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Guidelines to Prevent Common Fundraising Mistakes

A Peer Q&A on common mistakes made in fundraising and advice on how to prevent them.
By Danielle Catalano
Danielle Catalano is a writer for

Cynthia McMannon, CMAA, Assistant Executive Director of Finance and Human Resources of the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) talked with recently about her work at the association. Some of McMannon's accomplishments include having coordinated the AIA's equity activities since 1989 and enhancing the AIA's leadership role by formalizing membership procedures, strengthening AIA's overall financial position, developing written materials, articles, and publications, and conducting various financial workshops.

At the national level, McMannon was a featured speaker at the 2004 NFHS Summer Meeting (state association finances), the 2005 NIAAA Winter Meeting (fundraising), was a contributing editor to the NIAAA's LTC511 (Interscholastic Athletic Budget Concepts and Supplemental Fundraising) course, was the first state association administrator asked to join the NIAAA's national teaching faculty, and has taught the NFHS LTC511 (Budgeting and Fundraising) since 2002.

Although fundraising is not her primary duty at the AIA, McMannon points out the common mistakes made in fundraising and offers advice on how to prevent them. What are common mistakes athletic directors and booster club officials make when fundraising?

Cindy McMannon: There are two different types of fundraising, short-term, like a one-day fundraising blitz such as a car wash, and long-term, which would be the yearlong fundraising efforts by a booster club. Some of the things I will talk about pertain to both short- and long-term fundraising, while the others are some mistakes that can lead to bigger problems for long-term fundraising:

Planning. Schools and booster clubs do not spend enough time planning to develop strategies to use in case something goes wrong while fundraising, nor if the outcome of the fundraiser doesn't turn out as expected.

Pricing. Groups sometimes don't consider the entire cost of a fundraising project, including supplies, facility costs for meetings, storage costs of goods, shippingetc. They should also conduct a cost-analysis of selling less expensive merchandise versus more expensive merchandise.

Inadequate preparation, such as no sales scripts for booster clubs to follow when asking for donations or selling a product.

Communication. More often than not there's a lack of adequate communication among club members and between the school, club, and community. It is crucial that there be good communication before, during, and especially after a fundraiser takes place. Keep in mind that when asking the community for money or its services, the community needs to know what is going on at all times. Make sure you tell the community what happened to the money or services it provided.

Publicity. Are you getting the word out and how are you doing it?

Inadequate fundraisers. Are you choosing the right fundraising for the size of your group?

Community relations. Does your fundraiser relate to your community and its needs?

Unrealistic expectations. What happens if you don't sell as much of a product as you thought? Is the club prepared to cut its losses if the fundraiser doesn't reach the club's financial goal?

Record keeping. Aside from who is doing the tracking of who gave money and how much, clubs should keep track of how payments were received (cash or in-kind services) and keep good records of those payments.

FFS: What are guidelines to follow to prevent these particular mistakes?
CM: Consider liability and insurance.

These are the most important ones that I can't emphasize enough. Booster clubs should make sure they go through the proper channels and check all school policies on liability insurance before beginning any fundraiser, advises McMannon. A booster club should have coverage that protects its members and the school district if anything bad happens during a fundraiser. Check the legalities with the school's lawyer if you're unsure of what the club is responsible for, including:

FFS: What is the most common concern athletic directors or other school administrators have expressed during your workshops?
CM: I think there's been a climate of cultural change recently. Liability and security are being more scrutinized because of big-name cases like Enron. Everyone wants to know what's happening to the money, and to make sure the kids are all right at all times. My biggest advice is to plan ahead to prevent things to the best of your ability to get better results.

Cindy McMannon maybe reached via e-mail at: You may read more about the Arizona Interscholastic Association at: is brought to you by a recognized and established name in the school athletics arena, MomentumMedia—publisher of Athletic Management, Coaching Management and Training & Conditioning magazines.