Apr 2, 2012

How do you start a booster club?

First of all, what is a booster club?

We all know about figure skating clubs. These are USFS sanctioned organizations that are subject specific rules not only of USFS but also of the IRS, as they are registered tax exempt entities.  They are subject to approval by USFS and have a specific mandate to promote figure skating generally and to feed skaters into the USFS pipeline among other things defined, again, by USFS.

A booster club, on the other hand, is a much looser and more locally specific thing. It can have a much narrower focus--only for kids at a specific rink, or in a specific school for instance. You don't have to incorporate if there are no tax implications. (For instance, if you're not incorporated you can raise money, but you can't offer tax deductions to your donors, or apply for state sales tax exemption. You aren't required to have a formal board, etc.)

Which brings us to Why, and How.

Why start a booster club?
You might need a booster club if you're trying to increase collegiality at the rink, encourage socializing both on and off-site, raise extra money (for instance for scholarships, uniforms, equipment for the rink like video, or a better sound system, etc.) A booster club can help tone down cliques and gossip-klatches by giving people both something to do, and a place to vent frustrations, or even more to take positive action with the things that are frustrating them.

How do you start it?
Leaflets. Seriously, just start leafleting cars, Zucca bags, bulletin boards. Talk it up. Arrange a meeting, then another one, then another one. If it's just a booster club with no tax implications or national oversight organization then it's no different than starting a book reading club.

But first.
It will not work if rink management is not on board. If the Skating Director is not part of at least the initial process, she or he will kill it either deliberately or through benign neglect. The SD can get you free space, photocopying, can facilitate the leafletting, and hopefully be at the first meeting to let parents know that they're on board.

Let the SD know exactly why you think the rink needs a club; make sure they understand that this is not about circumventing, undermining, or taking over their function, or about challenging their authority. Have a specific mandate: we want to do field trips to Stars on Ice, or raise money for a skating school display, or create scholarships for shows and lessons (or all of the above). She will probably know of ways to help you also, with the city or the part district, or, in a private rink, with rink ownership.

A booster club is a positive thing
Do NOT start a booster club if what you're trying to do is get rid of someone in management or on the staff. If this is the problem, find another rink, or start a petition.

Who runs it?
Lots of possibilites here. Basically, the person whose idea it is, at least for starters. Have a steering committee rather than a boss. Make sure that the steering committee isn't just the founder and her cronies, or no one will join. Don't do elections; if you've got a really big steering committee, good for you. Try to get a couple of teenagers on board. (Get the local high school to offer community service hours for participation.)

Facebook has been an absolute godsend for volunteer organizations. Your Facebook page will be almost more important than your meetings. Make it a public page so anyone can join, or at least a by invitation page (i.e. don't have a secret group, make it accessible). My experience with Facebook groups is that they are pretty much troll-free and extremely useful for disseminating information and creating community.

Rule of threes
Everyone who has ever been involved in a volunteer organization knows this one. One third of the people do all the work, one third of the people sit on their hands, and one third of the people drop out. Make sure you replace the people who drop out; rule of thirds applies to the smaller group too--one third of those left will then drop out. This is how attrition happens.  If you are the one-third of the people who does all the work, don't resent it. It is what it is. You get a fast track to heaven.

Has anyone started, or joined, a booster club? Tell us about your experience!


  1. Hi Xan,

    This is interesting; are some of these issues (scholarships, etc) not issues that could be taken to the Board of the skating club for consideration? Or has it been your experience that it's more effective to do it through a separate group? I could be wrong, but I'm thinking our SD would get pissy (if I can use that word here) about a group treading in to what she sees as her domain.

    Not much can happen at our club without it coming from the top/centre (SD/Board). Not saying that's the way it should be, but it sure seems to be the way it is.

    1. A booster club could have scholarships for kids in classes who aren't members of USFS for instance. I think you'd get less blow back from the SD, who could be led to see this as a way to market her program and expand her budget, than from the local USFS Club which might, as you say, see it as encroaching on their territory. But there are lots of kids in any skating program who could use support, both social and financial, for whom the Club is not the answer. Also, at least here in Chicago, Club scholarships are available ONLY to elite skaters, based on their rank at the qualifying events. Which leaves out pretty much everyone.

  2. Hi Xan,

    Thanks for another interesting post. I was dead broke when my daughter was competing, underemployed and making child support payments. Things turned around after a few years, so I approached the SD to ask if I could make a directed donation anonymously. My daughter was winding down competitively, so politics were no longer an issue. Basically I asked how much to sponsor two young students for three years, and paid them that. I asked the SD to check with the coaches to see which kids were most deserving.

    A couple years ago I ran across a former student of my daughter (she did some class assisting) and upon chatting found her interest in ice theater. So I gave the theater director funds for costumes.

    Not bragging... just pointing out to individuals that they can also make a difference alone, if they are so blessed.


    p.s. would love to read a later blog post about how skate clubs view the USFSA!

  3. Awesome post. Can I just ask a question to everyone about college scholarships? Does your club have a college scholarship program? I know some do, but none in my area do, and none of us are eligible for the USFSA ones, we're a relatively small skating community, despite being selected to host Nationals next year... Anyways, does your club have college scholarship(s) that are presented to skater(s)?

    1. Two area clubs (Chicago has something like a dozen USFS clubs) that I know of offer scholarships, but they are small-- $400 to $1,000. Great idea for a post though--how to get your club to set up a scholarship! In the docket!

  4. We stared a Booster club about 18mo ago at our mid sized ISI rink. It hasn't been easy, but we are beginning to see positive results. We have a stronger voice as parents with the arena mgmt, much like the hockey assoc. As well as with the DS. She is also come to appreciate us. We are able to communicate better with the parents and skaters than the DS every could and we are a good resource for newer skater/parents. We have many goals that are directed at growing our club and enabling our skaters, and keeping them safe. We are also focused on fundraising for the good of all, not just a individual or select group of skaters. We do have a formal board, but a steering committe is and interesting idea. We felt since we were handling funds it was best to keep it formal. I'd like to hear what others have done.