Reviving the athletics booster club
A strong booster organization is an invaluable asset for any athletic department. Financial resources continue to be limited in most school districts, so the booster club is vital in providing much-needed financial assistance to athletic programs.
Rochester High School (Michigan) is one of three high schools in our district, and with each school offering 26 athletic programs, the district’s athletics budget alone is insufficient to meet our needs. Upon my arrival in 2013, I learned that the school’s athletic booster club was critically in the red. Membership was low, and our coaches lacked confidence in the organization. If a drastic change was not made quickly, the booster club was at risk of being dissolved by the district. To put the booster club on the right track, I set three primary goals:
- Redefine the mission of the booster club.
- Identify and secure new leadership.
- Create a large-scale booster event to raise significant funds.
My principal and I worked diligently to turn the booster club around during my first full year as athletic director. First, we redefined the purpose of the organization. The existing booster club provided limited monetary resources for letterman jacket patches, a pair of $500 scholarships to a graduating male and female student-athlete, and funding for the athletic hall of fame ceremony. The new primary focus would be to raise funds for all athletic programs to take the burden of fundraising off of our coaches and student-athletes. It also would provide financial assistance to our Hall of Fame Committee and expand the scholarship program.
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Procuring strong leadership ensured implementation of and support for the new mission. Change is difficult for any group that falls on hard times or adopts bad habits. I leaned on the relationships I made with parents, and identified a new booster club president who was positive, energetic, and had the ability to bring enthusiasm to the organization. Year after year, I could count on new parents to step up and continue to lead the group in its new direction.
Raising funds on a massive scale is never an easy task, and the booster club’s revenue from concession sales was not enough to support its lofty goal. We needed a community event. One that would not only raise funds for our athletic programs but be a celebration of our student-athletes, athletic programs and booster club.
We created a committee to identify an event that encompasses all of these ideas. The committee concluded that we would host an annual Friends of the Falcons Gala. We hold the gala at a banquet hall and auction items secured by our athletic programs, volunteers and event coordinator. Hiring an event coordinator was the best decision we made with respect to the gala, because she managed all aspects of the event — marketing, sponsorship, invitations, item procurement and contracts.
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Now in its sixth year, the annual Friends of the Falcons Gala is an enormous success. It generates approximately $30,000 each year for the booster club. The success of our new mission, leadership and community event led to increased booster club membership, minimal fundraising by our programs, expansion of our booster club scholarship program to four $500 awards each year, and grants of more than $160,000 awarded to our athletic programs in the past five years. The booster club can now fill the gap between district athletic funding and the needs of our programs. It provides an opportunity for parents and community members to support our student-athletes.
Luke Beach is the athletic director at Rochester High School in Michigan. He’s also a recipient of Coach & Athletic Director’s 40 Under 40 award. The award honors the next generation of leaders in the sports industry.