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Your Best Audience: Parents of Incoming Freshmen

by Jim Connelly, founder of BoosterSpark

Any parent is a potential booster club member/coordinator/volunteer, but the hottest prospect is a parent of an incoming student or athlete. These families are very eager to become a part of the school or team your club supports, and they are willing to invest time and money to do so. Create an event exclusively for this audience. At the event, offer value, explain the impact your club makes on their student, and provide many ways for these parents to donate time and money during the event.

Let's look at an event I created for my high school's booster club when I served as president of the club.

The school already held events for parents of incoming parents, but those events were administrative (sometimes covering dull topics), didn't allow much time for the booster club to get attention, and were already packed with an overwhelming amount of information and activities. It wasn't a great time to get people excited about our cause. So, I designed a new event, shared it with our principal, and got his blessing for this new event that was entirely focused on our booster club.

But here's the thing. It was never advertised as a booster club promotional event. Instead, we offered value to our target audience. That value (described below) enticed people to come to the school.

The event was called "8th Grade Parent Welcome Night" and was presented by the booster club. It offered free student-led tours of the high school for parents, an opportunity to meet the principal and athletic director one-on-one, time to shop in our spirit wear store, and an opportunity to learn about the booster club.

Not all parents attended, but those who did tended to be the type of parents who get involved. They buy booster club memberships, they volunteer, they wear spirit wear.

The night started in the auditorium where I had a captive, interested audience. I described a time when students won the chance to compete in a national competition 1,200 miles away. The students were elated but their parents were suddenly faced with an unexpected $1,200 airfare and hotel bill. They didn't want to keep their children from the once-in-a-lifetime experience, but they didn't know how they were going to pay for it all. Our club donated funds to the team who then covered much of the expense. It's a story everyone in the room could picture happening to themselves in the next four years. They loved hearing that there was a group of parents who raised money to help in times of need and also funded opportunities for students.

I then showed them a long list of diverse opportunities our club funded in the past 12 months. I told them our club donates over $40,000 to our school every year. And then I explained how we raise the money.

I told everyone that we will never ask their kid to go door-to-door. We avoid selling things you feel obligated to buy. Instead, we design fun events you WANT to be a part of and sell quality apparel you WANT to wear. And we offer membership.

I showed them samples of the bling our members receive, and then let them know they can become a member right now by visiting our website on their phone or filling out a paper form in the lobby. Then we opened the school store and began student-led tours. We sold $4,000 of memberships and spirit wear every time we held the event.

Create a Welcome Event of your own, target incoming families, and offer something they value. If the value is high, parents will show up, volunteer, and buy memberships and spirit wear.

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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