Funny picture of lady punching a guy with a boxing glove

Can’t we all just get along?

by Sandra Pfau Englund on Aug 08, 2016 04:49 pm

One of the biggest challenges volunteer leaders of school fundraising groups face is getting along with the school principal, teacher, coach or other staff that advises the group. While schools talk about parent and community involvement, with so many stakeholders pulling at them – the Board of Education, teachers, students, parents – sometimes it feels like volunteer leaders are more annoyance than help. That said, a big part of your job as a school support organization is helping to improve the communication between school, parents and students.

For example, I recently read a story about the Orange County Florida school district in the Orlando area. The school announced that students will no longer be allowed to use cell phones in the high school this fall. What’s interesting to note here is the school district said it based its decision on the recommendation of a student advisory group. There’s no mention of getting input from parents or even other school staff. My son went to a 4000 student high school in this school district and the school attendance relied upon parents to text their student when picking them up and signing them out for any reason. Getting input from students is great but I’m wondering if the school had gotten input from parents and the attendance office folks if the new policy might be written differently.

When it comes to volunteer/school boundary lines keep in mind a few simple rules:

  1. School fundraising groups (booster clubs and parent teacher organizations) are usually independent legal entities that support, but are not part of, the school. The group and not the school may determine who votes and how its money is spent.

  2. The school is in charge of how the school buildings and grounds are used. If you want to have a fall carnival on the football field you need the school’s permission to do so.

  3. The purpose of a school support group can’t be met if the volunteer leaders and school staff don’t communicate and work together for their common goal – improving educational and extracurricular activities for the students.

Sandra Pfau Englund

Founder of Parent Booster USA

Sandra Pfau Englund was a working mom in 2004 when she volunteered for her son’s elementary school PTO. The nonprofit and tax law attorney quickly became mired in trying to organize the group’s finances, tax-exempt status and fundraising compliance. If it was this complicated and time consuming for someone with her professional knowledge, she wondered how other parents and booster groups managed. From that experience, Parent Booster USA was born.

Sandra is a sought-after subject matter expert and has been quoted by NBC’s TODAY show and in Forbes and The Wall Street Journal, among others. She is published and speaks throughout the country on issues related to nonprofit legal liability, financial controls and audits in a post-Sarbanes-Oxley world, board development and fundraising.

Learn more at sandrapfauenglund.com.

FEATURED BLOG

Running an Effective Meeting

Sandra Pfau Englund

Aug 30, 2019

Booster club bylaws often reference Robert’s Rules of Order as the “rules” for managing a meeting. Have you ever read Robert’s Rules? It’s a good way to get a good night’s sleep!

O.k., so, having no rules leads to muddled, oftentimes chaotic meetings. On the other hand, using strict Robert’s Rules of Order can result in confusion or imbalance, dominated by those very few who understand Robert’s Rules. According to Sandra Englund, founder of Parent Booster USA, it’s far better to use a simplified form of parliamentary procedure. Using Sandy’s Simple Parlipro for Nonprofit Organizations, you provide a solid framework for your meeting that encourages everyone to participate and stops any one person from controlling it.

Meetings should not be all about the rules. According to David Gillig, Senior Vice President of Children's Hospital and Health Center in San Diego, a meeting should be 80% inspiration, learning and fun, and 20% business. Busy parents are more likely to attend if they feel as if they will gain something for themselves, and their kids, out of the meeting. We recommend that you start the meeting with something fun or educational — our parent engagement blog talks more about this.

Place reports at the end of the meeting; consider providing digital or written copies of reports that parents can read outside of the meeting. No one wants to sit through standard reports. One exception is financial reports. Always include the treasurer’s report. The treasurer’s report should include a written budget and a report that shows how money was raised and spent. Making bank statements available is a good way to help ensure accountability. You can read more on financial accountability here.

It’s good practice to put start times for each item on the agenda. This helps ensure that the meeting stays on track and flows effectively. It’s particularly important if you are discussing any controversial issues in which it is more likely that someone will filibuster! Having a rule that each person gets an opportunity to speak once, before anyone is given a second opportunity to speak, helps encourage more participation.

Below is a sample agenda to help you get the most out of your booster club meetings. Start your meeting by reviewing the agenda. This is where you can explain the “rules” you’ve set for the meeting, including for example, that you will work to stay on-time to help ensure that the meeting starts and ends accordingly. You can also mention here, or just before the Q&A time with the principal, that each person will be provided the opportunity to speak once before anyone speaks for a second time. The report time is kept brief to allow the bulk of time to be given to the information provided by the principal. Minutes need approved; although a little unusual, we included approving the minutes at the end to allow more time for the more important matters up front.

ABC Booster Club
Agenda
[DATE]
1. Call to order & Review of Agenda 6:00p
2. Guest speaker – Principal Melissa Everly discusses school remodel plan 6:05-6:25p
3. Q&A 6:25-6:35p
4. Financial report 6:35-6:45p
5. Other reports 6:45-6:55p
6. Approve minutes from prior meeting 6:55p
7. Next Meeting 6:59p
8. Adjourn 7:00p

Planning and structuring your meeting for success if the key to having an effective meeting.

YOU SUPPORT THEM, WE SUPPORT YOU

With PBUSA membership, we file all the IRS and state paperwork. We keep your booster club up and running year after year.