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How To Create a Structured Booster Club

Dave Hunter, Athletics and Activities Director at Brookwood High School in Snellville, Ga., is the owner and president of Hunter Athletic Consulting, a firm that specializes in providing fundraising advice for high school athletic programs. His company has helped school districts raised over $3 million throughout north Atlanta. The following interview provides tips for structuring booster clubs to be successful.

By Danielle Catalano
Danielle Catalano is a writer for FundraisingforSports.com.

Dave Hunter is the Athletics and Activities Director at Brookwood High School in Snellville, Ga., and is the owner and president of Hunter Athletic Consulting, a firm that specializes in providing fundraising advice for high school athletic programs. His consulting objectives include teaching school officials how to organize and structure their sports booster clubs, and showing athletic departments how to fundraise on a large scale. In his 18 years at Brookwood, Hunter has raised an estimated $3.2 million, which allowed the school district to construct or renovate most of its athletic facilities, including its football stadium, a fieldhouse, a multi-purpose athletic room called "The Lounge," a baseball stadium, softball stadium, and a soft-surface synthetic track.

In the April/May 2005 Athletic Management article "Partnering with Parents", Hunter discussed how booster clubs can work successfully with volunteer parents. The following interview examines this topic further, focusing on generating community interest, how to create a structured booster club, and the leadership traits coaches and athletic directors should be looking for in their volunteers.

MOTIVATING THE COMMUNITY
Q: When a booster club hires you, the first thing you do is to evaluate all past athletic fundraisers. Which factors determine a successful fundraiser?

A: You see what the numbers are, what the clientele is, and what you feel the parameters are from the low end to the high end of specific fundraisers. We all have a tendency to think too small. One of my mottoes is 'Think Big.' There's not any reason to raise $3,000, when for a little extra work from a few extra people, you can raise $12,000. For instance, the booster club Roswell High School decided on a lift-a-thon fundraiser the year before I arrived and raised $6,000. The year after I arrived, we restructured the club, increased it to about 150 people, and they raised about $34,000.

You have to ask, 'What kind of volume does this club have?' If you're going to sell cookies, you're not going to make very much money. If you're going to have a lift-a-thon, or something where you're going to have a profit of $10, $15, $20 per fundraising item, then it's going to be a bigger fundraiser. I am a proponent of five large fundraisers instead of 10 little ones.

Q: How do you get the community motivated?
A: We're dealing with everybody's most prized possession in the world: children. One of my jobs to get people motivated to want them to build a better place for their children. I've never had anyone complain about having a better place or a better facility or better equipment for their children, and you have to sell it in that manner. You're not building a better place for parts of the community. You're building it for those kids and that program, and you need to build pride in that program. One way to get the community motivated—and the most important way to get them motivated—is to make sure they know that this is for the kids.

The other important factor is that you have to have a purpose for fundraising. You can't just raise money. You've got to raise money to improve your field, to renovate your stadium, or to renovate your weight room. One of the most important things in fundraising is that you've got to have a purpose, because people who you're asking to give money are going to ask that question.

Q: Who is the best type of person to work with in a booster club?
A: The hungriest one. The ones who want to make a better place for their kids. Generally, a school that's just starting has the most excited people. Next would be a school that has not been as successful—they've struggled and they're getting back. Those are the ones who are generally better work with because they're already motivated.

I did a job at an old school in north Atlanta, North Hall, and its revenue increased $200,000 to 300,000. North Hall was an older school that hadn't been successful, but wanted to be successful. The clientele has changed somewhat, and they wanted to upgrade their facilities. They had a group of people who wanted to get started, and I kind of lit the fire for them and they stoked the fire themselves. They really made tremendous progress.

Q: Once people are motivated, how do you go about structuring a booster club?
A: I meet with the principal, the AD, coaches—sometimes it's one sport, sometimes it's all sports—and see what they want to accomplish. Why do they want to raise revenue? What's the purpose? Then I ask them to bring five to eight more people to the next meeting, and we talk about what I'm going to do. A group wouldn't have hired me if it hadn't already thought about some of these things. So there's already a little match lit. My job's to stoke the fire.

Q: When a club is ready to fundraise, what are does a club need from the outside community to succeed?
A: First, the club needs structure to figure out who's going to do what, when, where, why, and how. It will need some things for sure. If a club chooses do to a golf tournament, you'll need people to talk to those in charge of the local golf course, someone or group to create signs, and someone to gather tees and other equipment. What the people should do is try do is figure out what the club's needs are, and that's when they start putting their committees together. It's one of my favorite terms: You try to structure your booster club by committee-izing.

