By: John Evers, CMAA
As budgets become tighter, more athletic administrators are finding that booster clubs and the revenue they produce are no longer a luxury. In many cases, the funding and support provided by athletic boosters are necessities for financial survival. From a large urban or suburban school to a small rural school, booster support often can be the difference in meeting yearly budgets.
Whether a school has a single athletic booster club, individual sport booster groups, or a combination of the two, several key principles can help the interscholastic athletic administrator avoid issues and get the most out of booster support.
We spend a lot of time "coaching our coaches" on the finer points of successful leadership. It would be beneficial if we spent a similar amount of time doing the same for our booster club leadership. Here are six simple rules and techniques to help booster clubs and athletic departments work as a team.
1. Meet with new booster leadership every season.
Coaches and directors of athletics tend to stay with programs over the years. Parents and athletes come and go naturally. It is imperative that the athletic administrator meet with new booster club leaders - whether in a single school booster situation or one with multiple team booster clubs. It works best if such meetings occur before every season and should include the head coaches for all such interactions.
2. Present key information on financial management and how to handle money.
Never assume boosters or coaches know the intricacies of handling money in a manner that meets all requirements of legal propriety. Develop a short in-service for the dos and don'ts of handling money. Approval on multiple levels, with the use of multiple signatures and a purchase order are a must.
3. Provide guidance for meeting the requirements of Title IX and Gender equity.
As with money, not all parents and coaches are schooled in the basics of how gender equity works and how boosters can often tip the balance toward equity issues. Solid discussion before the fact can often prevent issues that become too big to head off when they arise. Some of these discussions are not popular with some boosters who are not used to hearing no as a response to their requests.
4. Speak to the importance of the whole athletic department vs. the needs of one sport.
Boosters and coaches need to know that the athletic administrator is responsible for the overall health and development of an athletic department. If one or two sports feel they are bigger than the rest, issues of jealousy as well as lack of support will almost always arise. Selling the "team" concept to all sports is a requirement for a healthy and highly functional athletic department.
5. Share athletic budget numbers and methods used to balance the books every year.
We are past the days of keeping secrets from our stakeholders. Whether you are a public or private entity, those associated with your program deserve to know what money is coming in, what money is
6. Develop lines of communication that flow in both directions.
Most issues with money, gender equity, and lack of trust between the director of athletics and those he or she serves can be solved by keeping lines of communication open between all parties. If the athletic administrator is open and transparent with all actions and communicates regularly with those associated with the program, the overall health of an athletic department will be enhanced. There is no level (from student-athlete to top school leaders) that should be deprived of information related to the financial workings of an athletic department.
Boosters can become the best partner an athletic administrator has or can become the biggest headache one can endure. The key is for the director of athletics to coach boosters as effectively as one asks coaches to nurture all student-athletes. By following these six simple rules of coaching boosters, the athletic administrator can allow the athletic department to flourish and the boosters to serve as a vital part of that success.