Excerpted from Music Booster Manual, copyright 1989 MENC. To order this publication, click here.
Good music programs inspire. They inspire not only students, they also inspire parents and community members. Because of this, music has a resource rare among the academic disciplines: adults who are willing to give their time and energy in its support.
This manual is intended to help music educators focus that energy by setting up, guiding, and working with a booster organization. Some of the information is directed primarily toward the music teacher, and some is for the boosters themselves. Some of the procedures described will be most appropriate for large organizations, but even the smallest groups will benefit from considering the principles behind the processes.
Before you get started in organizing a booster group, here are some things to think about.
- The booster program should always be thought of as an addition. The funds it raises are not a replacement for school funding to justified programs. Rather, it provides means for students to have music experiences beyond what the school can supply.
- The goal of a booster program is to assist and support the music educator so that he or she can maintain a music program that will be educational, enjoyable, and rewarding. But its authority should never reach into the content and priorities of the music program.
- A booster group is a music education advocacy group. When possible, it should be involved in supporting the entire music program, not just the chorus or marching band. After all, these are community members who have seen how important the arts are in children’s educations and in their school experiences.
- When you are very active in fundraising, you need to be more aware than ever of your relationship with the community. Fundraising can be viewed as a form of supplemental taxation.
MENC: The National Association for Music Education recognizes the importance and dedication of booster organizations. Their efforts have allowed thousands of students to have some of the most thrilling experiences of their school lives. It is hoped that the information contained in this manual will assist in starting new groups and improving the efficiency of established groups. Music booster workshops, which are often offered by state music educators associations, are another important source of information. If you have any questions or ideas, contact MENC: The National Association for Music Education, Music Booster Information, 1806 Robert Fulton Drive, Reston, VA 20191-4348.
It’s important to establish responsibility guidelines for the music director, booster organization, and school administration.
Music director. Basic responsibility for the music program is in the hands of the music director. He or she decides its content, plans curriculum and activities, selects music, and formulates policy and philosophy (following school guidelines). He or she also writes the budget and, of course, teaches, rehearses, and directs. The director is also responsible for identifying areas for expansion and improvement.
A primary responsibility of the music director in his or her relationship with the booster organization is to be sure that fundraising projects do not conflict with school policies or music program activities.
Boosters. The boosters organization must identify ways it can support the music program. This will often mean developing, managing, and implementing fundraising projects. Usually these projects are to buy items or finance projects that might be thought of as beyond the “baseline” curriculum: awards, banquets, special equipment, or trips. Booster groups might purchase items such as special music arrangements, stationery, risers, stands, tuners, banners and flags, duplicating equipment, or percussion supplies. It is to be hoped that the baseline curriculum is financially supported by the school, but in some cases booster assistance may be required to buy basic items such as instruments or music.
Boosters also typically provide assistance in chaperoning activities, sponsoring social events, making costumes, caring for uniforms or robes, and transporting students.
Generally, what the boosters purchase is largely the responsibility of the music director. How they raise the money necessary is largely the responsibility of the boosters. It is the responsibility of the director to provide timely information to the boosters concerning fundraising or volunteer man-hour needs. It is the responsibility of the boosters to schedule their fundraising and support activities so they will meet music program needs and to determine the degree of support that can be provided in the short or long term.
Administration. The school administration usually sets general policies concerning travel, time students can spend out of school, and fundraising projects associated with school programs. It is responsible for providing all basic supplies and equipment necessary for an adequate school music program and for providing facilities, instructors, instruments, music, uniforms/robes, and equipment. It is important that the funds raised by boosters always be viewed as supplemental to the funds provided by the school.
A primary function of a booster group is often fundraising. But before starting on fundraising projects, boosters and the music director should be familiar with the school’s fundraising policies. Also, keep in mind that going to the public with an open hand too many times can lose their support.
Student participation in fundraising activities may be vital to their success. Their enthusiasm and the hours they put in selling candy, manning booths, or washing cars may be indispensable. But care must be taken in enlisting their aid. Don’t involve them in so many fundraising activities that their school work could suffer-in fact, be careful that you don’t give even the appearance of doing this. Find out if the school district limits the number of hours that students may work or the number of projects they may be involved in.
Trips are by far the most motivating reasons for working on a fundraiser. Many clubs set quotas (either a cash amount or number of units sold) for students to earn their rights to go on a trip without paying an additional fee. But, again, tread lightly. Working on fundraising projects should never be a prerequisite to being in the band or chorus.
A good place to start a fundraising program is by establishing specific goals, both in terms of a specific purchase and the money necessary. Boosters, students, businesses, and the community will respond more readily if they are aware of the goals.
The ways and means committee should begin planning for fundraising events at least six months in advance. This will ensure adequate time to determine areas of responsibility, support requirements, committee assignments, and publicity needs. A six-month lead time also minimizes the danger of overlooking details, a common mistake in a volunteer organization. Too many fundraisers fail because of a detail someone forgot.
The obvious reaction to the six-month lead time is, “We’re too busy working on next week’s project to worry about next year’s project.” But leadership can make it become the standard. In the long run, more time will be available, and year-to-year program development will be more successful.
