Over the years, I've been involved with a number of PTO's and booster clubs. I've seen small, underperforming, struggling clubs. And I've been fortunate to be a part of a large, thriving, successful club. All of these organizations were in the same ZIP Code. So why were some clubs super successful while others stayed small?
Well, board members usually receive no training and have no prior experience. That sets them up for failure. I'm sharing this list of common mistakes booster club board members and PTO officers commonly make so you can avoid them.
Mistake #1: Thinking Small
The biggest mistake I see booster clubs make is thinking small. Your team is going to spend a year working on club activities. You could spend that time working on small activities or big activities. Bigger activities have larger profit potential which means a larger amount of money for the school or team you support.
If you and your team are each going to contribute 20 hours to planning an event, would you rather spend that time planning a bake sale that might only generate a couple hundred dollars, or would you rather spend the same time planning a 5K race that raises thousands of dollars?
If you sell spirit wear, would you rather sell a cheap T-shirt for $10 or sell a quality half zip pullover for $50? You would have to sell five T-shirts to generate the same amount of gross income from one pullover. And here's the funny thing we've experienced: people are more interested in buying a higher quality item. Offer higher quality, higher priced items to earn more revenue. Bonus tip: make sure you make at least a 50% margin on each item. That means paying $20 for an item and selling it for $40.
Mistake #2: Underpricing
Often, booster clubs and PTO's underprice their products and services. They tend to think "not everybody can afford expensive stuff." That's true, but many people CAN afford higher priced items and won't flinch at spending more for quality. When you only offer them low priced items, you lose potential income.
Always offer an outrageously priced opportunity. For example, if you sell $200 sponsorships, add a new one at $500 or maybe even $1000. The worst thing that can happen is no one buys, and you've lost nothing. But when you offer, someone just might buy.
Mistake #3: Customization
Avoid selling customized products. If you must sell personalized goods, find a way for the customer to work directly with the vendor and remove your team from the process. When you sell personalized yard signs or spirit wear, your volunteers will spend a lot of time managing those orders; that's time volunteers could use in better ways. Also, with custom products there will be typos that upset customers, increase your labor, and depending on who caused the error you may have to eat the cost of the defective item, erasing your profit in the process.
One way to make the customer and vendor work directly with each other is to charge the vendor an advertising fee or a sponsorship fee. In exchange for the fee, (A) the vendor becomes the Exclusive Supplier of (insert product name here, such as "Official Bulldog Yard Signs"), (B) you agree to promote their customized product to your membership, (C) you direct customers to the vendor where they place orders, and (D) that is the extent of your responsibility. No order management labor, no risk exposure to typos.
Mistake #4: Ignoring Business Donors
Local newspapers have virtually disappeared, leaving local businesses hungry for ways to advertise. Too many booster clubs have weak or nonexistent sponsorship programs. Create a robust sponsorship program stocked with a range of opportunities for local and national businesses, colleges, and organizations. Business sponsors are a great way to raise tens of thousands of dollars quickly. Let them advertise on a scoreboard at your school, or in your newsletter, or on your website, or sell the naming rights to your fundraising event (auction, 5K, etc). When you sell naming rights, include their logo on everything about the event (shirts, posters, advertising, etc) and have a banner at the event promoting and thanking the sponsor.
BoosterSpark offers a unique sponsorship program where businesses can buy a sponsorship on your BoosterSpark website and control a page on your site. Sponsors can edit their logo, photo gallery, company information, and company description on your website. This sponsorship program has the potential to make your BoosterSpark investment pay for itself!
Mistake #5: Not Having Insurance
Don't assume your school's insurance policy covers your club, staff, or activities. Your board members and coordinators are liable and can be sued if someone is injured at one of your events. Obtain liability insurance. It's not expensive, and you can find it easily online at places like R.V. Nucchio.
Mistake #6: Not Paying Sales Tax
Unless you are in a state that has zero sales tax, your organization needs to pay sales tax on the goods you sell (such as spirit wear). Failure to pay sales tax will result in penalties and fines.
Mistake #7: Not Complying with Regulations
If you offer a raffle, you probably need to request a raffle license from your town many weeks prior to the raffle. If your club is a 501(c)(3) organization, it must file annual reporting to the IRS and probably your state. Failure to do so can result in expensive penalties and fines. If your club is not a 501(c)(3), it must pay taxes to the IRS. Becoming a 501(c)(3) can be expensive which is why thousands of clubs rely on ParentBoosterUSA for an inexpensive, professional solution.
Easily create a professional website for your booster club! BoosterSpark lets you hit the ground running — why reinvent the wheel when we've already figured out what effective booster club websites need? Choose the sections you want on your website, use our content templates as a starting point, and customize to fit the needs of your club.
Easily send email to groups you select (your members, volunteers, sponsors, board, committees, etc) as needed.
Why send your users to a cumbersome, clunky third party website? When you have a BoosterSpark website, you can easily build sign-up forms and integrate them on your club's website. No more sending long links of gibberish to your audience; simply tell them to visit a simple link on your website to sign up!
When volunteers sign up on your website, BoosterSpark saves that information in your account. You'll be able to send reminder emails, thank you emails, and can invite past volunteers to future volunteer opportunities, meetings, and events.
BoosterSpark is the easiest way to manage member information. No more paper forms, no more confusing spreadsheets. Members can join your booster club on your BoosterSpark website. They — not you — enter their information, pay online, and their information is saved in your account. All major credit cards are accepted, and you won't need to pay for a costly merchant account.
Send emails to members any time. Thank them for your support. Invite them to meetings, events, and fundraisers. You can even send them an email next year inviting them to renew their membership!
Tap into a new revenue stream by letting sponsors buy sponsorships on your website. Local newspapers have disappeared, making local businesses desperate for ways to reach local families. Your sponsors will be able to manage their own page on your website! They can upload their logo, photos, offers, and more.
Additional features and services coming soon!
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Build a sense of community. Foster spirit. Publicize fundraisers and events. Solicit donations, sponsorships, memberships, and volunteers. Increase your club's success! Sign up now to be the first to know when BoosterSpark launches:
BoosterSpark was created by a dad who wore many hats at his kids' school booster club, including president, vice president, event coordinator, publicity coordinator, website coordinator, social media coordinator, volunteer recruitment, member recruitment, and event volunteer. He's also the owner of a website development firm established way back in 1996.
During his tenure as booster club president, his club's team increased the amount of funds available by partnering with local businesses, increasing paid memberships, introducing new fundraisers and revenue streams, and improving communication with the community. Now he is focused on bringing that success to as many booster clubs as possible!