Football helmet laid carelessly in the grass

Who Buys the Helmets?

by Sandra Pfau Englund on Oct 04, 2016 11:52 am

Friday night football is in full swing, with the crashing football helmets, cheerleaders leading the crowd, and the high school marching bands entertaining at half time. Parent-volunteers also are busy, selling tickets to games, and raffle tickets and concessions to raise much-needed funds to pay for the “extras” that the schools can’t afford.

Most of the time those “extras” are for additional coaching and music staff, fancy costumes and props for the musical productions or trips to camps and festivals. But lately I’ve heard about school booster clubs asked to raise money for basics like helmets. When I spoke recently to Alaska school officials and booster club volunteers I learned that many Alaskan school districts “don’t pay for cloth”. I was shocked and starting wondering if there shouldn’t be some “rules” regarding for what volunteer fundraising groups are asked to raise money.

Public schools are not required to field a football team but it seems to me that if the school fields a team, the school budget ought to cover at least the basics – required uniforms and safety equipment like helmets. I learned in Alaska that a school’s basketball coach asked the parent fundraising group to sign a contract for new basketball uniforms in August; a contract for thousands of dollars that the boosters had not yet raised. The coach’s argument was that the school couldn’t take on the contract and the liability to buy the uniforms because the school might not have the money when the bill came due. Apparently it’s ok to ask the parent volunteers to take on the same liability with no guarantee that that will be able to raise the money to pay the bill.

So what should volunteer-led school booster groups be asked to raise money for, and what should be the responsibility of the school? School fundraising groups are similar to foundations; they raise money to make grants to the schools that they support to pay for the “extras” that are not in the tax-funded school budget.

Schools have staff and procedures in place to handle contracting with vendors to buy products – like uniforms and helmets – and pay for services – such as transportation to away-games and the like. When volunteer groups go beyond making grants and start contracting for products and services, the responsibilities of the volunteers start to blur.

What do you think? Should schools expect booster clubs to buy helmets and uniforms? What is your school booster club raising money for this year.

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


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
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.


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