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Booster Club Workshop 101

By Danielle Catalano - writer for FundraisingforSports.com.

While figuring out a way to pay off its athletic facility debt, an Oregon high school creates a booster club workshop to help others—while helping themselves—learn how to fundraise better.

When Kevin Bryant came to Tigard (Ore.) High School as its Activities and Athletics Director at the beginning of the school year, he looked forward to the school hosting events at its three-year-old multi-sport facility and working with student-athletes whose GPA ranked in the top 10 of the state.

And in an odd way, he even looked forward to figuring out how to pay off the $1 million debt the district owes on its three-year-old all-weather turf and track facilities.

"Right now, each sport has its own booster club, and our athletic booster club is undergoing some restructuring," says Bryant, whose previous athletic administrative duties include six years at neighboring Aloha School District and nine years at the Division I and II collegiate level. He is also an active member in the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA).

"Our next goal is to remodel the weightroom into a fitness center for all student-athletes, but we owe money on the fields and we're trying to figure out the best and fastest way to do that," he says.

Currently, the booster clubs of each sport using the new facilities are responsible for paying a share of the total debt. Those clubs include baseball, softball, soccer, football, lacrosse, and track and field.

Bryant is not in favor of this system. He feels it places too much pressure on the individual teams to raise money instead of emphasizing other important parts of sports, such as sportsmanship. He also believes teams will be competing for fundraising customers and distracting the student-athletes from performing at their best academically and on the field. Another concern of Bryant's is fundraising's impact on the community, which is a suburb of Portland.

To Randy Clark, Tigard's baseball booster club president and a member of the all-sports booster club, the current system is unbalanced. The club is in the midst of developing a more organized means of distributing funds among the sport-specific booster clubs and providing "durable goods," such as outdoor scoreboards, so teams can spend more time focusing on improving their athletic skills. The all-sports booster club raises $40,000 to $45,000 a year, but Clark believes the figure could rise to $200,000 or $300,000 a year once the club finishes re-organizing.

Realizing the tasks ahead of him, Bryant attended the annual meeting of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) in Orlando, Fla., in December. He listened to several seminars that focused on sports fundraising and became particularly interested with what Mark Armstrong, an athletic director for Kearney (Neb.) High School had done when new leadership took over the school's fledging booster club: He created a booster club clinic.

A PLACE TO TRAIN
"I just thought the idea was great," recalls Bryant. "Think about it. When a school gets a new athletic director, that person can go to the state's athletic association for meetings and training. When a new coach is hired, he can go to seminars. But when a new booster club president is elected, where can that person go? Who can he talk to for help? Where can get his training? Nowhere."

When Bryant returned from the NFHS meeting, he and Armstrong corresponded frequently for the next month about how Bryant could set up his own booster club clinic. Among the specifics discussed: researching key fundraising issues and challenges pertinent to the suburban communities of Portland, finding speakers who could relate to the populace, organizing volunteers to work the day of the show and help prepare for the workshop, and recognizing the types of businesses to solicit.

During Tigard's January booster club meeting, Bryant discussed his plan with the members, and by the end of the month, the group came up with school's inaugural Boost Your Booster Club Workshop to be hosted the second weekend of April.

"This is the first time we've done anything like this, and it's definitely the first time a lot of us have even heard of a workshop like this," says Clark, who also serves as the workshop's event coordinator. "The athletic booster club is always looking for strategies to fill the financial gap. The selfish reason why we're doing this is to bring in speakers to talk about fundraising and sharesuccess stories so we can learn how to fundraise better," she says.

As a retired marketing director for her and her husband's newspaper publishing company, Clark has been helping Bryant with many of the points Armstrong and Bryant discussed back in December, including soliciting local and regional businesses for the workshop's vendors' exhibit.

"We're looking for anybody who views a booster club or a group of athletic supporters who are raising money to build fields and facilities and provide equipment, uniforms, and travel expenses for the student-athletes as their target market," says Clark. "We are not choosing just one or two avenues. We're trying to get as much information out there to as many people as possible who are interested in linking up with this target market."