Choosing a Project
Seek the advice of parents in the booster group who have sales experience. They can be helpful in planning and executing the fundraising program. A fundraiser in which volunteers provide a service (such as a car wash or flea market) usually involves little or no overhead. Most of what is taken in is profit. The resale of items purchased from a fundraising company, on the other hand, involves accurate planning and sometimes calls for a large cash outlay at the beginning.
If the organization decides to sell a product, check into several suppliers before making a commitment. They will vary in price and support available. Avoid doing business with any supplier that does not address all of the areas below and provide written policy statements at the outset.
Find out about a company’s policy on product deliveries and return of unsold merchandise. Also ask about prepayment discounts, volume discounts, incentives such as prizes or bonuses, and any other special arrangements a company may offer. Find whether they make sales kits or publicity material available.
check with others who have dealt with a potential supplier before making a commitment. Obtain a list of groups who have bought a given product from a given supplier and contact them. Also contact the Better Business Bureau and other such agencies to obtain information regarding financial stability, reliability, and reputation.
Much of the work on a project can be handled by committees, but there should be one person in charge of running the entire project and keeping appropriate records. This person advises committee chairs and assists in decision making.
A permanent record of each project should be developed that includes the following information:
- Financial goal and results
- Number of participants and total work-hours expended
- Breakdown of areas of responsibility
- Support requirements
- Committee assignments
- Problems encountered
- Recommendations for improvement
Each project can be broken down into specific components. For example, organizing a bazaar might include finance, decorations, publicity, booths, pricing, food preparation and serving, tickets, and cleanup. Establish committees to carry out the project and divide the work load into manageable tasks.
Identify items and services needed to support the project and incorporate them into committee assignments. In the example of the bazaar, the support requirements would include storage space, booths or tables, chairs, signs, price tags, cash boxes, worker identification (such as uniforms, hats, or arm bands), first aid provisions, parking, checkrooms, rest rooms, and security.
Establish a calendar to help each committee meet its objectives. Include milestone dates to measure progress. For example, the publicity committee should have the first drafts of media releases prepared at least two months in advance to allow for approval, revisions, and timely distribution. Coordinate fundraising times and projects with other groups in the school and with local merchants.
Publicize goals and objectives and let the community know about fundraising projects. Make sure that participants generate enthusiasm for the project, the booster organization, and music programs in general.
Good marketing is essential to a successful sale. The product should be something that people normally use. It must also have a fair and reasonable price.
Profit margin. The difference between the price that an organization pays for each item and what it charges for the item is called the markup. The markup divided by the total selling price is the profit margin. For example, if you pay $.75 for an item and sell it for $1.00, the markup is $.25. Divide that by the selling price, and the profit margin is 25 percent. Generally speaking, sales programs in which the markup is less than 33 percent usually fall short of their goals; those that exceed 50 percent are probably overpricing the product and will lose sales.
Don’t give the appearance of gouging or taking advantage of customers. Remember, boosters are not looking for donations, but are selling a product. If the cost of a product plus a reasonable markup makes the selling price unreasonable, the project should be rejected.
Calculating profits. In making this calculation, the overall profit is an important consideration.
If sales quotas are used, try the following method to determine them: Subtract the cost from the selling price to get profit per unit. Divide the profit into the fundraising goal to get the minimum number of units that must be sold. Divide that number by the number of members participating in the sale to get the quota for each. Here is an example in which the goal is $3,000, the cost of each item is $1, the selling price is $2, and two hundred people have agreed to help sell the product.
Selling price – Cost = Profit
($2 – $1 = $1)
Goal/profit = Minimum units
($3,000/$1 = 3,000)
Minimum units/participants = Sales quota for each participant
(3,000/200 = 15 per person)
A good average quota is fourteen units per person per project. Statistics show that fundraisers directly associated with a special project (such as a trip) will yield higher sales per participant, around twenty units. Projects for the music program in general yield average sales of from eight to ten units per person.
Project duration. A short-term, “blitz” approach is often effective. The area to be covered is mapped out and sellers are given specific area assignments to avoid duplication and ensure total coverage. It is also helpful to have area chairpersons to whom sellers report. An entire project can be completed in three days or less. For some projects, however, a long-term approach will be more successful. Once the organization establishes a project and repeats it regularly, the community will be aware of its efforts and the quality of the product or service. Examples of long-term projects are concession stand sales at sporting or other recurring events, periodic hoagie sales, and sales of gift wrapping in malls or stores during the holiday season.
Publicity can make a world of difference in fundraising and music advocacy efforts. When a bond issue comes up or the school board is deciding budget priorities, it’s nice to know that the voters in the community are aware of-and take pride in-the music programs. And when a specific fundraising event comes up, it’s nice to know that everybody in the community has had at least one opportunity to read or hear about it.
There isn’t much mystery to getting media publicity. It’s largely a matter of putting yourself in the place of editors and news programmers. They are looking for timely, well-presented information that will interest their audience. But the simple requirement that your releases be interesting implies hours of work and months of planning. Successful booster organizations maintain ongoing programs for dispensing information to the community that cultivates and stimulates their interest and support. Most of the information in this chapter pertains to publicity through the media. But don’t overlook other strategies such as putting up posters or speaking before civic organizations.