Surprised Santa Claus

Bah humbug on end-of-the-year gift giving…

by Sandra Pfau Englund on Jun 19, 2017 04:14 pm

Each year at Christmas and again at the end of the school year my tuba-playing son brought home a note asking for a donation to provide the band directors a gift.  Money was collected and a gift card or a check was given to the director and assistant director. Most often we contributed, except for those years when the note got lost in my son’s backpack and didn’t surface until sometime around July.

There’s no problem with collecting donations and providing teachers, band directors, coaches and others’ gifts. However, school booster clubs and other fundraising groups are violating IRS rules when they use money in the organization’s bank account to buy gifts for individuals.

So, what about providing gift cards to teachers to buy classroom supplies? I don’t recommend it.  It’s far better to operate your organization like grant-making foundation. You raise the money and determine how it should be spent. You then provide a grant to the school designating the purpose of the grant, and the school, using its standard procedures, reimburses the teachers or distributes the funds.  If you provide gift cards directly, the cards should be for Staples, or Office Depot or another store where school supplies are normally purchased, and you must collect receipts from all the teachers for the entire amount of the gift card to ensure that the funds are used for classroom supplies.

You probably think I’m the Grinch and am down on teacher appreciation luncheons also? No worries, I’m not.  Teacher luncheons are o.k. provided it’s about recognition and appreciation and doesn’t include a hefty swag bag. The bottom line is that 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations must use all their money to support their mission.  You can’t benefit specific individuals, including those that raise the money, or the teachers, advisors, and coaches. 

It may sound grinch-like to some, but it is quite true,

Your organization’s funds may not be spent on few,

You must raise all your money for one and for all,

For those that play trumpet or run with the ball.

You may not buy gifts or give away money,

To the coach or the teacher or your favorite honey.

Instead says the tax man who gave you exemption,

Your funds must be spent only on your big mission.

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.


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