She continues, "We have cookie dough people, turf people, and Build-A-Bear people. We want to have a list of companies that will allow booster parents to see the different things that the companies can do for clubs. From something as simple as selling candy bars to something as sophisticated as a million-dollar capital campaign."

To promote the workshop, Clark and Bryant are using their professional backgrounds. The publishing experience Clark gained at the newspaper has enabled her and booster club volunteers to design brochures and advertisements and to create business and community letters and press releases in a span of just eight weeks.

Bryant has been using his own resources at the OSAA, contacting athletic directors across the state and southwest Washington. He set up an e-mail list to send athletic directors press releases informing them of the workshop and inviting their booster clubs. The e-mail list has also allowed him to receive much-needed feedback from the athletic directors addressing what they would like to gain from the workshop.

WORKSHOP DAY
Clark and Bryant developed the following schedule for the day of the workshop. It is taking place in Tigard High School's gymnasium, where volunteers have spent the last week setting up. The cost to attend is $150. This fee allows up to eight people per school or booster club to attend. Participants receive a registration packet with advertising literature, a fundraising resource sheet, the day's agenda, and small giveaways from vendors. The barbecue lunch, run by the school's football booster club, is also included.

The workshop begins at 9 a.m. with the "Wake-Up Hour." Volunteers provide coffee, doughnuts, and refreshments to attendees as they go through registration. After receiving their packets and nametags, attendees will have a chance to browse the vendors' exhibit area.

The first of three lectures starts at 10 a.m. Bryant, who was the 2005 Oregon Athletic Director of the Year, is be the speaker. His "It's All About the Kids" speech covers the importance of booster clubs keeping positive attitudes, adhering to the ethics of sports fundraising, and increasing student-athlete awareness within the booster club.

Attendees then divide into groups for the morning "breakout sessions." These sessions focus on specific fundraising issues such as organizing and structuring a booster club, spirit gear sales, membership development, an athletic director's roundtable, and how to host a sports tournament. Lasting for hour, the breakout sessions are open-forum style to allow attendees to exchange experiences and ideas.

Following lunch, Peter Lukich, Athletic Director at Sunset High School in Portland, will talk about Sunset's new state-of-the-art athletics complex. Having known Lukich through the OSAA, Bryant asked him if he would discuss how Sunset's school board and booster club worked together to create a multi-million dollar major-gift fundraising.

Another round of breakout sessions begins in the early afternoon with topics covering: a presidents' meeting, concessions selling, leadership development, how to use advisory panels, and the importance of alumni-connection development.

The day ends with keynote speaker Ralph Green from Nike, which has its world headquarters in Beaverton, five miles north of Tigard. Green's children will be attending Tigard High School next year and are active in sports. His speech focuses on how corporations are becoming more cognizant of school districts' sports needs. One subject of Green's speech is Nike's SPARQ foundation, which was designed to assist schools building weight- and strength-training rooms to purchase the necessary training equipment.

ANNUAL EVENT
With 15 vendors anticipated, at least 200 attendees expected, and nonstop e-mail and phone exchanges, Bryant and Clark foresee the impact that Tigard's booster club workshop will have on the surrounding community.

"We would like this to be an annual event," says Clark, "and to be able to provide this service for all athletic boosters in the Northwest.

"We're not the only ones and we know that," adds Bryant. "We're all just looking for some answers."

The two are already thinking ahead for next year's workshop. The booster club will be evaluating the workshop to see which fundraising issues resonated more with attendees and which ones participants would have liked to have more information about. Bryant will be attending the OSAA's summer meeting in July, and the booster club will be creating a media kit-type of packet for Bryant to bring to the meeting to promote the 2007 workshop.

As for her goal for this year's workshop, Clark's is simple. "A lot of people from our high school will be participating to learn more about how to fundraise," she says. "Hopefully they will be motivated and inspired to see that we can do more than what we're doing now.

"Kevin came into a situation where there was a lot of room for improvement," she continues. "There's a huge need out there, and all of our sports and clubs are having to go out and fundraise independently for a lot of money because of what they want to do. We really need the booster club to grow, to step up. This workshop is just the beginning, just the stirring of it."



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