Band Boosters are a vital part of many band programs. The vast amount of our band activities are funded by booster fees and fundraising, and our many events and travel opportunities are supported by parent volunteers. Unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more common for boosters to be disbanded for various reasons, including the misuse of funds or tension between the director and parents. As it is getting close to time for most organizations to elect new officers, here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare for next year.
Choosing Your Officers
Your organization should have your nomination and election process clearly defined in their bylaws or constitution. But as director, it’s important that you are involved in getting the parents you need in office. By talking to parents before nominations and letting them know you think they would be good in a position, it lets them know that you trust them and value their opinion. You want to find parents who are friendly, organized, and trustworthy. They should be good at communication and delegation. The officers shouldn’t carry the organization on their backs; they should be helping enlist all parents’ involvement in the various activities throughout the year.
Clearly Define Booster Roles
When people are given leadership positions, their natural instinct is to take authority and start making changes. They want others to set a new standard and improve on the past. Unfortunately, boosters often, while trying to help, will overstep and try to make decisions and be involved in areas that solely are at the director’s discretion. Make sure you meet with your officers early and lay out their responsibilities and limitations. While they are a separate organization with their own bylaws, constitution, and regulations, the director is ultimately the “CEO.” You should be aware of all decisions being made and any meetings that occur.
Always Know Where The Money Is
Depending on your school, your booster account may fall under the eye of the school bookkeeper or it may be an outside account. Either way, you need to make sure you know the balance of the account and who can issue checks. If money goes missing, it ultimately falls back on you as director. This is another reason to choose your officers carefully. If you can pass a budget at the beginning of the year, go ahead and set up approved purchases so the parents know what will be coming out and what they need to deposit. This helps the treasurer plan fundraisers and purchases for the year. But again, don’t leave it in their hands and never look at it again. Stay involved. The quickest way to get fired is over money issues.
Give and Take
Part of keeping a building and maintain a relationship is good communication. If boosters are spending their time and energy supporting the program, they want to feel like they have a say in some decisions. While many of those decisions have to be made by the director, if there are choices in which you can involve your boosters, go for it! This goes a long way in proving that you value their opinions and the work they put into your program. Maybe it’s helping design the logo for your t-shirts or choosing the menu for the end-of-the-year banquet. Anything they can contribute that will take things off your plate and encourage them to serve more will serve your relationship with the boosters well.
Keep Administration Involved
When you think you may be approaching a problem with a booster, go ahead and give your administration a heads up. No one, especially a principal, likes to be surprised by an issue of which they were previously unaware. Parents have the right to go to the principal if they have a complaint about a teacher. If you want your administration to have your back, make sure they know what’s going on before someone else approaches them. Many times they can give you advice on how to handle it so that the parents never make it to their office.
Age vs. Experience
There are various ways that boosters can employ when trying to influence your decisions. Many boosters were involved in band when they were in high school and that is why their children are today. It is also common, if you are a new director, that you boosters are older than you. If you don’t have kids yourself, this is yet another area where the parents believe they “outrank” you in experience. It’s difficult to define, but there is narrow but definite a line between taking advice and taking charge. Your boosters can help you plan activities by asking questions from a parent’s view you may not have thought of yet. Their input in invaluable. But on the other side of the line is making sure you don’t let them run over you and make decisions they shouldn’t be making. You are the one with the degree and the job title. It’s a difficult conversation, but sometimes you have to remind parents of this. Make sure they know you value their involvement, but that ultimately all decisions are up to you.
It’s About The Kids
At the end of the day, when the concession stand has been cleared and the uniforms have been cleaned, it’s vital to remember that it’s all about the kids. You are a teacher, your boosters are parents, and your students are kids. They are the center of all of your goals and decisions. Everything you do should help to educate them, make them better musicians, and make them better people. A great relationship and organizational plan with your boosters can go a long way towards optimizing their music education experience.