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Develop a Fundraising Philosophy

Developing a fundraising philosophy is one way to ensure your sports booster club fundraising success.

with Cynthia McMannon, CMAA

Developing and abiding by a fundraising philosophy is one way to ensure your sports booster club fundraising success. A fundraising philosophy outlines a booster club's goals and objectives; defines permissible fundraisers and the processes in which these fundraisers are approved and coordinated; defines each person's and committee's role and responsibility; provides a clear understanding of how money is handled; and develops a system for internal and external communications. Furthermore, fundraising philosophies help booster clubs develop consistent fundraising procedures that facilitate synergistic relationships with business professionals and the public.

Cynthia McMannon, CMAA, Assistant Executive Director of Finance and Human Resources of the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA), often lectures for the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association's LTC511 teaching seminars on athletic budgeting and fundraising. Although fundraising is not her primary responsibility at the AIA or the NIAAA, McMannon's research on this subject has found that fundraising philosophies are becoming effective tools to making regular booster clubs successful booster clubs.

According to McMannon, before determining your booster club's fundraising philosophy, five questions must be asked by the club's executive officers, and if necessary, the school's athletic director:

Once those five questions have been answered, all members of a booster club should agree on what they would like the fundraising philosophy to reflect. Below is a list of items to consider:

Steps To Developing Your Fundraising Philosophy:
After all members have agreed to what the philosophy will reflect, it's time to write the fundraising philosophy. McMannon suggests the following steps:

1. Develop a mission statement. Start with a mission statement that states "why" the club is fundraising in the first place as it is the foundation upon which short and long-range fundraising strategic plans are based. The mission statement outlines the club's priorities, values, and purposes and articulates the difference fundraising will make for your student-athletes and what outcomes will be achieved. Keep it as short and sweet as possible. A mission statement serves to motivate and inspire participants and the community from whom funds will be solicited, and is the basis of evaluating prospective fundraising activities by providing guidance in deciding whether or not to approve a particular activity as well as the overall success of your fundraising activities.

2. Develop your fundraising strategic plan. Your fundraising strategic plan is how you will go about fulfilling your fundraising mission. It should include:
  • How the club will set its fundraising priorities (based upon safety needs first, educational needs, second, etc.),
  • How the club will go about meeting fundraising needs (i.e., a major campaign in late summer, numerous small and large activities throughout the year, etc.), and
    Establish a fundraising goal or goals that are measurable, achievable, and realistic.

  • 3. Decide who will determine your fundraising philosophy. To help attain support for your fundraising philosophy, request input from the various groups who will participate in and be involved with your fundraising activities. Your eventual philosophy, which will have been developed with consensus, will be subject to future refinement, again, with consensus.

    4. Determine the level of booster club involvement in fundraising at your school. Your fundraising philosophy should clearly state what your booster club is responsible for providing the school district's athletic program. The group as a whole must decide is it raising funds for:
  • the majority of funds needed for the program?
  • school-wide activities?
  • sport-specific needs?
  • facility maintenance needs and renovations?

  • It is also important for booster clubs to note if they will be involved with other school booster clubs' fundraisers, such as the band boosters, PTA, etc.

    5. Determine the booster club structure at your school. Clearly state the organizational ladder of your club. Is your booster club sport-specific, or is it reorganizing into an all-sports umbrella club? Does your club have committees, grade representatives, sport representatives, etc.?

    6. Determine how will you go about fundraising. In order to reach your goal, a booster club must decide on how much fundraising (A.) is necessary to achieve its goal and (B.) is reasonable enough not to exhaust your resources and volunteers.

    Is your philosophy one of "many small rather than a few large" activities, or a combination of both? Will the group concentrate on one fundraiser for the entire year to bring in sufficient funds? Will you also ask for an annual gift from every family? Will you solicit cash donations in addition to support of other activities? Will you utilize the services of an outside professional fundraising company in a profit-sharing agreement?

    7. Determine when fundraising will take place. A tremendous factor of successful fundraising is the time of year your fundraisers take place. Determining this factor in advance will make organizing and coordinating your booster club's fundraising effort much smoother. Popular fundraising times are: at the beginning of the school year, holidays, during the off-season, and the pre-season—ypically the time of highest motivation, notes McMannon.

    8. Determine who will be responsible for managing the club's fundraising program. Finding someone or a combination of people who have the time, experience, and expertise needed to appropriately conduct a fundraising program properly is one of the more difficult tasks for booster clubs. This person will have the primary responsibility for establishing funding priorities, maximizing funding potential, understanding the club's special needs, and making the overall fundraising program more efficient and effective.

    Some booster clubs, however, don't have a choice as to who manages their fundraisers. McMannon point out that more often than not, the school's athletic director or activities assistant principal is responsible for this important task. In private and parochial schools, development directors are often hired to fulfill this role, and in special cases, public school districts will assign a district-level staff member the responsibility of dealing with financial considerations for student-activity funds, including fundraising.

    For these reasons, it's important for a booster club to first consult the school district's bylaws about fundraising. If the booster club has to work with a school official, keep all levels of communication open between the two parties. This may be done through an appointed booster club liaison or a member of the executive committee. If the booster club can choose its own fundraising chair or manager, the executive committee should take into consideration the person's experience, work ethic, people skills, understanding of finances, and personality when making its decision.

    9. Determine with which companies or individuals your school will work. An important task is creating a list of approved companies or individuals with whom the school chooses to deal. This will require the administrator to screen/evaluate companies to determine in advance which businesses will be given access to coaches and booster clubs. In creating this list, criteria and areas to be evaluated include:

    It is very important that the school and booster club develop consistency from the companies they use. Doing so helps build a relationship with a company that will grow from year to year as this facilitates "giving and taking" needed in a mutually beneficial relationship.

    Implementing Your Fundraising Philosophy
    Once the final draft of your fundraising philosophy has been approved by the executive committee and/or the booster club and school administration, the last step in making the philosophy a success is implementing it. For this to work—and it will take some time for all members to accept it, McMannon notes—the booster club needs to foster a climate of good communication, trust, and a "we're all on the same team" attitude. Fostering this climate includes:

    The two main factors when developing a fundraising philosophy are to remember that all efforts will benefit the student-athletes (no one loses, everyone wins) and to maintain an open communication network. Keeping these factors in mind will also create the positive attitude and motivation that student-athletes and booster club members will need when starting their fundraising campaign, which fosters more successful fund- and friend-raising results.

    McMannon has contributed several articles to, and has recently received her Master's certification in athletic administration. She may be reached at:

    Sources for this article include:
    - Derek Fahleson, Athletic Director, Estrella Foothills High School, Goodyear, Ariz.
    - Tony Poderis, author of A Great Day To Fund-Raise. He may be reached at:
    - Dean Visser, Activities Coordinator, Arizona Interscholastic Association. 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.