FINDING LEADERS
Q: You've you stated previously (AM April/May) that coaches and ADs need to pick the leaders out of interested parents. What traits should a coach or AD look for in a "leader"?

A: You're looking for someone who's sincere and for someone who people will follow. You're not going to have people follow some guy who uses the words 'I can't.' If that's the person's favorite words, that's not the person you want. You want a person who's upbeat, who thinks big, and who the people are generally fond of.

At Brookwood, our booster club president has had three boys play varsity here, and not a one of them was a starter, but everyone in the community knows that he's here for the right reason. He cares about all the kids. You've got to have somebody who cares about all the kids—not just his or her kids.

Q: Once you find the person who is the leader/president/chairperson of the club, how do you go about recruiting the remaining officers?
A: What I try to get to do is get the coaches and ADs to come up with a president and treasurer first.

Q: The treasurer's a leader, too? Are these, then, the most important positions in a club should focus on?
A: A treasurer has to be an impeccable person with integrity whom the community has tremendous, tremendous respect for, and is usually a numbers person. The AD, coach, and/or principal should sit down with the president and treasurer, and then they all decide who the vice-president should be. Then comes the discussion of committee-izing.

At this point, the booster club officials have to decide who's going to be in charge of the membership committee—which should be the number-one fundraiser for any club. Then they (the booster club officials) have to decide who's going to be in charge of specific fundraisers. Some clubs have a Ways and Means Chairperson. I don't like that method because it puts too much burden on one person. The way I handle asking people who are going to be in charge of the specific fundraisers is that you don't call them on the phone. You don't ask them in a big meeting. The coach or AD, or whoever's in charge, needs to look that person in the eye and ask if that person will run a specific fundraiser. In 40 years, I've only had one person turn me down.

Q: Is this why people may be intimidated to joining booster club committees? No one's been asked?
A: Yes. I believe the number-one reason people don't get involved in booster clubs is because parents say, 'Nobody asked me.' Ask a person personally, and then get that person to ask five other people to be on that committee-but don't let the person pick the committee. Just look at the names the person comes up with. That person may not know about some people on that list who you know are naysayers. All of this, then starts your committee-izing.

ROLE PLAYING
Q: When it comes to structuring a booster club, you've talked about parent reps, sports reps, and grade reps. What their roles in this structure?

A: After we get committees, we focus on getting grade reps. For seniors, we might have six grade reps. We'll have one person in charge of all senior student-athletes' correspondences, and then that person will get five more people to help out. Usually, it comes out to be three husband-wife couples.

Grade reps have two purposes: The first is to drive the membership; the second is to communicate. We have two ways of communicating: phone trees and a Web site with an e-mail system in which all parents and kids must signed up, so there's no reason for people to not know what's going on. For most people, when they get unhappy, it's because they don't know what's going on. This system is not very complicated. All of a sudden, when you get through all the grade reps and all the committees, you've got 75 to 100 people involved. And when they're involved, they're happy.

Q: How do student-athletes fit in it this structure?
A: They're good about it. They sometimes like to work different fundraisers more than others, like a Gold Card fundraiser, a lift-a-thon, a hit-a-thon, or a shoot-a-thon. It's good to hear them out because they're the ones having to do these things to help build the program. When kids do work the fundraisers, you have to treat them well. You have to give them an incentive. I have never done a fundraiser with any team without incentives for the kids.

Q: What should the relationship be between the officers and members?
A: Very open. Committee members have to make sure that they run everything through to the leadership, so that the leadership knows that if there's a question, everyone knows what's going on. We don't run a fundraiser or anything else at Brookwood that's not approved by the coach and the president or vice-president of the club. The committees usually have their own meetings, and usually one of the officers attends those meetings, at least initially, to make sure the officers and the AD understand what the structure is, what each one's doing, and to make sure that everybody's going about it the right way.

There have been cases where we've had to call committee chairs in and talked them, and there's a way to it: 'We want to structure the committee like this. We appreciate what you're doing, but we'd rather do it this way just a little bit because this is how we structured things.'

Q: Coaches' roles are going beyond calling plays and training athletes. What should the relationship be between the club and coaches?
A: Most of the booster clubs around here don't pay any bills that the coach and booster club president don't sign for on an invoice. There are usually two signatures on a check-the president's or vice president of operations', and the treasurer's. We don't pay an invoice that a coach doesn't okay. It's a system of checks and balances, so the coach is very involved. They're all right with that because they're funding the frills of their programs.


You may contact Dave Hunter at: daveandbeverly@bellsouth.net, or visit Hunter Athletic Consulting online at: www.hunterathleticconsulting.com.



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