How to Start (or Improve) a Booster Club Membership Program

by Jim Connelly, founder of BoosterSpark

Booster clubs offer many benefits including fostering spirit and building a strong sense of community, but board members should never lose sight of the fact that their club's primary purpose is: fundraising. The more money you raise, the more spirit you can fund and the greater community you can serve. Spirit and community are byproducts of fundraising.

Unfortunately, many booster club coordinators sacrifice profit for spirit and community, not realizing they are minimizing the overall impact of their club. They think small, charge too little, and wonder why their club isn't more successful.

Struggling clubs beg for money ("please support our club") while successful clubs offer products, services, and events that have value in the eyes of the consumer ("become a member and get free admission to all home games, a yard sign, a seat cushion, and more!").

One of the most profitable ways to grow a booster club's income and participation is a membership program. Some booster clubs have no membership program, many have a weak program, and a few have a wildly successful membership program that generates tens of thousands of dollars in profit every year. This article will show you how to start or improve your booster club's membership program.

Membership is simple. Pay some money, become a member. But how much should a membership cost? And what benefits do you provide in exchange for that membership?

The secret is: offer multiple membership levels. Offering 4-6 levels allows the consumer to choose a level that aligns with their budget and interests. Each level should have a distinct price point and benefit to the consumer. Your entry level membership might be $25 and include nothing more than the ability to say "I'm a member" and the donor's name can appear on your club's website. A $50 membership might include a window cling with your team's mascot on it and a "proud supporter of Booster_Club_Name", acknowledgment on the club's website, and 1-2 other trinkets. A $100 membership could include everything in the $50 level plus a seat cushion and yard sign. And a $150 membership would add a pass that gives two to four people free admission to every home athletic game.

If $150 memberships sound outrageous to you, consider this: my school's booster club used to charge $25 for an annual membership, 100 families were paid members, earning the club $2,500 each year. A new board member asked us to think bigger and introduced this membership program. It has steadily grown over 4 years, and now we have 150 families buying the $150 membership. We spend no more than 20% ($30 for the $150 membership level) on the seat cushion, yard sign, etc.

We generate $22,500 in gross revenue, we spend $4,500 on member goodies, and earn a net profit of $18,000 per year. That means we have $15,500 more to donate to our school each year than we would have with the old, basic $25 membership program!

Initially, some were concerned that "not everyone can afford a $150 membership." That is true. But remember, the booster club is a fundraising entity, not a social club. We still offer a $25 membership and some families buy it. But most buy the $150 membership because it includes free admission to athletic events.

Astute readers will say "that takes away revenue from the athletic department!" True. But it also boosts attendance at events, and all the funds we raise go back to the school, including the athletic department. We make sure to send a sizable portion of our annual donation to the athletic department to offset lost ticket revenue.

When designing membership levels, always include a "nobody's gonna buy this insanely priced package." Why? Because someone might buy it! The worst thing that can happen is no one buys that package, but there's often someone in the community who will if given the opportunity. It could be the owner of a large business in town, a doctor, or an alum who feels a deep connection to your school. Consider a $500 and a $1,000 membership. These packages will need to include something fun and unique like lunch with the booster club board, or being the grand marshall of the homecoming parade, or being introduced on the field at halftime.

Who Wrote This? Jim Connelly, founder and lead developer of BoosterSpark, is past president of a booster club in the Chicago suburbs that donated over $40,000 to his children's high school annually. The Illinois State Board of Education presented Jim with the Those Who Excel Award of Meritorious Service in 2017 recognizing his extensive booster club service. During his tenure, he created and coordinated an annual 5K fundraiser, managed an engraved brick fundraising campaign, created a sponsorship program, enhanced an existing membership program, increased sales of spirit wear, initiated new volunteer recruitment programs, guided the volunteer team that won the $5,000 Buffalo Wild Wings Spirit Challenge two consecutive years, launched an informative club website, ensured the club was properly insured, researched 501(c)(3) compliance, and increased annual club revenue. Professionally, Jim has been a business consultant trusted by companies in over 100 industries since 1996.
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