be valuable assets to your booster group without being on the executive board. They can serve on various committees, serve as sources of information and contacts, provide grant writing, etc. The potential benefits go on and on. These people can also be great advocates for your program.
When looking for booster group leadership, make the effort to find active, go-getter parents that will place your organization’s overall interest ahead of their own. Consider their individual skills and personalities when helping to determine how they might best help. Remember, most parents just want their kid(s) to have an opportunity to be happy and successful.
Another consideration for leadership might be each potential member’s influence and connections within the school and community at large. As stated earlier, advocacy for your program and school is an ongoing process and should never be overlooked. The longer your “roots” grow into your community, the stronger your “tree” will grow.
Finally, think about potential longevity. If you’d like someone in a position for a long time, a parent with younger students might be a better choice than someone else whose youngest student is a senior. For the same reason, you might also prefer parents with more than one (or two) student(s).
As my colleague and I were discussing our booster organizations, he mentioned that his group’s treasurer once made the comment, “You’re just using us as your cash cow.” While providing funds to supplement what the local school board provides is an important function, it’s not the only assistance a booster group can provide your music program.
Consider the many skills your boosters possess that can be used to make your job easier and the kids more successful. They may be accountants, lawyers, teachers, stay- or work-at-home parents, realtors, police officers, nurses, bus drivers, truck drivers, counselors, preachers/rabbis, mechanics, etc. Put these skills to work, too!
No matter what level of school music group you teach, these community members have a lot to offer your program.
What If Your School Has Additional Fiscal Challenges?
Our school, Ridgeview Charter is a Title 1 middle school. Our booster group, the Foundation, was created to support both our music and athletic programs. Annually the Foundation provides more than $50,000 in support. Additionally, the Foundation’s members help with chaperoning events, providing community information, organizing receptions, providing transportation, coordinating school functions, bookkeeping assistance, phone chains and messaging, advocacy, and much more.
Sometimes people see booster groups as the icing on the cake in large, affluent school districts. I invite you to challenge this, as Ridgeview has. Booster groups can help any program become exceptional.